The Modesto City School District is earning high praise for its World Religions Class and its ability to teach students respect for a wide range of cultures.
The world is a complicated and complex thing, and one of its biggest problems is people’s inability to understand that someone may have a different point of view from them. Wars are started over hatred of someone with a different religious view, and genocide is committed because the “other” is different. Many people want to see this changed, but one school is seeking to transform the way that their students grow up so that they are more tolerant of those who are different from them. Modesto City School District’s world religions class has gained a lot of attention.
The class is integrated into the schools’ curriculum, but there is an opt-out form that students can fill; although, few students choose to opt-out as it is one of the schools’ most popular courses. Created from discussions with the local community as well as religious experts, the world religions class challenges their students to think critically about their own beliefs, and what other people may believe. One student stated that the course helped her to understand how her stereotyped understanding about others’ beliefs were wrong. Another student has even claimed that they now have a better understanding of the Middle East thanks to that class. It has become a nationally recognized way to change people’s attitudes to those that are different from them. The world religions class will be featured in an upcoming book by Linda K. Wertheimer Faith Ed: Teaching Religion in an Age of Intolerance in 2015 from Beacon Press.
The world’s biggest religions are covered by this class including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and even Confucianism. Leaders of all of these faiths were consulted about the world religions class before it was formalized, giving the students amazing access to an exceptional lesson. Many people hope that this teaching and lesson structure can be rolled out to schools all over the country, so that children and young people can all grow up accepting that there will be differences between them and their neighbors – and not fearing those differences.