Opinion - A Gaping Hole In U.S. Education | SIKH PHILOSOPHY NETWORK
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Opinion A Gaping Hole In U.S. Education


Jun 1, 2004
This last week a news story caught my eye. It told of a pilot who landed his plane before reaching the destination. The reason? A 17-year old Jewish passenger had wrapped his tefillin on for prayer during flight, and because the crew hadn't known what it was, they had panicked, thinking it was some terrorist act about to go down.

Come ON!!! This never needed to happen. Anyone who is aware of world religions and their practices would have known right away what was happening and the whole embarrassing episode and inconvenience to the passengers wouldn't have happened.

This is my point: American education does nothing to require students growing up in our multicultural society to understand the religions around them and how the varied belief systems interact with our society. When 9-11 took place, everyone was scrambling to understand what kind of belief system would drive humans to commit such atrocities against innocent people who had every reason to think of themselves as being safely at work. Those with an understanding of world religions had some clues.

Do you know why sikhs wear a turban and carry a little dagger? Do you know why many Muslim women wear a head covering, and that Muslims don't eat pork or drink alcohol? Do you know what Confucius and Lao-Tze taught and how their ideologies drive Chinese thought? Do you know that Baha'i believers consider October 1844 to be significant, and why? Do you know who the most powerful Hindu gods are, and why they're considered powerful? Do you know the main beliefs of Buddhism, and whether it's a theistic religion or a philosophy? Do you know in what ways Native Americans experience the Great Spirit and what beliefs are common among the tribes? Or start looking at the divisions within Christianity: Can you describe the differences between Methodists and Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Catholics, Baptists and Pentecostals?

Yet every day in our country American citizens practice these religions, let them guide their lives and decide their actions. Every day in the United States we do business and make agreements with people and governments all over the world whose worldviews are more often than not guided by different beliefs and practices than ours. So how on earth can we ignore the great hole in our educational system? How is it that we settle for poorly equipping our next generation to operate capably in such a diverse society?

I think we've scared so many people away from mentioning God at all in public schools, that we have created a void that operates under pretense that knowledge of religions is unnecessary. It's not appropriate to teach religion in public education, but we've gotten so hung up on that, that we don't teach about religion, either. And in neglecting religious education under such a definition, we have done the United States and her people a great disservice.

If that air crew had been required to take a course on religions in high school, perhaps they would not have wigged out when a 17-year old American lad who had boarded the plane early in the morning simply wanted to catch up on his prayers. Puh-leeze.

For Any Eyes: A Gaping Hole in U.S. Education



1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
This is completely correct in my opinion and from my experience. And what little is done is so superficial that often wrong ideas are taught. So a person has to make a extra effort to learn.

For about 2 years I tried to garner support for a masters degree in religious education at my own place of work. So far nothing has happened because "it won't create a sizable revenue stream."

Tejwant Singh

Jun 30, 2004
Henderson, NV.
Narayanjot ji,

Guru Fateh.

I was not surprised when I read the story in the newspaper last week because it is well known that the so called third world countries teach more about the world in their schools than the " first world" countries. Perhaps the reason is that once things are easy at home then there is no curiosity nor any desire to learn how the rest of the world lives.

The exposure of all different religions should be given in the middle and high schools, then only the ones who become interested in inter- religious studies will look for these kind of courses in the universities.

Learning about religion is like crawling before learning how to walk and the crawling can not start at the university level if it is not taught earlier.

I remember in my middle and high school in early late 60's and earlier 70's in India, we were taught about most of the main religions of the world.

Tejwant Singh

Mai Harinder Kaur

Oct 6, 2006
British Columbia, Canada
My childhood education was in Quebec where everyone is assumed to be Roman Catholic. Although there was some attempt to coerce me into being an RC, every term, my Dad had a talk with my teacher(s) and ended up getting an invitation to explain to my class about Sikhi. I always loved it when he showed up in full bana, metre-long kirpan at his left hand. :happysingh: He was most impressive and - maybe I was prejudiced - extremely handsome.

And - this is the point - so did the students! Learning about these other belief systems can be interesting and even fun.

In USA, it seems the people don't understand the difference between religion in schools (illegal in government schools) and teaching about religion. In my experience in the USA, it seems the right-wing Christians dominate the educational system. If they were teaching about other religions, I hate to think exactly what they would say, since all beliefs except their own are from the Devil, Satan,:}8-: and their adherents are on a direct route to Eternal Damnation, Hell.

It is difficult to know what to do. What happened to the Jewish boy is sad, and no sadder that what happens every day to us Sikhs on airplanes. It might open a few eyes, however, as the American Jewish community has much more political clout than our Sikh community.

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