The key consideration for the conduct of interpersonal affairs is that the activities of people can harmonize without their ideas about ends and means being in agreement – Nicholas Rescher Pluralism p.180
Anybody who has remained in a marriage for any length of time recognizes the wisdom of Rescher’s quote on the basis of (often rudely awakened) experience. In his important book, Pluralism. Against the Demand for Consensus (1995. Oxford. Paperback) Rescher, in great detail, explains cogently why a democratic pluralism requires an acceptance of diversity and a toleration of the discordant views of others.
In view of Rescher’s argument, we each of us must ask how we can demonstrate “acceptance of diversity” and “toleration of discordant views” in our behavior. How ought schools, especially public schools, deal with this?
Let’s just focus our concern on a simpler question: What major impediments exist to achieving an acceptance of diversity and a toleration of discordant views? The answer is simple, also: Family, Church and School.
Every child picks up early that her family expects her to mirror the likes and dislikes of Mom, Dad and relatives. But there is so much evidence that outside forces, for example, popular (vulgar) culture, weaken family influence substantially, that we’ll skip over the family and go to Church and School, instead.
Many religious organizations encourage confusion in the minds of their congregations between God and the church leadership. Most, though not all, religious organizational functionaries discourage deviant expression of what they believe “defines” membership.
Yet most, again, if not all, encourage the ultimate expression of egotism: faith in Faith. The Common American Religion is Faith in Faith, which even atheists practice. Faith in Faith ultimately boils down into Faith in Ego.
If you ask most people, “Are there people who follow false faiths?” they will answer “Yes!” Then if you ask them, “How do you know you aren’t one of them?” the usual reply is something along the lines of “It is my Faith that my religion is not false!”
Pay attention to the phrase, “my Faith.” Once people are mature enough, it is their responsible decision to accept or reject that “Faith.” And their reasons for acceptance are seldom more than egoistic. Even, in the rare case, if they say they spoke with or heard the voice of God, it is usually their own personal judgment that they were not delusional or deceived that supports their decision. Whether you accept something on your own or others' authority, you have still decided to accept it.
Schools, despite lip service to the contrary, do their own share to undermine diversity and tolerance. Schools are commissioned to teach “standards.” But are these standards widely recognized as embodying practical means to widely accepted ends? Or are they only formalities serving to bolster the status of favored subcultures?
To examine these issues further, see Religion, Intelligent Design and the Public Schools: serving God to Mammon?