This Week's College Discussion Board (they really should not get me started on this subject):
Has Christianity had any enduring impact on public school education in North America? What does this mean in a country as diverse as America?
The unfortunate fact is Christianity is almost a hidden religion in America's public today. Yes, students can still say the flag salute and there are moments of silence and even student-led prayer at events; but how many of these issues have been questioned or even taken court? What the public school system seems to ignore is the fact that education began because people needed to be able to read the Bible. However, today it is as though it is perfectly acceptable for schools to teach evolution, Greek mythology, and secular humanism; but it should never be able to teach creationism (or even intelligent design), the Bible as history (which I have heard debates over), or anything else even remotely Christian. There is no dress code in most schools unless, of course, it means wearing something with a Christian saying. So it is perfectly fine for students to wear little of nothing, just so long as the shirt does not bear a Christian symbol. I live in Kansas, where the battle over what is taught in public school's science curriculum has been hotly debated for several years. Right now, evolution is winning. The standards that deemphasized evolution (simply by including a disclaimer that there are other theories about the origin of the earth) have been removed and evolution is taught as fact again in Kansas public schools. So, as sad as it might be, this educator cannot see evidence that Christianity has had a very enduring impact on public schools. This is certainly a sad state, especially in a country that proclaims diversity. Diversity of what? Culture and beliefs unless that culture and/or belief includes religious values?
Is there any place for the Scholastic method in today's schools? Defend your response.
I do believe scholasticism does have a place in schools today. As pointed out above, several non-Christian ideas and philosophies are allowed in public schools today. This educator believes that it is just important that philosophical and theological concepts be introduced to students that cause them to think for themselves. This does not necessarily mean that schools need to include every academic area that educators during the Middle Ages incorporated. This simply means that students should be given every opportunity to learn critical thinking about all subjects. For instance, if evolution or Darwinian evolution is taught in public schools, allow intelligent design to be taught as well. Allow various creation stories to be taught. This will allow students to think for themselves. Teachers should allow students to have mock debates on important issues such as as the beginnings of the universe. Greek mythology is taught. Allow Biblical theology to be taught. Include both in a philosophy class. Students can decide for themselves which they find more informative. The concept of critical thinking included in scholasticism is just as important in schools today as it was in the education of the Middle Ages. Students need to be able to think for themselves instead of being taught that everything the teacher says is Gospel (Dunn, 2005, pg. 92).
This is more of an aside, but I have been researching Waldorf education this evening. I found some of the websites very interesting and informative. Perhaps what I found most interesting is the fact that the goal of Waldorf education is to teach the whole child - mind, body, and spirit. They use traditions from various major religions to do this (Mays and Nordwall, 2006, para. 17). This educator could not help but think while doing this research that this is exactly how public schools should be today. Should they not, as a system for the very diverse general public, be inclusive rather than secular? Schools often attempt to teach values education when they cannot fully do so without showing respect to the nation's religious heritage.
Dunn, S. (2005). Philosophical Foundations of Education. Columbus, Ohio: Pearson, Merrill Prentice Hall.
Mays, R. and Nordwall, S. (2006). Waldorf Answers on the Philosophy and Practice of Waldorf Education. Retrieved May 28, 2009, from http://www.waldorfanswers.org/index.htm
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