Ana Triculescu

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Should teachers be aware of their students’ religious beliefs, or should that be kept private and out of classroom discussions?

We live in a highly diversified world. With borders opening up more and more each day, we tend to lose track of who’s who and where they come from. Even if we’ve lost or choose to leave behind many of our deepest national/cultural/lingual characteristics, we often have a hard time giving up our values and religious views.

Latin American countries, specifically, tend to be very aware of religious beliefs, and tend to base much of their social life and political decisions on religious views. Often times, in conflicts between political parties, or the government and its people, a representative of the Church comes in and tries to mediate the argument. Sunday mass and religious holidays are sacred, and society has the tendency to label as outcasts those who do not share mainstream religious views. This also affects classroom behavior and the education basis.

I’ve once attended a training session for English teachers (public school teachers in a sector of Panama City, Panama). The entire session (2-hr long) developed around the text of the Old Testament, direct quotations from it, life lessons, and analysis. Not one note was made about English-teaching methodology or academics. On the other hand, tips were given on how to “bring God into the classroom” and how to start each class with a prayer in order to receive holly blessings. But in that case, what happens to the Muslim/Buddhist/protestant kid who sits at the back of the room and is ignored by this whole ritual?

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    Mar 2 2012: Religions have no place in classrooms. It's a tough idea, but there is such a thing as a "bad" culture.
    Schools are the place where you go tabula rasa, where you leave behind your superstitions and systematic traditions to actually learn something for yourself.
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      Mar 3 2012: I disagree Gerald. A holistic approach to education involves looking at the whole child and educating them based on their own desires and experiences. This includes their religion. You can not expect anyone to simply leave the whole of the belief systems and their experiences at the door because what you are asking is for them to leave themselves at the door and bend their beliefs to your own.

      You can take the man out of his religion but you can not the the religion out the man.
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        Mar 3 2012: This is the problem with brainwashing.
        But still, I don't think everything is doomed for young kids, though religion has a particuliarly powerful grip on their minds. And it should be the purpose of education to offer a way out.
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          Mar 3 2012: Wow. I find it sad that you see religion as such a poisonous thing, especially given the stoic religiousness of some of the same great minds whose theories you are suggesting children should be taught whilst denying the child's own world view.

          Here's the thing: a child is not a marionette to be pulled this way or that by a series of puppet masters intent on making their world view supreme. They are a developed human being with the ability and potential to make their own decisions despite, or better still in full consideration, of their upbringing, what ever that may be. This can not be achieved when you deny the child the importance of their upbringing or their faith (because never imagine a child's faith is any less real than an adults.)

          I'm afraid Gerald that you are showing the worst side of evangelistic atheism.
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        Mar 4 2012: I know how vulnerable my own kids are, how credulous they are, how they completely surrender their minds to the explanation given by the authority. It wouldn't be hard to raise them as integrists or nazis or you name it.
        The only thing that would be in my way is what other education they might be getting. Especially if the other education is about taking no one's word for it, about reason, creativity and criticism.

        I'd really apreciate if you would kindly explain what evangelistic atheism is, and what is harmful about it.
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          Mar 4 2012: Evangilistic atheism can also be called antitheism. An antitheist is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "One opposed to belief in the existence of a god." Like the evangelist of old (you might better know them by their other name: missionaries) the antitheist dogmatically seeks to convert all systems and people to their own anti-religious world view and ascribes a position of inferiority, if not danger, to the world view of those who do not agree with them. When the evangelist's zeal becomes too great they start to close their mind to new ideas and start to insist the heathens have nothing they can add to society and that they need to be wiped out from all culture - good or otherwise.

          For many years the settlers in the new world insisted that the natives could not provide anything of worth, that the needed to be indoctrinated into goos society. Only now are we learning of the magnificent medicines they have, the richness of their culture.

          If you truly believe that schools should be a tabula rasa: "a fresh start without prejudice" you must accept that a system of inquiry and education that excludes faith based religious world views at all cost is necessarily at odds with your aims: it is a prejudice of the greatest nature.

          I'll turn the tables back on you here for a moment. What harm do you see in an honest and open examination of the faith and world view of others? And why shouldn't teachers be made aware of and consider the spiritual position of the children in their classes, as was originally asked?
      • Mar 4 2012: You are a breath of fresh air..........thank you for your insight and comment.
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        Mar 4 2012: Good reply.
        So, what harm do I see in an honest and open examintation of the faith and worldview of others?

        None. As long as it's open and honest, of course. In fact, this is absolutely necessary in the classroom, I believe. This is something that might not exist elsewhere for kids stuck with a single worldview, that of their parents. But this is what I was saying about education offering a critic viewpoint, a way out of endoctrination.
        For example I think it's great that a biology teacher could pause to explain that, although the theory of evolution has not yet failed in explaining the origin of living organisms, many people simply throw it out because it's in conflict with the information they read in a book. A book written thousands of years ago by many different uneducated people, at times when women and men were not equal and when the earth was believed to be a flat disc.
        This is education. What I would disagree with is this :
        "Today's class is going to be about evolution. Now, Rashid here comes from a muslim family, so for him and millions of people everything I'm about to say is nonsense. And since truth is a matter of cultural background, it just might be nonsense. "

        So teachers should consider the spiritual position of the children's family, yes, if it's considered honestly. Cultural relativism has no place in the pursuit of knowledge. If scientifically minded people had met the native americans, they would have learned about medecine, no doubt. But only because the medecine was not just a matter of opinion.
        It's all about not fooling ourselves.

        This is why I don't consider myself a fascist crusader. There actually is a way, a method, by which good and bad ideas are sorted out. An explanation that fails to explain anything is not an explanation. It's just an opinion. And I guess evangelist atheists are dreaming of a world where explanation weighs more than opinion.
        Is there anything wrong with that?
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          Mar 5 2012: On one hand you say children should be exposed to as many viewpoints as possible and on the other that religious POV has no place in the education environment. You certainly are a man of contradictions.

          i totally agree with your suggestion that the scientific method be used to sort ideas. But remember the method is aimed at establishing theories and then disproving (not proving) them. Any conversation of any scientific therom should be prefix with this disclaimer, just as any conversation of religion should be prefixed by a disclaimer about the cultural and culturally sensitive nature of the conversation.

          Of course, the issue here seems to be that i have not explained my premise clearly enough. I am not arguing for the teaching of religious doctrine in class (this is the place of the parent and the church) in fact I argue that in science conversations 'why" should not be mingled with theories of "how" but in a humanities subject the experiences of the child can offer some wonderful insights. Every conversation about culture needs to acknowledge all worldviews.

          You may not see yourself as a fascist crusader, but imperialist statements like: "there is such a thing as a 'bad' culture", " I don't think everything is doomed for young kids, though religion has a particuliarly powerful grip on their minds", "simply throw it out because it's in conflict with the information they read in a book" and "It's all about not fooling ourselves." shows an assumption that those of faith are unable to examine science with any level of academic rigor and a strong dependence on your own opinion as a way of explaining the world rather than the scientific "explanation" you hold so dear.

          Further, "A book written thousands of years ago by many different uneducated people" shows a clear unwillingness to understand these peoples belief. The do not see those words as being written by people but rather through people by a God/s trying to explain their desires for man.
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          Mar 12 2012: Got it. Thanks Daniel
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        Mar 5 2012: Daniel I think you may be confusing education authorities or parents desires not a young child.
        If you want religion in school go to a relgious school.
        Public schools should be secular.
        Religion is part of history and culture so teach about relgions - no just one - but not indoctinate at a public school.

        Parents have the right to brainwash their kids - can't we leave public schools alone.
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          Mar 5 2012: No Im not. This is getting to feel like wilful misunderstanding.

          Let me reiterate: My whole point is that the child is not a empty vessel and that irrespective of where they are educated, you cant ask a child to pretend that they don't have faith because it doesn't fit with your view of the world. The question orignally raised was should teachers be considerate of children's religion. The answer is yes, just a a religious person needs to be considerate of your world view.

          GM, we agree. Im not suggesting public education should be anything but secular. I don't want you teaching my or any children religion in school (you'd get it wrong anyway) but stop telling them they are dumb or brainwashed or whatever because they choose to have faith.
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        Mar 5 2012: Is it imperialistic to believe that some cultures have it all wrong? That human rights are not a matter of cultural relativism? That the only way to efficiently figure things out if to keep reminding ourselves that our best theories are most likely to be wrong?

        No, I don't buy this. I know about the atrocities that our Western world was responsible for, but I'm over feeling guilty. These atrocities were not caused by the open-mindedness I'm advocating.

        A culture where creativity is muffled is a bad culture. A tradition of mutilating children's genitals is a bad tradition.

        Education and human rights might be evangelistic, but so is heart surgery and vaccination.
    • Mar 4 2012: I disagree also, the schools have been run that way longer than you have been on the planet and it has not caused any riots or problems. It's the Religious wars and protests set up by Governments and Main Religious Authorities in Countries that cause the problems, not the ones in school. If your not Religious or do not believe in that Religion, you should not be ignorant to their ways and reslpect their ways, but you do not have to recite them, stand or kneel and say your religious prayers, if you do not believe in any Religion than get clarification if it is okay to sit while the prayers are said or what is the correct thing to do, step out?, but then you are pointed out, sit, stand but say what you believe in, silently because you must respect the Traditions and ways of the Country you are in and if you move to the Country because you are better off, than why create friction when you are enjoying the benefits of the place you are in.
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        Mar 12 2012: You don't think forcing kids to be subject to religious practices of the majority is part of the problems or reinforcing the problems?
        Why not ask the kids who are not Catholic, or their parents what they would prefer.
        You can choose not to go to mass. You have to go to school.

        There are a lot of bad traditions and practices
        Slavery
        Sexism
        Religious intolerance
        rascism
        Genital mutilation
        Killing women who have been raped
        etc
        • Mar 13 2012: Your examples of bad traditions and practices are not in free and democratic countries. Your examples come from most countries where religion and state are one and the same and that is the problem. Countries where religion and state are seperate tend not to have bad traditions and practices.
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    Mar 2 2012: This is an issue that all communities with a dominant religion should face up to - how not to exclude. Personally, I would not feel excluded by a lesson / meeting / event starting with a prayer or a blessing. If you have any faith at all a prayer is sacred as it is invoking the attention of God. Atheists are the only people who would probably feel excluded or embarrassed by a prayer, however, there would be nothing preventing them from using the time to mentally relax.

    Having said that the lesson that follows does need to represent the stated description - an English Language lesson should focus on the study and practice of the modern English Language - it should not be dressed up as a Religious Education class or as an opportunity for religions conversion! Likewise, biology and science classes should focus on scientific methods and theories. I am truely bewildered by stories I've heard of US schools teaching in Biology classes that humanity come from Adam and Eve!
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    Mar 31 2012: In an earlier post I did say that schools should attempt to find "generic" acknowledgements of spiritual and religious practices, of course it would be completely rediculous to try to accomodate every last ritual of every religion! Bye the way... I think you did me a favour in showing me that I may in fact be aligned with the Buddahs ways! It would possibly be a good idea to try to discover the percentages of religious practice in any given catchment area and try to work towards harmonious integration of the majorities. For instance Wicca is most probably a very small percentage compared to muslims and christians. It would make more sense to study the common ground that each of the major religions agree upon and represent those areas. For instance the idea of a God is common.... most religions have a prophet, most rreliogions involve prayer. As we can see here it isnt an impossible approach. My main point is that it would not be sensible at all to simply dismiss and ignore the presence of religious idiosyncratic makeup as it would only serve to feed resentment for the institution they are required to attend by law and learn from. Additionaly, if you did try to run a school with absolutely no references to peoples cultural values then you would end up with underground problems involving bullying, persecution, disrespect and fragmentation of school society. Multiculturalism is a fact of life, we need to deal with it not ignore it.
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    Mar 25 2012: I try to find out as much about my students as possible. It's pretty important to know when you have Christians, Mulsims, Buddhists and Hindus all in one class. This doesn't mean I make my students talk about their religion in front of everyone, or teach lessons on Religion specifically, although the topic does creep up on a regular basis. It is very difficult, and at times outright ignorant to deny the topic in an art class, for example.

    Like, at what point when discussing the Sistine Chapel do I cross the line? It might also be important to distinguish, on a scale of Shamanism to Science: Where does Religion reside?
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    Mar 22 2012: I honestly do not think ones religion has any place in the classroom, unless it is on a course about religion, I do not see any justification for it.

    I do not think a teacher should have worry as much about their students religion as well.

    We can still live in a diversified world and we can still learn from one another but there are appropriate times and places for this and I do not think the classroom is one of them.

    This is not to say that I do not have a respect for ones religious beliefs all I am saying is that I do not think ones teacher should have to worry about withholding relevant information for the sake of their students. If what the teacher says contradicts the students religious beliefs then for me this is a good thing because it will get the student to think from another perspective and question their own convictions.

    But just imagine being in a astronomy class or a biology class and trying to teach the carbon microwave radiation in relation to the big bang and trying to teach the theory of evolution. If a teacher has to be aware of their students beliefs, they are not only not being objective, but they are going to have to seconds thoughts about what to say....


    Here is a link from skeptic magazine.... I would love to know your thoughts on it. to me its a scary thing but that's just my opinion:

    http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/02/28/teaching-allah-and-xenu-in-indiana/
  • Mar 16 2012: Religion is a personal matter. A matter of a faith, trust and practice. A way to connect humans.

    A school in itself is a religion, which comprises of many rituals, disciplines and values. So teachers are bound to follow the school, not the personal beliefs. It doesn't refer to counter or challenge the personal beliefs(religion). A teacher is responsible for comprehensive development of pupil as a good citizen, human and person of knowledge. To open up to expand, not to bound by boundaries.

    With regards
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    Mar 5 2012: I do not assume everyone has religious beliefs but I do acknowledge that those who choose to have beliefs do so often because they do not like the idea they will die. Religion promises the afterlife. This is why mental stability is included in this conversation. Is it fair to simply overlook the idea that a fantasy may actually safeguard a persons sanity because they are able to confidently believe that one day when they die they will be saved thereafter? Why would you want to take this away from anyone? It is not evil to administer brainwashing if ther result is that humans escape the notion of their own death and inevitable doom forever! Just because you are happy witht the idea you will one day die and never come back does not give you the right to take away the hope from those who cannot live withn this fact. Where is your compassion? religion eleviates suffering... you need to grow up and get past your childish objections to a person needing a faith system.
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    Mar 5 2012: The whole situation sounds appalling.

    I guess there isn't a much of a practical separation between church and state.

    Sounds like religious schools we have here, rather than mainly secular public schools. Your Public schools sound like Catholic schools.

    In Australia many people are outraged that there is still a class a week for religious instruction in some states. Usually just Protestant given Catholic schools are separate. Its optional, but usually if the student opts out they have nothing to do.

    This is perhaps a remnant of when schools were run by the churches and the state took over or just pandering to the religious vote. Its a clear breach of the separation principle.

    This makes me so angry - such a backward programme - wrong on so many levels. But its nothing compared to your situation. I'm grateful we have a mainly secular nation.

    Secularism is good for religions in general, except the dominant religion. It would prevent the poor non catholic kids having to deal with this. Don't forget the agnostic and atheist kids. Basically society is saying there is no effective freedom of relgion that you are with us or against us - non Catholics have less rights etc. Improvement is impossible until society wants it or some constitutional change enforced. Sounds like you have a state religion. I like the French and US models.

    Regarding your starting questions - no issue knowing the beliefs of children - if this is not used against them. I have no issue teaching about religion and other world views but not indoctrination. Young children are so malleable. I don't want my daughter brainwashed. No issue with older kids having discussions involving religious views at public schools as long as teacher stays neutral and moderates appropriately.

    In an ideal world parents would not indoctrinate their children. If asked they would say what there views were and why, but that there are many other conflicting views. When you are ready we hope you make your own choices.
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    Mar 5 2012: This is interesting. Firstly it is important to acknowledge the fact that each religious persons beliefs are very very important to the mental stability of that person. It forms the very basis of their deal with life. the basis of their thinking that enables them to live without the fear of death leading to an inevitable oblivion and instead salvation. This should never be challenged or removed from the human psyche. So the question for you is how do you respect everyones beliefs all in one go? I think the answer lays within them. I would encourage creative and open thinking. I would put the question to them and let them decide the best way forward. For instance maybe it would be possible to create a whole unique religious ritual that only happens in school and one that serves every person who believes in a God despite subscription. Ask them what would be the absolute most generic approach that everyone could accept despite religious affiliation. If this could be achieved then I believe you may set a very worthy example for other schools. You could hold a ceromony each morninbg thqt satisfies everybodies needs and avoid any type of byass or exclusion.
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      Mar 5 2012: Basil,

      Maybe you are just trying to stir us up.

      Disagree 100% that protecting religious belief is critical for mental stability.
      I live in country where you can say religion is just a man made cultural construct etc etc
      People aren't falling apart because of it. In fact the most trauma is associated with people choosing to leave their cultural religion and the fall out from Family etc

      Having said that school is not a place that should target peoples religious views. Teach about religion but don't take sides for one or against them all.

      I suggest brainwashing children in a particular religion is Psychological abuse.

      Suggest religious rituals run by public schools is totally in appropriate even if it tries to be multi faith in principle.
      Why do you think religion has any place in a public secular school.

      School should be for education not religious indoctrination or rituals. Go to church for rituals.

      You seem to assume everyone has some religious belief.

      Better to teach non religious ethics so they can assess things with reason not blindly accept authority and have some compassion for minority rights
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        Mar 30 2012: quote: " Maybe you are just trying to stir us up" By saying this you seem to be announcing yourself as the "spokesperson for the majority" who you are presuming will feel some kind of automatic intellectual solidarity with you! Do you have a "TED community generic opinions diploma"? a GOD? lol!!!!

        Quote: "I live in country where you can say religion is just a man made cultural construct etc etc
        People aren't falling apart because of it."

        This sounds like a sweeping statement to me.

        Yes we can say that where I live too but I know for sure I have not met every human being in my country who is going through a " loss of faith crisis " due to opinionated athiests who got through and convinced them that their hope system was a complete con. If you are telling me there is no one in your country suffering this mental trauma then I would have to question this statement. I simply would not believe it. Suddenly finding out you will not actualy live forever can be a tough proposition for some. It completely baffles me how people would want to do that to anyone that has faith.

        quote: "Having said that school is not a place that should target peoples religious views. Teach about religion but don't take sides for one or against them all." The schools where I live here in the UK do have a curriculum that adresses the ways and rituals of many different religions and does go a long way to informing young people about the ways of such worshippers.

        quote "I suggest brainwashing children in a particular religion is Psychological abuse" I suggest hat respecting the rights of religious people to bring up their own children in their ways of their own religious doctrine is a basic human right. To simply dismiss a catholics , a christians, a muslims, a seiks children as "brainwashed" is an outrageous attack on each and every religious family and culture.
    • Mar 30 2012: Basil,

      You said "Firstly it is important to acknowledge the fact that each religious persons beliefs are very very important to the mental stability of that person. It forms the very basis of their deal with life."

      Everyone acquires a set of beliefs in how the world works, starting as an infant. Many of these beliefs are based upon accepting whatever adults tell them. After all, adults are children's first "deities". Adults supply food, drink, shelter, love, and, if the child misbehaves, punishment. The child later continues this dependent/subservient relationship with the deity that the adults believe in.

      Of course acquiring a set of beliefs in how the world works is beneficial if the beliefs actually help the believer interact with the world. That set of beliefs may include beliefs that are unsupported by facts, such as a belief in leprechauns, but if that belief helps them fit in with other leprechaun believers, then even that belief may be beneficial to the believer. But teaching other nonfactual beliefs, such as extreme religious views, may later isolate the person from the larger world, and so may be ultimately detrimental to the child.

      I think adults, and particularly teachers, have a responsibility to teach children only factual beliefs, and avoid passing on the nonfactual beliefs that they themselves acquired as children.
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        Mar 30 2012: Furthermore.... quote:"Suggest religious rituals run by public schools is totally in appropriate even if it tries to be multi faith in principle. Why do you think religion has any place in a public secular school."

        So longh as there is a mixture of cultures in attendance of a secular school then it would be simple ignorance to fail to acknowledge or accomodate those students cultural needs and beliefs. It would be like saying " why should we build a ramp for the disabled in a school meant for physicaly able people" Of course we wish to accomodate peoples needs, it is basic respect and the most basic thing society can do to encourage harmony and understanding. I believe your approach only serves to antagonise and upset. Your point of view seems to me to represent a resentful minority.

        quote: Better to teach non religious ethics so they can assess things with reason not blindly accept authority and have some compassion for minority rights" Ethics? lol non religious ethics? I think you need to check your dictionary....

        1st 2 definitions of Ethics: (dictionary.com)
        1.
        ( used with a singular or plural verb ) a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture.

        2.
        the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.: medical ethics; Christian ethics.

        Lol!!!! So you are suggesting that we ignore whatever theyv been taught prior to school and then teach them a whole new set of morals and conduct based on ...?? what exactly??? your views? anti brainwashing? I would suggest that teaching ethics is not the way and in fact is a contradiction to what you said in regards to teachers simply delivering facts. I do think we should deliver the proven facts of the scientific world but at the same time accomodate religious and cultural needs where appropriate. The first rule of business is " take care of everyones concerns" Integration is no exception.
        • Mar 31 2012: Basil,

          To whom are you addressing your remarks? You replied to my post, but quoted from Obey No1kinobe's post.

          But will address your remarks in my reply to your post.

          Obey.. expressed his opinion that religious rituals were inappropriate in public schools. You remarked that "So longh as there is a mixture of cultures in attendance of a secular school then it would be simple ignorance to fail to acknowledge or accomodate those students cultural needs and beliefs."

          This implies that you think that conducting religious rituals in schools is necessary to acknowledge or accommodate student's cultural needs and beliefs. I suppose that the "religious ritual" that you were thinking of was prayer, but if you really mean what you say then you should be willing to accept the following during school sessions: ritual washing 5 times a day (Islam), ritual sacrifice of chickens, goats and sheep (various African religions) , ritual consumption of peyote (Native American religions), wearing ritual daggers (Sikhism), or ritual nudity (Wicca).

          Or does your basic respect for religious rituals only extend to varieties of Christianity?
        • Mar 31 2012: Basil, you seemed amused by the notion of non-religious ethics.

          Since you wish to be inclusive of various religious beliefs, you apparently believe that schools should instruct students in all the following religious ethical principles. (quotes from Wikipedia).

          Wiccan morality is largely based on the Wiccan Rede: 'An it harm none, do what ye will'. ... it is usually interpreted as a declaration of the freedom to act, along with the necessity of taking responsibility for what follows from one's actions.

          Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism emphasize the maintenance and propriety of relationships as the most important consideration in ethics. To be ethical is to do what one's relationships require. ..In other words, you owe your parents everything, but you are not in any way obligated towards strangers.

          Hindu ethics are related to reincarnation, which is a way of expressing the need for reciprocity, as one may end up in someone else's shoes in their next incarnation.

          The Buddha provided some basic guidelines for acceptable behavior that are part of the Noble Eightfold Path. The initial precept is non-injury or non-violence to all living creatures from the lowest insect to humans.

          Christian ethics in general has tended to stress the need for love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness because of sin.

          Jewish ethics may be said to originate with the Hebrew Bible, its broad legal injunctions, wisdom narratives and prophetic teachings.

          The foundational source in the gradual codification of Islamic ethics was the Muslim understanding and interpretations of the mankind has been granted the faculty to discern God's will and to abide by it.

          It seems like this would be a very full school year. No time for reading, writing or arithmetic.
  • Mar 4 2012: Religion should remain like it should have. Every morning in School you stood up to listen to the National Anthem and then before classes started you said an Our Father and a Hail Mary. Now the Country I am in is predominately Catholic and if a student from another Country or Religion is not Catholic, then he or she should show some respect and still stand but does not have to say the prayer but can recite one of his or her prayers from their Religion. I am sorry if I sound a bit like a Religious bigot or even my National Athem being forced on to everyone. BUT you are in MY country and if you wish to become part of my Country than you should be proud to sing the National Anthem. What we used to do in our Schools was once a month another Religion could broadcast their prayer(s) and give everyone a view of their Religion, but it was good enough for last 100 or so years before people were ranting about their rights, but you have to remember, IF YOU DO NOT LIKE WHAT WE DO IN OUR COUNTRY THAN GO BACK TO WHENCE YOU CAME FROM AND HAVE YOUR ANTHEM, PRAYERS HEARD, but when in a new country, you have to forget about your old country and its ways, your NOT living there anymore, you are in a new country and you follow what that country has done for their fellow country persons. You want your religion from your old country than do it in your HOME and in your Churches, DO NOT TRY TO CHANGE my COUNTRY, its worked well before you came and will work maybe even better if you stopped pushing for rights that you had in your old country. The old saying, When in Rome, act like Romans, or WHEN IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY, ACT LIKE THE COUNTRY PEOPLE, keep your religion and ways of your old country out of our country, if we thought it was a good idea then we might have adopted it, if we didn't than there is a good chance we thought it was wrong, illegal, PREJUDICE (to women as an example). So please do not try to change my country, I like it the way it is and was.
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      Mar 4 2012: Wow! I think my whole idea was completely misunderstood or misinterpreted by your latest comment. "When in Rome, do as Romans do" - I think that quote is does not summarize at all the whole point of this discussion. I am not talking about any outsider here; I'm talking about the diversity within. Even if the predominant religion of a country is X, many other groups and people are Y, Z, A, B, C, etc. So, then, even the nationals of the country are divided. It has nothing to do with foreigners coming in; my point was trying to be directed towards nationals who may, at some point, be discriminated against because they do not follow "mainstream" or majority. I'm not trying to change anything, and I definitely don't preach against religion in schools. It's a great way to teach moral values. All I'm saying is keep it for a specific class. Now, on the other side of the coin, what if my teacher is Muslim? And she wants, just like my catholic teacher, to start class with a prayer. Would that be ok? Would you agree on the students learning Muslim prayers so they can pray at the beginning of each class with this teacher? I'm not saying is good or bad, but what would your stand be in that situation? Again, we're talking about all nationals here, no outsider or foreigner.
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      Mar 5 2012: Tom,

      Regarding prayer in school, guess you aren't a big fan of the separation of church and state.
      Or freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

      Surely kids from any faith or no faith should be able to get a state education without having the majority religion rammed down their throat.

      You may be alluding to Islam. Suggest it would be better to have conversation based on secular human rights - not religion versus religion. Christianity does not really advocate equal rights for women etc. I have to admit concern about medieval Islamic views infiltrating the secular society we have. Although your views seem to have missed most of the enlightenment.

      National anthem is another conversation.
      • Mar 15 2012: I am totally for seperation of Church and State, that I think is the only way that all Religions can work in a Country. As long as the prayers in the classroom are as neutral as possible and can be seen as okay for most Religions. I only mention Islam due to it being the Religion that runs the State in most Islamic countries and it seems to be a poor way to run a country We see so many examples of countries where Church and State are inseperable and are having issues because the population is seeing the other side of the road via the Internet. The Internet tends to be really restricted in countries where Church and State are one, and when the Internet is unrestricted than things change and in some case's, so drastic that the country is in disarray because the people see that Church and State as one has really restricted their worldly knowledge and that is very disheartening, because in most case's the people than want change and people die.
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          Mar 18 2012: I am trying to comprehend the first two sentences, but cannot. Care to clarify?
        • Mar 20 2012: Church and State are seperate Identidies in a country. As an example Canada, USA have Church and state separete and there are many more. But as an example I used Islamic countries where Church and State are one, the Churches highest priest usually is also the leader of the Country and there is no line between Church and State. In Countries like Canada and USA there is a strong Church but they do not run the Country, yes they may have some influence but not enough to run a Country. But in these two Countries it was usual to have the National Anthem and a Prayer said before the beginning of the School day, now in my case it was Hail Mary and Our Father, and the majority of Religions (at the time there were not many different Religions like we have now) this was said in their Church so there was no real dealing with other youth from a different Religions (Hindu, Islamic for example) where the prayers said before class would cause any youth from saying that S/He had an issue with these prayers. I hope this clarifies any problems you had with the two sentences. Sorry about the spelling or any other errors in the reply, iPad and auto correct sometimes throws a loop where you didn't want it, and I should read my replies so there wouldn't be any need to clarify - Thanks
  • Mar 4 2012: It is not the job of the teacher to tell the student who to pray to. It is the job of the teacher to foster the intellectual development of his pupils. No teacher should be saying what is right and what is wrong, he or she should be encouraging their students to live their lives the way they want them to be lived!
  • Mar 3 2012: So Ana, what happens when a child says "I can't participate in what you are doing"?

    Are there any repercussions to the child?

    Are all the schools in Panama semi-private? Or are there public schools where what you are saying does not happen.

    I know of many in Panama that will not participate in religious indoctrination at a public school.

    I would like to know what you are their teacher will be told to do, and also what do you personally feel is the right thing to do.

    Thank you for your answer.

    [Edited....questions added]
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      Mar 3 2012: Most of the schools in Panama are private; however, the biggest percentage of students go to public schools. May seem like a contradiction, but the wealth distribution (or lack of) really shows in this case. Anyways, that is a totally different subject! Unfortunately, public schools is where most of this happens. That is, teachers are mostly highly religious, and find in religion the answer to everything. In other words, you haven’t passed a test, it’s ok; “Si Dios quiere, lo pasas la proxima vez” (if God wishes, you’ll pass it next time). It is not a way of telling the kid that he needs not study for the next text, but it is giving him the underlying idea that no matter how hard you work for something, if God doesn’t want it for you, you won’t achieve it. To me it’s bothering. I am an orthodox myself, and although I believe in God and certain parts of the Bible, sometimes pray, as well as attend church, I believe children should not be trained to rely on God’s will for their successes or failures. In my opinion (as a teacher myself) a student needs to celebrate his achievements as his own, and take pride in them; and he should also “suffer” (lacking a better word at the moment) for his setbacks.

      The other issue with education, as I see it, is that students cannot question their teacher. So referring now to your first questions, I doubt a student would even think about asking permission to step outside while the rest pray. It would 1. Make him stand up against the instructions of his teacher (which is really not allowed), and 2. Make him the outcast, the kid who walks out when everyone else does something as a group. I believe this could definitely harm him and his integration, as well as his self-esteem. I would see it as a situation where I lose the child from my class. He is asked to do something irrelevant to the subject matter, even though it is not in his belief; he is at risk of pushing the teacher and training away as a sign of rebellion.
      • Mar 4 2012: Ana, here's what I personally think is doable, and functional, and healthy.

        First, religion/faith is not something that school or government needs to teach.

        Second, religion/faith is something that schools could "offer" as a curriculum in the HIGHER grades as a way to expose the beliefs of humanity as a whole.

        If in the classroom there are those of different belief systems, then WONDERFUL, because you can get many points of view on the same subject.

        In my honest opinion, I think that if you go to a private school then it is your parent's choice, and they will pick the one that best supports the value system that they as a parent want to teach you.

        If you go to a public school, well then, you as a parent must educate your child in standing up for their personal convictions. Teenagers can do this..............I'm not so sure about 4 and 5 year olds, as children mature at different ages, and their level of understanding varies greatly from age to age.

        Here in this country, teachers respect a child's right to choose. Even the national anthem, if you choose not to sing it, it is ok. You stand respectfully, and listen as others sing it. RESPECT is the key.
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        Mar 5 2012: How sad. Sounds like here 50 years ago.
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      Mar 3 2012: Basically, my main concern here (and the reason I do not agree with these practices) is that children are not gooey clay pots. They are moldable, yes! But they should be presented facts, given arguments, and allowed to form their own opinions and belief systems. Teach them religion in a religion class. If that could be done more from the value system/literature/history point of view, even better; but do not push down their throats set in stone ideas and beliefs.
    • Mar 13 2012: I disagree with your statement that children are not gooey clay pots, they are. And from an early stage they should be taught and shown exactly what you present and that will mold, hopefully, a well rounded, educated respected young adult. I stood up and listened and sang our National Anthem every morning and it instilled pride in my Country. i also stood up and listened to prayers and it did not do me any harm, it did not force me to think or say that this wass the only religion. The prayers were prayers that the majority of Religions use and now, today it is very different in that we have more religions coming into the mixing pot of our Country but I believe that the majority still is a religion that the prayer(s) would not create any issues. The student who comes from another Country with other religious beliefs can stand silently and say a prayer from his or her religion and it should not cause any interferance with any of the youth in the classroom. Stepping out would only cause a youth to be pointed out, they should stand with the other students and do as I said previously and say there own prayer. It was done like that for alot of people before and it has not hurt anyones beliefs and traditions that the people (as a Country) decided years ago to do in the classroom. It works, it has worked and why fix something that is not broken, remember that new immigrants come to this Country because it is better than the one they left, so they should not try to change something that has been happening in a Country that to them is better so they should stand silently, say a pray from their own religion, and than take the benefits of the new country and absorb them and they can keep their religion in their own home and institute that they pray in.
      • Mar 13 2012: Did you realize we are talking about Panama?
        • Mar 15 2012: Does it matter where? I was just trying to show that no matter where you are or where you go. this question is always there. The only change is the amount of influence the Religion has on State, and it shows up in the classroom, so pressure from Government or the Religion is even felt at this level. Sorry if I went a little heady on you but I was just trying to show that this is not just an issue in Panama but everywhere.
          Tom
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        Mar 18 2012: "Stepping out would only cause a youth to be pointed out, they should stand with the other students and do as I said previously and say there own prayer."

        And what about those who lack belief entirely? Should they just stand there and pretend to be praying? Putting a youth in the position of "Join the group, or else you'll be pointed out!" is just plain wrong, especially when the grouping concerns individual belief, or lack thereof.

        I really miss the thumbs down icon!
        • Mar 27 2012: Yes but I am just suggesting that, I know it is a difficult decision for the student, either people will respond with what Religion are you and learn something or S/He will be ostercized for stepping out of a thing that the School has been doing since it opened and what makes S/He so special. I do not agree with the person stepping out because of this but I also would give the student the option, not restrict them in any way. Make it there choice not the Church or State. I apologize if you misunderstood me and thought I was in aggreance with stepping out, No I am the opposite in that I would give the student the option and if S/He stepped out and there were any questions than I would give that person the opportunity to explain her reasoning and hope that the other students understand why and leave it at that. But that is my wish and maybe even a dream because there is always one in the crowd that points things out rather harshly and that does not help the issue.
          Thanks for the reply.
          Tom Nugent
  • Mar 3 2012: Religion should be the decision of the teacher. if the teacher wishes to pray they can and students should not be forced to participate and even step outside if they wish; however it should not be forced upon anyone to or not to pray. and as far as during lectures or teaching a lesson any religion should be left out unless it applies to the subject, for example when teaching about the crusades the two sides must be shown so there should be some mention of the two religions.
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      Mar 4 2012: What happens to the child that steps out? Don't you think he might be labeled as an outcast or a 'weirdo' for not complying with mainstream education/practices? How is religion and prayer relevant to an English/science/philosophy/music/etc. class?
      • Mar 4 2012: No, the person does not have to step out, he or she can stand silently and mabye say there prayers from their religion to themselves. I know if I was in another country, I would not expect them to change the rules just because I showed up. When in the Country you are in, you follow their rules to the best of your ability, YOU ARE NOT back in your homeland or in your Church, respect the MAIN practices of your new country, visiting or not, and do not try to force something on to them. It's workded for them the whole time, you should not go in their and try to change it. The child that steps out will be noticed so why not just stand or kneel with respect to their religion and say your own prayers and that cause the least problems on every level.
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          Mar 4 2012: " know if I was in another country, I would not expect them to change the rules just because I showed up." Where are these rules written - the rules that allow prayer in the class room, as a set practice? I believe almost all countries in the world nowadays, by law, have the division between Church and State. Well, State provides public education. So then if we go by the law, the Church should not have anything to do in those educational policies. Then bring the Church into the classroom, and in my opinion, you could actually somehow go against the laws/rules. At least that's how I see it. However, I think we are going a bit extreme here. Just as I mentioned before, I'm talking about nationals in their own country; but with a country so diversified as Panama (just as an example), Panamanian does not automatically mean catholic.
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      Mar 5 2012: Why not keep it simple and keep praying etc out of the class room of a public school.
      If you want religion in school go to a religious school.
      Maybe impossible in Panama right now. State schools are default catholic schools.
      But surely that keeping religious practices out of state schools makes sense.
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      Mar 12 2012: Sure a teacher can choose to be religious but why force it on the students
    • Mar 13 2012: It should not be the Teachers decesion but the Schools. And I see no problem of doing something that we have been doing in schools for hundreds of years. Has it hurt anyone or even helped anyone, I would say no to both, but it something that should not be stopped. When I was in school every morning we stood up and listened to our National Anthem, which should be reintroduced to instill into the children that they belong to this Country and should be proud of there Country. The prayer (s) that we said before each day still should be said and the student who does not believe in religion than he or she can stand their and say a prayer in his or her's religion. Stepping out will only point you out and one not believing in this religion but that is fine but just standing there and saying your own prayer would be the less frictional position to take.