“Religion, Education and Human Rights” (Sjöborg & Ziebertz, eds.)

In May, Springer will release “Religion, Education and Human Rights: Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives,” edited by Anders Sjöborg (Uppsala University) and Hans-Georg Ziebertz (University of Würzburg).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book examines the interconnectedness between religion, education, and human rights from an international perspective using an interdisciplinary approach. It deals 9783319540689with compulsory or secondary school education in different contexts, as well as higher education, and has as its common theme the multiplicity of secularisms in different national contexts. Presenting rich cases, the contributions include empirical and theoretical perspectives on how international trends of migration and cultural diversity, as well as judicialization of social and political processes, and rapid religious and social changes come into play as societies find their way in an increasingly diverse context. The book contains chapters that present case studies on how confessional or non-confessional Religious Education (RE) at schools in different societal contexts is related to the concept of universal human rights. It presents cases studies that display an intriguing array of problems that point to the role of religion in the public sphere and show that historical contexts play important and different roles. Other contributions deal with higher education, where one questions how human rights as a concept and as discourse is taught and examines whether withdrawing from certain clinical training when in university education to become a medical doctor or a midwife on the grounds of conscientious objections can be claimed as a human right. From a judicial point of view one chapter discerns the construction of the concept of religion in the Swedish Education Act, in relation to the Swedish constitution as well European legislation. Finally, an empirical study comparing data from young people in six different countries in three continents investigates factors that explain attitudes towards human rights.

Conversations: Ashley Berner

berner2015_3_pyramidAshley Berner (left) is an assistant professor and Deputy Director of the Institute for Education Policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Education, and a past guest blogger here at the Law and Religion Forum. Last month, Palgrave Macmillan released her new book, Pluralism and American Education: No One Way to School, in which she advocates a new approach to education in America. It’s a great book, readable and thoughtful. She agreed to answer a few questions about the book, and about her approach, “educational pluralism,” as part of our Conversations series. Our interview covers topics like the costs of state-sponsored uniformity in education, the proper place of religious schools in a pluralist system, and why Ashley thinks of her approach as a middle way. Thanks, Ashley!

L&R Forum: You argue that American education took a wrong turn in the 19th Century, when it moved from a pluralist model to one of state-sponsored uniformity. What’s the history? Why is it particularly relevant for people who study law and religion in America?

Berner: Until the end of the 19th century, school systems in the United States funded a variety of schools – from Jewish and Congregationalist to Catholic and Presbyterian. This was the norm amongst democratic nations, and continues to be. The Netherlands currently funds 36 different types of schools on equal footing; the UK, most Canadian provinces, Sweden, and Singapore (to name a few) support diverse schools as a matter of principle.

In our country, the vast number of 19th century Catholic immigrants threatened the majority Protestant culture and sparked nativist activism at elite and grassroots levels. The Ku Klux Klan and post-Civil War Republicans shared a common resistance to Catholic education. Nativists influenced both Congressional and also legislative agenda. Perhaps the most concrete consequence was the creation of so-called Blaine amendments, named for the U.S. Speaker of the House who tried, and failed, to pass an amendment to the federal constitution that barred funding to religious schools. Thirty-six states passed their own constitutional amendments to this effect. Depending upon how they are constructed, the Blaine amendments seriously impede educational pluralism today. A Blaine amendment case is up before the Court this term; it will be interesting to see what the Court decides.

L&R Forum: You argue for “educational pluralism,” which you say is a “middle path” between state-sponsored uniformity and a libertarian, privatized model. Could you explain what you mean? How would educational pluralism work in practice?

Berner: Educational pluralism asks us to de-couple funding schools and operating schools. Thus in the Netherlands, only 30% of students attend state-funded, state-operated schools, while the rest attend schools that are funded and regulated by the state but Continue reading

Berner, “Pluralism and American Public Education”

Ashley Berner, the Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and a past guest blogger here at the Law and Religion Forum, has just written an important and readable book on educational pluralism, Pluralism and American Public Education: No One Way to School (Palgrave Macmillan). I highly recommend it for anyone interested in public education in America, including the place of religious and other non-state schools.

I’ll be doing an interview with Ashley later this month. For now, here’s Palgrave Macmillan’s description of the book:

51qs7fvxql-_sx328_bo1204203200_This book argues that the structure of public education is a key factor in the failure of America’s public education system to fulfill the intellectual, civic, and moral aims for which it was created. The book challenges the philosophical basis for the traditional common school model and defends the educational pluralism that most liberal democracies enjoy. Berner provides a unique theoretical pathway that is neither libertarian nor state-focused and a pragmatic pathway that avoids the winner-takes-all approach of many contemporary debates about education. For the first time in nearly one hundred fifty years, changing the underlying structure of America’s public education system is both plausible and possible, and this book attempts to set out why and how.

 

Burke & Segall, “Christian Privilege in U.S. Education”

In December, Routledge will release Christian Privilege in U.S. Education: Legacies and Current Issues by Kevin J. Burke (University of Georgia) and Avner Segall (Michigan State University). The publisher’s description follows:

christian-privlegeUsing critical curriculum theory as its lens, this book explores the relationship between religion—specifically, Christianity and the Judeo-Christian ethos underlying it—and secular public education in the United States. Despite various 20th-century court decisions separating religion and education, the authors challenge that religion is in fact absent from public education, suggesting instead that it is in fact very much embedded in current public educational practices and discourses and in a variety of assumptions and perspectives underlying understandings of teaching, learning, and teacher preparation. The book reframes the discussion about religion and schooling, arguing that it remains in the language and metaphors of education, in the practices and routines of schooling, in conceptions of the “’child” and the “teacher” (and what happens between them in the spaces we call “learning,” the “classroom,” and “curriculum”) as well as in assumptions about the role of schools emanating from such conceptions and in the current movement toward accountability, standardization, and testing. Christian Privilege in U.S. Education examines not whether Christianity has a place in public education but, rather, the very ways in it is pervasive in a legally secular system of education even when religion is not a topic taught in school.

Mayrl, “Secular Conversions”

In August, Cambridge University Press released “Secular Conversions: Political Institutions and Religious Education in the United States and Australia, 1800–2000,” by Damon Mayrl (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid).  The publisher’s description follows: 

Why does secularization proceed differently in otherwise similar countries? Secular Conversions demonstrates that the institutional structure of the state is a key factor41wktwmgj0l-_sx329_bo1204203200_ shaping the course of secularization. Drawing upon detailed historical analysis of religious education policy in the United States and Australia, Damon Mayrl details how administrative structures, legal procedures, and electoral systems have shaped political opportunities and even helped create constituencies for secular policies. In so doing, he also shows how a decentralized, readily accessible American state acts as an engine for religious conflict, encouraging religious differences to spill into law and politics at every turn. This book provides a vivid picture of how political conflicts interacted with the state over the long span of American and Australian history to shape religion’s role in public life. Ultimately, it reveals that taken-for-granted political structures have powerfully shaped the fate of religion in modern societies.

Fischer, “Schools and the politics of religion and diversity in the Republic of Ireland”

In September, the Manchester University Press will release “Schools and the Politics of Religion and Diversity in the Republic of Ireland: Separate but Equal?” by Karin Fischer (University of Orléans).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book focuses on the historical and current place of religion in the Irish education system from the perspective of children’s rights and citizenship. It offers a critical 9780719091964analysis of the political, cultural and social forces that have shaped the system, looking at how the denominational model has been adapted to increased religious and cultural diversity in Irish society and showing that recent changes have failed to address persistent discrimination and the absence of respect for freedom of conscience. It relates current debates on the denominational system and the role of the State in education to competing narratives of national identity that reflect nationalist-communitarian or republican political outlooks.

This book will be essential reading for students and researchers in the fields of education policy and Church/State relations in Ireland and will also engage non-academic audiences with an interest or involvement in Irish education.

Wertheimer, “Faith Ed”

In August, Beacon Press will release “Faith Ed: Teaching About Religion in an Age of Intolerance,” by Linda K. Wertheimer. The publisher’s description follows:

A suburban Boston school unwittingly started a firestorm of controversy over a sixth-grade field trip. The class was visiting a mosque to learn about world religions when a handful of boys, unnoticed by their teachers, joined the line of worshippers and acted out the motions of the Muslim call to prayer. A video of the prayer went viral with the title “Wellesley, Massachusetts Public School Students Learn to Pray to Allah.” Charges flew that the school exposed the children to Muslims who intended to convert American schoolchildren. Wellesley school officials defended the course, but also acknowledged the delicate dance teachers must perform when dealing with religion in the classroom.

Courts long ago banned public school teachers from preaching of any kind. But the question remains: How much should schools teach about the world’s religions? Answering that question in recent decades has pitted schools against their communities.

Veteran education journalist Linda K. Wertheimer spent months with that class, and traveled to other communities around the nation, listening to voices on all sides of the controversy, including those of clergy, teachers, children, and parents who are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Sikh, or atheist. In Lumberton, Texas, nearly a hundred people filled a school-board meeting to protest a teacher’s dress-up exercise that allowed freshman girls to try on a burka as part of a lesson on Islam. In Wichita, Kansas, a Messianic Jewish family’s opposition to a bulletin-board display about Islam in an elementary school led to such upheaval that the school had to hire extra security. Across the country, parents have requested that their children be excused from lessons on Hinduism and Judaism out of fear they will shy away from their own faiths.

But in Modesto, a city in the heart of California’s Bible Belt, teachers have avoided problems since 2000, when the school system began requiring all high school freshmen to take a world religions course. Students receive comprehensive lessons on the three major world religions, as well as on Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and often Shintoism, Taoism, and Confucianism. One Pentecostal Christian girl, terrified by “idols,” including a six-inch gold Buddha, learned to be comfortable with other students’ beliefs.

Wertheimer’s fascinating investigation, which includes a return to her rural Ohio school, which once ran weekly Christian Bible classes, reveals a public education system struggling to find the right path forward and offers a promising roadmap for raising a new generation of religiously literate Americans.

“Writing Religion” (Ramey, ed.)

In August, the University of Alabama Press will release “Writing Religion: The Case for the Critical Study of Religion,” edited by Steven W. Ramey (University of Alabama). The publisher’s description follows:

In 2002, the University of Alabama’s Department of Religious Studies established the annual Aronov Lecture Series to showcase the works of nationally recognized scholars of religion capable of reflecting on issues of wide relevance to scholars from across the humanities and social sciences. Writing Religion: The Case for the Critical Study of Religions is an edited collection of essays that highlights critical contributions from the first ten Aronov lecturers.

Section one of the volume, “Writing Discourses,” features essays by Jonathan Z. Smith, Bruce Lincoln, and Ann Pellegrini that illustrate how critical study enables the analysis of discourses in society and history. Section two, “Riting Social Formations,” includes pieces by Arjun Appadurai, Judith Plaskow, and Nathan Katz that reference both the power of rites to construct society and the act of riting as a form of disciplining that both prescribes and proscribes. The writings of Tomoko Masuzawa, Amy-Jill Levine, Aaron W. Hughes, and Martin S. Jaffee appear in section three, “Righting the Discipline.” They emphasize the correction of movements within the academic study of religion.

Steven W. Ramey frames the collection with a thoughtful introduction that explores the genesis, development, and diversity of critical analysis in the study of religion. An afterword by Russell McCutcheon reflects on the critical study of religion at the University of Alabama and rounds out this superb collection.

The mission of the Department of Religious Studies is to “avoid every tendency toward confusing the study of religion with the practice of religion.” Instruction about—rather than in—religion is foundational to the department’s larger goal of producing knowledge of the world and its many practices and systems of beliefs. Infused with this spirit, these fascinating essays, which read like good conversations with learned friends, offer significant examples of each scholar’s work. Writing Religion will be of value to graduate students, advanced undergraduates, and scholars interested in the study of religion from a critical perspective.

“Crossings and Crosses” (Strandbrink et al., eds.)

This April, De Gruyter Press will release “Crossings and Crosses: Borders, Educations and Religions in Northern Europe” edited by Peter Strandbrink, Jenny Berglund, and Thomas Lundén, (Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden). The publisher’s description follows:

Crossings and CrossesDealing with different regions and cases, the contributions in this volume address and critically explore the theme of borders, educations, and religions in northern Europe. As shown in different ways, and contrary to popular ideas, there seems to be little reason to believe that religious and civic identity formation through public education is becoming less parochial and more culturally open. Even where state borders are porous, where commerce, culture, and trade as well as associative, personal, and social life display stronger liminal traits, normative education remains surprisingly national. This situation is remarkable and goes against the grain of current notions of both accelerating globalisation and a European regional renaissance. The book also takes issue with the foundational tenet that liberal democracies are by definition uninvolved in matters concerning faith and belief. Instead, an implied conclusion is that secular liberal democracy is less than secular and liberal – at least in education, which is a major arena for political-cultural-ethical socialisation, as it aims to confer worldviews and frameworks of identity on young people who will eventually become full citizens and bearers/sharers of prevailing normative communities.

Hemming, “Religion in the Primary School”

This March, Routledge Press will release “Religion in the Primary School: Ethos, Diversity, Citizenship” by Peter Hemming (Cardiff University, UK).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion in the Primary SchoolReligion and its relationship to schooling is an issue that has become more and more topical in recent years. In many countries, developments such as the diversification of state school sectors, concerns about social cohesion between ethnic and religious groups, and debates about national identity and values have raised old and new questions about the role of religion in education. Whilst the significance of this issue has been reflected in renewed interest from the academic community, much of this work has continued to be based around theoretical or pedagogical debates and stances, rather than evidence-based empirical research.

This book aims to address this gap by exploring the social and political role of religion in the context of the primary school. Drawing on original ethnographic research with a child-centred orientation, comparisons are drawn between Community and Roman Catholic primary schools situated within a multi-faith urban area in the UK. In doing so, the study explores a number of ways in which religion has the potential to contribute to everyday school life, including through school ethos and values, inter-pupil relations, community cohesion and social identity and difference. At the centre of the analysis are two key sociological debates about the significance of religion in late modern societies. The first is concerned with the place of religion in public life and the influence of secularisation and post-secularism on the relationship between religion and schooling. The second relates to the increasingly multi-faith nature of many national populations and the implications for religious citizenship in educational settings.

Religion in the Primary School will be a useful resource for academics, researchers and students as a key addition to existing knowledge in the disciplines of education, sociology and human geography. It will also be of value to both policy-makers and educationalists interested in the role of religion in schools and the implications for the wider community and society in a range of national contexts.

%d bloggers like this: