Should Religion Be Allowed In Schools?
The question of should religion be allowed in schools is very sensitive. The High Court of Gauteng ruled on Wednesday 28 June that schools may not endorse one religion over another. This was necessary as there were schools who did not comply with these ‘rules’ set in place in 1994 when South Africa became a democracy. It is difficult to formulate an unbiased opinion on such matters. Therefore, I asked this question on a public forum to ensure that my religious beliefs are not reflected in my answer.
How does the public feel about religion in school?
I posted a question on our local facebook page, “What are your views/opinions about religion in school?”. It was important that I use the term religion in the broad spectrum to avoid bashing of a particular religion. The question also arose of ethics as it is believed that religion aids in teaching morals and ethics.
Most of the respondents felt that a single religion cannot take precedence. Some of these suggested that religion be removed from schools completely while others felt that learners should be given the option. There were those who felt that it is the responsibility of parents to teach religion and the responsibility should not be shrugged off to the school. Similarly, some who are in general opposition of religious teaching felt strongly that religion belongs at home and at churches.
Interesting responses to this were that many felt part of education is the teaching of right versus wrong through a belief system. This brought up the point of morals and ethics being taught at schools. Some of the respondents who went to school pre-1994 and therefore were instructed in a Christian school felt that their moral compass was very strong because of it, even if they did not agree with the religious beliefs of Christianity. One respondent said, “I was sent to a highly religious school. It put me off of religion. We were taught to condemn people who do not believe in our God. So you condemn an innocent child to hell because he does not follow your religion? But in the same breath I like the basic ethos religion follows, but surely a school can teach basic morals without bringing religion in to it.”
Sadly there were reports of children being humiliated in school because they did not practice the same religion as was taught at the school. This usually stemmed from parents who does not believe in any particular religion and therefore passed their non-belief to their children. Also, persons who were of this opinion felt that all religion is hogwash and designed to “brainwash” the populace to the advantage of an elite group of people or institution.
An open conclusion to a difficult question:
According to my personal beliefs I wish all children could be taught my religion in order for them to enjoy the love it gives. However, I do agree that in order to co-exist peacefully in a multi-cultural and multi-religion world we must consider all beliefs. Personally, I like the idea of an optional class on religious studies but also feel that schools who are based in an area whose demographic supports one particular religion, should be given the opportunity to openly practice their beliefs.
This topic is a universal one as more and more countries are becoming supportive of all religious beliefs. Also, with extremism in some cases religion is getting a very bad rep. I believe that in order for us to understand our neighbours we must strive to learn as much about their beliefs as possible. This will help us to also understand where their cultural practices stem from and in turn will open communication channels. Our world cannot be split into the West and the East and neither can the vast number of belief systems.
Why is it that we are so willing to stay with the times but stick to outdated cultural beliefs? We must, as a global community, learn to grow together in all aspects and to accept that someone else might not have the same beliefs as you. We will need to ask this question again in the future and we will most likely come to a different conclusion. Therefore, this is a topic that cannot be closed and is necessary to revise continuously.