Teaching about Religion
Pluralism is the condition of society in which numerous
distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups coexist amiably
within one nation as fellow citizens.
Pluralism requires more than acknowledging or celebrating diversity. The ideal of pluralism is a hopeful one for educators in the United States. Our growing public heterogeneity gives reason to search for common ground as we prepare the citizenry of the future.
What do all our nation’s citizens have in common? Certainly not religion! In fact, one state board of education has stated: "Few issues have stirred greater controversy in Americans’ attitudes toward public education than the role of religion and values in public schools." History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, 1997 Updated Edition, (page 137).
history religious differences have been inordinately divisive. Improved cognizance of shared universals, on the other hand, can bring about mutual respect and empathy. Accentuating and teaching about commonality as well as difference is a must for educational endeavors that advance hope for pluralism as it applies to the religion domain. Educators who wish to advance youngster’s understanding about religion by emphasizing human commonality will probably find it helpful if they themselves have understanding of these two important concepts:
1. ultimate concerns (everybody has them), and
2. worldview (everyone has his/her own).
David Shiman, author of The Prejudice Book (published by the Anti-Defamation League, 1994), eloquently argues for teacher dedication to nourishing the pluralistic ideal, as follows:
While we should not expect to change the entire world, we can influence the development of students’ social values and offer students alternative ways of thinking and acting. And we should not shy away from trying to do so.
Although we might not want to impose our personal values on students, we must keep in mind that our schools are charged with the task of engendering democratic values, promoting egalitarian principles, and fostering humane relationships.
If we cherish these goals, we have a responsibility to communicate this to our students through the curriculum we choose and the issues we ask them to consider. By affirming this through our instruction, we will move a little bit closer to becoming a society where all our citizens are treated with respect and dignity and we live together as brothers and sisters. (p. 5)