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Teach us religion

Tamara Miller
Vail CO, Colorado

Public schools should teach students about Christianity. And Islam, Judaism and Hinduism.

American students can’t fully understand the work of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. without having some basic understanding of the Bible.

It certainly would help if students from the Bible Belt knew something about Hindus and Buddhists. In our mobile and global economy, it’s quite possible that someday all of us will have to work with someone who believes differently than we do.

If we are to prepare the nation’s students for the world that awaits them, they need to know something about the politics and culture of the Middle East. And to do that, students need to learn about the religion that most in that part of the world believe.

That line between church and state is a tricky, controversial, but necessary boundary. The First Amendment protects us all: an atheist’s right to not believe, a Muslim’s right to pray and a Catholic’s right to believe there’s something more to that wafer they hand out in the communion line.

Our country was created so we all could practice our faiths, our nonfaiths, without fear of coerced conversion to something else. That’s why proseltyizing doesn’t belong in our nation’s public schools, which open their doors to all children; believers or not.

But how can a teacher expect her students to understand international politics without knowing something about the world’s religions?

I’ll be watching as Georgia’s public schools attempt to walk that delicate line this year as they decide whether to offer the nation’s first taxpayer-funded Bible classes. The state’s school board has approved curriculum for classes about the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The fear of lawsuits, the chance that a teacher might supplement that curriculum with his own beliefs means few schools are expected to participate.

To make this experiment work, Georgia will need smart teachers who can teach religion objectively and dispassionately, with the intent of making their students good citizens of the world, not good Christians.

And we need to know the good, bad and the ugly. Our students need to learn about the Holy Trinity and the Crusades, the Torah and the Holocaust.

I hope this experiment is successful, and hope the school system decides to expand the curriculum to include lessons about other religions.

Keeping kids in the dark about other faiths just breeds mistrust and hate.

The future leaders of our communities, businesses and country should be able to tell the difference between Osama bin Laden and the man wearing a turbin who attends the local mosque.

Understanding religion ” that driving force for so many in the world, even if it’s not for you and me ” could go a long way in creating a little more peace and harmony in the world.

Opinion/Projects Editor Tamara Miller can be reached at 748-2936, or tmiller@vaildaily.com.


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