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Does God Belong in Public Schools?

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691121116
ISBN-10: 0691121117
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Columbia law professor Greenawalt tackles one of the truly intractable problems encountered in applying the Constitution to public life. Under the First Amendment, the government can neither establish religion nor prohibit the free exercise of religion. How can these two rules, which tug in opposite directions, be applied coherently to government-run schools? Looking at cases that have come before the courts, Greenawalt surveys the many contexts in which the proper place of religion in public schools is at issue. Some decisions are clear-cut: he says, for example, that the courts have stated that while schools may teach about religion's impact on history, they may neither endorse nor condemn the beliefs of any given religion. Where a subject, for example science, has a recognized secular method, views inconsistent with the method, such as creationism, are seen by educators as religious and thus should not be taught. Teachers can explain religious references in works of literature without becoming advocates or critics of the religions involved. In analyzing these and other issues, Greenawalt is refreshingly free of dogmatism. His judgments and conclusions are carefully drawn and nuanced, and he demonstrates how small changes in the facts can produce very different constitutional outcomes. This book will make you think clearly—and show you how.
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Review

"Greenawalt tackles one of the truly intractable problems encountered in applying the Constitution to public life. . . . [He] is refreshingly free of dogmatism. His judgments and conclusions are carefully drawn and nuanced, and he demonstrates how small changes in the facts can produce very different constitutional outcomes. This book will make you think clearly--and show you how."--Publishers Weekly



"Greenawalt provides a good jumping-off point, with just enough legal specifics, for further debate on a loaded issue: how to deal with God in public schools."--Kathryn Jean Lopez, New York Post



"This is a useful book for anyone wanting to understand the intersection of religion, public education, and constitutional law in the United States. . . . [It] rises to the highest standard one could expect of legal writing on public policy matters. Greenawalt does a good job leading anyone unfamiliar with the issues through a complicated legal, practical, educational, moral, and political thicket."--Thomas F. Powers, Law and Politics Book Review



"Teachers, school administrators, and parents will find as much of interest and practical benefit as will scholars in fields such as teacher education, education administration, and school law."--Library Journal



"[A]ccessible yet detailed."--Christian Reflection



"Greenawalt will strike most readers as a fair-minded moderate. . . [He] concludes there should be God in the public schools, but only as something to ponder and discuss--never to worship."--David Ruenzel, Teacher Magazine

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691121117
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691121116
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,148,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Professor Greenawalt's book examines different common claims made by parents, students and school employees that public schools have violated the Free Exercise clause by interfering with their practice of religion.

The book's only mention of such a claim by a Muslim is a school teacher who wore hijab in violation of the district's clothing policy.

For some reason, I always thought that public schools had to accommodate religious requests provided they did not disrupt operations. I don't remember reading the term "accommodation" at all, and it does not appear in the index.

If you are concerned that religious claims are reducing the quality of public schools, you should read this book because it will help you understand why teaching evolution and science-based sex education is warranted.

I would also recommend this book to people who operate private schools. When discussing possible options to resolve objections to actions of public schools, one of the most common reasons for public schools to continue doing what they are doing is the lack of a good alternative. If the purpose of your private school is to "shield" children from general society, you'll find that your school's students, parents and employees are very likely to disagree with specific policies and you're back to choosing between "watering down" religion and marginalization of part of your school community.
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Format: Paperback
Columbia University law professor examines the relationship between religion and the U.S. public school system. Analyses court decisions about constitutional limits.

He does a good job tackling one of the truly intractable problems encountered in applying the Constitution to public life. As the publisher mentions, under the First Amendment, the government can neither establish religion nor prohibit the free exercise of religion. How can these two rules, which tug in opposite directions, be applied coherently to government-run schools?

This is what will be discussed. He considers controversies such as sex education, evolution versus creationism, Christmas celebrations, religious clubs, and alternate lifestyles, among others. He reviews the history and purpose of American education programs. Should be read by all parents and educators.
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