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Old 10-01-2009, 16:17   #7
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Appendix C
Religion and the Teaching of History–Social Science

Few issues have stirred greater controversy in Americans’ attitudes toward public education than the role of religion and values in public schools. In California the official response to this controversy is expressed in this framework.

On pages 5-6, this framework “supports the frequent study and discussion of the fundamental principles embodied in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights . . . including the right to freedom of religion.” On page 7, this framework asserts the importance of religion in human history: “When studying world history, students must become familiar with the basic ideas of the major religions and the ethical traditions of each time and place. Students are expected to learn about the role of religion in the founding of this country.”
This appendix is intended to assist educators as they implement the framework and as they respond to community concerns. To this end, “Religious Liberty, Public Education, and the Future of American Democracy: A Statement of Principles” and “Guidelines for Teaching About Religion” are printed below to help educators address issues of religious liberty and public education.*
“Religious Liberty, Public Education, and the Future of American Democracy: A Statement of Principles” was released by the Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center in March 1995. Using the civic principles of rights, responsibilities, and respect (three Rs) to guide them, members of 20 other national organizations and religious bodies, representing different points of view, formulated the statement. In that statement Americans are called upon to recognize, affirm, and guarantee every citizen’s right to religious freedom and to treat each other with respect and dignity as they seek to live together amid their deeply held differences.

Understanding the role of religion in public schools also requires the discernment between the teaching of religion (religious education) and teaching about religion. In 1988 a broad coalition of 17 religious and educational organizations published “Guidelines for Teaching About Religion,” in Religion in the Public School Curriculum: Questions and Answers. These guidelines distinguish between instruction about religion and religious indoctrination. The guidelines’ significant statements are excellent resources for all individuals and groups to use in their work to bring people together, ensure the survival of democracy in our nation, and teach about religion in an academic way that is constitutionally permissible and educationally sound. The guidelines also demonstrate how the three Rs can enable persons of differing persuasions to work together peaceably for the common good.

Religious Liberty, Public Education, and the Future of American Democracy: A Statement of Principles

. . . The rights and responsibilities of the Religious Liberty clauses [of the First Amendment] provide the civic framework within which we are able to debate our differences, to understand one another, and to forge public policies that serve the common good in public education.

Today, many American communities are divided over educational philosophy, school reform, and the role of religion and values in our public schools. Conflict and debate are vital to democracy. Yet, if controversies about public education are to advance the best interests of the nation, then how we debate, and not only what we debate, is critical.

In the spirit of the First Amendment, we propose the following principles as civic ground rules for addressing conflicts in public education:

I. Religious Liberty for All

Religious liberty is an inalienable right of every person.
As Americans, we all share the responsibility to guard that right for every citizen. The Constitution of the United States with its Bill of Rights provides a civic framework of rights and responsibilities that enables Americans to work together for the common good in public education.

II. The Meaning of Citizenship

Citizenship in a diverse society means living with our deepest differences and committing ourselves to work for public policies that are in the best interest of all individuals, families, communities, and our nation.
The framers of our Constitution referred to this concept of moral responsibility as civic virtue.

III. Public Schools Belong to All Citizens

Public schools must model the democratic process and constitutional principles in the development of policies and curricula.

Policy decisions by officials or governing bodies should be made only after appropriate involvement of those affected by the decision and with due consideration for the rights of those holding dissenting views.

IV. Religious Liberty and Public Schools

Public schools may not inculcate nor inhibit religion. They must be places where religion and religious conviction are treated with fairness and respect.
Public schools uphold the First Amendment when they protect the religious liberty rights of students of all faiths or none. Schools demonstrate fairness when they ensure that the curriculum includes study about religion, where appropriate, as an important part of a complete education.

V. The Relationship Between Parents and Schools

Parents are recognized as having the primary responsibility for the upbringing of their children, including education.

Parents who send their children to public schools delegate to public school
educators some of the responsibility for their children’s education. In so doing,
parents acknowledge the crucial role of educators without abdicating their
parental duty. Parents may also choose not to send their children to public
schools and have their children educated at home or in private schools.

However, private citizens, including business leaders and others, also have the
right to expect public education to give students tools for living in a productive
democratic society. All citizens must have a shared commitment to offer
students the best possible education. Parents have a special responsibility to
participate in the activity of their children’s schools. Children and schools
benefit greatly when parents and educators work closely together to shape
school policies and practices and to ensure that public education supports the
societal values of their community without undermining family values and

VI. Conduct of Public Disputes

Civil debate, the cornerstone of a true democracy, is vital to the success of any effort to improve and reform America’s public schools.

Personal attacks, name-calling, ridicule, and similar tactics destroy the fabric of our society and undermine the educational mission of our schools. Even when our differences are deep, all engaged in public disputes should treat one nother with civility and respect, and should strive to be accurate and fair. Through constructive dialogue we have much to learn from one another.

The Statement of Principles is not an attempt to ignore or minimize differences that are important and abiding, but rather a reaffirmation of what we share as American citizens across our differences. Democratic citizenship does not require a compromise of our deepest convictions. We invite all men and women of good will to join us in affirming these principles and putting them into action. The time has come for us to work together for academic excellence, fairness, and shared civic values in our nation’s schools.

“A Statement of Principles” is sponsored jointly by the following entities:

American Association of School Administrators
American Center for Law and Justice
American Federation of Teachers
Anti-Defamation League
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Christian Coalition
Christian Educators Association International
Christian Legal Society
Citizens for Excellence in Education

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.” - To Kill A Mockingbird (Atticus Finch)

“Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.” - Robert Heinlein
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