Monday, June 13, 2011

Teach Religious Studies in High School

I have observed, in my MCCC philosophy of religion courses, a great student interest in learning about religion, other religions, worldviews, and God-issues (existence of God; problem of evil; ontological status of moral values). I've also had the opportunity to speak four times to students at Monroe High School about worldviews and religion. The high school students wanted to talk about these things, stayed around to ask questions, and displayed much energy for the subject. So why aren't religious studies a basic part of a general high school education?

I regularly read CNN's "Belief Blog." This June marks the one-year anniversary of BB. To celebrate this BB posted "10 Things the Belief Blog Learned In Its First Year." Two of them are:

"1. Every big news story has a faith angle. Even the ordeal of 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for more than two months. Even the attempted assassination of Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Even March Madness."

"5. It's impossible to understand much of the news without knowing something about religion. Why did the Egyptian revolution happen on a Friday? Why was Osama bin Laden's body buried so quickly after he was killed? Why did Afghan rioters kill seven United Nations workers in April? You simply can't answer those questions without bringing in religion."

Before, during, and after my trip to Kenya last fall, I knew I needed to familiarize myself with African religions. If I want to understand Africa I must understand their religious worldview. See, e.g., "Between Pulpit and Pew: Religious Influence on Political Belief and Behavior in Kenya," by Steve Lichty.
I've been to India. You can forget understanding India - it's politics, geography, culture, people - if you do not understand its religious worldview. The same is true in regard to so-called "secular" Europe and Canada.

The same goes for my teaching Chinese students, my trip to Thailand, and teaching African-American seminarty students. Re. the latter, for example, see Peter Paris's The Spirituality of African Peoples, and African American Religious Thought: An Anthology, eds. Cornel West and Eddie Glaude.

"It's impossible to understand much of the news without knowing something about religion." A general education that ignores religious and worldview studies is a greatly impoverished education. The Big Questions underly everything. They should be taught in high school.