The topic of religion in public schools has a long and highly controversial history in the United States, and remains the cause of much conflict. Religion is certainly a “hot button” subject in many regions, and many schools understandably decide to distance themselves from the topic as much as possible. There are fears of possible indoctrination, the belief that any mention of religion in public school is unconstitutional, and the concern that introducing discussion about religion in the classroom could provoke clashes between students of different faiths. Some schools, however, have decided to tackle the subject head-on by incorporating lessons about world religions into the curriculum.
Some decades ago, schools adopted materials on multiculturalism and diversity education in order to foster better student understanding of racial and cultural differences, and to promote tolerance. Lessons on world religions may be viewed in a similar vein, with many of the same goals. By law, public schools in the U.S. may not provide religious instruction, but they may teach about religion. There’s a vital difference, and it’s critical to distinguish between teaching religion, and teaching about religion. Teachers and outside guests must remain neutral when teaching about religion in public schools, and embrace the idea that at its heart, education is about broadening students’ horizons, and teaching them to develop the necessary critical thinking and reasoning skills that will prepare them for a thoughtful and well-informed life ahead.
This week’s Joann’s Picks column on the Gateway will focus on lessons that teach students about various world religions and how they influence the local and global cultures. Peggy’s Corner digs deeper into the study of religion. In addition, we will be also be featuring many more lessons and educational resources on world religions on the Gateway’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook so you don’t miss anything.
Discussions will continue on last week’s theme of How a Bill Becomes a Law on both pages. All of the weekly Gateway columns and resource selections are archived on the following blog site: http://thegatewayto21stcenturyskills.blogspot.com/.
Resources covered in this week’s columns include:
The Golden Rule of Reciprocity
Subjects: World Religions, Social Studies, English Language Arts
The Silk Roads encompassed a diversity of cultures embracing numerous religions and worldviews from Venice, Italy to Heian, Japan. Between these two ends, belief systems that are represented are Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto, and Daoism. In this lesson, students will review, compare and contrast The Golden Rule of Reciprocity from different religious teachings, and will analyze primary texts of sacred and philosophical writings. This lesson was produced by the Asia Society, a global non-profit organization that seeks to strengthen relationships and promote education in the fields of arts and culture, policy and business in the U.S. and Asia.
Five Major World Religions
Subjects: World Religions, Research Skills
This activity allows students to research and identify various aspects of five major world religions including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Students will use the World Wide Web to conduct research, recording their findings in tables. This lesson is a product of C·R·E·A·T·E for Mississippi at Mississippi State University. C·R·E·A·T·E for Mississippi provides on-site, on-going technology professional development, "just-in-time" support for technology use, and technology-infused curriculum modules.
An Approach to Teaching Religious Tolerance
Subjects: World Religions, Social Studies, English, Character Education
The United States of America is a nation founded upon freedom. Our Founding Fathers attempted to frame a flexible document to live through the ages which would protect and promote freedom. It is the responsibility of the people in a democratic society to educate their children to understand our freedom, but also the responsibility that goes with it. The primary focus of this lesson will be that of religious freedom. It is a sensitive subject area, but a critical one to developing an understanding of our rights as United States citizens. Students should learn to be open-minded, independent thinkers in this area so that freedom may be guaranteed throughout the ages. This lesson is a product of the Academy Curricular Exchange at the Organization for Community Networks (OFCN). The Curriculum Exchange offers a variety of lesson plans by teachers attending the Columbia Education Center's Summer Workshops, as well teachers nationwide.
About The Gateway to 21st Century Skills
The Gateway has been serving teachers continuously since 1996. It is the oldest publicly accessible U.S. repository of educational resources on the Web and the oldest continuously operating service of its kind in the world. The Gateway is sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA) and supported by over 700 quality contributors. The Gateway to 21st Century Skills is the cornerstone of the Global Learning Resource Connection (GLRC) which is a JES & Co. program.
About Joann Wasik- Author of Joann’s Picks
Joann is the Metadata Cataloger for The Gateway for 21st Century Skills. Her primary responsibilities for The Gateway include locating and cataloging standards-based K-12 lessons and activities for The Gateway, as well as writing the “Joann’s Picks” weekly column. Before joining The Gateway in 2006, Joann had been involved with numerous projects at the Information Institute of Syracuse at Syracuse University, including virtual reference with the Virtual Reference Desk (VRD) project; virtual reference competencies and education with the Digital Reference Education Initiative (DREI) project; and metadata cataloging with the Gateway for Educational Materials (GEM). Her previous experience also includes technology training and positions in academic libraries. She also conducts freelance research for business and educational clients. Joann holds B.A. and M.A.T. degrees in English from Boston College, and an M.L.S. degree from Syracuse University.
About Peggy James- Author of Peggy’s Corner
Peggy received her B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from The University of Arizona, and continued on to earn her M.Ed. from the U of A as well. She has taught Physical Science and Chemistry at the high school level. She is working toward her endorsement in Gifted Education, and has been actively involved in coaching and volunteering in Odyssey of the Mind and Academic Decathlon. She has a passion for teaching critical thinking and creativity in the classroom. She has done work evaluating and aligning lesson plans to standards as a curriculum consultant with the National Education Association Health Information Network. She is very excited to help create a collaborative environment for educators to discover new resources that will enhance their teaching!
About the GLRC
About JES & Co.
JES & Co., a publicly funded 501(c) (3) education research organization, is a leader in research and deployment of education programs based on open standards. With 20 years of experience in interoperability and portability of educational resources, organizations around the world come to JES & Co. for leadership and guidance on education programs and initiatives. Since its establishment in the early 1990s, JES & Co. has led and managed The Achievement Standards Network (ASN), The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, The Gateway to 21st Century Skills (formerly known as GEM), the Dell Academy, the Intel Student Certification Program, and Microsoft’s Partners in Learning. For more information about JES & Co. or the Global Learning Resource Connection, visit www.JESandCo.org.