By: Marilyn Anderson Rhames, executive director, KuriosEd; founder,Teachers Who Pray; and author, The Master Teacher: 12 Spiritual Lessons That Can Transform Schools and Revolutionize Public Education. She is also an Albany State University Center for Educational Opportunity research grant recipient.
An analysis of PDK poll data shows that evangelicals and non-evangelicals are not so far apart in their opinions about religion in their local schools — except when race and ideology get involved.
For the last 60 years, evangelical Christians have had a turbulent relationship with public education. Beginning in the late 20th century, they began seeing their influence on public schools diminish on multiple fronts. For example, after fighting long and hard to keep prayer and Bible readings in American classrooms, they saw the U.S. Supreme Court ban such practices in the early 1960s. This decision remained potent for decades, so much so that when Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1984, he “played to the sensibilities of Evangelical voters when he condemned ‘God’s expulsion’ from public schools” (Laats, 2012). In the late 1960s, much to evangelicals’ chagrin, the U.S. Supreme Court also struck down prohibitions on teaching evolution in science class. And by the 1970s, school districts across the country had adopted comprehensive sex education curricula that promoted condom use as an alternative to abstinence.