Re-examining faith and education
Letter to the Editor | Monday, November 27, 2006
In the Letter to the Editor “Combine Religion and Science in Education, Nov. 21” Krista Larsen brought to light the issue of a declining American education system and offered as a possible remedy a return to religious devotion. While, if it worked, such a solution may indeed aid the process of increasing the quality of American education, the fact stands that such a solution is most impractical and unnecessary.
The simultaneous drop in religious attendance and math and science scores does not signify a direct correlation between the two. Likewise it does not lead to the conclusion that a spur in religious attendance will counteract the current downward trend. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that the cure lies in a religious movement of sorts, we would be wiser to consider the problem more carefully. Krista noted that Japan leads the academic race in the areas of math and science. Yet Japan’s school system is, like America’s, secular, and the Japanese as a whole are not considerably more devout in their faith than Americans. Therefore it is not a lack of religion which differentiates our school system from other, more successful school systems.
Rather I would argue the difference lies in other important characteristics which Larsen admitted have some influence on education. Namely, values such as obedience and perseverance are of fundamental worth in education. When concerned about how best to improve the quality of our education system we should focus on how best to instill these values in students.
Here I will agree with Larsen that the religions of the world seek to instill these very values in believers, and so the argument for a correlation between religious attendance and education may hold some water. However, it is not necessary to believe in God to understand the inherent value of education and to be motivated to become educated.
A secular community can certainly foster a strong commitment to education. This is evident in secular schools and universities throughout the nation. So when considering how to improve the schools of our nation, I do not see the argument for promoting religious devotion as highly relevant. Not only does common sense readily point out that such an argument would have little credit or effect in America, but promoting the values necessary for a good school system need not involve religion. The characteristics of a good education system and solutions for allowing our schools to adapt them more effectively can be determined through political debate. Likewise, while our faith may guide us in education, the intrinsic value of education can be determined without divine revelation.