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Bryon Craig

World religions
have a place in public
school classrooms

For years upon years our great country has been fighting a political war with itself, an ongoing debate about a sensitive subject that has led to no gain in either side's direction. It seems like this debate will forever remain at a standstill. Today I will add my piece; state my side in the debate about religion in public schools and give my idealistic solution to this ongoing dispute.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution stresses that no one religion should be set as the nation's religion and that all people should be able to choose and practice their individual faiths. Therefore, government-sponsored educational outlets -- public schools -- should have no affiliation with religion. This has been interpreted by many school administrators to mean that no mention of religion should be allowed in public classrooms. No value can be put on any one religion because children of other faiths might feel intimidated and their constitutional rights would be violated.

It follows that no time should be allotted for prayer because that could violate the rights of the atheist, and no class should be taught that would place specific value on any one faith.

I contend that religion already has a place in America's public school systems. It is set into the cornerstone of our public educational institutions. Throughout most of middle school and all of high school, English classes teach world and American literature, in which a lot of the books reflect the religious perspectives of the authors. Especially in early American literature, obvious Protestant beliefs are laid into the foundations of the books.

In world literature many of the books we read reflect, in one way or another, religions found throughout the world. Like it or not, kids today are already being exposed to religion in public schools because after reading they must discuss to fully understand. Values are interpreted and analyzed.

One might ask, isn't that a violation of the separation of church and state and a violation of the First Amendment? Yet there is no outcry to have these books removed, and hey, do you really hear any of the kids complaining the way they say they will? I think not.

So this is my interpretation: The First Amendment is trying to say that no one religion should have more value placed on it than others and that value should not be carried over into the education of the nation's youth, so that all may be able to choose and practice their own faiths. But banning religion in public schools is not the way to do it. Religion should have a place in public schools, perhaps as an elective world religion class. A class that studies the history and beliefs of all or a good portion of the religions of the world is my solution to the problem of faith in public schools -- not as a time allotted for prayer or a Bible study class, but as a sort of sociology class, a look at the religious cultures of the world.

I believe this class would work because it places no stress on any one religion, instead placing equal stress on all. Students of all faiths could participate because all religions would be covered; children with already set faiths could, instead of feeling pressure, help with the understanding of their own faiths by sharing concepts through their own eyes.

And those with no faith would not be forced to learn about the faiths because the class would be an elective, only for those willing to attend and learn. This class would help to broaden perspectives and develop more open-minded children, possibly leading to a generation of people with less racial tension and ignorance.

So I think that religion should have a place in public schools as a world religion class. I mean, if they can teach a concept such as evolution in science classes, I'm sure they can turn a sociology class into a world religion class and, like I said, at the very least, this class might help to broaden the perspectives of a narrow-minded society by raising an open-minded generation.

Bryon Craig is a student at Kaiser High School.


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Student Union is a forum for Hawaii's teenagers to tell the community what's on their minds and in their hearts. It appears every Thursday, starting today. We welcome opinions of no more than 700 words on any topic. Please include your name, address and phone number. E-mail to, fax to 529-4750 or mail to Student Union, Editorial Page, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu, HI 96813. For more information, contact Jeff Finney at 529-4735 or


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