Educating Americans on their history is incredibly important, however students should not be required to repeatedly memorize archival facts. Plenty of other subjects could take history’s place in high school and college curriculum—specifically an introduction to world religions class.
Religion classes teach students the history of major religions, as well as the commonalities and differences of separate religions and cultures. This class is an option among many, but it does not have to be. Instead, a religious studies class should be a core requirement. This would allow students to become accustomed to a variety of different theological beliefs and viewpoints—a skill that would greatly benefit a student in society.
This is particularly relevant in regards to America’s view on Islam. In the U.S. fear of Islam runs rampant. Muslims have come under attack in mosques, and hate crimes against Muslim-Americans have tripled in the U.S. after the incidents in Paris, France, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
The issue is personified in presidential candidate Donald Trump, who displays a lack of awareness to various religious groups through his outrageous policies—specifically his proposed halt on Muslim immigration to the U.S. Many Americans are uneducated in theological diversity and support the idea of banning a specific population from immigration to the U.S. They think it will somehow stop issues with terrorism.
The ignorance does not stop there. An article containing a photo of a Sikh man in the U.S. military surfaced on social media, but the article discussed Muslims. These are two separate religions, but the article disregarded the falsity and the information was published and shared regardless of its inaccuracy. If the American public was well-versed in religious knowledge, false information would not be dispersed.
A religious studies class would delve into the differences between religions, religious sects and cults. Such courses should discuss Sikhism, Hinduism, Christianity and more. The class can provide students with field trip opportunities and a space to express their theological ideas openly.
Unfortunately, these classes are offered as only an option out of a conglomeration of courses when students reach college. The importance of religious studies becomes overlooked when students are choosing which courses to sign up for—if such a course is not required for a student’s degree plan, it is less likely to be considered.
Students should be required to participate in a religious studies class because religion affects everyone—regardless of their own personal religious affiliation.
Religious studies courses need to replace redundant history classes in high schools and universities across the nation. Students in college should be required to take a religious studies class to fulfill their degree plan.
By implementing the requirement of religious studies classes in all curriculums, more students would have the chance to become educated on different view points. When people have the ability to learn, they have the ability to be tolerant.
-Katie Burrell is a journalism sophomore