The state of Texas is in a flap about curriculum content for social studies and science classes.
At issue is whether new social studies textbooks should include information about the religious influences on people who had historical significance. All of us who even faintly remember our American history know that religion and religious beliefs played a large role in history. That is an undisputed fact. Some members of the Texas State Board of Education want the textbooks to include information such as a the fact that during the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin called on the delegates to utilize prayer as they considered how to build the framework of the constitution.
People who wear their religion on their sleeve and think everyone else should, too, are pushing for those facts to be included. They are also pushing to include the Christian belief of creation versus evolution in the science textbooks.
People who are a bit wary of those people, and maybe rightly so, don’t want any mention of religion in textbooks. They believe that if it is written that George Washington was a Christian, that somehow that is endorsing a particular religion. Some of these people also believe that the mention of a religion is imposing that religious belief on students.
How absurd is that? If I tell you I am a Christian does that mean I am saying you have to be a Christian, too?
An integral part of educating young people is to encourage a broad world view and critical thinking. A Christian, Muslim, atheist, Buddhist, or Jew should be able to read about another religion without feeling threatened. And if a threat is perceived, then maybe that says something about the person doing the reading.
Hopefully, there is a middle ground between these two groups on the Board and this issue will be resolved in such a way that it benefits the students, not a faction.
As always, I am open to another point of view. What do you think about this issue?
8 thoughts on “Could We Find a Middle Ground?”
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I had been in a non-Christian country for so long that I’ve stopped giving thought to the topic of religion. The slightest mention of it would easily get me ostracized from people. In my opinion what has become unreasonable is the undue consideration given to how something will be perceived at the expense of saying or doing something that is important. In this frame of thinking there will not be anything that can be considered a basic, fundamental concept, or guiding idea for people, because to do that would offend someone when they apply it to their own paradigm of things. To speak a word, any word, is in a way promoting it because it’s been spoken, but we still have to communicate. According to the suggestion made in the article, every nation that supports human rights would have to consider itself Agnostic while allowing people to practice whatever religion they want, because for a country to say it is Christian would be looked upon as a threat to non-Christians.
And if this done the next thing needing to be done is to get rid of modern day legal systems and start over, because if I’m not mistaken, laws, courts, and the decisions made therein are based on fundamental tenets which come from Christianity. If we’re going to start down a path that revamps the free world, wouldn’t it make more sense to address those who are overly sensitive in their perception of what goes on around them? Because to accommodate them doesn’t mean it is bringing us in a direction that is good for everyone, It’s more like compromising everyone, and in a very big way, in trying to appease their sensitivities. Having said all of this let me say that I’m not an overly religious person, perhaps more-so spiritual, but i do believe in basic ideas that should be held in high regard, like ethics. And I would argue that it’s the erosion of ethics that has deterred the development of those things necessary to avoid acute sensitivity.
Isn’t this why a parent tells their child to grow up, preparing them for a world driven by understanding and not sensitivities? Have we really changed that much, or have we convinced ourselves for the wrong reasons that we need to?
Another good article would be one talking about how to address the sensitivities.
Frank, you made some excellent points. Thanks for contributing to the discussion. Your suggestion for a follow up topic is good. Would you like to do a guest blog?
I think it is important for history texts to include all factors that influence great historical figures, including but not limited to, religious influences — whether they be traditional Christian, Jewish, Muslim or some other tradition.
What I object to is any failure to respect the tradition, whatever it might be.
Just because I don’t want to be preached at doesn’t mean I can’t accept the fact that there are religious viewpoints out there, and they may have triggered goodness knows what.
If a religious view was significant, then why ignore it. If it’s not, then don’t mention it. Do we need to know someone’s favorite food, or eye color, or how many times they’ve had the flu? Unless it relates to the subject at hand, why stick it in there?
Rather than worry about offending, why not let the educators actually educate.
What a concept!
Yes, explain who believed what and how that may have affected their thinking.
To those who want to take that much offense or believe it to be anything other than education might want to consider sitting in, maybe they can learn something as well.
Thanks for the great responses to the issue. Matt, I agree that the point is to show how a historical figure’s beliefs affected their moment in history. That is not preaching. It is stating the facts. Most people are comfortable saying that Hinduism influenced Ghandi in all he did in India, but many are not comfortable saying that Christianity influenced the early leaders of America. I wonder why that is.
I would like to see us stick to the facts but tell all of the facts. “Sanitizing” history and social studies to avoid the mention of religion is goofy.