“On Religious Education”

I am writing in response to the letter from Jerel Peters, which appeared in the Dec. 18 edition of the News.

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to the letter from Jerel Peters, which appeared in the Dec. 18 edition of the News. Mr. Peter’s comments were directed to the News article entitled “School board questions religious studies.”

I am totally in favour of a program of religious education within the school system. So many of the conflicts raging in our world focus on religious differences that education about religion is desperately needed.

Unfortunately, what we have at present in our schools is a program of Christian education. Having examined the Divisional curriculum personally, I would further describe it as a singularly sectarian program, since it outlines only one branch of the Christian community’s beliefs. Nothing is taught about Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the classical Reformation branches of the church universal, or the Society of Friends (Quakers).

To my mind, a program of education about religion in our world must also introduce students to some of the main religious traditions they will encounter in their post school life. Within the relatively small community of Ponoka, we have members of the Hindu Community, Islam, Baha’i, Judaism, and Buddhism, as well as many who embrace Aboriginal forms of spirituality; nothing either about Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Latter Day Saints (Mormons).

Our students will graduate into a world surrounded by believers in these, as well as other, faith traditions. Providing “education in religion” would seem to me to require a school division that it prepare its students to deal with a diverse world, rather than having one branch of one faith only taught to them.

I can understand Mr. Peter’s distress, since he has been deeply involved in this sectarian enterprise for some years, and has undoubtedly been a successful proponent of his own faith. However, I believe it is time for the Wolf Creek School Division, as well as others, to devise a religion curriculum which seeks to prepare their students for life in a world of profound diversity, so that they can meet that world as informed and educated persons. Surely the inculcation of one’s own faith stance is the responsibility of the student’s family and church community, not the public school, whose task is preparation of young people to a world as educated and tolerant adults.

Respectfully,

James Strachan