Tag Archives: Religious Education

“Religious Education and the Challenge of Pluralism” (Seligman ed.)

This October, Oxford University Press will release “Religious Education and the Challenge of Pluralism” edited by Adam B. Seligman (Boston University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religious Education and the Challenge of PluralismThe essays in this volume offer a groundbreaking comparative analysis of religious education, and state policies towards religious education in seven different countries and in the European Union as a whole. They pose a crucial question: can religious education contribute to a shared public sphere and foster solidarity across different ethnic and religious communities?

In many traditional societies and even in what are largely secular European societies, our place in creation, the meaning of good and evil, and the definition of the good life, virtue, and moral action, are all primarily addressed in religious terms. It is in fact hard to come to grips with these issues without recourse to religious language, traditions, and frames of reference. Yet, religious languages and identities divide as much as unite, and provide a site of contestation and strife as much as a sense of peace and belonging Not surprisingly, different countries approach religious education in dramatically different ways. Religious Education and the Challenge of Pluralism addresses a pervasive problem: how can religious education provide a framework of meaning, replete with its language of inclusion and community, without at the same time drawing borders and so excluding certain individuals and communities from its terms of collective membership and belonging?

The authors offer in-depth analysis of such pluralistic countries as Bulgaria, Israel, Malaysia, and Turkey, as well as Cyprus – a country split along lines of ethno-religious difference. They also examine the connection between religious education and the terms of citizenship in the EU, France, and the USA, illuminating the challenges of educating our citizenry in an age of religious resurgence and global politics.

Rosen on the Liberal Case for Educational Accommodation of Religious Groups

Apropos of Erwin Chemerinsky’s illiberal proposal to close down all private and religious schools, here is a liberal argument for accommodation of the educational preferences of (some) religious and other “perfectionist” groups: The Educational Autonomy of Perfectionist Religious Groups in a Liberal State, by Mark Rosen.  The influence of Rawls on Rosen’s work is very substantial, but Rosen departs from Rawls in several interesting ways.  Arguments like Rosen’s are not the only way to think about issues of educational pluralism (and it seems to me that Rosen’s piece has nothing to say about the educational autonomy of non-perfectionist groups, such as one might find at your typical secular private school).  For a different approach, see this earlier post on Ashley Berner’s essay.  But, like Berner’s essay, Rosen’s is a serious and thoughtful attempt to grapple with these problems.  Here’s the abstract.

This Article draws upon, but reworks, John Rawls’ framework from Political Liberalism to determine the degree of educational autonomy that illiberal perfectionist religious groups ought to enjoy in a liberal state. I start by arguing that Rawls mistakenly concludes that political liberalism flatly cannot accommodate Perfectionists, and that his misstep is attributable to two errors: (1) Rawls utilizes an overly restrictive “political conception of the person” in determining who participates in the original position, and (2) Rawls overlooks the possibility of a “federalist” basic political structure that can afford significant political autonomy to different groups within a single country. With these insights, I argue that some, though not all, religious Perfectionists are consistent with a stable liberal polity, and explain why foundational Rawlsian premises require that Perfectionists be accommodated to the extent possible.

My ultimate conclusions are that liberal polities ought to grant significant autonomy to those illiberal groups that satisfy specified conditions, and that the autonomy of such “eligible” illiberal groups is subject to two further constraints, which I call “well-orderedness” and “opt-out.” The autonomy to which eligible Perfections are entitled includes the authority to educate their children in a way that provides a fair opportunity for the groups to perpetuate themselves. The constraint of well-orderedness, however, permits the State to impose educational requirements that facilitate peace and political stability. Accommodating eligible illiberal groups, subject to these constraints, is an instantiation of liberal commitments, not a compromise of liberal values.

Chemerinsky Urges Compulsory Public Education

I am not attending the AALS conference this year, but I thought to reproduce (with permission) a message on a constitutional law listserv that I’m on, written by Pepperdine law professor Mark Scarberry.  Mark reports his impressions of a presentation by UC Irvine law dean Erwin Chemerinsky:

Dean Chemerinsky stated, if my memory is correct, that the only way to deal with educational disparities and the problem of (de facto) resegregation of public schools is to require all children to attend public schools and to require that they do so within districts made up of metropolitan areas. That would include suburbs along with inner cities, so that racial integration by busing will be possible. He stated that Milliken v.  Bradley should be overruled, so that suburban school districts could be, for these purposes, combined with inner city school districts to allow integration. He also stated that Pierce v. Society of Sisters should be overruled, so that all children could be required to attend these racially mixed public schools. As I understand it, he thinks that only if whites are required to put their children in the same schools as those attended by racial minorities will there be the political will to provide the resources so that minority students can receive a quality education. He said that parents who wanted to have their children receive religious education or other forms of education could have them receive it after school or (I believe he said) on weekends.

I don’t think he meant to say that the right of parents to control their children’s upbringing and education would be eliminated, but that the right should be overridden by a compelling state interest in providing an adequate education to all students. It wasn’t clear to me whether he wanted all the work to be done by the courts, with courts holding that the Constitution requires that all students attend schools on such a metropolitan-area racially-mixed basis (either as a matter of equal protection or as a matter of a fundamental right to an adequate public education) — or, alternatively, that the Court should allow Congress or states to impose this scheme.

Since it impinges on various law and religion issues, I thought this proposal might be of interest to CLR Forum readers — the legal implications of compulsory public education and the overruling of Milliken v. Bradley and/or Pierce v Society of Sisters would be substantial, and it is notable that someone of Chemerinsky’s status in constitutional law is suggesting this.  There is certainly a pressing need to take seriously the problem of grossly undereducated children in urban and poor areas, and the consequences of Milliken were pretty awful, though what exactly is to be done about that is obscure, at least to me (this is not my area of expertise).  But this proposal seems, as Mark later notes in his message, rather illiberal.  It also doesn’t quite do justice to the reasons for attending a religious school, or any private school for that matter (admittedly, my own educational experience has been entirely within such schools).

I also wonder whether Dean Chemerinsky, as part of his proposal, would be favorably disposed to overruling McCollum v. Board of Education, in which the Court in 1948 held that it violated the Establishment Clause for public schools to release students for religious instruction on school premises, taught by teachers outside the public school system.  It seems to me that Dean Chemerinsky would probably approve of Zorach v. Clausen (but maybe not, because the released time program was being conducted during regular school hours, let alone all of that “Supreme Being” stuff), where the Court in 1952 approved released time religious instruction off school premises.  In conjunction with the (constitutionally mandated?) elimination of private schools, does he envision a larger role for the state (financial or otherwise) in religious education?  If not, after private and religious schools are closed down by the state (whether by judges or by legislators), where would students receive the education that their parents, and they, actually want?

McDonough, Memon, & Mintz (eds.), “Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent”

This December, Wilfrid Laurier University Press will publish Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent: Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic Schooling in Canada edited by Graham P. McDonough (University of Victoria), Nadeem A. Memon (Islamic Teacher Education Program and Wilfrid Laurier University), and Avi I. Mintz (University of Tulsa). The publisher’s description follows.

The education provided by Canada’s faith-based schools is a subject of public, political, and scholarly controversy. As the population becomes more religiously diverse, the continued establishment and support of faith-based schools has reignited debates about whether they should be funded publicly and to what extent they threaten social cohesion.

These discussions tend to occur without considering a fundamental question: How do faith-based schools envision and enact their educational missions?Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent offers responses to that question by examining a selection of Canada’s Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic schools. The daily reality of these schools is illuminated through essays that address the aims and practices that characterize these schools, how they prepare their students to become citizens of a multicultural Canada, and how they respond to dissent in the classroom.

The essays in this book reveal that Canada’s faith-based schools sometimes succeed and sometimes struggle in bridging the demands of the faith and the need to create participating citizens of a multicultural society. Discussion surrounding faith-based schools in Canada would be enriched by a better understanding of the aims and practices of these schools, and this book provides a gateway to the subject.

Krishna-Hensel (ed.), “Religion, Education and Governance in the Middle East”

This month, Ashgate Publishing will publish Religion, Education and Governance in the Middle East: Between Tradition and Modernity edited by Sai Felicia Krishna-Hensel (Auburn University at Montgomery).  The publisher’s description follows.

The Middle East is a key geopolitical strategic region in the international system but its distinctive cultural and political divisions present a mosaic of states that do not lend themselves to simplistic interpretations. A thoughtful analysis of the Middle East requires an understanding of the synergism between tradition and modernity in the region as it adapts to a globalizing world. Religious education and activism continue to remain a significant factor in the modernization process and the development of modern governance in the states of the Middle East.

This interdisciplinary book explores the historical and contemporary role of religious tradition and education on political elites and governing agencies in several major states as well as generally in the region. The relationship between democracy and authority is examined to provide a better understanding of the complexity underlying the emergence of new power configurations. As the region continues to respond to the forces of change in the international system it remains an important and intriguing area for analysts.