With the “back-to-school” period around the corner – sorry, kids… summer can’t last forever – our team at RealEstateAgent.com has talked a lot about school and education. You’ve probably read our comprehensive Public School, Charter School, Private School or Homeschool post, and now it’s time to add a new layer to this discussion: would you send your child to a religious school, even though it’s not your religion?
Depending on who’s reading, this might seem like a crazy notion, but after many discussions here in our office, we came to the conclusion that it really isn’t; and we will tell you why.
One member of our team, for instance, had religious education throughout all his life. Went to both a Catholic school and college. But, unlike Catholics, he was not baptized and does not intend to. Not an atheist – he believes in a God, in a higher force, but says there’s no specific religion he abides by; thinks “they’re all great and bad in their own way”. One could say that his case is not exactly the same as a person of a specific religion getting a religious education from a different religious doctrine. But, he says, at said catholic college, he had Jewish and Muslim colleagues. And, like him, none of them got “converted” to the different religion. So… is there a way here?
We think there is. But only if some things are observed.
To understand the conditions, let’s take a look at what’s so great about religious education:
There seem to be two main areas where religious education excels regardless of your religion of choice. One is due to history itself. Most of the traditional religions were big advocates of education and culture as a whole. Fair to say, they were the keepers of education back in the day, pre-democracy. Yes, they would withhold some information, keep the “forbidden books” away from the general public fearful of the uneducated – or the politically inclined – contradicting their dogmas and devaluing their faith and perceived mission. But that was long ago so it makes no sense to the discussion. All that really matters is that, by doing that, they’ve gathered and maintained a lot of information – never burned said books – and studied that a lot until the world, and themselves, evolved – and praise the Lord (whichever one you believe) for that! – leaving them at a prime position to pass on information, rather than hide it. So, it’s a given that traditional private schools connected to traditional religious institutions of any kind will likely have a long-tested good system of education to pass on to your kids. Now, the second aspect where religious education can be really great, despite what kind of religious school you send your kid to, is not regarding practical education, but moral education in a way. Regardless of which of these different traditional religions you pick, when you open your heart and take an unbiased look at its doctrine; they are all very similar in propagating love, respecting one another and building a sense of community. Those are important core values that the public school system does not feel as its duty to pass on. They are focused on the practical knowledge, the 2+2=4s. Those are important, but the foundations of a religious education seem also important to the times we live in with so many occurrences of drugs, guns, bullying and other sad things that should not happen in a school’s environment. So, we believe, a religious school could complement that notion of morals on your kid – yes, notion; because, being frank here, if we are not seeing our kids follow a moral path (regardless of our choice of religion) it’s our fault as parents, not the educational system’s. We can and should call for help, but it’s solely our duty (and no one else’s) to make our children become good individuals. And a not so substantial, but still great thing about private schools that have religious education is that you don’t have to live in one of the best school districts so your kid can have good education. Like most private schools, they accept students regardless of their zip code.
So, the first condition is: while it can be any religion, it can’t be any school.
The most important thing when sending your kid to a religious school from a different religion is finding out how immersive is their religious classes. Most importantly: how exclusive of other points of views are their religious classes? Because it’s a given that they will have classes about their religious dogmas and point of view. That’s why these religious schools are implemented in the first place. As a way for the religious groups to protect and disseminate their philosophies. But there are ways and ways to do it. Back in our staffer’s private college, he says, there were, for every student, no matter the field of study, the same 4 obligatory religious classes. “Although there was one I did where the professor was an actual Priest, none of them were too preachy; plus there was one called Men and the religious phenomena which would discuss basically every popular religion other than Catholicism and provide some very cool and free debates. To this day it’s one of the classes that I’ve enjoyed the most while in College”.
So, it is adamant that the religious classes are separated from the, say, “scientific” classes. The religious classes can contradict the scientific ones, no problem. But within their hours. The religious schools cannot teach their dogmas and agendas disguised as a science class, or geography class, or any other type of class. If it’s one of those schools that, to prove its religious dogmas, contradicts science… you will be doing a disservice to your children, no matter if your faith tells you that what’s being taught is not what really happened, because if your children needs to do anything related to science – not your religious take on it, but the scientific approach to it – he/she will have a substantial learning deficit to overcome. A good religious school has to be a great school that also teaches about a specific religion and its values. And they can both have the same importance to the school, but the latter can never juxtapose and overpower the former.
And, the second condition, is that you, as a parent and practicing of another religion, keep both a close eye on the religious education and values the school is teaching your kid and an open door of communication with your child. This way, if you want/need, you can make sure your child doesn’t take it as an absolute truth everything it’s said there. Which, by itself, seems like a great thing to teach a kid registered at any kind of school. It will stimulate the growth of his/her capacity for critical thinking. In the end, it’s not fair – plus, it’s pretty hopeless – to go to the school and demand they stop pushing their religious agenda. They are a private school; they are allowed to do that. If you don’t feel good about it or wish it was less prominent because all the rest of that school is really good for him/her, you can take your kid out of said religious school and find one that is more suave in their religious education approach or you can just offer the counterpoint and teach your own doctrine.
So, it is possible.
Is it hard? Are adjustments required?
Like everything that’s good and important in life. But those are (i) little obstacles to people with strong faith in the power of their own faith and (ii) not the questions here. The questions are: would you send your child to a religious school even though it’s not your religion? Do you feel the benefits of studying at a great religious school, surpass the possible problems you might encounter because it’s not your religion that’s being taught? That’s up to you and nobody else to find out. We can only hope that God, however you call him/her, always blesses you and your family and all of us so we can continue to build a loving and respectful community.