Just last week, Ilana Lipowicz addressed the recent debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye over creationism and the controversy concerning it being taught in the public school system. While she made it clear that she’s against teaching creationism in public education, she did assert that religion, particularly the moral lessons behind religion, should not be forsaken in schools if taught through figurative interpretation. I argue religion has no place in the United States public school system given America’s variety of religious backgrounds, as well as the abundance of people who do not wish to have their children exposed to religion — especially in a school setting.
Like Lipowicz, I agree there are many valuable lessons and morals within religion when taken figuratively. However, that does not suggest that those same and essential morals are by any means restricted to religion and cannot be taught through other vectors.
Lipowicz claims that since religion has been such an intricate factor in human history and has been one of the inherent elements in mankind’s social and moral development, it should not be condemned in the public school system. Religion has had an intricate influence on mankind. Yet, as history blatantly explicates mankind’s violent tendencies in accordance to religion, despite its moral teachings, it has most often led the human race down the wrong path: a path paved with war and oppression.
The U.S. is composed of all different cultures, races, ethnicities and religious beliefs that, in many cases, clash. How can we possibly choose from the surplus of religions, which stories are worthy to share and which are not, especially if a particular story expresses a belief that goes against another religious teaching or value? The bigger question is: Do public schools really have the right to do so, considering how impressionable children are and the wide variety of children in the classroom? Moreover, as Lipowicz articulates, atheism is an ever-growing concept and largely accepted as a truth, perhaps soon reaching the majority of Americans. If that is the case, religion should only be taught at the parent’s will outside public school systems, as to give access to those who desire it, but not force it upon those who don’t.
As Lipowicz asserts, if religious values are taught, it should be through a figurative context. She gives the example of the story of Adam and Eve, where Eve is coursed by Lucifer to eat the forbidden fruit, subsequently making mankind aware of “self-consciousness” and losing their benevolent innocence. She states, “This revelation mirrors the moment of separation of humans from animals when we gained the capacity for self-awareness.” If we are looking at these stories in a figurative perspective, then it is logical to presume that a person — a regular but creative mortal — wrote them. In all probability, based on the plot of the myth, a man. I don’t believe it is any coincidence that the author chose to portray Eve as the one to screw life up for the human race while Adam remains an innocent victim. Sometimes the very theme of these stories is simply wrong, but overlooked. In this particular instance, we see the origin of the ongoing persecution of women or even, if looked at with a wide enough lens, the common fear of snakes. For some, they can make great pets.
Religion is not evil and can be a force for good. Nonetheless, if religion is taught in public schools, it should only be at a high school level, when students can fully understand the stories in a figurative sense and can scrutinize them for both their good and bad. Under no circumstances should it be a mandatory aspect of public education; it should only be studied at the interest of the student. There is simply too much to teach in schools these days, and the U.S. is already playing catch-up to many other counties in terms of education. Religion simply cannot be a fundamental priority in our public school systems.
Editor’s Note: Ilana Lipowicz’s original column, “Don’t ditch your Sunday school lessons,” can be found here.