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Teaching About Religion in Classrooms

Few subjects in education cause as much controversy as the portrayal of religions.  That is particularly so when it involves Islam ("New York City teacher fined $300 for showing ISIS video," Christian Science Monitor, Mar. 19).

I'm not at all surprised.  Terrorist attacks in the name of Islam have created anger and fear in most Americans ("References to Islam in School Textbooks Stir Up a Fight," The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 15). Although teachers say they present an objective view of Islam, their claim is challenged by Citizens Against Islamic Indoctrination and others.  

I realize that not all Muslims are violent, but on the other hand I understand why parents are hypersensitive to how religion is treated.  They were not always that way.  When I was in high school, teachers included the Spanish Inquisition as part of World History. There was no pushback because it was considered settled history.  But Islam is different because it affects our daily lives, witness the events in Brussels last week.

One thing is certain: Social studies teachers will have to walk on eggs when they attempt to answer questions from students about Islam. Media coverage of Islamic terrorism is so extensive that only the most sheltered students are unaware of current events.  I wonder what teachers are expected to say to their students under school district guidelines?  Let's not forget that freedom of speech in K-12 classrooms does not exist, as the ruling in Evans-Marshall v. Board of Education of the Tipp City Exempted Village School District made clear.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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