School Debates A More 'Inclusive' Religion Curriculum

A resolution being considered by an Ohio school board that would outline how religion is taught in social studies classes has sparked controversy among both faculty and religious leaders.

The resolution proposed to the Bradley County Board of Education would instruct that religion be taught from a historical perspective, teaching students about the "historical context of religious impact on world, national and state history," the Cleveland Banner reports. The proposal also outlines that students should not be required to memorize or recite religious doctrine.

"Everything’s going to be approached from a historical perspective," said Supervisor of Secondary Education Danny Coggin.

The proposed guidelines also required Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash to consult local faith leaders to create a more "inclusive" curriculum, a stipulation that drew debate at the Board of Education meeting.

"Any time government starts talking about religion, I get nervous," said board member Nicholas Lillios, who is Episcopalian. "Who decides who the local faith leaders will be? ... There are local leaders of all faiths in our community." Lillios noted that even Christian faith leaders have different perspectives.

Lillios criticized the proposal, saying, "We’re not doing that on any other subject within social studies."

"For instance," Lillios said. "We’re not having French people come and talk to us about the French and Indian War. ... Why are we singling out religion?"

Responding to the criticism, board member Charlie Rose said, "We don’t want people to be teaching their personal faith to their students." He added that the issue has become controversial in Tennessee recently because teachers assigned work that seemed targeted at indoctrinating students.

The controversy Rose referred to was the 2015 Islamic indoctrination scandal in Williamson county, Tennessee. Parents in the district complained that the textbooks students were using had a "pro-Islamic" and "anti-Judeo-Christian" bias, The Atlantic reports. Beth Burgos, a Williamson county school board member, said she believed students should not be tested on the laws of Islam, and that the textbooks used should not portray Islam as a peaceful religion.

The Bradley County Board of Education is set to vote on a final version of the religion in Social Studies resolution on March 10.

Source: Cleveland Banner, The Atlantic / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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