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ERIC Number: EJ1229156
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2019-Sep
Pages: 5
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0037-7724
Beyond Content or Skills: The Why, What, and How of Religious Studies Education
Ellis, Justine Esta; Marcus, Benjamin Pietro
Social Education, v83 n4 p225-229 Sep 2019
What does religious studies education aim to teach? For years, this question has confounded educators and policymakers within the United States. To exacerbate matters, a common yet problematic narrative has emerged: content knowledge and skills are at odds with each other. In one camp, the story goes, are those who emphasize the "what"--the knowledge students need to become informed about religions. In the other, are educators who elevate the "how"--the skills necessary for engaging with an increasingly religiously diverse society. Seen as occupying opposite ends of the spectrum, content knowledge and skills vie for space in already-packed public school curricula. Thought leadership on religious literacy illustrates the challenges of bringing together the "what," the "how," and the "why" of current religious studies education. In this article, the authors contrast two key 2007 publications on the topic--Stephen Prothero's "Religious Literacy" and Diane Moore's "Overcoming Religious Illiteracy." The authors conclude that ultimately no program of education is neutral. Although the "why" cannot become synonymous with unconstitutional faith formation, it must still be present in the discussion for the sake of transparency and directed learning outcomes. The "why" inevitably shapes the "what" and the "how" of curricular content, so educators and policymakers need to be explicit about their intended goals from the outset. Even though it is unlikely that all stakeholders will agree on the values and dispositions that religious studies education should cultivate, taking ownership of the "why" will help advance a fuller conception of religious literacy at a time when it is needed most.
National Council for the Social Studies. 8555 Sixteenth Street #500, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Tel: 800-683-0812; Tel: 301-588-1800; Fax: 301-588-2049; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A