HomeinclusivenessForcing Religion in Public Schools is Like Forcing Kids to Learn the Same Way
A group of culturally diverse people on a black backdrop.
If we can celebrate diversity in ability and learning, why can’t we celebrate diversity in belief?
via Flickr

Ah, yes. It’s that time of year again. Christmas is next month, stores are pushing holiday merchandise and people are freaking out over the fact that not everyone celebrates the same holiday.

Really? People are upset that Starbucks doesn’t have “Merry Christmas” on their cups? C’mon, now.

Right around this time of year, prayer and religious lessons in public schools tends to come up, too. There are people who feel our public schools should have a Christian bent to them, but I don’t agree.

Why? Because in this country, we each have the right to believe in whatever we’d like. Forcing a certain set of religious beliefs on a diverse population is never a good thing. Just look at WWII, the Crusades, the massacre of Native Peoples and continued attempts at cultural erasure here in the US.

Since the holiday shopping season is upon us, let’s take a minute to look at some of the winter holidays that will take place this December:

  • Hanukkah from the 6th until the 14th
  • Bodhi Day on the 8th (Buddhist Holiday commemorating the enlightenment of the historical Buddha)
  • My winter holiday of choice, The Winter Solstice (aka Yule) often observed on the 21st, takes place this year on the 22nd
  • Mawlid Un Nabi on the 23rd (the birthday of the Prophet Muhammed, which is celebrated by some Muslim denominations)
  • Christmas the 25th
  • Kwanzaa the 26th through January 1st

Ramadan does sometimes fall in December, but this year, it was between June and July. Each Native American belief system also has winter holidays to honor varying aspects of their belief systems, as well. There are also those who are atheists and agnostics, who celebrate none of these holidays.

Why, then, should we force such a diverse population to observe only one strict set of days?

A tuxedo cat with glowing eyes sitting on a red tree-skirt, under an artificial Yule tree.
The one constant between cat employees who celebrate the Solstice by putting a tree up and cat employees who celebrate Christmas by putting a tree up: glowy-eyed cats under and/or IN said trees.

In many ways, that parallels with the desire to force everyone into thinking and learning the same way. We already know forcing kids who naturally learn differently to be subjected to one strict learning style and punishing them when they fail does more harm than good. In fact, it can leave scars for a lifetime and plant them in a cycle of poverty.

Attempting to force everyone to believe in one particular religion, or excluding anyone who’s from a different belief system from public activities, does much the same thing, especially when it reaches a governmental level. It doesn’t matter which religion does it.

Vilifying someone for something they can’t help, like their wiring or the culture into which they’re born, never helps anyone. The result is always the same: cultural destruction, discrimination and societal unrest.

As with neurodiverse, disability, gender and racial rights, advocating for one group does not mean there’s a “war” being waged on the majority. All it means is that the downtrodden groups are demanding the same right to live their lives in peace as the majority does.

I may stand with people who have disabilities, but that doesn’t mean I’m against people with none. I stand with fellow women, but that doesn’t mean I hate men. I ally with different races, but I don’t hate myself for my European roots. It’s about fighting for equality, not forcing anyone into obscurity.

Perhaps a wiser course would be to learn about the diverse ways people live and believe instead of attempting to force them into a specific mold that does not work for them. By appreciating diversity, we can all grow as people.

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