“I want religion taught in school!”: A meditation on character education

Published October 13, 2014 by Lunapo

Please visit the original post here. I chose not to reblog this article because I have a lot of thoughts I would like to see go with it, including graphics which I was not able to include in the standard WordPress reblog. Read the original first, since many of my thoughts may seem incomplete without that article.

First religions are taught in schools: from a literary and anthropologic standpoint. Abrahamic religion in the form of excerpts from the King James Bible, the Torah, and the Q’ran are part of the English II (World Literature) curriculum. It is taught as literature and is discussed as a work of fiction. A fable with no more or less respect and realism than other folk tales, fables, and legends from other cultures, modern and ancient. The Wall of Asgard- where Odin first receives Sleipnir, Isis and the Seven Scorpions, a selection from the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Buddhist myth about the window in the hospital room are taught along side these three Abrahamic text selections.

Character education is something which I grates me the wrong way. It stems from parents not parenting their children. They don’t raise their children with morals they hold dear. They place that need onto the school. This isn’t necessarily because they don’t know how. It’s not a poor-rich thing, it’s not a racial thing, it doesn’t matter your culture or creed. I sincerely believe it stems from living outside of your means. No matter how much money one pulls in, if one pays out per month more than one brings in, one is living beyond one’s means and cannot satisfy higher needs.
It’s basic psychology.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

When a family is living beyond their needs, they are stuck at the bottom two levels. Morality doesn’t come into play when a household has to decide whether to pay the rent or put food on the table. When a family has to figure out how much of the month’s funds go towards mountains of credit card debt while still paying off the mortgage, the cars, food, and gas. Which means that most of it goes on the credit card. And the cycle continues.

This need for character education also comes from the conservatives and religious folks. The families who, if means were available, would home school their children or send them to a religious-based private school. The rise for this was in the 1980s and was a main focus of President W. Bush’s education reform agenda. Read: character education = Christian morals education.

If you want your child to be exposed to character education, know that it will come from a place of teaching morals based on universal empathy. If you want religious texts taught in public schools, know it will be done, as it is now, from a literary standpoint along with many other works of literature. If you want the actual religion taught in public schools, know it will be done from an anthropologic standpoint. Know that your religion will not be the only one taught. It will be taught alongside every other religion. No religion will be taught as an answer, or as “correct”, they will be taught for their cultural value.

If one believes the children are immoral and unethical, one needs to take a harder look at the families and the look at those upbringing the children. The parents, the families, the culture in general.

Change the children, change the future. If you want to use religion to teach your children morals and ethics, so be it. But a child who learns to not do something only out of fear of punishment is not molded into a good human. Someone who doesn’t kill or rape or steal only because of fear of going to hell is not, at their core, a good person. They are a cowardly shell of an evil person.

As it says in the original post…make sure you know what you’re asking for. Make sure you’re ready to have everything taught equally. You can’t open the door and allow one in without opening the floodgates and letting them all in.

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4 comments on ““I want religion taught in school!”: A meditation on character education

  • I *love-love-love* that you tied Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to this discussion. You’re right about this. It’s tough out there, and so many people are struggling financially. The higher matters of the pyramid must by necessity take a back seat to the lower. In that case, school (and teaching about religion, morals, and ethics as part of a curriculum) are a noble thing.

    It’s also true that some parents want the lessons they are teaching at home *reinforced* by what they are taught in school… and there’s the rub for me: education by definition is about teaching (or learning, depending on what side of the desk you’re sitting on) things you *don’t already know.* There’s a point when having school reinforcing the lessons taught at home becomes indoctrination, rather than education.

    Consider also, someone like me, who had long been “indoctrinated” in Catholic and Christian fundamentalist schools–I didn’t attend any public school until I went to college–and I still found my way to Witchcraft and political anarchism. 🙂 Indoctrination can and does backfire, probably more often than we are led to believe….

    • You are 100% correct about the difference between education and indoctrination. The folks who send their kids to public school because of inability for home/private school but want home/private school lessons taught there…it just doesn’t mesh.

      The issue of backfire…Most Pagans come from Abrahamic parents and upbringing (myself included). I’d love to see a national poll with real numbers of how many Witch-of-Witch folks there are versus not…

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