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Comic Strip Politics » High-Schoolers Don
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April 13, 2013

High-Schoolers Don

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Mallard Fillmore - 03.29.07

Yesterday’s Mallard Fillmore reminds me of those news reports and comic strips that say something like “Only 12% of high school seniors could point to Afghanistan on a map”. These kind of stats are often combined with the number who could rattle of the most recent American Idol winner or the name of Paris Hilton’s dog. The point of such statistics is to show how out of touch American youth are with things that are important in the grand scheme of things, and therefore how globally sheltered they are and how apathetic they may be in the future about world issues.

This particular comic puzzles me somewhat, though, because I don’t quite understand how being ignorant of the ancient Jewish story translates into anything specifically harrowing. If the group polled was seniors in Christian or Jewish high schools, perhaps the point would be that these schools aren’t doing a good enough job of teaching the faith to their students, and that would make much more sense.

Would Bruce Tinsley maintain that all students should be taught stories from the Bible and other religious texts? What is it about this particular story involving Sodom and Gomorrah (which are two cities, by the way) that makes Tinsley so shocked that it’s not more well-known? I guess my main problem with the strip is that I don’t quite understand what Mallard is getting at.

I checked out Amazon to see the book Mallard was referring to. In the book’s description, it says:

“[The Author] begins this valuable primer by noting that religious illiteracy is rampant in the United States, where most Americans, even Christians, cannot name even one of the four Gospels. Such ignorance is perilous because religion “is the most volatile constituent of culture” and, unfortunately, often “one of the greatest forces for evil” in the world, he writes.”

Based on that and the rest of the description, it seems that the book is probably pretty even-handed. It seems that the author thinks that religious literacy is necessary in the same way that World History is necessary; it’s important to understand the past in order to fully understand the present, especially relating to various cultures around the world. In this, I absolutely agree. I feel like much of the semi-polarization between Christians and non-Christians in the US recently has been fueled by misconceptions of Christianity’s history and teachings, even by self-proclaimed Christians themselves. A better understanding of all religions would probably be beneficial to all, but if that’s Mallard Fillmore’s point in this strip, it’s not particularly clear.

As for keeping religion out of schools, quite frankly, I don’t see why religion needs to play a formal role in school. However, there’s no good reason to keep religion completely out of schools in an informal capacity (like a Bible club or a Muslim student group). In fact, it would seem that preventing those students who wish to participate in a religous activity would actually be taking away their First Amendment rights.

Despite what many people believe, the Bill of Rights actually says nothing about public schools, or even keeping religion out of publically-owned places and events. It simply keeps congress from respecting the establishment of a religion, or from preventing the free excercise of any religious belief. Preventing (voluntary) religious expression in a school woud seem to be going against the second part of it there.

Religion in schools (and other public places) is a hot button issue recently. What do you think about religion and public schools. Is it a bad idea to mix the two? Would it be breaking the 1st amendment to prohibit voluntary religious expression at school?

What about the book mentioned in the strip…. Do you think knowing religious history of religions you do not subscribe to are important to learn about for cultural reasons or for gaining a better understanding of others? I await your comments.

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  1. I can’t comment on the First Amendment violations you mention since I’m don’t know enough about the US Consitution, but I would like to mention that my religious education from my (Catholic) high school was actually pretty varied and covered at least the basics of Judaism, Islam and Buddhism, and I’m probably more culturally aware for it.

    PS: Someone told me that your “Uncle Sam” picture moves over your text in IE 7 (on Windows XP and with 1024×768 resolution, if that’s important).

    Comment by Joe Walker — March 31, 2007 @ 10:43 am

  2. My impression of Bruce Tinsley is that he has nothing but contempt for anyone who is less conservative than he is because they’re too liberal, and that he also has noting but contempt for anyone (all two or three of them) who might be more conservative than he is because they don’t agree with him 100%. That said, his opinion as given in this strip has nothing to do with genuine religious literacy than with knowledge of the events of the bible and acceptance of those events as literal and historical fact.

    Again, given the opinions Tinsley has expressed through his spokesduck, I have little doubt that what he is more concerned about is the presence of a fairly narrow interpretation of one version of a religious book and not religious knowledge in general.

    My own Catholic education taught me that all Protestants were wrong and going to hell, and that I was not a Christian but a Catholic. Granted this was in a school that tried to ignore the fact that Vatican II took place. Be that as it may, I received a very one-sided religious indoctrination, and it is only after leaving both Catholicism and Christianity behind that I have found that I seem to know more about those faiths and their writings than people who claim a lifelong commitment and devotion to them.

    All the religious literacy in the world isn’t going to do high school students or anybody else any good unliss critical thinking is taught and the freedom to question the assumptions one is being taught is granted.

    Comment by Freticat — May 1, 2007 @ 4:07 pm

  3. The Constitution doesn’t mention public schools because they weren’t intended to exist - first amendment or otherwise. The correct answer to the occasionally brouhaha about public schools and the first amendment, is to eliminate the public schools.

    Comment by Nathan P. — April 4, 2009 @ 4:58 am

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