by Hannah Rogers
At Monticello High School, there seems to be an integrated aura, free of many divisive factors. As everything is not always this immaculate, a question that repeatedly presents itself is whether or not anybody at Monticello feels indignant about discussing religion in school. Aside from the fact that religion had to be taught in historical scopes of curriculum, something staggering and kind of exceptional was uncovered: The answer is a resounding no. Monticello, and Albemarle County Public Schools for that matter, is just really that open minded.
Delving deeper into this issue with Dr. Turner, Monticello’s principal, it was clear that religion had to be taught in one obvious faction: history.
“You can introduce religion, you just can’t promote it,” said Turner.
Mr. Mann, Monticello’s AP Euro teacher knows this better than anyone. He said, “I will never tell students what political leaning I may be. That’s intimidating. I don’t want anyone to feel any sense of antagonism. But religion is so fascinating, it’s something that needs to be talked about.”
“Obviously we talk about it in history, like in AP Euro,” student, Chloe Brannock, said, “and I haven’t had an open discussion about religion in a classroom, but if I did, I don’t think people would feel offended, I think they would have a lot of opinions.”
America values separation of church and state, and as much as the US as a nation would like to pride itself in this partition, the two are constantly colliding. Religion is so culturally relevant in the constantly progressing world, and that’s especially for students in the classroom.
Politics, contrasting with religion, is another factor that limits teachers’ freedom in discussion. “Teachers can’t share their political values with us (students),” said Colleen Taylor, “but we can definitely have a discussion about it.”
Dr. Turner revealed that, in his 12 years of working in ACPS, he has never had one student or guardian ever come to him feeling ostracized in any way by a religious concern. This certainly doesn’t mean that many students and families don’t prescribe to a religious conviction, but it means that nobody puts that taboo on it because nobody says that it’s good or bad.
“It’s not going to make a difference to me whether you’re Hindu, or Catholic, or Muslim; what I care about is how you treat me, and how you’re going to connect with me. Being different in general is being accepted. People are really just okay,” said Turner.
Whether religion is being discussed currently in Mr. Eliason’s english class or historically in Mr. Mann’s learning about the Thirty Years’ War, religion, risque as it may seem at the outset, is constantly weaving it’s way into students’ and teachers’ lives.
The level of awareness that emanates throughout the school is one of the reasons Monticello is so unique. It’s transformative to have this experience amongst a diverse student body, and even though many students are not able to articulate it, it resonates. In the words of Dr. Turner, “if you go here, you’re a mustang, and if you’re nothin’ else, you’re a mustang.”