9.01.2009

Can of Worms


Separation of Church and State, Pt. 1 - Schools

In the comments of my last Can of Worms post, I alluded to this being my next topic. Thanks to Luke for inspiring the idea (it had slightly occurred to me, but that comment got me started on this one). I also realized as I started working on this post, that it has many facets - schools, marriage, abortion, etc. so others will follow. This post will be about Separation of Church and State in schools.

I believe strongly in the separation of church and state. That said, I also think "In God we Trust" should stay on currency and "Under God" should remain in the Pledge of Allegiance (and that it should be said to start each school day in public schools). These are traditions established by the founders of our great nation and without these founding principles and traditions, we, America, wouldn't be where we are. And with that said, I also think respectfully abstaining from the Pledge of Allegiance should be permitted (and encouraged for those who feel the need to abstain) and that promising to tell the truth in a court should be enough, with or without a bible to swear on.

Yes, this country was founded by men who believed in God, as He is taught by the Christian faith, but it was founded on the basis of religious freedom. It was founded on the basis of worshipping (or not worshipping) freely without fear of persecution or prejudice.

Public schools should educate factual differences among religions (maybe if we learned a little about what we each believe, we could start getting along instead of blowing each other up, maybe?) and children should be given the right to pray quietly as they see fit.

In my opinion, it is the job/role of parents and churches to teach morality and values. Sure there are times when laws need to cover a value - not killing, stealing, things like that, but should government be teaching only creationism or only evolution - nope. The should be teaching both, since neither is proven by something unquestionable that you can touch and feel and see and experiment with.

I think this also applies to sex education. It is a parents' job to teach morals on this issue. Schools that teach abstinence only are turning a blind eye and schools that do not teach that abstinence is the only 100% sure method to prevent STDs and pregnancy are doing a disservice.

The battle between the far ends of issues is missing the huge piece that is the middle. As a former teacher, I saw first hand how schools, public schools, are being asked more and more to raise children for parents. I'm not speaking of all parents, but when even one parent moves their responsibilities to the school, it puts the school in having to teach morality and frankly, that's not what public schools should be doing.

Private, parochial schools have been established as a place for groups of people with similar beliefs to educate their children as an alternative to public education. In these schools, the values and the beliefs of the group should absolutely be taught, as parents enrolling their children are looking for that. But public schools are not the place.

Now, you can get nit-picky here and say that not cheating, being respectful in class, etc are values, but those are values I think any reasonable person can agree. The values and morals I speak of are those that there are vast differences among people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds. It is these issues that should only be taught in factual, equal to both sides, ways. It is to parents to teach their children the side on which they believe and why.

Separating church and state in the schools does not mean we are raising unkind, heathen children. What it means is that we are providing an equal, non-prejudicial education to all. Isn't that what our founding fathers would want; isn't 'all men created equal' a basis for this country? Aren't we doing a disservice to those who believe differently than us if we don't respect their beliefs and learn about them? Aren't we just breeding the kind of fear and hatred that is so prevalent among those who've attacked us? That was so prevalent before the Civil Rights Movement?

This "Can of Worms" has been opened - what do you think about Separation of Church and State in our Public Schools?

1 comment:

  1. I am not convinced that offering a generic humanist education rather than a specifically Christian education counts as/requires the separation of Church and State. I think that it is somewhat silly to expect schools to "teach morals" but of course they should reinforce parents efforts.

    Anyway, this whole thing is sort of confusing to me. I believe that schools should teach science, and that includes whatever is currently the best understanding of biology, geoscience etc. Schools should also teach philosophy and how to think about issues such as science and religion.

    But I don't think that this necessitates a "separation of Church and State" any more than the original American concept which was based on protecting the Church from the State.

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