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Support and Advice from TNPC's Parenting Experts

The question of whether religion should be taught in the schools has become one of the most heated educational topics of recent years.

Some suggest that children should be able to pray, read religious materials, and even receive religious instruction in the public schools, while others contend that virtually no reference to religion should ever be made within the boundaries of a public school system. Recent Supreme Court decisions have provided a clear legal guideline to this question. Basically, they state that teachers may teach about religion but cannot teach religion as truth. In other words, they cannot sponsor the practice of any specific religion, or impose their religious beliefs on students. But they can expose students to a variety of religious beliefs, heighten their awareness about religious issues, and develop academic materials to achieve these goals.

In a culture like ours that has over 3000 different religious faiths (and many people with no faith at all), it’s important to provide these kinds of Constitutional guarantees. One difficulty, however, is that many schools have been afraid to even teach about religion, fearing that there will be legal challenges. Fortunately, there seems to be an increasing level of activity among educators in developing responsible curricula that teaches about religion without crossing the First Amendment barrier.

You should encourage your child’s school administrators to find out about some of these programs and explore their usefulness in the curriculum. In the final analysis, it’s difficult for a student to fully explore the history, literature, and social currents of a culture without understanding how different religious beliefs affected these trends. One place to start: Religious Freedom Education Project, Americans United Research Foundation, 900 Silver Spring Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910

Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. is an award-winning author and speaker with twenty-eight years of teaching experience from the primary through the doctoral level, and over one million copies of his books in print on issues related to learning and human development. He is the author of nine books including Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, In Their Own Way, Awakening Your Child’s Natural Genius, 7 Kinds of Smart, The Myth of the A.D.D. Child, ADD/ADHD Alternatives in the Classroom, and Awakening Genius in the Classroom. His books have been translated into sixteen languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Hebrew, Danish, and Russian.

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