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a journal of analysis and comment advancing public understanding of religion and education
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Volume 32 Number 2
Fall 2005

Listening to Teacher Voices: Religion in Schools in the Rural South     

Sandra B. Oldendorf and Connie R. Green

Few topics are more controversial in the Southeast educational community than the role of religion in schools. As instructors of undergraduate and graduate courses in elementary education, we frequently engage our students in discussions about cultural diversity, religion, and the schools. The topics include the diversity of children in classrooms, selecting literature for children, teaching about religion in the curriculum, celebrating holidays, and prayer in school. We often hear PK-8 teachers share the conflicts and confusion they have about their roles as classroom teachers and their beliefs as Christians. Some teachers express a lack of tolerance for children of different faiths and the accommodations that teachers are required to make. Others counter with firm adherence to the principle of separation of church and state and uphold the rights of children of different faiths. Based on these discussions, we decided to investigate the actual religious practices taking place in schools, the reasons why teachers hold the beliefs they do, and the conflict some teachers face between their role as public school teachers and as Christians.

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