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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Religion, History, and Education: Facing History and Ourselves


Event Recap

The final Boisi Center event of the fall semester was a lively lunch conversation on December 3 with Adam Strom, director of research and development for Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit organization that develops educational resources about morally challenging historical events and periods. The Massachusetts-based organization is best known for its materials and programs on the Holocaust, which are used in schools across the country.

Strom’s remarks focused on the inadequacy with which religion is addressed in most high school history courses. Too often, he said, educators and curricular materials neglect or misunderstand the role that religion has played in world history. In his experience, he said, if religion is not actively ignored, it is mischaracterized as a set of unchanging beliefs and rituals rather than a way of life for billions of people, that has had and continues to have a crucial bearing on historical.

Strom gave the example of the American civil rights movement, which was led by a number of Southern Christian ministers. Although Christianity played a central role in the beliefs and tactics of civil rights leaders, this role is often left out in classroom discussions about the period.

Ultimately, Strom emphasized the understanding of religion’s role as a critical part of civic literacy. The education students receive in this regard needs to improve.