The World Religions In Missouri (WRIM) project aggregates information and resources to improve the understanding of Missouri public school teachers about issues in religious diversity and teaching religion in the schools. In June 2010, the project hosted a professional development workshop for K-12 mid-Missouri public school teachers.
Below are lists of links to help guide discussions on teaching about religions, accommodating diverse faiths in schools and talking about hot-button issues.
From a historical perspective, you might also want to check out Linda C. Kerns’ 2007 book Faith of Our Fathers: The Churches of Missouri. From towering cathedrals to simple structures made from logs, Missouri’s churches add much to the landscape, culture, and history of the state. Here for the first time all aspects of Missouri’s churches are covered in a portrait that celebrates the great faith of the state’s citizens.
Teaching About Religions
The Constitution stipulates that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” What implications does this have for teaching about religion? Below are some resources addressing this question. Be sure to check back with us — we’re continually adding links.
- In January 2010, the Center for Religious and Public Affairs at Wake Forest Divinity School released a report called Religious Expression in American Public Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law (PDF), which summarized how law answers some basic, key questions about religious expression.
- First Freedom Center’s free online book The Constitution and Religion in the Classroom includes chapters on the history of the Establishment Clause and how free exercise claims might enter the classroom, as well as a 22-minute documentary.
- Freedom Forum’s free online book Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum, by Warren Nord and Charles Haynes, discusses Constitutional and curriculum questions regarding religion in public schools. Freedom Forum also offers lesson plans for teaching about the First Amendment.
- Then-Education Secretary Richard Riley spoke in 1995 on finding common ground between religions groups and schools regarding religious expression in public schools. His speech is called “Religion In The Public Schools: A Joint Statement Of Current Law.” Adherents.com offers asynopsis of Riley’s guidelines. Also see the Education Department’s Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools
- Michael Streich’s article “Teaching Religion in Public High Schools” argued that “there are many good reasons why religion should be taught in the high schools.”
- Teaching Tolerance, from the Southern Poverty Law Center, frequently updates with new blog posts and also hosts classroom activities, teaching kits and its own list of recommended resources.
- A section of the Anti-Defamation League’s website focuses on religion in public schools, addressing religious holidays, religious display, student religious clubs and more.
- OABITAR (Objectivity, Accuracy, and Balance In Teaching About Religion) runs teachingaboutreligion.org, offering resources with an “educational commitment to pluralism” and “the professional understanding that public school teachers need to exercise a scrupulous neutrality regarding religion.”
- ReligiousTolerance.org added its 5,200th essay online in early 2010. Its goal is to publish work regarding “the full diversity of religious belief in North America.”
- The Religion and Public Education Resource Center (RPERC), based at California State University, Chico, provides general information about the ethical, legal and educational issues that arise in connection with religion and public education.
- The First Amendment Center’s Teacher Resources has everything from lesson plans to national and state social studies standards.
- The Interfaith Youth Core runs events and programs, particularly aimed at young people, aiming to promote mutual respect and pluralism among different religious traditions. Previous workshops have also focused specifically on accommodating and engaging with religious diversity in schools.
- PBS offers resources and activity ideas for teaching about religious diversity, aimed at teachers in grades 3-12. The site includes suggested print resources and links to other websites and videos that teachers can integrate into their discussions.
- The Religion and Media Interest Group of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication is an organization of scholars and media professionals that promotes discussion of media and religion from social science, historical, and other scholarly perspectives.
Accommodating Diverse Faiths
Below are some resources to help you consider diverse faiths in schools. Be sure to check back, as we’re continually adding new links.
- Council on Islamic Education: CIE’s mission is to support and strengthen American public education as the best foundation for a vibrant democracy, a healthy civil society, and a globally literate citizenry. Its Web site offers information on teaching about Islam and Muslims: lessons plans, an online forum for teachers, glossaries, etc.
- The Center on Religion & the Professions: This site’s education section provides links to various resources including case studies involving religion in schools, sample codes of ethics and lists of professional associations and faith groups.
- Anti-Defamation League’s A World of Difference Institute: The ADL offers resources for K-12 and college educators who want to help students recognize bias and the harm it inflicts on individuals and society;. The resources include simulation activities, curricula, case studies and more.
- Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding: Built on the belief that teachers “cannot bafford to be afraid” of religious and diversity education, Tanenbaum offers recommended reading for teachers, lesson plans, a message board and blog.
- U.S Religious Knowledge Survey: A 2010 survey of religious knowledge shows among the highest-scoring groups are Athesists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.
- Religious Tolerance Site: The goal of OCRT is to inform people about religions, their beliefs, and development, in order to increase understanding and tolerance while decreasing bigotry.
- National Center for Science Education- Science and Religion: This website provides resources on different religious perspectives on scientific questions and scientific perspectives on different religious topics. Resources are also provided exploring the relationship between science, especially evolutionary sciences, and religion.
- A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools (pdf): Is it constitutional to teach about religion? How should I teach about religion? How much should I say? How should I treat religious holidays in the classroom? All of these questions and more are answered in this document.
- Stereotyping Hinduism in American Education: This essay explores topics such as why educational material used to teach Hinduism focuses on negative portrayals, why secondary school teachers are trained on religious pluralism portrays Rama as ‘oppressing’ women, and why India’s civilization’s contributions are minimal when covering mathematics, science, medicine, and other ‘rational’ areas.
- Debate on Role of Religion in Education: Watch this video of The Big Debate about the role of religion in schools with a studio audience consisting of teachers, parents and students and a panel of witnesses and representatives from all major religions.
- Speech about Religion, Bias and Inaccuracy in Education: This video is a speech by Mathew LaClair of The Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County who shares his experiences of religion, bias and inaccuracy in education.
Often, discussion about religion centers on controversial cultural issues such as prayer in schools. Below are some resources from ReligionLink, a service of Religion Newswriters, addressing these issues. Although ReligionLink is designed for journalists, the information applies to educators as well.
- Whether abstinence-only sex education successfully decreases teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases is always a flashpoint issue. ReligionLink covered a pair of 2010 studies reveals a complex answer suggesting complex answers. ReligionLink also covered abstinence-only sex education after a 2007 survey reported an increase in the U.S. teen birth rate.
- Homeschooling is booming, with religious and moral motivations pushing the trend. ReligionLink gathered resources, experts and background information about this growing segment of the educational world.
- Public schools and universities across the country consider Muslim students’ requests for religious accommodation during Ramadan, the holy month of prayer and fasting. ReligionLink covered controversies surrounding these accommodations and why the discussion matters.
- Public schools have emerged as a leading venue where divisions over sexual orientation are playing out. ReligionLink addressed state legislation, lawsuits and school district policies that grapple with several areas of concern.
- Students bring a vast array of spiritual beliefs to college campuses. But diversity can be complicated because it leads to questions about the implications of religious pluralism.
- In 2002, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Cleveland school voucher program in a decision that President Bush called a “landmark ruling” for parents, many voucher supporters thought a clear victory had been won. The road, however, has been much rockier.
- Teaching About Religion: Worldview Education offers resources regarding contemporary issues such as teaching intelligent design in science classes, embryonic stem cell research and the wording of the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance.
- PBS broadcasts Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, delivering news coverage and analysis of national and international events in the religious world. Their website was an Official Honoree in the 2010 Webby Awards under the Religion and Spirituality category.
Remember to continue checking back for updated links!