Questions and Answers for
Teaching about Religion with TCI Materials
Q: What TCI curricular programs cover religious topics?
Most state and national social studies standards call for teaching about major world religions. Because of these standards and because religion is an important part of our national and global heritage, we include the study of religion in a number of TCI programs:
- History Alive! America’s Past
- History Alive! The Ancient World
- History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond
- History Alive! The United States
- History Alive! The United States through Industrialism
- History Alive! Pursuing American Ideals
- Geography Alive! Regions and People
- Government Alive! Power, Politics, and You
Q: Why does TCI include religious topics?
The study of religion is an important part of a complete education and is included in most state and national standards. In order to understand history and social studies, students must be able to understand the role religion played during various time periods. The National School Boards Association and National PTA joined with 15 other major religious and educational organizations to issue a document called A Teachers’ Guide to Religion in the Public Schools. This document, published by the First Amendment Center, is also endorsed by:
· The Christian Legal Society
· The American Jewish Congress
· The National Education Association
· The Islamic Society of North America
· The National Council for Social Studies
· The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
· The National Association of Evangelicals
The document explains the importance of religion in the curriculum in this way:
Because religion plays a significant role in history and society, study about religion is essential to understanding both the nation and the world. Omission of facts about religion can give students the false impression that the religious life of humankind is insignificant or unimportant. Failure to understand even the basic symbols, practices, and concepts of the various religions makes much of history, literature, art, and contemporary life unintelligible.
Study about religion is also important if students are to value religious liberty, the first freedom guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Moreover, knowledge of the roles of religion in the past and present promotes cross-cultural understanding essential to democracy and world peace.
Q: What guidelines should teachers follow when teaching about religion?
The Supreme Court has made clear that the study about religion in public schools is constitutional. However, it is important that teachers follow the guidelines listed below that are provided by the document, A Teachers’ Guide to Religion in the Public Schools, previously referenced.
· The school’s approach to religion is academic, not devotional.
· The school may strive for student awareness of religions, but should not press for student acceptance of any one religion.
· The school may sponsor study about religion, but may not sponsor the practice of religion.
· The school may expose students to a diversity of religious views, but may not impose any particular view.
· The school may educate about all religions, but may not promote or denigrate any religion.
· The school may inform students about various beliefs, but should not seek to conform students to any particular belief.
Q: How does TCI fairly treat the origins and spread of the world’s major religions?
Two of our curricular programs, History Alive! The Ancient World and History Alive! The Medieval World, focus on the origins and spread of the world’s major religions. Since ours is a historical, chronological approach, each major religion is covered in its appropriate historical context. The coverage in these two books is listed below.
History Alive! The Ancient World
- Chapter 11: The Ancient Hebrews and the Origins of Judaism
- Chapter 12: The Struggle to Preserve Judaism
- Chapter 15: Learning about Hindu Beliefs
- Chapter 16: The Story of Buddhism
- Chapter 36: The Origins and Spread of Christianity
History Alive! The Medieval World
- Chapter 3: The Role of the Church in Medieval Europe
- Chapter 6: The Byzantine Empire
- Chapter 31: The Reformation Begins
- Chapter 32: The Spread and Impact of the Reformation
- Chapter 8: The Prophet Muhammad
- Chapter 9: The Teachings of Islam
Q: Are TCI materials sensitive to all religions?
TCI gives special attention to all chapters that pertain to religion in order to ensure that they are fair, accurate, balanced and sensitive. To ensure this high-quality coverage, TCI:
· Adheres to the pertinent state or national standards.
· Selects appropriate instructional strategies for sensitive content—despite our active approach, students never role play or re-enact any religious practices.
· Carefully fact-checks the content of the chapter to ensure accuracy.
· Has each chapter reviewed by appropriate university scholars and incorporates their feedback. Chapters with religious content receive a second review by scholars to ensure accuracy.
· Meets with a variety of religious groups to collect their feedback and incorporate suggestions to ensure materials are balanced and sensitive.
· Has outside scholar review completed by the California Department of Education’s Content Review Panel. Corrections from this group are incorporated into the final materials.
Q: How does TCI create materials?
All TCI materials are created by teachers, for teachers. Lessons are designed by developers who are classroom teachers with direct experience teaching the content. They create successful classroom activities that are piloted in classrooms to determine effectiveness and sensitivity. Chapters are then written to accompany the lesson. The lesson and chapter are carefully tied together to provide teachers with both activities and reading to create a complete learning system. Before completion, the lessons and chapters receive editorial, fact checking, and two rounds of reviews by scholars from a wide range of backgrounds.
Q: How does TCI operate?
TCI is a California-based company, privately owned with no outside funding. Our mission is to create, disseminate, and implement instructional strategies and accompanying social studies curricular materials so that educators can engage all students in the diverse classroom.
Q: What are some practical tips for teachers when addressing religion?
When you do teach about religion in your classroom, whether it is a lesson developed by TCI or one of your own, keep these suggestions in mind:
· Prior to conducting any class lesson that touches on possibly controversial content, alert your school administrators and consider sending home a letter to the parents/guardians of the students. The letter should explain the objectives of the lesson, the content standards it is designed to meet and a description of what students will be doing or discussing in the lesson.
· Do not have students re-enact religious ceremonies or practices.
· Make sure that class discussions about religion are free of advocacy from your personal perspective. Teachers can avoid interjecting their own personal beliefs by using attributive phrases, such as: Many Christians believe…or In the Jewish faith, the belief is…
· While students should be encouraged to express their own opinions, make sure that they do so without denigrating other groups.
· If you are inviting a guest speaker to your classroom, make sure they have the academic background necessary to be objective. Faculties at local universities or colleges are good resources. If you have invited a local religious leader or even perhaps a parent of a student, make sure that they clearly understand the First Amendment guidelines for teaching about religion that are listed above.
· Most importantly, if you are ever unsure about the appropriateness of the content of a lesson, speak with your school administrators beforehand.
Q: Where can I find more information on teaching about religion in schools?
· The First Amendment Center www.firstamendmentcenter.org
· The 3 Rs Project http://score.rims.k12.ca.us/score_lessons/3rs/
· Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life http://pewforum.org/religion-schools/
· Religion and Ethics Newsweekly http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/