... which religion would you teach?
Editor's note: Silver Stringer Irving Smolens, a D-day veteran and active in the Melrose community, first met Abby Shields on the Internet in 2000 when she was researching a paper on D-day. This was the beginning of a lasting friendship with Abby who graduated from West Point last year, (she was originally considering Annapolis). The complete story of this meeting can be read in an earlier article "Internet encounter of the best kind". This includes a link to her story "Following John" which she read at the Memorial Day ceremony in Melrose in 2001. The following letter was recently found by Irving while rummaging through some old files. It is Abby's response to the opinion expressed that much of our problems today can be blamed on the lack of teaching religion in our schools. At her graduation Abby was given a special award for being judged as the best writer in the entire Corps of Cadets. Abby is now serving in Iraq.
I want to comment on the statement that religion should be taught in our schools. I believe that people who blame lack of religion in schools for America's problems are pointing fingers and hiding from the truth that children are the products of their home environments.
The fundamental American right of religious freedom must not be very significant to those who feel biblical teachings should be the basis for public education. There is no amendment in the Constitution that reads religious freedom only applies to those who are of the Christian faith. It provides for all Americans to worship as they please. As a nation that touts its "melting pot" heritage, it would be strongly against the American spirit as well as the Constitution to tailor lesson plans to fit one religion in institutions filled with children of diverse backgrounds. It is not the job of America's teachers to guide students in a certain religious direction. That's something that should be accomplished at home. Perhaps what needs to be reformed in America is not education but parenting. The fact remains that teachers can make their students feel special and loved without having to use religion.
I've never felt insignificant or hopeless because someone told me that I evolved from a primitive life form. Parents have to give students and teachers a lot more credit than that. Humans feel hopeless and unloved because of how they are treated by others not because of a biology lesson. Most religions in the world hold similar beliefs as far as the treatment of others is concerned, such as kindness, charity, compassion and sympathy. Teachers can pass these qualities on without assigning a religious label to them and in the process aid students in building healthy self-esteem in addition to whatever values they are being taught at home. Some of the most powerful teachers in my life have taught by silent example and it is those teachers I will try to emulate as I go out into the "real world."
As a high school senior and a product of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools, I feel I have received a wonderful, valuable education in spite of the lack of religion. In July, I will be going to West Point, and I know that when the time comes to protect that oath I will be pledging to protect the rights of all Americans as outlined in the Constitution. Though I come from a strong Christian family, I respect and am willing to defend those who choose to follow different faiths. I appreciate the fact that I have been allowed to worship peacefully without interference, and I believe that others need to be afforded that same right.
The way I treat others will make a far greater difference in the real world than any loud broadcasting of my faith. It's not at all the good "apes" in schools that cause moral decay and violence, but only kids who haven't been taught what it means to respect their fellow human beings.