In recent years, religion has become a taboo subject of sorts throughout public schools. There may be a quick unit studying religions in a middle school history class, or a debate about it in an English class. Other than that, however, religion is not a heavily discussed topic in Waukee Schools.
The Supreme Court has deemed it unconstitutional for public schools and teachers to lead students in prayers during the school day, to teach as though they are condoning one specific religion or to say a prayer before sporting events over the loudspeakers.
The First Amendment allows freedom of religion, and a public school’s participation in any of these activities begins to deny students of their right to choose their own religion and beliefs. However, schools are allowed to teach about a variety of different religious denominations for historical and sociological reasons. This brings up the idea of a religion or theology class: an elective dedicated solely to the study and history of many different religions and how they came to be. Other things that could be studied in the class could include where in the world these religions are practiced, who practices them and what they believe.
Harkiran Ballagan, a Waukee junior who is a follower of the religion Sikhism, is a fan of the idea. “Honestly, I think it’s much needed,” says Ballagan. “People tend to shy away from religion and not talk about it.” Ballagan, who enjoys practicing her own religion at her church, called Gurdwara, also enjoys learning about other cultures and religions, and recently attended an Interfaith camp at Drake University. “It inspired me to want to learn more” said Ballagan. “I really wish people understood other faiths and stuff, that would be nice. I feel like it would initiate and help promote a lot of diversity.”
Waukee sophomore Cameron Messman almost entirely agrees, except for a concern of conflict. “I think it would benefit students greatly to learn about what other people believe and why they believe it,” says Messman. “But it could also possibly lead to conflict between student and/or teachers.” Messman makes a valid point, sharing the perspective that differences can bring people together, but can also cause tension. However, Messman still thinks the class could be interesting. “I would definitely consider taking it,” he says.
Senior Marissa Mapes, an intern at Lutheran Church of Hope, loves the idea of a world religion class. “Religion is a part of our world’s history and our culture today!” Mapes states. “We learn about some many other things regarding culture, but we can never talk about religion.” Mapes is known for her strong faith and for being an avid churchgoer. She is a firm believer that by learning about other cultures and religions, people will begin to respect each other more. “I know that religion is looked at as a private thing for many people, and they get offended by talking about it and would rather not, so that would be the only big concern.” Mapes worries. All in all I think teaching and talking about all religions would better our school and community!”