Curriculum Opinion

Book Review: Does God Belong in Public Schools?

May 01, 2005 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A professor at the Columbia University School of Law, Greenawalt demonstrates that during the past two decades, the legal answer to the question posed in the title has been a conditional yes. Depending on your point of view, schools either have advanced or retreated from the position taken in the 1960s and ’70s, when nervous administrators sometimes attempted to expunge the very mention of God from classrooms. Students, with some restrictions, can now form religious clubs as long as they are free of school sponsorship, and teachers can present religious ideas in the context of literature and history as long as the goal is to further strictly secular understandings.

Greenawalt, a former U.S. Deputy Solicitor General, will strike most readers as a fair-minded moderate, though he knows that moderates in this endlessly contentious debate will be in the cross hairs of many. While he favors a continued ban on school prayer, the teaching of creationism, and anything that smacks of devotionalism, he adamantly insists that religion should be taught to further historical and cultural understandings. Conflicts in the Middle East, he points out, cannot be understood without knowledge of Islam, nor can students fully understand the activism of Martin Luther King Jr. without exploring his Christian faith. So, yes, Greenawalt concludes, there should be God in the public schools, but only as something to ponder and discuss—never to worship.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 01, 2005 edition of Teacher as Books


School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Miami School Board Reverses Itself, Approves Sex Ed. Textbook
The board reversed itself again to accept the text but to maintain a block on access on the more controversial chapters.
3 min read
Image of books on a library shelf.
Curriculum Florida School Board Rejects Sex Ed. Textbook Under Pressure
Critics said the material was not age appropriate for students in middle and high school.
2 min read
Image of books.
Curriculum 4 Ways States Are Exerting More Control Over Classroom Materials
States have limited power over what materials teachers use—but some are wielding influence anyway.
7 min read
Curriculum Opinion A Search for Common Ground: Navigating Tough Classroom Conversations
Should parents or legislators have a say in what subjects educators teach?
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty