CAN RELIGION BE TAUGHT IN OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS?

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Chicago Library]On: 13 November 2014, At: 16:34Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Religious Education: The officialjournal of the Religious EducationAssociationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/urea20

    CAN RELIGION BE TAUGHT IN OURPUBLIC SCHOOLS?Emerson O. BradshawPublished online: 28 Jul 2006.

    To cite this article: Emerson O. Bradshaw (1940) CAN RELIGION BE TAUGHT IN OUR PUBLICSCHOOLS?, Religious Education: The official journal of the Religious Education Association,35:1, 32-39, DOI: 10.1080/0034408400350107

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0034408400350107

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  • 32 RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

    One may be a pantheist but one must notthink that every reference to God in-volves pantheism. The kind of growthwhich we have been describing may occurin some individuals and groups even whileit is declining as rapidly or more rapidlyin other areas. Therefore this identifica-tion of God with growth by no means in-volves the idea of inevitable progress.There may be no progress at all and stillthis growth be going on all the time.There may be actual decrease o"f qualityand meaning in the world while growth ofthis sort never ceases. In fact, as we seechildren grow in the experience of qualityand meaning, we see old people decline.

    How hardly is progress achieved againstdeath and decay and inertia generally!

    We have tried to carry the analysis sug-gested by Hayward's paper on "God inEducation" to the point where distinc-tions emerge marking out the place ofGod in the process of education. How-ever, we must confess that after fivehours of intensive discussion one partici-pant asserted that he did not believe therewas anything in existence as this increasein sensitivity and responsiveness which wehave been describing. This shows howgreat is the difficulty of achieving mutualunderstanding and the consequent need ofdiscussion in these fields.

    CAN RELIGION BE TAUGHT IN OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS?

    EMERSON O. BRADSHAW*

    THIS question was raised at the annualmeeting of the International Council

    of Religious Education in February, 1939.It was there proposed to hold a conferencein 1940 for the purpose of discussing thetheme, "The Church and State in PublicEducation." The interest in the subjectseemed so immediate that instead of wait-ing until 1940 to hold a large meeting, twosignificant conferences were held in 1939.

    The first one is known as the Ravine-wood Farm Conference, held at Pawling,New York, May 12 and 13, 1939. Therewere thirteen present. Dean Luther A.Weigle presided and Dr. F. Ernest John-son of the Federal Council of Churchestook a leading part in the discussion.

    The second session was the PlentywoodFarm Conference, held at Bensenville,Illinois, near Chicago, November 4, 1939.Thirty-five were present including profes-sors, leaders from the public schools, min-isters and secretaries from interchurchorganizations. The Department of Chris-

    *Secretary, Department of Christian Education,Chicago Church Federation.

    tian Education of the Chicago ChurchFederation cooperated in calling this con-ference. Prof. Frank M. McKibbenserved as Chairman.

    For purposes of orientation the follow-ing questions were formulated preliminaryto the holding of these conferences:

    Why and when did we depart in our educa-tional institutions (public schools and colleges)from the early American conception that re-ligion should be treated as an integral part ofpublic education?

    What are the religious institutional objections,if any, to religion being taught in the publicschools? Why do our churches net advocate it?

    What are the present practices in publicschools with regard to religious instruction?Cite some of the best examples of what is beingdone?

    Would the teaching of religion in the publicschools, free from creedal emphasis, endangerseparation of Church and State under our formof government and administration of education?How explain the popular objection to religion inpublic education?

    What is the possibility of the vacation churchschool, the week-day church school and theSunday church school meeting this need?

    What methods in the total program of educa-tion can be expected to restore religion to itsproper place in culture? Can the church as aninstitution do it alone?

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  • RELIGION IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS 33

    Since the Sunday school is the principal sourceof religious education of the Protestant church,will it ever answer the need?

    Assuming entire freedom from legislative re-strictions, how can the teaching of history, sci-ence and literature be spiritualized?

    Is there inadequacy in the subject matter ofpublic schools today without religion as part ofit? Is the exclusion of religion from publiceducation as conducted today likely to affectadversely public confidence in it? Will educationwithout religion lose the support of spirituallyminded people?

    Can we devote, say eighty-five percent ormore of our time and effort to secular materialwithout religion in education and expect to haveany other than a secular society? Does it followthat society will remain largely material andsecular in interest as long as religion is de-partmentalized and segregated from the mainstream of education?

    Does the omission of religion mean to youngpeople that religion "is a marginal interest, ofdoubtful importance" ?

    Is it clear to the public that the state's partis to provide the educational opportunity andthat "the educational function is not vested inthe state"?

    Is it true, as Prof. Paul Monroe states, that"the right of the individual to pursue his ownconception of education is preserved"? That theschool district and the people who constitute thedistrict are the ultimate judges ? That the state'sproblem is not with religion, but with sectarian-ism and indoctrination insofar as the use ofpublic funds is concerned.

    Can Jews, Protestants and Catholics bebrought into sufficient agreement to develop acommon approach to public education and a pro-gram of religious instruction supported by all?

    Looking forward to building up a litera-ture in this general field, it has been sug-gested that the following tentative studiesbe given consideration for publication:

    Public education and religion in the UnitedStates, a study in educational policy.

    Educational trends of church and state inAmerica.

    Policies and practices with reference to re-ligious teaching and religious observances in thepublic schools.

    Foundations of religion in childhood.Quantitative study of selected weekday schools.Present extent of weekday religious education.Religious education in state colleges and uni-

    versities.

    Against this background outlining acomparatively new educational develop-ment, we will undertake to review the dis-cussions and articles under the followingeight heads: from the point of view of thestudent, religion itself, the curriculum, the

    teacher, the parents, the church, the state,citizenship.

    I

    From the point of view of the student.At six the American child enters the publicschool. All being well he emerges from iteight, twelve or sixteen years later "edu-cated." If he has been fortunate enoughto have finished high school and college hewill have spent by far the greater portionof his working time in school. The mostintelligent element of our population di-rected his education. The largest sum ofmoney spent for any public concern, saveperhaps that of crime, is made availablefor the education of this person.

    He has learned to read and to write. Hehas been exposed to the best there is inliterature, history, government, scienceand art. His physical education has beengiven due attention. Physicians and recre-ational specialists have served his need. Tosome extent his education has been di-rected along the line of his future vocation.Vast quantities of textbooks and librarymaterial have been prepared for his en-lightenment. Expensive laboratories, gym-nasiums, playgrounds and other equip-ment have not been lacking.

    Upon further inquiry it is found thatone of the major interests of the student,both now and in his adult life, is likely tobe religion. If it is not major, in the sensethat he is active in it and swayed by itsinfluence, he is at least aware of it as some-thing from which he shies away or inwhich he is active in trying to convertothers to the life of practical atheism.With such a major interest of such deepconcern to the home, to the church, and tothe synagogueone that so fills the pagesof history, and is such a dominant note inliterature, art and musicis it not timeto seriously raise the question as to whyreligion in its own right is so meticulouslyexcluded from the public school experi-ence of children and young people.

    II

    From the point of view of religion. Re-ligion is so highly organized, capitalized,

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  • 34 RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

    subsidized, professionalized, traditional-ized, and so curiously segmented andstratified that many difficulties arise intrying to reduce it to the dimensions ofthe classroom. There is the orthodox andthe unorthodox; the fundamentalist andthe liberal; the sacramentarian and theevangelistic; the Catholic and the Protes-tant ; the Christian and the Jew; the scien-tist and the religionist; the believer in Godand the unbeliever. Then there are widedifferences in opinion as to the variousforms of deification, including that of theVirgin, the Christ, the Bible, the Church,the Sacraments. There are even somereligionists who would deify man, andothers who would strip God of deity. Sucha godly Christian saint and world famoushumanitarian as the great Kagawa hassaid in our presence more than once thatif he were to have to choose between fun-damentalism and Buddhism, he wouldchoose Buddhism.

    John Dewey thinks the use of the term"religious" instead of "religion" might bebetter. One man thinks he is religious ifhe paternalistically operates a business forprofit by means of which he provides aliving for a number of his fellowmen, nomatter how imperialistic the business maybe, or how unethical its administration.Another considers himself religious if hegoes to mass on Sunday regardless of hisconduct between masses; another if hegoes to church, listens to the sermon andtakes part in the offering, although he maytake part in shady deals between Sundays;another, if he pours out his soul and lav-ishly spends his money on some particularcharitable or benevolent hobby withoutmuch attention to the ethics of his activi-ties and interests in the other areas of hislife.

    One may be perfunctorily religious inone or more of these ways, or zealouslyreligious concerning a point of view inreligious theory. It raises problems if heis not religious, in the best sense of theterm, in all areas of life. And so there isthe ever recurring question as to what itmeans to be religious and what the func-

    tion of religion really is. In all of thediscussions of this theme, these and simi-lar questions have come up in one formor another.

    I l lFrom the point of view of curriculum.

    There are some who raise the question asto whether the cause of religion is reallyfurthered very much by the comparativelymeager and ofttimes weak efforts in recentyears to include it in the public schoolcurriculum; whether religion is not moresuccessfully taught indirectly than directly,implicitly than explicitly.

    It has been said that in training schoolsand seminaries where the curriculum isalmost entirely of a religious nature thestudents may not be especially more reli-gious than they were previous to theirenrollment in these schools. Dean ShailerMathews in a vein of humor once saidthat if a professor of theology can keephis religion anyone ought to be able to.

    It is believed by those who hold thepoint of view that, except along very broadlines, religion may fare better in the vol-unteer way in which it is now being han-dled in the churches, in the homes, on theradio, in public places, in the streets, inliterature, in music and in art; that it maysuffer when narrowed down to the con-fines of the public school text book, thelaboratory, and identified with other cur-ricular paraphernalia necessary for an in-tensive study of the subject.

    Once a learner asked Jesus whether Godcould be found in places of worship out-side the Temple in Jerusalem. His im-mediate response was that "God is a spirit,and they that worship him must worshiphim in spirit and in truth." The death ofreligion for some has taken place when ithas been academically studied in the class-room, imprisoned in ceremony, formalizedby sacrament and paganized by institu-tional demands.

    There is a growing feeling, however,especially among educators, that religionshould be studied in our public schoolsalong with science, art and other suchstudies. It is believed that in America

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  • RELIGION IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS 35

    where there are only three major divisionsof religion and where these three are sointimately related historically, a way canbe found to include religion in the publicschool...