In this lesson, students will explore the role of culture in their lives and in their community. Students will learn that the some of the differences among people are the result of culture, and that when we talk about the behaviors and beliefs that groups of people have in common, we are talking about culture.
This lesson offers a starting point for exploring religions and faith traditions, creating an ongoing respectful dialogue about religious tolerance. By helping students understand the roots of varying faiths, we help them to better comprehend the reasons behind divergent national and international religious beliefs. Building knowledge and comprehension of context can increase our compassion and consideration for other people and faiths.
This lesson includes activities and projects that are easily expanded upon through further research and is designed to encourage in-depth study of these topics over a longer period of time.
In this lesson, students will discuss the diversity of clergy members who spoke or prayed at inaugurations since 1937. As Donald R. Kennon, Chief Historian of United States Capitol Historical Society in 2005, noted, "the role of clergy in our inaugural ceremonies is a recent development that began in 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt had a minister to give a benediction, and then his following inauguration had an invocation and a benediction. And it has involved Catholic priests. It has involved Protestant ministers. It's involved Jewish rabbis. So there has been a little bit more diversity. … [But we should remember that] religion supports the government. The government doesn't necessarily support or favor any specific religion…" Students will discuss: Is Kennon right? When a President-elect invites someone to pray at an inauguration, does that represent an endorsement of a particular religious view? Is it an expression that some views are legitimate and others are not? Who has not been represented at the inauguration?
Faith and religious traditions are often a significant part of a person’s identity. Understanding religious beliefs other than one’s own is a key element of tolerance. In the United States, religious diversity has long been part of our culture. However, religion is sometimes a cause of political debate, as may happen when a faith’s practices encounter American laws. For example, people who are Jehovah’s Witnesses are not permitted to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, as it violates elements of their belief system. Religious beliefs also may become an issue when citizens express concern about buildings for less-familiar faiths being planned in their community. (Examples of that, involving the construction of mosques, occurred in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and Murfreesboro, Tennessee.) Such incidents spark debate and conversation about religious freedom and tolerance. Freedom of religion is protected by First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
This lesson is the first in a series called “The Rich Tapestry of Religion in the United States.” The overall goals of the series are to help students explore the similarities and differences among different faith traditions, learn that there is no one “right” belief system, identify the implications of living in a country whose religious freedom has engendered tremendous religious diversity, and consider their own responses to those who believe differently than they do.
In this introductory lesson, students are introduced to the word “belief.” They learn about several different religions and examine how many people across the United States follow those religions, and how many follow no religion at all.
“The Rich Tapestry of Religion in the United States” features three lessons that help students assess the religious diversity of the United States, explore different religious and non-religious worldviews, and consider how freedom of religion relates to their own lives and the lives of others.
This lesson explores, confronts and seeks to deconstruct stereotypes and fears targeted at Muslims. In small groups, students will analyze myths and misconceptions about Muslims. They will also understand the meaning of Islamophobia and its effects on Muslims, watch a video to understand the impact of Islamophobia and create an anti-Islamophobia campaign to display in school.
“The New Deciders” examines the influence of voters from four demographic groups—black millennials, Arab Americans, Latino Evangelicals and Asian Americans. Viewers will meet political hopefuls, community leaders, activists and church members from Orange County, California, Cleveland, Ohio, Greensboro, North Carolina and Orlando, Florida, all of whom have the opportunity to move the political needle, locally and nationally.
The episode “Our Private Idaho” takes viewers to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Once the epicenter of the Aryan Nations’ white-supremacy movements, Coeur d’Alene has nearly doubled in population in the last two decades. Nearly 90 percent of its new arrivals are white, and although the percentage of nonwhite residents is gradually increasing, it’s still tiny at 5.5 percent.
This lesson asks students to think about how school districts can address the needs of increasingly diverse populations. It takes as its starting point a debate in New York City’s public schools.