Faith Ed.: Teach­ing About Reli­gion In an Age of Intolerance

  • Review
By – May 19, 2015

Reli­gion is a hot-but­ton issue in the Unit­ed States for pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, activists, and edu­ca­tors. In cer­tain areas of the coun­try — and under cer­tain cir­cum­stances — reli­gion is embraced; at oth­er times and places, reli­gion is avoid­ed. In this engag­ing, high­ly read­able account, Lin­da Wertheimer makes a strong case for teach­ing reli­gion by open­ing with the sto­ry of Burk­a­gate,” a con­tro­ver­sial moment in Lum­ber­ton, Texas, where a ninth grade his­to­ry teacher shared authen­tic Mus­lim cloth­ing with her stu­dents as part of a unit on Islam. The teacher was pil­lo­ried after a stu­dent post­ed a pho­to of her­self in cos­tume on social media.

Wertheimer argues for the urgency of teach­ing reli­gion in our pub­lic schools. The unfor­get­table and trag­ic events of Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 and the cur­rent rise of ISIS make the case for increased edu­ca­tion about Islam and Mus­lims all the more com­pelling; the rise of the polit­i­cal Chris­t­ian Right in the Unit­ed States demands that we know more about Chris­tian­i­ty; and the attacks on Israel, the mis­un­der­stand­ing of Zion­ism, and the pub­lic nature of our bar and bat mitz­vah cel­e­bra­tions neces­si­tates a base­line knowl­edge of Jew­ish culture.

Faith Ed. is an inter­est­ing jour­nal­is­tic account that reads like an anthro­po­log­i­cal study about the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, reveal­ing our intel­li­gence, our diver­si­ty, and, trag­i­cal­ly, our igno­rance. A fast-paced read for laypeo­ple, par­ents, and teach­ers, this book also would be help­ful for pub­lic fig­ures, from school com­mit­tee mem­bers to leg­is­la­tors who craft a vision for education.

Judd Kruger Lev­ingston, Ph.D. and rab­bi, serves as Direc­tor of Jew­ish Stud­ies at Jack M. Bar­rack Hebrew Acad­e­my in the Philadel­phia area. Lev­ingston is the author of Sow­ing the Seeds of Char­ac­ter: The Moral Edu­ca­tion of Ado­les­cents in Pub­lic and Pri­vate Schools (Praeger, 2009).

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