Teaching religion in public schools: Review of Warren A. Nord, does god make a difference?

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In this review of Warren Nord's Does God Make a Difference? Taking Religion Seriously in Our Schools and Universities, Walter Feinberg provides a detailed analysis of Nord's argument that the study of religion should be constitutionally mandated as a corrective to the overwhelmingly secular course of study offered in contemporary public schools and universities. Nord bases his claim on both constitutional and educational grounds. His constitutional argument is that, due to their secular bias, schools fail in their requirement to take a neutral stance toward religion; he contends that this creates a school environment hostile to religion that thus requires a legal remedy. Nord's primary educational argument is that religion courses are needed to counterbalance the secular bias dominant in public schools and universities. Feinberg delineates how Nord's constitutional argument fails and how his educational argument has serious flaws and contradictions. According to Feinberg, a stronger argument for mandating courses on religion in schools would be that because public schools exist in a religiously infused environment, it is important for students to be exposed to alternative understandings that promote reflection on and criticism of one's own beliefs, including religious beliefs. Feinberg concludes that if religion is to be taught in the public schools, it needs to be justified on civic rather than religious grounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-438
Number of pages8
JournalEducational Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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