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Barry, congratulations to your daughter on her graduation. It is that time of year – my son just graduated from Regent University School of Law.
The New Jersey school sounds perfectly legitimate from a constitutional standpoint. The article states that the school “would steer clear of religion while teaching a vital 21st-century skill–a second language that would prepare students for the global economy.” The school’s co-founder said, “It’s not a Jewish school. . . . We’re not teaching any religion.”
It sounds like the school’s instruction is consistent with United States Department of Education Guidelines on Religious Expression in Public Schools updated in 1998, that state:
Teaching about religion: Public schools may not provide religious instruction, but they may teach about religion, including the Bible or other scripture: the history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scripture)-as-literature, and the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries all are permissible public school subjects. Similarly, it is permissible to consider religious influences on art, music, literature, and social studies. Although public schools may teach about religious holidays, including their religious aspects, and may celebrate the secular aspects of holidays, schools may not observe holidays as religious events or promote such observance by students.
From a policy standpoint, the New Jersey charter school sounds like a great idea. I am in Israel now with Regent University law and government students and know firsthand the importance of helping students understand the cultural, legal, political, historical, religious, social, and economic factors that make the Middle East such a volatile place. Promoting stability, democracy, and the rule of law in the Middle East is key to our national and economic security, and the New Jersey charter school will certainly help to equip students to contribute to that endeavor.
Experimentation and state and local control have always been hallmarks of our system of public education. A “one size fits all” approach dictated by Washington bureaucrats or the National Education Association is not the answer. Charter schools, voucher programs, and other innovative ideas have drawn support from parents who are dissatisfied with the status quo in their local public schools.
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