What is Religion’s Role in a School Environment?

Haladar Wright The Charter Opinions  4/27/20

          Religion is an important part of culture and people’s lives which should not be disregarded, but there are difficulties in discussing it at school. Religion, at its core, is a social topic and an integral part of people’s identity, regardless of what they believe. For these reasons, I believe that religion should be discussed in the  academic environment.

          However, religion is not related to science and most other academic fields, which can bring up debate over whether it belongs in a school setting. Another problem is that any religious discussion runs the risk of offending others. In the end, religious discussion is essential and valuable if done right.

          In science classrooms, religious beliefs can easily conflict with science curriculum, which breeds confusion and discomfort. Ann Heppner, science teacher, often has to deal with this. Evolution sometimes conflicts with student’s ideologies. “Evolution is hard,” says Heppner. “I think the best way to deal with it is just to talk about it.” Sometimes, problems can arise in a student’s perception of what was discussed, but Heppner says that oftentimes “dialogue will clear a lot of those things up.”

          Religion shouldn’t have a place in science classes past brief discussion, because science is being taught there. Religion does not fit into a science curriculum. As Mrs. Heppner asserts, “science does not address faith or belief. Because it can’t.” 

          However, discussion between students and teachers can help to clarify problems when science teachings and religious teachings don’t align. Denise Monte, Physical Science teacher said, “I really don’t think it [religion] ought to be in science classes. When it comes up, I don’t mind discussing it.” 

           Religion does belong in classes where religion is tied to the subject matter, such as theology, philosophy, or history. Because religion is a societal topic, it would not be out of place in social studies classes; while it would be out of place in a science environment.  Religion should be discussed more often than not, because everything students learn is colored by their religious beliefs.

          “I’m really not sure how you could build a system that has no religion at its core,” said Heppner. For this reason, talking about religion can foster greater understanding and broaden student’s perspectives.

          Diana Brainerd, Associate Director, says that religion should be discussed in school. She says, “to not discuss religion when it is appropriate would be to ignore a huge part of what the human experience. [sic]” Brainerd did not elaborate further on when religious discussion is appropriate.

         Brainerd acknowledges that students could be offended by hearing other points of view, saying that, “it can be hard for someone who may hold strong beliefs to not be offended when other viewpoints are being discussed.” 

         Discussing religion is essential, because knowing how to discuss other’s viewpoints is a valuable skill. We can learn to do this by learning more about other people’s perspectives, rather than breaking them down or refuting them. If somebody gets offended, they need to make sure to bring that up in a healthy way that isn’t confrontational. A healthier environment for discourse is created when we discuss religion.

         In the end, as long as we strive to be respectful of other people’s beliefs, religious discussion can occur.  Discussing religion is valuable: it’s an important part of people’s lives, and talking about it can give us a better perspective on other’s beliefs. 

Sources:

Brainerd, Diana. “Re: A few questions on religion in school.” Received by Haladar Wright, 6 Mar. 2020.

Heppner, Ann. Personal Interview. 13 Feb. 2020.

Monte, Denise. Personal Interview. 13 Feb. 2020.