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Curriculum To Examine Religion in Society

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Washington--Troubled by a "remarkable silence" on teaching about religion in the nation's public schools, a coalition of educators, scholars, and religious leaders plans to develop a curriculum on the place of religious liberty in American society.

The effort to develop the one-week curriculum will be undertaken with the cooperation of the Williamsburg Charter Foundation, a nonsectarian public-policy project concerned with forging a national consensus on religion in public life. The plans were announced at a news conference here last week.

"It is the central promise of this project that the core curriculum in the nation's schools must include a study of the great religions that have so powerfully sustained the lives of individuals and shaped the values of our nation," said Ernest L. Boyer, the president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, who is chairman of the editorial review board for the project.

"For far too long, we've had a remarkable silence on teaching" about religion in the schools, Mr. Boyer said.

Also serving on the board will be the representatives of many of the nation's major education organizations--including the National Education Association, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, National School Boards Association, National Congress of Parents and Teachers--and faith communities, such as the National Association of Evangelicals, the U.S. Catholic Conference, and the American Jewish Committee.

The curriculum will have three goals, officials said:

To explain the history and significance of the First Amendment's religious liberty clause.

To demonstrate how modern religious controversies can be resolved tolerantly and with mutual respect rather than religious bigotry.

To deepen students' appreciation of the principles of religious liberty for all faiths.

The material will be written for the 5th, 8th, and 11th grades, with a five-lesson unit plus historical documents, audio-visual materials, and materials for art, literature, and drama.

The curriculum will be designed and tested this year, and is expected to be ready for distribution to school districts --mw

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