It’s a holiday ritual as predictable as Santa showing up at your local mall: overheated rhetoric about the “War on Christmas.” A lowlight this year was a feature on The O’Reilly Factor about a letter from the Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union urging school districts to make holiday celebrations inclusive. Through O’Reilly’s prism, the letter — quoted selectively — was an attempt to squelch Christmas. In reality, the letter just asked school districts to avoid celebrations focusing exclusively on a single religion. It was more common sense than state-coerced atheism.
Unfortunately, once you cut through the blather on cable news, there is a real, if much less discussed, problem in that public schools are skittish about teaching much about religion. Although there is little hard data, the consensus among those who study the issue is that to the extent world religions are taught, they are treated superficially, usually with the help of just a few textbook pages that have been heavily sanitized to avoid even the hint of controversy. And that’s not good news if you believe a working knowledge of the world’s religions and their history is an important aspect of a well-rounded education.