In our free country, there is separation of church and state, and many people interpret that in different ways. Last week, I was reading “On Education” by Harry Bridghouse, who in this book devoted an entire chapter to “Should Government Support Religious Schools.” This immediately sparked my interest. Brighouse’s ideas are radical, but his motivations are thought provoking. Brighouse, throughout the book, states that society should promote schools that allow children to benefit from the policies of autonomy and just citizenship and he believes that funding religious schools will not hinder this. In his opinion, as long as the government is not favoring one religion, this is fine. Throughout this book, Bridghouse’s main theme and ideal is that students should, through education, develop a sense of autonomy, or self-government free from external pressures or influences. Brighouse claims that religious schools will help, rather than hurt, students gain a sense of autonomy.
I think if the government started to fund religious schools, this would violate separation of church and state, but I do agree with Brighouse in that religion should not be totally ignored in the school system. In school we learn history, literature, science, and other vital topics to humanity. Religion is only sometimes touched on here and there in the midst of learning about these other topics. I believe that through schooling, children and young adults should learn how to interact with the people and the world around them. Knowledge of different beliefs, such as religion, plays a part in understanding and accepting other people. Rather than just grazing over the history of a few religions in world history or touching on worldview in science, I think schools should spend more time educating their students on different religions and worldviews. In their schooling, students are presented with knowledge vastly beyond what their parents teach them, but when it comes to religion, often times their parent’s religion (or lack of) is all they know. I think this leaves many people without the ability to make an autonomous decision of what they believe or even to fully understand beliefs of others. I don’t think that government funded public schools should teach from the perspective or one or any religion, but I do think this topic should be taught in a direct yet unbiased way.
As a student at UNC Chapel Hill, I am around many diverse, intelligent, well-informed people every day. Most students are very “book smart” because of their motivation and dedication to school. Many students are very “socially knowledgeable” because of their eagerness to keep up with what is going on in the world around them. Many students, however, still don’t know very much about the beliefs, religions, and worldviews that many of their peers hold. This is not a core subject in school or often even common knowledge, yet it makes up an extremely important part of many peoples lives. Although it is important, it often is a touchy subject as well. A lot of people are afraid of making other uncomfortable or offending them, and others are often simply embarrassed by their unawareness. Religion is a personal decision and should definitely not be pushed or influenced by a school, but I believe that teaching students to not be ignorant of the world and people around them is one of the most important gifts an education can provide.