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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “A minister, a priest, a rabbi and your education”

    A Harvard faculty committee has sparked new discussion and rehashed debate after announcing that religion, U.S. history, ethics, science and technology, and Cultural Traditions and Cultural Change should be required of all undergraduates at the university.

    While Harvard University’s internal battle of ideals wages on, one important aspect should not be missed: the return of religion to the higher-education institution.

    Religion is a topic that has fallen by the wayside in education; it has been silenced by the desire to always be politically correct and is only really brought up when one side is trying to attack the other side’s stance on abortion or same-sex marriage in the political realm.

    Well, I would like to welcome religion back to higher education and encourage all schools to follow Harvard’s lead – should they formalize the requirement – and include religion as a required component of their comprehensive undergraduate curriculum if they don’t already.

    Many argue that religion should not be forced upon people and that students should be able to choose whether or not to take classes on the subject. But in a time when most American students associate Kabbalah with Madonna and Islam with 9/11 bombers, we do ourselves, our society and the world a disservice by allowing religion to be such a touchy subject.

    With the current state of the world as it is, everyone preaches the need for better cultural awareness and understanding. How can we truly educate ourselves about culture if we overlook the part of it that has the greatest and deepest influence on how many cultures are formed?

    A required religious studies course would give students the facts and the objective base to work from when developing the greater sense of cultural awareness that everyone calls for.

    Professor Alexander Nava, who teaches TRAD 104, Love in World Religions, here at the UA, emphasized, “”It is profoundly unfortunate that religious studies isn’t a greater component at the university level. Clearly, religion plays a very active role in the lives of people and is a central element of culture.””

    While we support an atmosphere of tolerance that allows a man with a Bible to preach about the coming of Jesus on the UA Mall and the Hillel Center to set up a booth on the same patch of grass, we do not foster an understanding beyond this.

    On this topic, Nava added, “” It is not enough to simply be tolerant of religion. It is necessary to be both tolerant and informed.””

    In an academic setting, it’s easy to avoid religion if one chooses to do so. Professors can focus on their area of study and never even once discuss the matter, if that is their desire. But this is simply impractical for students who will have to go out into the world beyond their classes and departments here.

    University officials are constantly saying that they want to give their students a greater number of tools and perspectives to draw from in the real world. Knowledge and understanding of religion needs to be one of these things if for no other reason than the practical fact that students will be working with people of different faiths, possibly doing business in another country that stops the business day to pray and constantly acting as an ambassador for our school, their company and our country.

    Don’t we want these ambassadors to be informed?

    As continuing conflict around the world demands a greater understanding of culture, and universities attempt to prepare students for the real world, it seems absurd to ignore this topic. Now more than ever, religion deserves a place as an integral part of education.

    Vanessa Valenzuela is a junior majoring in international studies and economics. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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