There's been quite a bit in the news as of late regarding religion in our public schools -- from Ginger Strivelli's request for the equal distribution of religious materials to religious rally assemblies taking place during school hours.
The Separation of Church and State is clear -- religion has no place in affairs of the state. When it comes to enforcing this however, routine occurances in communities across this nation prove to show that it may not be such a black-and-white concept afterall.
So where are we to draw the line? It's easy to say "simple: no religion at all". Yet the world itself is not free of religion, so how is it helpful to young minds to pretend it to be so? We can't place students in a neutral environment as they mature and grow and expect them, at the same time, to know and understand the diversity they will encounter as they enter the adult world.
Should we practice religion in schools? Absolutely not! But there is also nothing beneficial in pretending it does not exist. We live among streets that boast a variety of faces, races, colors and cultures. To feign that we are all alike is ignorant. So how is it that we can express our nation's diverse collections and at the same time respect one another's differing customs and beliefs? Ah, the million dollar question indeed!
Past visitors to Pagan Presence may remember that I faced a situation in the fall where-in my son's school district sought to remove all celebrations from school in the name of political correctness. We would accept the stripping of our children's memories just to avoid the very diversity that founded this nation at its earliest beginnings? Grow a backbone School Boards!
On the other hand, we also cannot permit the blatant disregard for the respect of all. My nephew is growing up in the south [Pensacola Florida]. At a local public high school in this gulf coast area teachers were citing The Bible as fact in the classroom. Such actions brought a lawsuit to the school board, resulting in the protection of the first amendment rights of the student body. The court ruled that "School Officials shall not cite to the Bible or any sacred text as authority for historical or scientific fact ." A press release by the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] stated that Pace High School students "not only face overt compulsion to adopt the religious beliefs of school officials, but also must contend with subtle, coercive pressures to conform their religious beliefs to those favored by school officials,".
Teaching about differing cultures and beliefs is a far cry from pressuring students to convert. And that's where the line gets blurry. The intentions of the educators will make all the difference. I think it would be beneficial for my sons to go through school learning about the amazing flavors that exist in the unfolding story of humanity but not when the objectives become conversion.
Educate; do not coerce, and then you can provide nothing but knowledge to the open minds before you.
But I gather school boards would rather take an easier path by excluding beliefs and customs from their cirriculum. Well, as they say, "ignorance is bliss" but is it really what we want for our children?