- In June, the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) released new guidelines for incorporating religious studies into instruction.
- The new NCSS guidelines, which are a supplement to its 2014 College, Career, and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards, consider religious literacy to be a key component for “effective and engaged citizenship in a diverse nation and world.”
- The council notes in the guidelines that “religious literacy dispels stereotypes, promotes cross-cultural understanding, and encourages respect for the rights of others to religious liberty.”
Each person’s religious beliefs, whether it be a deep faith in God or a belief that no god exists, impacts his or her world view. This world view, in turn, impacts one's beliefs concerning rules for government, society and personal behavior. People's actions, and those of world leaders, have been and are often based in their religious views. Therefore, a deeper understanding of these motivations would seem to be a necessary part of social and cultural education.
Many educators are uncomfortable with the notion of teaching religion in schools. For some, this is because they either know little about religion or they feel that religion is inherently dangerous. For others, this is because they themselves have deeply held religious beliefs but are afraid of being accused of proselytizing students if they share those beliefs. While the simplest solution seems to be to avoid the issue, this avoidance can also be construed as the teaching of secular humanism, which some also consider to be a religious viewpoint.
In addition to the social studies implications, most religions include social and emotional concepts, as well. In most cases, religious instruction focuses on concepts of self-control and treating others with love. Because of this, some educators are seeing a strong connection between social-emotional learning and spirituality. These aspects can resonate powerfully with children’s experience and promote effective engagement through story, drama and constructive play and open dialogues concerning positive human interaction.
Since humans and human civilizations all have a religious element, whether it's the embracing of religion or the rejecting of it all together, its seems clear that educators will need to find some way of providing an educational framework for learning about what humans believe. Doing so may foster a better understanding of ourselves and one another, and a greater tolerance of others we encounter in the workplace and in our daily lives.