Religion is not only at the crux of electoral and international politics, its influence has also been on the rise in the past few decades. Naturally, the most religiously diverse nation in the history of humanity ensures that its students learn about this omnipresent force, right?

Wrong.

California’s Modesto school district is the only one in the country to require students to take a world religions course. Students are allowed to opt out of the 9th grade class, but in the eight years it has been offered, few have. Those that oppose the class on grounds of ‘constitutionality’ are failing to make an important distinction: there is a big difference between teaching religion and teaching about religion. Though it requires exceptional preparation and tact, the latter is both legal and imperative.

Numerous media reports have tracked the success of this course, with multiple studies noting that students gained “respect for religious liberty as well as for basic First Amendment rights.” Sounds good to me.

I find it more than a little ridiculous that a graduate of the K-12 American school system will have taken roughly 26 semesters of mathematics (with many courses in obscure disciplines like trigonometry) but not a single course on the world’s religions. As Americans, we come into contact with someone of a different faith on a fairly regular basis. Trigonometry, on the other hand…well, let’s just say I haven’t given sine or cosine a thought since my junior year of high school. After all, very few of us spend our days computing the relationship between the sides and angles of a triangle.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Paul Maurice Martin

    I’ve held this view too, ever since I took a world religions course as a sophomore in college. I immediately wondered why that kind of non sectartian, academic approach to the subject matter wasn’t available to me as a high school student.

  • Anon

    Secular schools can never be tolerated because such a school has no religious instruction and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith…. We need believing people.

  • Karen

    I believe that “respect for religious liberty as well as for basic First Amendment rights” CAN be gained from public high schools. My son just finished a religion unit in his Social Studies Level 2 class. He was required to visit a service in a house of worship other than his own religion and write a summary of the visit, bring a brochure back from the service, have a photo taken of himself at the place of worship, and interview a member of a third religion. He and his classmates are 15 years old. My son found this project quite interesting, as he learned about Judaism and Buddhism in a hands-on way. His own faith is still secure and strong. His school has a strong emphasis in character training and recognizes students for service to the school and community.

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