For years, politicians around the country have striven to allow families to leave public schools and attend religious (largely Christian) schools through voucher programs. However, many people are alarmed by the call of Rep. André Carson (D-Indiana), a Muslim member of Congress, that our schools should be modeled on Islamic schools or Madrassas. As a staunch supporter of public schools and an educator, I strongly oppose the intermingling of religion with our public schools. I also do not find Madrassas to be a particularly compelling model for education in the United States.
In a recent speech, Carson stated “America will never tap into educational innovation and ingenuity without looking at the model that we have in our Madrassas, in our schools where innovation is encouraged. Where the foundation is the Koran.”
Whether the “foundation” is the Bible or the Koran, the relevance of such religious structure to education is dubious at best and a threat to the separation of church and state at worst. To be honest, it is doubtful Carson’s speech would have generated such controversy if he praised Catholic schools as a model for education. Indeed, we have seen politicians object to the use of vouchers for Muslim schools.
Leslie and I have kept our children in public schools despite our unhappiness at times with class size and bureaucratic nonsense. I believe deeply that our public schools are a critical democratic training ground for tolerance and pluralism. They must be secular and free of religious training by definition as public schools.
I fail to see what the Madrassa model has to offer our school system. Any “innovation” clearly exists outside of such religious systems and is not unique to their religious focus.