In Michigan, Teachers in Public Education Learn About Diversity

March 19, 2004

Source: The Detroit Free Press

On March 19, 2004 The Detroit Free Press reported, "In the middle of a keynote address to 200 Oakland County educators by Heather Neff, an expert on religious diversity from Eastern Michigan University, the conference suddenly was interrupted by a voice booming Arabic phrases. Neff stopped cold. Teachers looked around in surprise. Then, they recalled that their conference on religion and education was meeting this week in the Unity Center mosque in Bloomfield Township. Most of the conference organizers aren't Muslim and didn't expect that Neff's talk would coincide with a prerecorded, automatically timed call to midday prayer. As the call to prayer ended, Neff's first words were, 'What a beautiful illustration.' All morning, the teachers had grappled with the need to learn more about the changing mix of cultures and faiths in their classrooms. Suddenly, they'd witnessed a perfect example of cultural friction. 'This is an issue that we, as a nation, have never been entirely comfortable with,' Neff said, explaining that, for years, most teachers tried to ignore religion. 'But let's face it: Faith forms the basis of the cultural traditions in which we live.'"