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Should the display of religious symbols in schools be banned?

The use of religious symbols in schools should not be banned. Religious symbols are a broad term and can be thought of as a representative of the values of the religion it comes from. For example, the figure of a crucified Jesus represents him as a selfless martyr, and in doing so, advocates for selflessness in believers of Christianity. Religious symbols do not only represent religion itself, but also represent broader cultural themes and values that students can learn from. This essay will argue that because religious symbols can be harnessed to teach students moral values that are pertinent to their culture, they should not be banned in schools.

Firstly, religion, and therefore religious symbols are linked to culture. As such, religious symbols are a membrane through which cultural values are transmitted to the younger generation. This is especially important when considering that the role of schools and education is not only in teaching students academic skills and subjects, but in instilling a moral compass and values that are important to their culture. For example, Chinese schools often have scriptures of Confucius displayed to teach students Confucian values such as the value of hard work and the duty of filial piety - subjects that transcend the realm of the school and permeate into the domestic sphere, showing how religious symbols are used to teach students these values from a young age. The values that religious symbols represent are often universal values that transcend the religion itself, therefore, religious symbols are merely a means through which these values are taught. Other methods of teaching these values such as through fables and tales might not be as effective because they do not carry the same cultural importance behind them: a young child is more likely to believe they ought to act in a moral manner when taught to do so through learning the meaning and moral behind the religious symbol than a mere story. Furthermore, religion has a timeless nature which means that it is better suited to teaching values.

Secondly, the display of religious symbols in schools is representative of history that is linked to the school. Schools may be religious because of their history, and abandoning this history in exchange for acceptance is a hefty trade-off. Many educational institutions have a rich history attached to their background, and as such, the religious symbols displayed around the school are representative of this history. Religious symbols serve to enrich the lives of students by allowing them to appreciate the historical significance of the school.

While some may argue that the display of religious symbols can alienate those who do not practice the religion, I argue that religious symbols, on their own, are not divisive. This is because the mere display of symbols does not force students into making decisions or inherently exclude students who do not practice the religion as students still retain the autonomy to decide whether or not to accept the teachings of the religion. Furthermore, even students who do not practice the religion can appreciate the values and history that religious symbols represent because these values are universally applicable.

To conclude, religious symbols should not be banned from schools because they are a powerful tool to teach young minds and can enrich the lives of students. Only when used dogmatically to impose religious beliefs on students against their will would the display of religious symbols be problematic.

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