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Religion In School
Transcript of Religion In School
Religion in the United States
ARIS 2008 is the third in a landmark time series of large, nationally representative surveys that track changes in the religious loyalties of the U.S. adult population within the 48 contiguous states from 1990 to 2008. Religion within the state of Georgia
According to Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey...
The Legalities Text of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
*When this was first written, it was intended to protect the states from the federal government, so states still favored certain religions and included religious activities in schools.
Two of the Most Influential Court Cases:
Everson v. Board of Education, 1947
*Supreme Court declared, "The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach."
*This decision applied the religion clauses in the Bill of Rights to state as well as federal law. After this, it was illegal for state governments to “establish” any religion. Abington School District v. Schempp, 1963
*In the case, the Court decided 8–1 in favor of the respondent, Edward Schempp, and declared school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools in the United States to be unconstitutional.
*Justice Tom C. Clark said that the Court was of the feeling that no matter the religious nature of the citizenry, the government at all levels, as required by the Constitution, must remain neutral in matters of religion "while protecting all, prefer[ring] none, and disparag[ing] none.” But Clark also said, “Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”
There was a huge movement to take out everything related to religion from schools for fear of lawsuits after the Schempp case. Today, however, many are realizing that stripping education completely of the study of religion is causing us to produce students who are not well-rounded, informed citizens. In 1948, Justice Robert Jackson said, “One can hardly respect the system of education that would leave the student wholly ignorant of the currents of religious thought that move the world society for ... which he is being prepared.”
So Where Do Teachers Stand?
Basically, as of today, teachers can teach ABOUT religion in an objective, informative manner and be legally safe. Any discussion of personal belief or teaching a religion as fact and truth takes you into a more dangerous place legally because then you can be seen as encroaching on the first amendment rights of your students. While employed as a teacher, you are part of the school, which is a state organization…therefore certain rights…like freedom of speech…are sometimes limited.
The Practical Side Texts that are often taught in high school that have religious allusions:
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Many of Shakespeare’s Works
Paradise Lost by John Milton
"On His Blindness" by John Milton
Poems by John Donne
"Death Be Not Proud"
"The Tyger" and "The Lamb" by William Blake
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel
Can you think of others?
Avoiding religious allusions can be a disadvantage to your students and the text. It can make the reading process less interesting and can limit how much your students learn. Let’s look at a text and avoid the religious allusions.
Lord of the Flies: Simon’s conversation with the Lord of the Flies.
“Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill” said the head. For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter. “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are the way they are?”
Avoiding the religious references, you could say that Simon was just crazy and delusional as he was talking to the severed pig head. You could also mention that this conversation is an important part of the novel because this is when Simon realizes that there is no beast. The beast is something that lives inside of all of the boys.
By not avoiding the religious references, you bring much more depth to the text and class discussion.
Talking about the same section of the novel, you could expound on the religious references.
*Lord of the Flies- Beelzebub
*Simon is linked to Jesus (non-violent, ostracized, ridiculed, spiritual, compassionate, sacrificed)
*The conversation between Simon and The Lord of the Flies – Christ’s conversation with Satan during the forty days that he spent in the wilderness alone
Beyond simply identifying and discussing religious allusions in the classroom, classes are now being offered on the Old and New Testament in many high schools. According to an article in TIME Magazine called "The Case for Teaching the Bible" in 2006 "Georgia became the first state in memory to offer funds for high school electives on the Old and New Testaments using the Bible as the core text". As literature teachers, we may be asked to teach these classes and need to be prepared for that duty.
Integrating religion into the curriculum can be beneficial.
We shouldn’t be afraid to reference or teach about different religious texts in the classroom. Religion has and still plays an important role in the history and make-up of our society. Avoiding talking about these religious texts only limits the knowledge of our youth.
In the same TIME Magazine article, two students, one with no strong religious affiliations and the other an atheist, were asked why they were taking the new class that studied the Old and New Testament of the Bible. One student responded saying, “Some of my friends are Christian, and they would argue about, like, whether you can be a Christian and believe in evolution, and I'm like, Okaaaay ... clueless”. The other responded in a similar fashion saying, “If somebody is going to carry on a sophisticated conversation with me, I would rather know what they're talking about than look like a moron or fight my way through it”.
It's not about teaching the religious text in a personal way, but about teaching the text in an unbiased, informational way. The Personal Side Teachers
*As employees of the government, public-school
teachers are subject to the Establishment Clause of the First
Amendment and thus required to be neutral concerning religion
while carrying out their duties as teachers. ( A Teacher’s Guide… 10)
This is the general sentiment about how teachers are to operate as individuals of a particular philosophical, religious, or spiritual worldview. However, the fact of the matter is this statement is open to a variety of interpretations, and the agreed upon ramifications are manifold. Personal Practices
•Outside of their school/classroom responsibilities teachers are free to exercise their own religion at the school, outside the presence of students. Teachers may organize faculty prayer meetings, worship groups, or scriptural studies that meet on campus in places like break rooms and lounges. They must, however, be during time periods where teachers are not responsible for curriculum related activities.
•Teachers do not have the right to pray with or in front of students during the school day. This means teachers can engage in discussions or religious expression with students of their same belief system before or after school. This item, however, might be an uncomfortable one for certain individuals and would need to be personally considered before acted upon.
•Teachers are allowed to wear religious jewelry with insignia or symbols like the Star of David or a Cross. They cannot, however, wear items which contain messages which could be construed to be proselytizing. For instance, a button or a shirt saying “Jesus Saves” would be off limits.
Discussing Belief with Students
• The number one question that often pervades this discussion is: What can I say, should I say, do I say when a student asks me about my personal system of belief?
The answer to this question is varied depending upon the educator’s personal convictions about the topic.
In a strictly legal sense, if a student asks you what you believe, you are free to inform the student of your personal convictions. To be safe and responsible the answer should be brief so as to not promote the idea that you are proselytizing to the student. You may, however, elaborate upon the finer details of your belief system if the student asks for that type of information.
•Many educators prefer to simply leave the question unanswered for a variety of reasons. The idea that it is either illegal or unconstitutional to share such information is, however, fallacious and should not act as a deterrent in stating one’s faith inside schools.
•Students are privy to a slew of different guidelines, privileges, and expectations when it comes to the subject of religion in the schools. In short students can pray, discuss their religion with other students, hand out religious literature, wear religious apparel, and participate in extracurricular clubs and activities on campus which are religious in nature.
•The U.S. Department of Education has created a set of guidelines to address the particular of interacting with students of various belief systems called : “ Religious Expression in Public Schools”. The document contains a slurry of information about what students may and may not do.
Another document endorsed by 35 religious and civil liberties organization compiled a series of standards called “Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law,” states:
"Students have the right to pray individually or in
groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers
so long as they are not disruptive. Because the
Establishment Clause does not apply to purely private
speech, students enjoy the right to read their Bibles or
other scriptures, say grace before meals, pray before tests,
and discuss religion with other willing student listeners.
In the classroom, students have the right to pray quietly
except when required to be actively engaged in school
activities (e.g., students may not decide to pray just as a
teacher calls on them). In informal settings, such as the
cafeteria or in the halls, students may pray either audibly
or silently, subject to the same rules of order as apply
to other speech in these locations. However, the right to
engage in voluntary prayer does not include, for example,
the right to have a captive audience listen or to compel
other students to participate."
Summary: it’s a touchy topic be careful. Know your limits and your freedoms. Fight for them or they’ll be abused.
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; thus building a wall of eternal separation between Church & State.” (Separation of church and state in the United States, retrieved Feb. 20, 2008) Teaching Psalm 23 * Included as a part of the 12th grade British Literature curriculum (Gwinnett County)
* Taught as part of a unit on Renaissance Poetry
* Historical context:
o During the Renaissance, the first English translation of the Bible was completed (in 1611) —The King James Version
* Literary terms:
o extended metaphor
o free verse
Questions to Consider
The question is no longer “Should I teach about religion?” but rather
“How will I teach about religion?”
* At your tables, exchange some ideas about how you may tackle teaching Psalm 23 objectively.
o What kinds of lessons/activities might you use?
o How will you be sure that your teaching is neutral and not distorted by emotional bias?
o What will you do if a student questions your personal beliefs (either in whole class discussion or in private?)
o Is the Bible worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities?
1. Introduced psalm with historical background.
2. Read aloud as class.
3. After reading, had students find examples of their literary terms within the text.
* Put the blame on the author
o “Who does John Donne say is mankind’s only source of security?”
* When referencing scripture, focus on Christianity and the Christian Bible as a whole
o “According to the Christian Bible, the story of Adam and Eve is…”
* If a student wants to argue
o “I’m not saying you have to agree with everything [author] says, but we are going to read this because of its contribution and significance as a work of literature.”
* Stress primarily the moral implications—it is perfectly acceptable to teach virtues widely held in our society (honesty, caring, fairness, integrity)
Lindsey Futrelle 1. I know what the five major religions in the world are.
2. As an educator, I feel I should be aware of my students’ various religious backgrounds.
Agree Disagree 3. I know what the first amendment says, and I know what the finer implications of the first amendment are.
4. I believe I am legally allowed to talk about religion in school.
Agree Disagree 5. I feel that it is often helpful to reference religious texts when teaching literature.
Agree Disagree 6. I would be comfortable telling a student what my personal philosophical/religious convictions are.
Agree Disagree 7. I would be comfortable teaching passages from the Bible (or other religious texts) in my school if the curriculum required me to do so.
8. I believe I could teach scripture/religious texts objectively.
1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.