Tim Hall, Ph.D.
With all of the tough questions answered and educators being aware that the assumptions of the past about religion are not correct, Professional Development (PD), either pre-service or in-service, needs to be the focus of the next steps. This PD should include the content of religions and a constitutionally sound framework to bring that content into the classroom.
One model of that type of rigorous PD model needed is found in the Georgia Rights, Responsibilities, and Respect Project or 3Rs for short. The Georgia 3Rs was developed to support the First Amendment Schools movement in which educators, students, and families work collaboratively to live with their diversity and differences. The First Amendment school movement uses the founding principles of the U.S. Constitution to create an environment of civility and understanding. The 3Rs were started when Charles Haynes founding director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum was approached by the Cousins Foundation, an Atlanta-based foundation, to create a nonpartisan, nonsectarian national initiative. This initiative, which became the 3Rs, is focused on educating for religious liberty principles found in the First Amendment. The RFC leadership saw the 3Rs as an opportunity to create a model for institutions and educators to make an impact on the future of religious liberty.
Launched in October 2016, the 3Rs model is a three-year initiative designed to model religious literacy and liberty education in two Georgia public school districts. The models have the following foundational features:
- The constitutional commitment to religious liberty as an inalienable right guaranteed by the First Amendment
- A civic responsibility to protect the rights of others
- The use of respect in civil discourse across differences in religion and belief.
The 3Rs framework arose from the Williamsburg Charter signed in 1988, commemorating the 200th anniversary of Virginia’s call for a Bill of Rights. The charter did much to help inform guidelines on the role of religion in public schools in Finding Common Ground.
With the frameworks of Finding Common Ground and the Williamsburg Charter, the 3Rs wanted to empower educators to be able to teach about religion and religious freedom rigorously. Beyond the importance of the content, an education that includes religious freedom promotes great civil dialogue and participation in our school communities while also building our students’ global competence. The five goals drive the 3Rs:
- Engage schools
- Prepare leaders
- Publish resources
- Create partnerships
- Model good outcomes in educating for religious literacy and liberty.
To that end, the 3Rs project has built a library online development resources which can be easily accessed by educators and administrators. The resources are very well-aligned to the National Council for the Social Studies’ National Curriculum Standards and state-specific curriculum standards. This helps to ensure educators get the core competencies in religions, making them more comfortable with the content of religions and religion in the classroom. This distance learning model allows educators and leaders from all over the country to participate in the 3Rs. Also, the 3Rs website has lesson plans and materials for easy download and use in classroom curricular. As an educator, I can attest to the veracity of the frameworks provided by the Religious Freedom Center and the 3Rs. They have provided some great resources for educators and administrators in our public schools!
Source: David Callaway and Kristen Farrington, “Chapter 6: The Georgia 3Rs Project” in Haynes, Charles C., ed. Teaching about Religion in the Social Studies Classroom.