What would be appropriate or even essential for Canada's public schools to teach about organized religion and its influence on our nation?

One of the goals of education is to create the conditions for peace and tolerance. Since we live in a multicultural society in a globally connected world, we need to have some understanding of one another. This obviously includes religious beliefs and practices. If these are taught, it should be done in such a way as to inform and not to indoctrinate. At present the Ontario curriculum guideline says that a teacher may teach about religion but it does not say that a teacher must teach it. Would it be useful to make some basic religious teaching mandatory in elementary school just to get children up to speed on the differences that exist all around them? If so the teachers would also have to become more educated to religious differences. This might well be a good thing.

Educators in the UK have been working on this question for some time and have come up with a comprehensive program that was introduced into UK schools some 10 years ago. At the secondary school level the studies of seven major religions (Hindu, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist) are offered as optional subjects. Students can choose any of these and follow through to the senior level receiving credits for university entrance. This seems to work quite well giving respect to all the major religions and an opportunity for interested students to study any religion to quite a deep level.

In the case of Canada, it would be important to include native studies and the spirituality of our first people in any curriculum on religion. Finally, it might be good to have some course work that included aspects of modern spirituality not directly connected to the major traditions

Ajahn Viradhammo

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