San Diego County history and social studies teachers and administrators have a new and innovative way of teaching students about religion in the classroom after attending a "Teaching About World Religions in Public Schools" workshop held at the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE).
The workshop, attended by 65 teachers from 23 local school districts, was provided by the county office in collaboration with California 3 R's Project, the International Studies Education Project, and the Department of Religious Studies at San Diego State University (SDSU).
"I want to be able to assist all of you in taking the fear out of teaching about religion," said Dr. Peg Hill, Lead of the California 3 R's Project and the workshop's keynote speaker. "As educators we must be sensitive to the subject since the public is so deeply divided on the issues of religion in schools."
Dr. Linda Holler, Professor of Religious Studies and Associate Dean of College Arts & Letters at SDSU, covered the session on Hinduism and Islam and Dr. Rebecca Moore, Associate Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at SDSU, spoke on Judaism and Christianity. Both educators stressed the importance of fairness and balance in approaching religion in the classroom, advising teachers to make sure their approach to religion is academic, not devotional.
Hill introduced California's 3R's Project, which focuses on the First Amendment of the Constitution as the foundation for finding common ground in religion. According to Hill, "Three R's of Religious Liberty: Rights, Responsibilities, and Respect," are the key for teaching about religion. Each concept provides a balance and objective that strive for student awareness of the religious subject and not acceptance of religion.
"It is the schools' role to always maintain an academic approach in teaching religion," Hill said. "Church and schools are separate in this society and we must not promote any one belief, or religion in general."
Laurie Moiser, Project Director for the County Office of Education, said, "This workshop was important for history teachers to attend. Virtually every grade features some study of religion, and it's important to teach in an academic and appropriate fashion. As educators we must adapt an in-depth perception of universal religions."