Friday News Roundup: Education Shakeup

From curriculum debates in Texas to dress code debates in Oregon, there was a lot going on in the world of religion and education this week. Along with the local news, a national coalition of organizations issued a joint statement on religion in the public sphere that implicates how religion should be taught. And as always, there’s a study. Read on!

Texas is deep in debate on how to characterize the role of religion in the U.S.’s founding. The Austin Statesman reports on those pushing for change:

“Their key recommendations for revision include more emphasis on documents from early America like the Mayflower Compact of 1620, written by Christian pilgrims who wanted religious freedom, or adding the Bible to sources that influenced the creation of significant documents when America was founded. If their changes are accepted, students who now receive a more generic overview of religious freedom and its importance in the country’s founding would be taught that the nation’s founders wanted to shape America based on biblical principles.”

The Washington Post also reports, and the Dallas Morning News reports that “scores of Texans” showed up at the Board of Education discussion to try and sway the debate.

We’ll keep on eye out for the Board of Ed’s Decision.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, legislators are considering whether or not to let teachers wear religiously-mandated headwear in the classroom. Reports local station KATU:

In the 1920s, when the Ku Klux Klan had political influence, a state law was passed prohibiting public school teachers from wearing religious dress in the classrooms like turbans and head scarves.

A hearing room in the Capitol was packed Wednesday with many people wearing their religious clothing. They came to testify before a House committee in hopes of getting legislators to repeal the law.

“It’s a history that Oregon needs to move away from,” said Sava Ahmed who is Muslim and one of several people who testified.

She said if she and others aren’t allowed to wear their religious dress in the classrooms it would be “just like saying, ‘Why not just change the color of your skin?’”

The controversy stems from those who fear teachers who wear religious dress would try and influence or convert their students to their religion despite teacher conduct rules that keep them from proselytizing in the classroom.

The Oregon Statesman-Journal adds, ‘The bill is supported by state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and state Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo.”

In national news, a coalition of organizations including universities, the ADL, the ACLU, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, the Sikh Council on Religion and Education and the Islamic Networks Group  have issued a master document, Religious Expression in American Public Life:  A Joint Statement of Current Law. It explores issues from whether printing “In God We Trust” on money is unconstitutional to whether religious groups should be allowed to meet on government property – to whether and how teachers should teach about religion in public schools. The document is the “first ever consensus,” says the Baptist Standard.

And, as always, a new study: this one from Gallup, on the conservatism of various religious groups – Mormons come out on top.

Enjoy your weekend, and I’ll see you again next Friday!