Dec. 20 letters

Dec 19, 2013

Knowledge of world religions is desirable

To the editor:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; Hosea 4:6.

As a long-time middle school and university social studies teacher, I affirm Bethel Middle School’s plan to educate its students about world religions.

Public schools are supposed to nurture citizens for a pluralistic democracy, so I support education that seeks to build informed knowledge, understanding, and openness.

It is troubling when one group (or religion) that is already quite well-represented in our county advocates against the free exchange of ideas.

Schools are prohibited from proselytizing or practicing religions, but they are not supposed to be ‘religion-free’ zones, either.

The National Council for the Social Studies and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction both clearly state that teaching about world religions should have a place in the public school curriculum.

Learning about something is not the same as religious indoctrination. Because religion plays such a huge role in world events, history, and culture, it is imperative that we learn about it. That means that we should know about other religions beside our own.

Along with colleagues from other institutions, one of my research interests has been exploring religious literacy among students in teacher education programs.

Our question is: What do preservice teachers know about world religions? The simple answer is “not much.”

Our extensive survey also asked questions about Christianity. Many who identified themselves as Protestant Christians showed significant gaps in their knowledge about their own faith.

Among the many questions, significant numbers did not know where Jesus was born, could not name the first four gospels, and were not able to list more than a handful of the Ten Commandments. (Responses included: Cleanliness is next to godliness and God helps those who help themselves).

Working against having children learn about the major world religions that so many others practice is like living by a busy road and refusing to teach your offspring how to cross it safely. While most of the drivers that pass are responsible, law abiding, and careful, we still have to look out for the occasional speeders, drunks, and texters.

That discernment is part of critical thinking, an essential step in maturing as a responsible citizen.

Likewise, when we study about other religions, we have to strain out the minority extremists: the Bin Ladens, the Fred Phelpses, or the Mel Gibsons. But should we resist learning about ‘the other’?

I believe that refusal perpetuates ignorance and misunderstanding, eventually creating more serious problems than real education ever will.

Dr. Russell Binkley



Anonymous gift was humbling

To the editor:

Thank you to the anonymous person who paid for me and my partner’s food on Dec. 13 at the China King.

It is an honor to serve the people of Haywood and is very humbling to have your meal paid for in recognition of that service. Thank you.

Cpl. G.S. Wood

Haywood County Sheriff’s Office