ERIC Number: ED330589
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1989-Feb-15
Reference Count: N/A
Religion in the Public Schools: Pluralism and Teaching about Religions. CRS Report for Congress.
Whittier, Charles H.
The growing movement for teaching about religion in the public schools, as distinguished from religious instruction or devotional exercises, reflects widespread concern regarding the phenomenon of religious illiteracy and the lack of knowledge or understanding of the significant role played by religion in U.S. life, past and present, and in world history generally. Such teaching, recognized as constitutional and in accord with separation of church and state, acknowledges the formative influence of religions in culture. A principal concern of those who would implement such programs is how to deal fairly with the religious and cultural diversity of U.S. life without fostering indifference to questions of truth and related values. Some who oppose teaching about religions believe its effect might be to further relativism. One approach distinguishes pluralism from relativism by defining the first as a way of living with authentic differences that can coexist in the body politic when it is informed by freedom of conscience, religious liberty, and traditions of civility. Teaching about religions, as distinguished from values education, civil religion, and similar movements, is intended to be disinterested, comprehensive, and sensitive to the complexities of faith, careful to avoid even the appearance of advocacy in belief or practice. Defining religion for teaching programs presents another difficulty, requiring that students discriminate between narrow and broad categories and that teachers avoid both religious and secularist bias. A descriptive approach can help students perceive the relationship between religion and culture by examining world faiths. The report lists proposed general goals for such programs, typical problems that hinder their implementation, and guidelines for attaining them. Finally, specific curricular materials and programs are cited as exemplary models for emulation and further development. (DB)
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Congressional Research Service.