Some FAQs About This Site

General Information:

Who sponsors this site?

Who developed this site?

How can I contact the personnel?

Site Rationale:

Why teach about nonconformity to religion?

Why would I engage my students in such study?

Is "different thinking" a topic one would actually want young people to learn about?

Is nonconformity to religion even acceptable?

Is our American situation unique?

Does my school have a responsibility?

Might I need to incorporate Different Drummers?



< Who sponsors this site?

This site is supported by OABITAR, (Objectivity, Accuracy, and Balance In Teaching About Religion), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.  The organization promotes objectivity, accuracy, and balance in educating youngsters about worldviews.  The aim is to maintain a level playing field for all citizens in keeping with the civic mandate for public schools.  Hence, a major goal of OABITAR is to seek the addition of nonreligion to public school curricula that embraces teaching about religion.  The coordinator of OABITAR is John Massen, San Francisco, California.

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< Who developed this site?

The website was developed and is maintained by Instructional Systems, Sacramento, California. This company’s prior curriculum project for OABITAR yielded a supplemental instructional module (printed) for grades 6-12, Different Drummers: Nonconforming Thinkers in History[published by Trafford Publishing (1999)] .

Curriculum consultants for and leading developers of this website are Dr. Paul Geisert and Dr. Mynga Futrell.  Drs. Geisert and Futrell have been classroom teachers and teacher educators. They authored the college textbook, Teachers, Computers, and Curriculum: Using Microcomputers in the Classroom [published in 3rd edition by Allyn and Bacon].

Dr. Gerald A. Larue, Emeritus Professor of Biblical History and Archaeology at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, served as the content expert for the Different Drummers materials development project.  Professor Larue is author of numerous books and articles, among them Freethought Across the Centuries: Toward a New Age of Enlightenment [published by the Humanist Press (1996)].  He continues as the website’s religion consultant while serving as Adjunct Professor of Gerontology at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

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< How can I contact Different Drummers personnel?

Please feel free to contact us with suggestions, additions or deletions, or requests for additional information.  You may write by selecting  instrnsys@aol.com

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< Why teach about nonconformity to religion?

Nonconformity to religion exists as an important factor both in history and in contemporary society.  So, shouldn't schools teach about it?  The religion realm, including dissent to religion, offers students some of the best examples of interplay between conforming and nonconforming thought in humankind. 

Throughout history there have been those who have held to ideas and worldviews far different from, or directly confronting, the strongly held religious beliefs of their neighbors.  Holding to an idea that challenges tradition or authority has seldom been easy.  In authoritarian nations, it can be dangerous.  Even today’s democratic societies can make things pretty tough for the different thinking citizen.  The social processes and pressures with respect to religion, whether they occur in history or in the present day, make for particularly interesting study.  

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< Why would I engage my students in such study?

 Students need to overcome stereotypes that lead to prejudice and discrimination.  Please look carefully at the Goals of Different Drummers listed on the home page.  

Learning about "different thinkers," some of whom are religious and others of whom exhibit nonconformity to religion, can help young people learn to handle religion and religious differences sensitively, and in such a way as to promote mutual understanding.  How better can you prepare young people for their encounters with religious diversity in the public realm?  How better can you enable them to handle all those they come across without having to be either offensive or defensive about religion?  Future citizens need to develop the kind of sympathy that gives serious hearing to diverse points of view within the public square.  Conducted appropriately, these studies will contribute directly to the building of a worthwhile civic order.  

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< Is "different thinking" a topic one would actually want young people to learn about ?

Today’s youngsters gain from learning about people whose belief systems and traditions set them apart from the mainstream.  Such study offers students many opportunities to look beyond themselves and their own cultural traditions and beliefs to those whose cultures, ideas and practices differ from their own.  

Students can consider the situations of people whose contemplation and independent reasoning have resulted in their reaching conclusions or holding to perspectives far out of line with prevalent belief concerning important matters.  They can learn, too, from the widely varied responses of society.  Some examples: Voltaire was jailed for his nonconformist attitudes, whereas Mark Twain made a good living despite his irreverence.  Martin Luther, a "nonconforming Catholic," started a Protestant revolution.  Lavoisier, a "nonconforming alchemist" is now regarded as the "Father of Modern Chemistry." The Buddha was a "nonconforming Hindu" but founded a major religion.  In our modern times, the reputation of Elizabeth Cady Stanton has lost ground to Susan B. Anthony, in part because Stanton as suffragist did not conform (despite having organized the first women's rights convention and written the 19th Amendment).  Many interesting lives and stories.

Students also can grow in empathy and understanding for others. What is it to be a minority, perhaps even a tiny minority, immersed within a population that generally holds to other understandings and practices?

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< Is nonconformity to religion even acceptable?  

Well, in the U.S., it is supposed to be so.  That is the civic promise of religious liberty the Constitution offers to every citizen.  And, on the whole, present-day American society and law does grant us all considerable liberty to think and to believe, or not believe, as we wish.  As a nation, we pride ourselves on being a pluralistic society that accepts all kinds of believers, even tiny minority religions.  But longstanding societal biases are not readily overcome.  Population minorities who think "too differently" (e.g., atheists) are not treated kindly by mainstream society.

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< Is our American situation unique?

The United States accords liberty of conscience to all its citizens.  Constitutional guarantees of governmental neutrality  concerning religion exist to enable the entire population to live amicably and to believe as they wish concerning religion. 

  Institutionalizing state-church separation into our laws (by way of the first sixteen words of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights) was an enlightened and unconventional idea in western history.  But, like other ideals, such as "equality," it is still a "work in progress."  Even as our own nation loudly proclaims individual rights and freedoms for all citizens, certain “different notions” are not readily tolerated.  Society presses toward a conformity—to recognize and acknowledge at least some sort of deity or force (a religious worldview). For an individual to do otherwise (i.e., to hold or declare a nonreligious worldview) is proscribed.  As any nonbeliever can attest, society takes note of independent thinking that leads too far from mainstream notions.

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< Does my school have a responsibility?

Do you teach in a public school?  If yes, then you are part of its "neutrality picture."  Even though religions will vary in general cultural legitimacy, U. S. public schools, being government institutions, aren’t to privilege one religion over another; nor are they to privilege religion generally over nonreligion. With respect to the diversity of possible personal worldviews, they stay neutral.  

The ideal of neutrality concerning religion has been a touchstone of Supreme Court decisions concerning public education since 1947.  The neutrality ideal helps ensure religious liberty within the nation’s schools, for all the students, irrespective of their religious or nonreligious worldviews.  Using DD materials assists educators:

bulletto more fully embrace the neutrality concept (by neither 
promoting religion nor inhibiting religion as they teach about it), and
bulletto better come forward with the “fairness and respect” due 
the holders of the full panorama of worldview convictions 
(by acknowledging nonreligious as well as religious perspectives 
concerning life and the universe),

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< Might I need to incorporate Different Drummers?

The DD materials can help you to nurture in students appropriate attitudes and behaviors concerning religion--attitudes and behaviors that support our civic ideals.  

A classroom teacher imparts an image to students of how America really looks upon its citizens’ religious freedom.  Concerning religion, the best possible position for teachers is that they foster pluralism.  Pluralism goes beyond diversity.  

Whether a young person is growing up in a home where the type of worldview is majority or minority, dominant in society or marginalized, familiar or unfamiliar, popular or taboo, the child in the public school is a citizen of the school.  The youngster is deserving of a civil classroom in which all belong and all learn to work together.  In such a place, all will be practiced in respectful acknowledgment and due regard for each person’s liberty of conscience.  The teacher, the model for how the nation regards its citizens, sees to it that every "budding citizen" is afforded liberty of conscience. 

Will our nation continue to preserve one of its most precious freedoms?  Civil classrooms are necessary to this end.  School is where we build the future.

Religious liberty is something we want to keep and protect.  Should you wish your students well prepared to do exactly that, then the Different Drummers supplemental materials will support your efforts.

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Instructional Systems, Fort Sutter Station P.O. 163418, Sacramento, CA 95816

Email: OABITAR@aol.com

Comments on the site ?

Last Updated 5/15/2005

Supported by OABITAR (Objectivity, Accuracy, and Balance In Teaching About Religion)
    a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization