The Importance of Religion in Education
Religion is a cultural phenomenon that focuses human beings’ attention on those things they value most highly, to the point that they are willing to live and even die for them. Valuation can be of anything, from a particular piece of art or a scientific theory to one’s family and friends. But the most valued valuation is a belief in an order of values that lays the foundation for morality and answers the great questions of life. This valuation has left a deep imprint on culture that can be seen in music and literature, food and festivals, sartorial codes, the way people arrange their homes and bodies, marriage ceremonies, rituals of death and resurrection, burial practices, and even the way that some foods are prepared and served.
Many different disciplines legitimately study this aspect of culture. Anthropologists, for example, may focus on its diversity and unruliness. Theologians take a more content-based approach, studying texts and dogma that capture our fundamental dependence on a higher order of things. Intellectual historians and students of political thought take a functional approach, focusing on the ways that beliefs and traditions organize a person’s values (whether or not they involve belief in unusual realities).
NCSS encourages all educators to include the study of religion in their curriculum. In doing so, they will be preparing their students to critically engage in a democratic society that recognizes the role of religious values and traditions in the life of a nation.