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ERIC Number: EJ1047681
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Reference Count: 13
The Role of Religion in 21st-Century Public Schools: Historic Perspectives on God and Goodness in the Classroom
Jones, Steven P.; Sheffield, Eric C.
Critical Questions in Education, v1 n1 p1-12 Win 2010
No other educational issue hits a more sensitive nerve with the American public than the role of religion in the public schools. While the intentions and actions of the religious and non-religious parents and community members overlap a great deal as they conceive of the good people they want their children to become, there is no apparent overcoming of their differences regarding the place of religious faith and religious life in that vision. Non-religious parents do not use religious language to describe the basis of their moral commitments and their hopes for the moral life their children will lead. Other second languages are available to them, each suggesting a community to serve, and each with the power to circumscribe our first instincts for radical autonomy. There is, for instance, the language of the civic republican tradition that articulates commitments and practices that can powerfully shape character. These commitments and practices establish interconnections between people, joining people to families, friends, communities, and churches--making each individual aware of his reliance on the larger society (Bellah, 1985, p. 251). The second languages of social responsibility and social justice suggest other commitments, duties, and obligations that can shape the habits of the heart of young people. Religious people have recourse to these same second languages. So, the group of parents and community members that wants faith-based understandings for their children press the school administrator to open graduation ceremonies with what they deem to be an appropriate prayer. The group of parents and community members that insists the school not endorse or inculcate faith-based understandings--the secular humanists and those with religious understandings who worry school personnel may be forced to endorse only limited and particular understandings--press those same administrators to deny the request for the opening prayer. This essay looks briefly at the ideas of Plato, Rousseau, and the founders of the common schools in America, as well as more contemporary educational philosophers John Dewey and Nel Noddings, to explore the different ways parents think about how to help their children live good lives, and what role public schools play or don't play in achieving this goal.
Descriptors: Role of Religion, Public Schools, Educational Philosophy, State Church Separation, Moral Development
Academy for Educational Studies. 2419 Berkeley Street, Springfield, MO 65804. Tel: 417-299-1560; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: http://academyforeducationalstudies.org
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A