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.