Teaching about Religion in Social Studies: The First Amendment and Academic Freedom
James R. Moore
Cleveland State University
This paper examines the educational importance, controversies, and legal issues associated with teaching about religion in secondary school social studies classes. Many teachers are hesitant to teach about religion in social studies because of a lack of content knowledge, they fear charges of indoctrination, or they are not cognizant of the relevant First Amendment cases. Thus, most American students are not exposed to the vital role of religion in American and world history and are unaware of the crucial impact of religion on law, literature, the arts, and contemporary international relations and domestic politics. Religious illiteracy is educationally unsound because it deprives students’ access to a quality liberal arts education and hinders their ability to make reasoned and informed decision regarding important political and cultural issues. Teaching about religion in social studies course is essential to a comprehensive liberal education as it raises students’ awareness regarding the intersection of history with the contemporary world. Teachers have First Amendment rights and academic freedom that allow them to teach about religion by following established Supreme Court decisions and the National Council for the Social Studies guidelines.