10 reasons religious education belongs in school

Compiled by Herb Scribner, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Fri, Aug. 1, 2014, 7:05 a.m. MDT

 Students from Seattle Pacific University gather outside in a spontaneous prayer circle after a church service was full, following a shooting on the campus of the university Thursday, June 5, 2014, in Seattle. Can religion actually help students learn and develop? It seems it might. Here are 10 different ways.

Students from Seattle Pacific University gather outside in a spontaneous prayer circle after a church service was full, following a shooting on the campus of the university Thursday, June 5, 2014, in Seattle. Can religion actually help students learn and develop? It seems it might. Here are 10 different ways.

(Elaine Thompson, AP)

Does religious education have a place in American schools?

That’s something that writer Julie Szego asked recently in her piece for The Age. Szego noted that religion — specifically learning about religion, rather than actually practicing faith — is quite vital for understanding the world’s history and fully grasping multiple cultures.

There are many benefits to learning about religion. And schools in the United States — which have been mediocre in recent years, a 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment study found — may also reap rewards for instructing about faith.

Here are 10 reasons why religion may have a place in the American educational system:

It improves brain development.

A recent study found that religious children are more likely to believe fictional tales and have a tougher time separating fantasy from reality. But that’s not all that bad. Believing in fiction and having a creative mind can be beneficial in brain development. Psychology Today, for example, found that pretend play is good for children.

It keeps kids out of trouble.

For schools worried about disciplining children in the classroom, religion can help with that. Books have been written about how religion can help families cut back the “juvenile delinquency” within families, Forbes reported.

Religious schools do better than public or charter schools.

Though teaching religious classes doesn’t exactly make a school a religious one, it’s still important to note that religious schools tend to do better than public or charter schools. A 2013 study published in the Peabody Journal of Education found that religious schools do better for a number of reasons, like pushing their students to take more rigorous classes and that the general environment and positive morale encourage better learning.

It helps kids develop psychologically.

One expert said learning about religion is extremely important from a psychological standpoint for young kids. Dr. Erika J. Chopich wrote that kids need to believe in something greater to fully push themselves to excel.

It would help Americans read more.

Polls have shown that Americans aren’t really reading. In fact, 28 percent of Americans said they read a book in 2013, according to The Huffington Post. But religious classes require an extensive amount of reading. Scriptures, biblical text and other forms of spiritual reading are constantly seen in those classes, and it may push Americans to do a little more reading.

It helps students learn a bit more about themselves.

A 2013 study by the IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science found that religious classes have a significant amount of benefits, including that they help kids learn more internally about themselves and how they feel about God and religion. This helps them move past those questions and identity crises, the study found, to focus on other issues.

Religious majors are more likely to be employed.

A business degree may sound like a good idea, but a religious studies major might be even better. A recent survey found that there are less unemployed religious studies majors (2.5 percent) than there are business majors (7.5 percent).

It can help further your education.

In college, majoring in religious studies can push you to get even more degrees, according to Louisiana State University. Many religious studies majors will go on to doctorate programs. Others will use the skills gained in religious classes — like critical thinking and analyzing texts — as a foot in the door to other areas of learning.

It can help American businesses.

American companies are experiencing a new trend. The happier employees are, the better the business does, The Atlantic reported. And, as The Washington Post reported earlier this year, religious belief and understanding makes people happier.

It can knock down depression.

It’s no secret that teenagers often struggle with depression — and sometimes it’s not even noticeable. But religion can knock that down, sociology expert Rodney Stark noted in his book “America’s Blessings.” In an interview with Deseret News, Stark said that religion — and those with strong conservative and religious beliefs — are less likely to be depressed.

Email: hscribner@deseretdigital.com

Twitter: @herbscribner

1. Ranch
Here, UT,
Aug. 1, 2014

"Religious schools do better than public or charter schools."

Private schools on the whole do better than public or charter schools; not just "religous schools".

10 Reasons why religions should not be in schools (note: there is a difference between religions begin taught ABOUT and being practiced in schools):


2. mauister
Wailuku, HI,
Aug. 1, 2014

When I read Tom Sawyer in the fourth grade, I had no delusion that Tom Sawyer was real. I do not believe that believing that fictional characters, Greek gods or other gods, are real is a good thing. There is a lot of good in understanding lessons of mythology, but believing that mythology is real is, well, delusional.

3. JSB
Sugar City, ID,
Aug. 1, 2014

I don't disagree with the conclusions in the article. The problem is--which religion will be taught? I like the LDS seminary program because students have the option of taking the class or not. I taught in a school which had both an LDS seminary program and a similar option for other students taught by the local minister. It worked out great. I wonder why other religions don't offer more programs similar to the LDS seminary program. Including the positives in the article, seminary doesn't cost the taxpayer anything and the students are in a good environment.

4. sunderland56
Moab, UT,
Aug. 1, 2014

Was there a particular religion you had in mind? Or should we rotate among the world's top four religions (Christianity, Muslim, Hinduism, Buddism) so that a high schooler will be exposed to all four?

5. Liberal Ted
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 1, 2014

If secular students that come from secular homes, need to understand what people of faith believe in. And if they want to interact and accept that diversity exists, students should be taught several points of view.

The issue is what slant the teacher takes. I have agnostic teachers that took every chance to undermine religions, while claiming to celebrate all. I had many teachers that were full of hate towards anything LDS (not exactly someone that should be trying to teach about that faith).

Maybe they should celebrate different faiths each month. Touch on several Christian faiths one month. Muslim faith another month. Jewish faith another month. Give the students a variety and understanding. Guest speakers etc.

If you want well rounded students, you can't teach them one theory and then expect them to go in the world and understand the millions of points of view. However, you can equip them with the tools they'll need to come to their own conclusions.

Problem is, politics creeps into public schools and gives the liberal slant on most things.