[www.washtimes.com] Any thoughts on this story?
maule at LAW.VILLANOVA.EDU
Tue Jan 22 14:03:31 PST 2002
Yes, it probably is a question of technique, and the key question is in the last point you make when you ask why assume that in the context of public education it cannot be done in a manner that does not violate the First Amendment.
The reason I don't make that assumption is simple. "We" (the various governments, citizens, school boards, whoever) do not do a very good job of acclimating teachers to the realities of Constitutional principles. Yes, teachers and administrators are busy, have much to learn, have all sorts of distractions with which to deal, etc., but the litany of cases and would be cases as reported in the press that arise from a school's or teacher's well-intentioned or not so well-intentioned violation of Constitutional principles is long and sad. Many teachers don't understand some or all of these principles, and many who do understand them see them as unrealistic obstacles or burdens that conflict with the harsh realities present in too many of our school systems.
Teaching about religion in a manner that is not violative of the First Amendment is probably one of the more challenging aspects of maintaining deference to students' Constitutional rights. I have doubts that institutions that can't deal well with other protections should be presumed to have the werewithal to do well with this one.
Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law
Villanova PA 19085
maule at law.villanova.edu
President, TaxJEM Inc (computer assisted tax law instruction) (www.taxjem.com)
Publisher, JEMBook Publishing Co. (www.jembook.com)
Owner/Developer, TaxCruncherPro (www.taxcruncherpro.com)
Maule Family Archivist & Genealogist (www.maulefamily.com)
>>> davideguinn at YAHOO.COM 01/22/02 10:33AM >>>
It seems that my disagreement with Jim has devolved into one of technique -
when it can be done and how to do it well.
As to the first question, research tends to indicate that students become
spiritually aware in the teenage years. They are in fact ripe for education
about religion. They are beginning to become aware of the liminal question
(life and death and meaning. etc.) that are at the heart of religious
concerns. Admittedly, this demands particular care in how they are
educated - but providing a good education in all respects is and should be a
vital concern. It is important to address these issues because they are
Second, in terms of techniques, admittedly an inexperienced teacher may not
be ideal to teach about religion in any depth. However, as Jim suggests in
other topics, the preliminary work may be done by general teachers, but it
can be supplemented with field trips and exposure to mosques and synagogues.
The students learn from someone from the "inside" - while the religious
professionals recognize (as a precondition of participation) that their role
is to explain not convert.
In order to carry out this type of education, it should be supervised both
by parents and a diverse group of religious leaders. Indeed, such
collaborative work illustrates pluralism. And Ecumanism is a fact of life
in most congregations. It was certainly popular enough when I was a
teenager visiting congregations of different faiths. Clergy have had to
learn limits that respect the rights of others. Why assume that they can't
do so in the context of public education?
----- Original Message -----
From: "James Maule" <maule at LAW.VILLANOVA.EDU>
To: <RELIGIONLAW at listserv.ucla.edu>
Sent: Monday, January 21, 2002 5:44 PM
Subject: Re: [www.washtimes.com] Any thoughts on this story?
> Without re-hashing the points of disagreeement, replying to David's
> 1. Teaching about religion may be generic, but isn't that the point of a
"middle school Con Law" (Civics?) course designed to foster tolerance?
Teaching theologies, even if sensible at a college level religion course
level, is just too abstract and conceptually difficult for middle school
> 2. Teaching about culture isn't the equivalent of teaching about religion.
Surely, if someone not part of a culture tries to teach about it, there is a
much greater risk of making offense than if the person teaching is of the
culture being taught. (Perhaps one reason so many Americans have warped
views of other cultures in other countries is because they get their
information second and third hand and not directly from people who belong to
the other cultures). The same is true of religion. Members of any
denomination would have qualms about their theology being explained by
someone not of the denomination, unless the person was well versed in it
(e.g., a religious studies major). Giving crash courses to "we can teach
anything" elementary and middle school teachers is dangerous
> 3. The point about learning art might explain why high culture has so few
adherents, relatively speaking. How many of our children learn art from
expert artists? At least in the area of art, children go on field trips to
museums where they might get something useful from a curator if a curator is
available. Imagine the outcry of shuttling students off to services at
church A, temple B, synagogue C, mosque D, and wiccan celebration E.
> 4. Whether the teaching of something is boring is not only a matter of its
abstractness (and I disagree that abstractness necessarily equals boring),
but also a matter of presentation.
> Jim Maule
> Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law
> Villanova PA 19085
> maule at law.villanova.edu
> President, TaxJEM Inc (computer assisted tax law instruction)
> Publisher, JEMBook Publishing Co. (www.jembook.com)
> Owner/Developer, TaxCruncherPro (www.taxcruncherpro.com)
> Maule Family Archivist & Genealogist (www.maulefamily.com)
> >>> davideguinn at YAHOO.COM 01/19/02 07:54PM >>>
> ---- Original Message -----
> From: "James Maule"
> > Agreed that it is not possible to teach about all religions in the
> in which a select few religions are being highlighted and spotlighted by
> program in question (and probably by other programs). But it IS possible
> teach about religion, rather than teaching about selected religions.
> Teaching about religion and teaching selected theologies are different
> Again, I'm afraid I must disagree. Not teaching theologies but teaching
> about religion is like leading a generic prayer. Once you whittle it down
> to the lowest common denominator, there's really nothing left. While, as
> I've argued, I think the generic, functionalist definition of religion is
> useful in the law, I don't think it teaches us much about what is unique
> about traditional understandings of religion because the functionalist
> definition includes so-called secular ideologies.
> In one sense, teaching about generic religion is like trying to teach
> black or hispanic culture. In the end, all you would do is insult members
> of that culture. Instead, wouldn't it be better to learn at least
> about a number of specific sub-cultures under that general heading? In
> any other discipline, you wouldn't learn only about an abstract generic
> idea - you learn about explemplars that illustrate that idea. In art - in
> literature - you learn by exploring sample works that illustrate something
> and that can be used to teach you how to appreciate other works.
> Moreover, trying to teaching about something in the abstract is boring.
> of the challenges in math and science education is that students feel that
> these subjects are boring because they are abstract and irrelevent to
> lives. You need to concrete to make it real.
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