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Commentary: Minority faiths should be acknowledged

Amanda Nieto, Arts Editor

Amanda Nieto, Arts Editor

When Americans hear about religion being taught in schools many shudder in disgust, but when the religion being taught is considered an occult faith they freeze in apprehension.

The Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education in England has added paganism as another faith to be taught in Cornish schools.

The syllabus states that pagan faiths will be taught alongside Christianity, Judaism and Islam to honor Cornwall’s rich and diverse heritage.

Before I go any further with the subject, let me be clear that the faiths are not taught to supersede the students’ faith but to open their eyes to different perspectives.

This means that the students are not taught how to follow a particular religion but rather how to gain an understanding of its basic beliefs and practices.

However, what the syllabus also states is that the decision to include paganism will be left to individual schools and cannot exceed 40 percent of the curriculum because the other 60 percent is reserved for the Christian portion.

At first glance the implication of instating such a requirement shows minority religions are slowly but surely being recognized.

Yet after deeper examination it is clear that these ‘suggestions’ being put into practice is slim.

Sue Green, director of education at the Church of England’s Diocese of Truro said in a recent interview with BBC News, “for many of our schools there will be children who come from Pagan families and we wouldn’t want those children to feel marginalized.”

Opponents of the new suggestions said that the amount of pagan families is too few to have a section of learning dedicated to their beliefs.

Mike Judge, Christian Institute spokesperson, said in a recent interview with the Mail online that “introducing paganism is just faddish and has more to do with political correctness of teachers than the educational needs of children.”

Maybe the suggestions do come on a politically correct basis but I fail to see why this should be discouraged.

Equality cannot be promoted if not all are included, which means spreading awareness about one majority faith while marginalizing a minority faith is not moving toward the goal of equality.

Americans often subscribe to the belief that school and religion should be separate; however, ignoring religion is ignoring an integral part in culture.

The Cornwall schools are embracing what can be learned through a group’s beliefs but this knowledge should not be limited to what is mainstream and thus more accepted.

Those against the possible changes are also stating that it is essentially an insult to hold paganism at the same level of today’s popular monotheistic faiths.

Cornwall councilor Loveday Jenkin said in an interview with BBC News that “paganism is recognized as a faith and all faiths should be respected.”

Although the many versions of paganism are not united by a doctrine it does not make it less legitimate of a faith.

To teach about the wide variety of religions brings understanding to a faith, like paganism, so it is not dramatized or misconstrued.

If schools decide to explore this overlooked section of beliefs it will ultimately bring more understanding and acceptance, which in today’s society is exactly what is needed.

Amanda Nieto, a sophomore journalism major, is arts editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at amanda.nieto@laverne.edu.

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