Without religion, morality, and a true sense of right and wrong, our educational systems will fail to prepare our nation’s youth for the great difficulties which inevitably lie ahead. Education, morality, and religion are three concepts of American life which are closely related, but also closely regulated when in contact with each other. By separating these three important aspect, many people believe that they can still educate and prepare students for life outside of the educational plane and away from the care and protection of their parents. Although in some cases this system may work, it usually fails in its primary purpose. Without religion and morality, the public school system can easily teach mathematics and science. Even history can be taught, although slightly diluted, without such ideas. But, how are students supposed to understand why such things exist and the reasoning behind historical decisions? Religion is absolutely necessary to teach students why and how many decisions are made. Morality is necessary in order to educate students who will eventually be great assets to our civilization. Without these concepts being taught in the public school system, students will only learn the things which will prepare them for life in the workforce. But, there is much more to life than work. Undeniably, work puts food on the table and money in the pocket. Work makes it possible for people to obtain those luxuries that they drool over. But work does not draw families closer together. Work does not make a family happy. Only through the teaching of morality and religion can the public school system ever expect to prepare these students for the aspects of life, such as family, which make life itself so important.
Over the past half of a century, religion and morality have continued to lose their place in the educational plane. The bible, a book filled with the history and culture of an ancient people, is off-limits as a piece of educational literature. Prayer, unless it is private, is considered to be unfair to students who wish to leave religion out of their lives, or at least their education. In a Wisconsin lawsuit, Weiss vs. District Board of Education, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin said, “There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed” (Ontario Consultants on Religious Tollerance). Despite rulings and statements such as these, the statistics must be considered before claiming that religion is a source of evil in public educational institutions. But first, education must be defined. For the purpose of presenting an accurate description and ultimately convincing argument, education must be defined here as “imparting information, nurturing personal and social growth, stimulating curiosity, increasing awareness, acquiring practical skills, focusing the critical faculties, and developing and insulating wisdom” within the boundaries of an institution (Marty 8). Such institutions include homes, primary schools, secondary schools, post-secondary schools, technical colleges, churches, and others. In institutions such as these, religion does have a place and is far from being a source of evil as the Wisconsin Supreme Court claims. Religious groups are the foundation for moral systems in America. By teaching practices such as being kind to one another, forgiveness, sobriety, and others, religions help to create citizens prone to good behavior. Religions also play a major role in humanitarian efforts. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, is one of the most active groups when it comes to humanitarian efforts around the world. On the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s website, it states:
In addition to providing materials, the Church also helps with funds and volunteers. Volunteers often make the most difference in restoring hope in the lives of those in crisis. A recent example is the more than 10,000 days of labor donated by Church members to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and surrounding states. From 1985 to 2009, the Church has shipped 61,892 tons of food and 139,998 tons of other supplies to more than 150 countries. In 2009, the Church provided assistance in response to the tsunami in Samoa, typhoons in the Philippines, the Padang, Indonesia earthquake, conflict in Pakistan, and 98 other disasters” (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).Besides being a moral compass and a source of humanitarian efforts, churches across the United States are also advocates for education. These facts show that religion is the greatest source of moral education in public schools and without it, public schools will not be able to efficiently educate students who will become positive citizens of the United States.
“If educators aspire to teach a fairly accurate picture of the world around us, it is both necessary and good to have religious themes included in secondary education. Also, if we assume that it is unfair to “establish,” privilege, demean, or minimize particular faiths, then the common good is furthered only by fair-minded, unprejudiced teaching about religion and religions” (Marty 7). Educators are not just expected to teach students academics such as history, science, and mathematics, but also the way the world works as a whole. No matter how much the government of the United States as a whole wants to deny that religion is a major part of the world and the people in it, religion cannot be excluded from the lesseons learned in the educational institutions across the country. The constitution of the United States was written in a way that guarantees the religious freedom of every citizen. As stated in the Constitution of the United States, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof…” (U.S. Constitution – Amendment 1). Our nation was formed with freedom of religion as a primary goal. But, how can a student make a truly free decision as to which religion, if any, is a good fit for them without being educated on the variety of religions available for them to follow? By teaching about religion, schools are not taking anything away from the students, neither are they pushing any one faith upon them. They are simply educating them in the ways of others. No constitutional right is being violated. The concept of “separation of church and state” is a misinterpretation. Nowhere in the constitution of the United States can those words be found. God, is even mentioned in that very same document which is the framework of our nation. By removing religion from the curricula in the United States public school system, students are unable to take full advantage of their religious freedom. Simply, by limiting a student’s education of the religions of the world, schools are taking part in a nationwide effort to take away the constitutional rights of their students.
According to Martin E. Marty, “With religious knowledge in hand, students will be able to account for a wider and deeper range of human motivation and action” (64). History is filled with events which revolved around religion. Wars have often been caused by religious tension between nations. Many other historical decisions, including but not limited to the revolution of the United States, were made because of religious belief and the determination of the people to have religious freedom. By limiting religion and ceasing to allow it from being taught in public schools, teachers and school administrators are making it difficult for students to fully understand the decisions made in the past. Without the knowledge of why and how such decisions were made, students will be unable to make their own decisions efficiently and correctly. The world cannot afford to create a generation of ignorant men and women simply because of the fine line between preaching and teaching. The limitations placed on schools when it comes to religion are doing nothing more than limiting the intellectual range of the students which they are responsible for educating.
History, mathematics and science are the three key concepts taught in public schools. Most courses are based off of these three basic principles. Religion fits into these concepts as well. History is filled with decisions which were made by people influenced by their faith in their own religions. Mathematics has evolved partially due to the desire of people to get closer to understanding this world and hopefully understanding the purposes of some greater being. Science is used, not only as a way to learn new things about the world, but also as a way to either prove or disprove the existence of deity. All things are tied to religion in some way or another. By teaching the basic ideas of various religions, public schools would be giving their students the knowledge necessary to make the best decisions they can after graduation. Religion must be permitted to be taught in the public school system for the good of all people, now and in the future.
In the bible, God leads the Hebrews out of Egypt through the hand of Moses. After fleeing from Pharaoh and coming to rest, they are given ten commandments from God through Moses. The King James version of the Bible reads, “And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables to words of the covenant, the ten commandments” (The Second Book of Moses Called Exodus – Chapter 34). These ten commandments given to Moses contained laws for every person on the face of the earth. These laws included do not kill, do not steal, and others. All of these laws, expressed in what some people consider Holy Scripture and others consider just a book, are laws in modern day law books. It is illegal to kill, as well as illegal to steal. Religion is the cornerstone for morality. Without religion, who would have known that stealing and killing was a negative thing which deserves punishment? Is it just natural for us to know that? No, it is not natural. We are taught those things at a young age. Even in schools, some morality is taught. But if religion is taken from the curriculum, educators will be unable to explain the reasoning behind such ideas. Religion reinforces the concept of morality and without religion, morality has no foundation to stand on. Schools must allow religion in to provide a strong and sturdy foundation for the teaching of morality in the public school system. Religion is as needed in education as the concept of right and wrong.
Students are citizens of this nation as much as anybody else who legally has the right to live in the United States. They have the unalienable right to make their own decisions on what religion, if any, they choose to follow. Educators in the public school system must be responsible for teaching such students what options are available to them. The knowledge of the different religions of the world is as important as knowledge in the fields of science, mathematics, and history. By teaching only things which are most often considered academic, the public school system is limiting their student’s knowledge instead of increasing it. Although controversies over religion are common, the ideas and beliefs of each religion must be made known to the students. It is both unfair and unconstitutional to decide what is right or wrong for a student to learn.
The generation who currently endures the public school system must be better prepared than any other generation before them. Mankind has never had so much control and power as they do at this point in time. Technology has allowed people to create magnificent, nearly miraculous products. There are cures available for millions of diseases which have taken the lives of countless people throughout history. Machines have been introduced into society in ways never thought of before and have made life much easier. But, mankind has also created things which can cause destruction like the civilizations of the past never could have imagined. Human beings have the power to completely destroy the planet which has provided all living things with life for millions of years. The power that humans possess in this point in history is immense, but so is the responsibility which is placed upon the shoulders of every person now living. Educators are responsible for teaching and preparing students to handle that responsibility wisely. Religion and morality are key to helping those students make the correct decisions. By taking these concepts out of the public school system, it will be exponentially more difficult for our civilization to go on existing as it has. “How can the rising generations be expected to make such great decisions without being taught how?” (Brown 48).
Religion is a necessity in the realm of education. Many people are trying to make it difficult for religious concepts to be taught in public schools. But, religion cannot be removed from public education without consequences. Students must be permitted to learn and grow in order to make their own decisions correctly in the future. They cannot be limited, or they will make mistakes that might be catastrophic in the end. “Religion must be taught in the public school system in order to allow students to understand the reasons why past decisions have been made” (Boyles 25). They must also be permitted to learn religious ideas in school in order for them to understand the purpose behind many different aspects of life. Also, religion is the foundation of morality. Without religion in the public school system, morality will become nearly non-existent in the future and the world will be filled with chaos. Although the line between teaching and preaching in the public school system is very difficult to see, it must be walked to keep the world together and keep civilization moving ahead as it has for many years.
Boyles, Donald E. The Bible, Religion, and the Public Schools. Aimes, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1965. Print.
Brown, Samuel Windsor. The Secularization of American Education. New York: Russell & Russell, 1967. Print.
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tollerance. Religious Tollerance.org. 11 Oct. 2006. Web. 11 November 2010 .
“The Second Book of Moses Called Exodus – Chapter 34.” The Scriptures. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 2010. Web. 23 November 2010 .
“U.S. Constitution – Amendment 1.” U.S. Constitution Online. 1995. Web. 18 November 2010 .
Mary, Martin E. Education, Religion and the Common Good. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 2000. Print.