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ERIC Number: EJ1047720
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 13
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 39
ISSN: EISSN-2327-3607
Intellectual Agnostics: Preparing Public School Teachers to Be Open-Minded Interpreters in the Religion/Public School Debate
Hufford, Don
Critical Questions in Education, v1 n1 p13-25 Win 2010
The question, "what role--if any--should religion play in public schools?," continues to be asked. There is no single answer that satisfies all participants in the debate. The parameters of possibility are too broad, too infused with differing worldviews. Too often both sides see the issue in stark, black and white, either-or terms; and alternatives are not considered. It becomes a case of an "I win, you lose?" competitive mentality in which constructive dialogue is replaced by defensive postures and an argumentative, eristic-style confrontation. Don Hufford suggests dialogue, an open-ended, critically reflective process, is what is needed; not a one-dimensional thought process that closes the door to intellectual options. This requires a pedagogical process in which secular knowledge and religious faith are not viewed as irreconcilable opposites and combatants in the educational arena, but are allowed to exist in a state of dynamic creative tension. Hufford goes on to point on that it is difficult to achieve and sustain a "positive," productive tension between the religious and the secular in the public schools. But, where ideas are the currency of intellectual exchange there should be opportunities for both secular and the religious diversity to be heard and explored. Ideological rigidities in both the "for" religion and the "against" camps result in the hardening of adversarial positions when the question of the role of religion in the public schools is raised. The emotional depth of the issue is such that it can easily seep into individual class-rooms; sometimes with strong overtones, sometimes on the periphery of a classroom learning community. It is at this point that schools of education in this nation's universities have a role to play. Teachers need to be educated to understand and to interpret the premises and the power of religion. They need to be educated to be aware of--and better understand and deal with--the ambiguities, complexities, controversies, and epistemological variety which religious sensitivities bring to the classroom atmosphere. Teachers who have had significant academic preparation for understanding and appreciating "alternate ways of seeing" will be more aware of--and open to--the creative educational opportunities that exist to integrate religious questions, dialogue, and discussion into various subject areas. They will be better prepared to "negotiate passages" between the varying and emerging worldviews that their students bring to the formal educational experience. These are the teachers who will seek--in their repertoire of creative teaching--ways to connect differing worldviews (including religious perspectives) while encouraging all voices to be part of the classroom dynamic. These are the teachers who will understand the importance of perfecting a personal "intellectual agnosticism" as preparation for interpreting to self and others the existentially powerful issues which slip under the official curricular radar, and filter into the classroom. Hufford furthers the discussion by addressing how teachers can be educated to be intellectual agnostics and the potential impact this will have.
Academy for Educational Studies. 2419 Berkeley Street, Springfield, MO 65804. Tel: 417-299-1560; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Kansas