Should Highland Park HS Offer Religion Classes?

That’s the opinion of student Keeley Hagenbuch, who offered the idea in a piece for the school’s media site.

(Password for the site: [redacted])

It’s a slippery argument, and one that’s surely been discussed before. On one hand, the district’s families (on whole) are religious, and overwhelmingly Christian. A class discussing the historical implications of the Bible would, surely, be beneficial to the populace.

But then do you offer classes on Buddhism? Islam? Atheism? Texas allows this:

To avoid a violation of the Establishment Clause, teachers must teach about religion without
endorsing or coercing or even promoting religion over non-religion.  Teachers must teach religious topics in a fair and objective manner.  For example, a teacher may teach about how an artist’s Christian beliefs impacted the artist’s choice of subject matter but may not teach that the Biblical stories portrayed in the artwork are historical fact. Similarly, a teacher may not teach America’s history with the perspective of the country as a Christian nation because that perspective favors Christianity over other religions in violation of the Establishment Clause.

For more information about what’s allowed, religion-wise, in public schools, head to the Texas Association of School Boards’ handy 16-page booklet.

After you read that, what are your thoughts? Could a thoughtful religion class be pulled off in HPISD? Or would it be walking too fine of a line? I’m open to any suggestions.

10 thoughts on “Should Highland Park HS Offer Religion Classes?

  • May 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm
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    Did you get permission to publish the password?

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  • May 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm
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    Parkie- They published it on Twitter, where I saw it.

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  • May 2, 2012 at 4:14 pm
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    I see nothing wrong with the idea of offering a class in religion. Obviously it would not be a core class, so parents and students would be able to decide if they felt the class was appropriate and met their needs/wants.

    I opted to take a class on the history of Christianity as well as world religion in college. At no point was I “indoctrinated” with any views that were pushed to become my beliefs. I really enjoyed the knowledge. It is just another way to learn history and culture.

    Living near such a big city and often having the means for travel exposes HP students to lots of other cultures and beliefs, even if the student body itself is pretty uniform. I’d think offering an academic perspective would be a positive.

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  • May 3, 2012 at 9:03 am
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    Thanks for linking to this, Brad. I agree with Keeley about the merits of such a course. However, I’m less confident that HPISD could pull off such a course without making the non-Christians feel even more unwelcome than they already feel. After all, ours is a school board that challenges the Establishment Clause by having forced prayers at graduation.

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  • May 3, 2012 at 12:25 pm
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    Hmm…would love to have read the full article.

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  • May 4, 2012 at 9:20 pm
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    While I won’t debate the merits of this type of class, I think it would best to not offer it. This type of course is best at the college level. By that time, all of the students are technically adults and can make the decision on their own. I took a history of religion course in college. It was fairly objective covering all of the world’s major religions, their core beliefs and impact on history. I am not sure that HPHS could find a teacher with a broad background on all religions, both Christian and non-Christian, to keep it truly objective.

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