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Advice From the Experts

Answers to your toughest social justice questions.

A girl surrounded by religious symbols with the evolution of man design on her shirt
Illustration by Anita Kunz


Q: Can we just stop talking and teaching about religion in the classroom? These are beliefs and should not be taught in any public school.

It is certainly true that public education has a checkered history when it comes to adhering to the separation of church and state. However, it is also true that religious intolerance lies at the heart of countless interpersonal and intergroup conflicts—even hate crimes. The upshot? Not talking about religion is not an option if U.S. schools are to succeed in preparing students to interact with the larger world. The more students understand about the diversity of beliefs held around the country and the globe, the less likely they are to develop biased or hateful behaviors.

The key distinction educators must understand is that teaching religion and teaching about religion are two very different things. One is illegal in public schools; the other is both legal and important if we are to foster understanding and tolerance of all religious and nonreligious beliefs. 

Not sure which is happening in your school? Ask yourself this: Is the material focused on influencing students’ beliefs or on what students should know about the beliefs (or nonbeliefs) of others?

It may not always be clear, which is why Teaching Tolerance and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding have teamed up to deliver a series of webinars on how to make sure this teaching happens in a safe, respectful way. You can find them here

 

Q: Are the texts in the Perspectives for a Diverse America Central Text Anthology leveled?

Each text in the Central Text Anthology was quantitatively leveled using a range of tools including Lexile, Flesch-Kincaid, ATOS and DRP. But that’s not all! The text’s complexity was also evaluated using qualitative dimensions: meaning/purpose, structure, language and knowledge demands.

To determine the level of each text, use the advanced filter to locate texts in your desired grade band. From there, each text is labeled with the Common Core State Standards text level and an exact Lexile score in gray just above the title.

Did you know you can replicate the process we used to level the texts in Perspectives with our new tool, Reading Diversity? This interactive PDF walks you through both quantitative and qualitative leveling considerations.

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