I found the below data very eye-opening and disturbing, but not surprising. Republicans certainly should not be surprised. Last year in September Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator and contender for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, told the audience at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.” It appears that Mr. Santorum was right, and I applaud his insight and honesty. However, the very fact that a leading Republican would say this (out loud!) speaks to an ugly division in our country. As a country we have always been divided politically in regards to social and economic issues. But do we now need to add ‘education’ to the list? Are we truly becoming – educationally speaking – a divided country of haves and have nots? Yikes! And what does this mean for the future?
Last Friday I decided to poll my students in my World History class. I was curious about how they felt about the words “In God We Trust” on our coins and currency. I handed out the survey question without any front-loading discussions. In other words, I did not prepare the students by engaging them in discussions pertaining to the issue ( i.e., separation of church and state, the Age of Reason, etc.). To prevent students from being influenced by their peers, and to ensure that they answered the question privately and in silence, I handed out the question (see below) during a test they were taking on the Roman Empire.
The results were surprising. Out of 27 students, only seven did not support the change, two did not care, and 18 supported it. Wow… didn’t see that coming! Only 25 percent were against the change – I thought it would be higher. Conclusions?
A new school year has begun and I am back blogging! Whoo Hoo! So… here goes. On one of the first days of school this year I decided to poll my students. I was curious about what aspects of religion and belief they were interested in. I created two courses for them to choose from (see below). “If you had to pick one above the other,” I asked, “which one would you choose?”
I was very curious about what my students would pick. Over the years I have noticed a strong spike in the number of students genuinely miffed with religion; and they are not shy in expressing their disbelief and confusion. They want answers. They want to know why people believe in “unscientific” things such as the Rapture, the devil, angels, demons, hell, Judgement Day, and talking serpents. Since 1996, when I first started teaching my religion class, more and more students are clearly not content in just learning about what people believe, they want to know why.
The results of the poll were eye-opening, but not surprising. My students overwhelmingly picked the course that focuses on why people believe over what people believe by a 2:1 ratio. So what does this mean? Does it mean that kids are willing to critically examine religion in ways their grandparents would find hard to believe and/or blasphemous? Does it suggest that students are “losing their faith?” Or does it simply mean that kids demand “scientific proof” and “material evidence” in ways unprecedented in human history?
Regardless of the answer (s), my job has changed since 1996. In recent years I have had to do my own research into why people believe so I can better help my students explore their curiosity. Three books that I have found very helpful are below. Needless to say, any teacher who truly wants to objectively teach about religion should read them.