Friday, August 1, 2014

Religion in Schools

by Brig Bagley

1 August 2014

Deseret News, Utah's LDS Newspaper, recently posted an article arguing for religion to be more prevalent in schools. It provided 10 reasons to do so. Here, I will attempt to counter each argument.

It improves brain development.

This argument provided its own counter. Children who grow up with religion have a hard time telling the difference between fantasy and real life. Because of the fantastic Bible stories and such, kids tend to believe in things that are not real. A creative mind can take reality and make practical improvements without the aid of religion. Fantasies like movies and comic books don't claim to be real like the Bible teachings do.

It keeps kids out of trouble.

Religion spawns all sort of trouble. Almost every war in the history books can be traced to a religious disagreement. It's no different with kids. A pious child learns early to judge and look down on other children that are not as "righteous" as they are. There may not be as much violence up front, but "I'm better than you" attitude sparks anger and resentment. That's plenty of reason to start a fight. Teachers and parents can teach children to not hit, steal, or lie without referencing religion. It's simple society.

Religious schools do better than public or charter schools.
The study cited in the article compares private religious schools to public ones. It's not surprising at all that in a privately-funded environment with strict rules and lack of diversity has fewer problems. Parental involvement is higher and class sizes are smaller. The argument cannot be generalized to say that religion is what makes the schools better. It's the highly controlled and well-funded school that will always outperform a public, state-funded one. If you compare public schools, you would find the opposite. Utah schools have some of the lowest lowest budgets and the highest student-teacher ratios. You would think a highly religiously influenced state would focus on its education. Nope. New York is probably the least religious state you can find, and its education is top-ranked.

It helps kids develop psychologically.

This point mentioned the opinion of one expert. But why must an intangible God be the only motivation for self-improvement and discipline? How about a father? An athlete? An artist? Other humans around us are the inspirations for us to push ourselves to become better. Psychologically, it's damaging to believe that our goal is to become perfect like God, which is utterly impossible. Seeing realistic achievements in other people is healthy and reachable.

It would help Americans read more.

Religions do require extensive readings. But so do English classes. Movies today are by far based off of books and inspire people to read them. The people that aren't going to read their school books aren't going to read their religious books, either. It has less to do with religion and more to do with the individual.

It helps students learn a bit more about themselves.

Of course religious classes help people with their understanding of God and religion. That's what they are there for. But without religion, you don't need to fret about the the intangible nature that is God. Identity issues often arise from religion, especially when someone believes they don't fit into the teachings--which is everyone. Religion teaches perfection and sainthood, both of which are not realistic. When people feel like they are not good enough, or that they are a sinner, they feel left out.

Religious majors are more likely to be employed.

How many religion majors are there? Business majors? I don't think I would be too far off to say that religion is near the bottom for number of enrolled students, and business is near the top... if not THE top. The market is saturated with business majors and business opportunities. So it's actually surprising that only a mere 7.5% are unemployed. How many religious jobs are there? Unless you teach religion or become a pastor, the chances of you getting a job in your field are dismal. The survey provided is only from 22K graduates, and only 1/2 of the religious studies grads stayed in the field. From this survey, Music Education, Dentistry, and Vet graduates have lower unemployment than religious grads. Maybe you should consider these fields instead.

It can help further your education.

If you learn more disciplines, you will be in school longer. More debt. Sure, you might know more, but it ain't rocketing you past your peers with success. Religious studies are hardly the only motivators to increase one's education. It might be an encouragement, but it's one of many.

It can help American businesses.

Good business does mean taking care of your employees. But you don't need to be religious to know that. It's just good business. Larry Page, CEO of one of the largest, most successful, and most satisfied employees--Google--was not raised religious. Putting religious belief and understanding in the same sentence does not make religion the only road to understanding. Often, it is the road to confusion. People skills are more integral to success in a company than sharing pious beliefs.

It can knock down depression.

Are you kidding? Utah County has some of the highest rates of depression and emotionally-altering prescription drugs in the country. Religion creates complexes of inadequacy in its believers. Knowing that you are different and unique is much more healthy than trying to conform to a person that religion teaches is best. Deseret News itself reported this.

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