12 education and religion

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Principles of Sociology for SOC101


An Overview of Education and Religion Sociological Perspectives on Education Functionalist Perspectives on Education Conflict Perspectives on Education Symbolic Interactionist Perspectives on Education Problems Within Elementary and Secondary Schools Unequal Funding of Public Schools School Violence Dropping Out Racial Segregation and Resegregation Opportunities and Challenges in Colleges and Universities Opportunities and Challenges in Community Colleges Opportunities and Challenges in Four-Year Colleges and Universities The Saari ng Cost of a College Education Racial and Ethnic Differences in Enrollment Religion in Historical Perspective Religion and the Meaning of Life Religion and Scientific Explanations Sociological Perspectives on Religion Functionalist Perspectives on Religion Conflict Perspectives on Religion Symbolic Interactionist Perspectives on Religion Types of Religious Organization Ecclesia The Church-Sect Typology Cults Trends in Religion in the United States Education and Religion in the Future


e are teaching our children a theory [evolution] that most of us don't believe in. I don't think God creates everything on a day-to-day basis, like the color of the sky. But I do believe he created Adam and Eve-instantly.-Steve Farrell, a resident of Dover, Pennsylvania, explaining why he approves of the Dover school board's decision to require eighth-grade biology teachers to teach "intelligent design" -an assertion that the universe is so complex that an intelligent, supernatural power must have created it-as an alternative to the theory of evolution (Powell, 2004: Al)


definitely would prefer to believe that God

created me than that I'm 50th cousin to a silverback ape. What's wrong with wanting our children to hear about all the holes in the theory of evolution?-Lark Myers, another resident of Dover, who also wants her child to learn about intelligent design at school (Powell, 2004: Al)

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believe it is wrong to introduce a nonscientific "explanation" of the origins of life into the science curriculum. This policy was not endorsed by the Dover High School science department. I think this policy was approved for religious reasons, not to improve science education for my child.-Tammy Kitzmiller, one of the eleven parents who filed a lawsuit (Kitzmiller v. Dover) against the school board, challenging its controversial decision (ACLU,2005)


3. You have been appointed to a presidential commission on child-care problems in rhe Unired Srares. How to provide high-qualiry child care ar affordable prices is a key issue for rhe first meeting. What kinds of suggestions would you take to the

meeting? How do you think your suggestions should be funded? How does the future look for children in high-, middle-, and low-income families in the United States?

The Kendall Companion Websitehttp://thomsonedu.com/socioLogy/kendaLLSupplemenr your review of this chapter by going to the companion website to take one of the tutorial quizzes, use the flash cards to master key terms, and check our the many other study aids you'll find there. You'll also find special features such as GSS Data and Census 2000 information that will put data and resources at your fingertips to help you with that special project or help you do some research on your own.

eople have an impatience about science. They think it's this practical process that explains how everything works, but that's the least interesting part. We understand a lot of the mechanisms of evolution but it's what we don't understand that makes it exciting .... It's very clear that intelligent design has become a stalking-horse. If these school boards had their druthers, they would teach Noah's flood and the 6,OOO-year-olddesign of Earth. My fear is that they are making real headway in the popular imagination.-Kenneth R. Miller, a university biologist and author of the biology textbook used in Dover before the school board's decision, explaining why he believes that the teaching of intelligent design in public classrooms is a very bad idea (Powell, 2004: Al)



hat is all the controversy about? How did a small school district draw so much attention to itself and end up with a district judge ruling that the school board's decision to introduce intelligent design as an alternative to evolution violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution? 1J, The argument over intelligent design is the lat- ~ est debate in a lengthy battle over the teaching of creationism versus evolutionism in public schools, and it is only one of many arguments that will continue to take place regarding the appropriate relationship between public education and religion in the United States. More than seventy years ago,@

For many years, people have argued about what should (or should not) be taught in U.S. public schools, including the teaching of creationism or intelligent design as contrasted with evolution. Shown here is Dr. Kenneth Miller, a biology professor, during a discussion of the pros and cons of incorporating the teaching of intelligent design into the Ohio state science curriculum.

for exampLe, evoLutionism versus creationism was hotLy debated in the famous "Scopes monkey triaL," so named because of CharLes Darwin's assertion that human beings had evoLved from Lower primates. In this case, John Thomas Scopes, a substitute high schooL bioLogy teacher in Tennessee, was found guiLty of teaching evoLution, which denied the "divine creation of man as taught in the BibLe." ALthough an appeaLs court Later overturned Scopes's conviction and $100 fine (on the grounds that the fine was excessive), teaching evoLution in Tennessee's pubLic schooLs remained illegaL until 1967 (ChaLfant, BeckLey, and PaLmer, 1994). By contrast, recent U.S. Supreme Court ruLings have Looked unfavorabLy

on the teaching of creationism in pubLic schooLs, based on a provision in the Constitution that requires a "waLL of separation" between church (reLigion) and state (government). InitiaLLy, this waLLof separation was erected to protect reLigion from the state, not the state from reLigion. Who is to decide what shouLd be taught in U.S. pubLic schooLs? What is the purpose of education? Of reLigion? In this chapter, we examine education and reLigion, two sociaL institutions that have certain commonaLities both as institutions and as objects of socioLogicaL inquiry. Before reading on, test your knowLedge about the impact reLigion has had on U.S. education by taking the quiz in Box 12.1.

An Overview of Education and ReligionEducation and religion are powerful and influential forces in contemporary societies. Both institutions impart values, beliefs, and knowledge considered essential to the social reproduction of individual personalities and entire cultures (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1990). Education and religion both grapple with issues of societal stability and social change, reflecting society even as they attempt to shape it. Education and religion also share certain commonalities as objects of sociological study; for example, both are socializing institutions. Whereas early socialization is primarily informal and takes place within our families and friendship networks, as we grow older, socialization passes to the more formalized organizations created for the specific purposes of education and religion. Areas of sociological inquiry that specifically focus on those institutions are (l) the sociology of education, which primarily examines formal education or schooling in industrial societies, and (2) the sociology of religion, which focuses on religious groups and organizations, on the behavior of individuals within

those groups, and on ways in which religion is intertwined with other social institutions (Roberts, 2004). Let's start our examination by looking at sociological perspectives on education.

Sociological Perspectives on EducationEducation is the social institution responsible for thesystematic transmission of knowledge, skills, and cultural values within a formally organized structure. In all societies, people must acquire certain knowledge and skills in order to survive. In less-developed societies, these skills might include hunting, gathering, fishing, farming, and self-preservation. In contemporary, developed societies, knowledge and skills are often related to the requirements of a highly competitive job market. Sociologists have divergent perspectives on the purpose of education in contemporary society. Functionalists suggest that education contributes to the maintenance of sociery and provides people with an opportunity for self-enhancement and upward social

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How Much Do You Know About the Impact of Religion on U.S. Education?True


False F F F

1. The Constitution 2. 3.



4. 5.



6. 7.




of the United States originally specified that religion should be taught in the public schools. Virtually all sociologists have advocated the separation of moral teaching from academic subject matter. The federal government has limited control over how funds are spent by school districts because most of the money comes from the state and local levels. Parochial schools have decreased in enrollment as interest in religion has waned in the United States. The number of children from religious backgrounds other than Christianity and Judaism has grown steadily in public schools over the past three decades. Debates over textb


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