I've been thinking about the topic of raising global citizens a lot lately. This is something that's always in my mind, but this recent Twitter conversation brought it to the forefront:
The picture book mentioned is Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan, illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini.
The first page of text says
Red is the rug
dad kneels on the pray,
facing toward Mecca,
five times a day.
This book does not proselytize (Try to convert a person to Islam). It simply describes basic details about the life of a Muslim child.
I believe that all children should be taught basic facts about major world religions. They should be taught about those religions, not necessarily to believe in those religions. I believe the choice about religious observance belongs with the family, and ultimately the individual. Certainly not with a public school.
In fact, when I was in the classroom, I never revealed my religious beliefs to my 4th grade students. Many children look up to their teachers and want to follow in their path. I didn't believe it was my place to contradict the religious teachings of their parents. It was my place, however, to expand my students' understanding of our world. We had interesting conversations about beliefs of others, though, and even the students who came from devout families left just as strong in their own convictions but with more appreciation for the beliefs of others.
At one point, a set of parents demanded a meeting with me because they were concerned I was teaching their daughter "Pagan religions." Once we sat down and I explained what I was doing, shared my resources, and described the kinds of conversations we had in the classroom, their concerns fell away. Those parents became some of my biggest supporters and their daughter left my classroom a Christian, just like when she entered. But she left as a Christian who had a better understanding of the ways other people worship.
Public schools should help children understand what other members of our country and our greater world believe. If every person had a basic understanding and acceptance of the beliefs of others, we'd have a much more peaceful world.
So back to my Twitter exchange. Following that exchange two things happened: