You are on page 1of 7

Jordan 1

Ryan Jordan
Professor Padgett
ENGL 102
April 12, 2016
Religion in Public Schools: Is it Really Such a Bad Thing?
Since a Supreme Court ruling in 1963, religion has not been allowed to be present in a
public school during school hours. The student bodies in America have only grown more diverse
in the years after the ruling, and now more than ever it is necessary to put religion back into the
public school system. In a time when equality is the focal point of many arguments, how is it that
religion is still left out of the picture? Putting religion back into public schools would better
educate people on the cultural difference in the United States, decrease religious hate crimes, and
lead to a betterment of American society.
America is one of the most diverse countries in the world, and yet the government does
not feel the need to teach public school children about world religions, even though in most
cultures religion plays a significant role. An article written by Joseph Laycock references a study
by the Bible Literacy Project, which stated, “A 2005 study conducted for the Bible Literacy
Project tested teenagers’ ability to name the five world religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam,
Hinduism, and Buddhism. Only 10 percent could name all five and 15 percent could not name
any of them” (Laycock). Only one out of every ten teenagers could name all the five major
religions of the world. Because of America’s diverse culture, the population is full of
representation by people from each of these religions. If a teenager cannot even name one of
those religions, how are they expected to understand or empathize with someone from one of the

Jordan 2
religions? An article written by Annie Laurie Gaylor originally states that she “cringes” at the
question of whether religion should be taught in public schools. Yet later on in the article Gaylor
states, “In the best of all possible public school environments, it would be ideal, of course, to
include, at least at the high school level, a class on comparative religion” (Gaylor). Although at
the beginning of the article Gaylor questions whether teachers could be trusted with teaching
religion, and states, “What does it mean for our future when half our population rejects fact and
accepts fable,” (Gaylor) she comes back around to say that it is important for students to learn
about world religion, that way students are not ignorant of the world religions. This relates to
what Laycock states in his article, because both authors believe that it is important for students to
know about world religions that way they can be better connected to their peers. If we continue
to be ignorant about the traditions, morals, and lifestyles of a majority of the population, how do
we expect there to be peace? Linda Wertheimer wrote an article where she listed out seven
reasons of why religion should be taught in public schools, and one of her reasons stated, “The
Christian share of the population declined from nearly 80 to 71 percent between 2007 and 2014,
and the percentage of people from other faiths and the unaffiliated rose, according to a Pew
demographic study released this year. The percentage of Muslims, and Hindus are rising the
most. Children should learn about the growing diversity of religion within their own country”
(Wertheimer). Muslims and Hindus are the fastest growing religious populations in the United
States, and yet fifteen percent of teenagers could not even name Hinduism or Islamism. This is
why religion should be taught in public schools. Kids are going to be ignorant of the people
around them, and that is only going to cause more problems, not solve any.
Over time, religiously motivated crimes have become increasingly more frequent in
America. An article written by Anthony Jackson provides a statistic from the U.S Department of

Jordan 3
Justice that states, “The percentage of hate crimes that were motivated by religious bias was
nearly three times higher in 2012 (28%) than in 2004 (10%). Many violent hate crime
perpetrators are school-age: in 2012, nearly one in five were under the age of 18” (Jackson).
Religious based hate crimes start early, seeing as how twenty percent of the perpetrators in 2012
were under the age of 18. If children were taught at a young age about the differences in religion
then many of these crimes would not happen. The reason that they happen in the first place is
that as a country America is largely ignorant of the major religions of the world, and because of
this, stereotypes, and even fear, appear. Because of this fear of the unknown, people feel the need
to lash out, and the simple solution to solving that problem is just by teaching people. Another
one of the points written by Linda Wertheimer brushes up on how teasing on other religions
starts as early as kindergarten. She states, “Around the country, I heard numerous stories from
children being bullied because of their faith. A young Sikh man recalled his first week in
kindergarten and how his peers tore off his patka (the religious head covering he wore). A
Muslim boy stood by his locker in fourth grade and a classmate said, “Hey, is there a bomb in
your locker?” Jewish children talked about middle school peers throwing pennies at them as a
jab at the stereotype about Jews and money. Another student said high school peers asked her if
her family belonged to a cult because they were Jehovah’s Witnesses” (Wertheimer). Because
these kids did not know about these other religions, they lashed out at the other children. The
bullying can start as early as kindergarten, so should the teaching. Instead of knowing the
stereotypes about other religions, people would instead know the significance of them, and
instead of bullying or being violent towards them, could be peaceful and empathetic. Crimes are
becoming more and more based on religious differences, and one way to decrease that is to teach
people about those differences. An article written on the Knightly Herald states, “Religion should

Jordan 4
not be allowed to be taught in public schools because more controversy would be present if
religion was permitted” (Why Religion Should Not Be Taught in Public Schools). I believe that
the opposite would in fact happen. Throughout history, many of the world’s major conflicts have
been because of religious ignorance. From the crusades, to countless other wars, people of all
nations have always been fighting other religions that they know little about. So why not put an
end to the fighting and just educate people? Instead of causing more controversies, people would
be able to see both sides of an issue, and it would not have to end in bloodshed. Learning about
other religions is not only going to decrease religious hate crimes that Americans commit in the
United States, but it will also increase Americans understanding of the world, and could lead to a
decrease in global conflicts.

If religion were taught in public schools, society as a whole would improve because
morals and values would be instilled into children, instead of possibly being taught by a parent.
Another article written by Joseph Laycock states, “Studying the world’s religious traditions gives
students the opportunity to explore “big questions” and cultivate moral agency. This not only
enriches their quality of life, but strengthens our democracy. High school students who practice
asking big questions become citizens who can think critically about what makes for a good and
just society” (Laycock). By learning about religion, students will learn to think about more than
just themselves, but they will be able to think of society as a whole, and how they can better it.
Yes people think of this already, without religion in public schools, but more people can be
reached if everyone is learning about it. The way to becoming a better citizen is by having good
morals and values, and religion is the best teacher on that subject. At the core of three of the
major religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, is peace. With all the strife going on in the
world, children should be taught more about peace, and love, and respect, and that teaching

Jordan 5
should come from public schools. An article written by Richard Schiffman states, “The
alternative to learning about religions is remaining in ignorance, as we largely are today. And
ignorance is a breeding ground for prejudice, stereotype and mutual suspicion” (Schiffman). This
quote supports the idea that ignorance on religion is the cause for prejudice and stereotypes, and
these issues are detrimental to a society. It is impossible to kick prejudice and stereotypes
completely out of a nation, but it can decrease. A huge factor in why these issues are present is
just not knowing, and integrating religion into the public school system would take that problem
away. An article written by Richard Schiffman states, “Religion ranks as one of the most divisive
factors in the world today” (Schiffman). Religion can cause a division in society, because people
do not like what they do not understand. People fear the unknown, and that fear leads to tension
among neighbors, coworkers, or anyone that has a different religious background. But while not
knowing about religion can divide, having knowledge on religion can bring people together.
Schiffman later states, “Yet it has also brought billions of people together forging a sense of
shared belief and unity of purpose across wide racial and geographical divides. The word itself
comes from the Latin re-ligåre, which means ‘to bind back together’” (Schiffman). Why would
we not teach our students about something that binds people together? Yes religion can cause
divisions, but that is only when people are ignorant about it. In a time when everybody is
offended by everything, shouldn’t kids be more knowledgeable on the people around them so as
not to offend them? One of the major claims as to why religion should not be taught is that it is
very controversial. Yet politics and evolution are just as controversial and are part of core classes
in many high schools in America. People are trying to be fair to everyone, except when it comes
to religion.

Jordan 6
If we want this world to be a better place, should we not try and learn as much about it as
possible? Religion has, and always will be, a major part of every culture on the planet. If not for
religion, the Puritans would never have set sail for America, millions of people would not be
trying to live a better lifestyle, and there probably would have been less wars. Because religion
has been such a key part of history, it makes no sense not to teach it to children. Instead of
teaching them about some of the biggest factors in history, and the difference of each religion
and its people, we teach children that they came from monkeys. That is what is wrong with
America. It is claimed unconstitutional to teach religion in schools, but yet teachers are allowed
to force evolution down their throats. If we really want to make America the great country that it
was, religion needs to be put back into public schools once and for all.

Jordan 7

Works Cited
Gaylor, Annie Laurie. "The Dangers of Religious Instruction in Public Schools." Religion
Politics. N.p., 7 Jan. 2016. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.
Jackson, Anthony. "Four Reasons Why You Should Teach About Religion in School." Education
Week. N.p., 5 Apr. 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.
Laycock, Joseph. "If We Don’t Teach Religion in Schools, Americans Will Never Understand the
Rest of the World." Quartz. N.p., 15 Apr. 2015. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.
Laycock, Joseph. "Should World Religion Be Taught in Schools?" Caring Magazine. N.p., n.d.
Web. 03 Apr. 2016.
Schiffman, Richard. "Why We Need to Start Teaching About Religions in School." The
Huffington Post., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.
Wertheimer, Linda K. "7 Reasons We Should Teach More Religion in Public Schools - OnFaith."
OnFaith. N.p., 19 Aug. 2015. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.
"Why Religion Should Not Be Taught in Public Schools – Olivia Godfrey." Knightly Herald.
N.p., 23 Sept. 2013. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.