A classic example of what we like to call a religion ghost is demonstrated in this story in the Asheville Citizen-Times. The article is a solid education piece on the wide variety of educational opportunities offered in the greater Asheville community. However, not a single word is devoted to religion, faith, or church involvement in the schools. Here's the article's lead and nut graf, which actually contains a subtle hint of religion:
ASHEVILLE -- At one independent school in Asheville, students create imaginary fairy villages to learn how a community functions. At a local charter school, students learn about math by creating and maintaining their own gardens.
As students return to area schools in coming weeks, they will experience a great deal of variety in the ways they are educated. Western North Carolina, and especially Asheville, seem to have a school to fit every possible educational philosophy.
"A lot of the growth of Asheville came from outside," said John Johnson, executive director of Odyssey Community School. "The people from outside that came here wanted schools that represented or looked like the schools they were used to."
Now, Johnson said, "every single slice of education, every niche has been filled. A parent can get almost everything they want."
Johnson was one of the parents who helped create Rainbow Mountain Children's School in 1977, one of Asheville's first private alternative schools. A child of the 1960s, Johnson, like many of the parents who founded Rainbow Mountain, wanted a school that reflected their values, with a holistic approach and a focus on human development as well as academics.
I really wish this story told the reader at least some basic information about those values.
A reader of our site submitted this story to us with the comment that "the religious motivator is left out." Here is more of what he had to say:
Frankly, seems odd in Asheville where there's a strong Christian presence AND a very strong New Age presence. The article early on notes that there are schools to fit many educational philosophies -- surely a religious/spiritual motivation comes in there? It isn't a bad article, but it could be better.
There are so many areas this article could have explored in terms of religion. And it is not as if the Citizen-Times doesn't cover religion. The newspaper's Web site indicates that they cover religion on a regular basis. The challenge here is finding the religion ghost on the education beat.
The final section of the article provides a "glossary of schools" in the Asheville area. The four categories are magnet schools, charter schools, "independent, nontraditional schools" and Montessori schools. The Asheville area does in fact have Christian schools, Catholic schools and plenty of other religiously-oriented schools. This list according to Google Maps is quite exhaustive.
Are these educational institutions included under the "independent, nontraditional" school category? Why weren't they given any coverage in this article? Maybe they should have had their own category? Why should readers be assumed to know about the religious-affiliated schools in the area? One of the first things that comes to my mind when I think of non-publicly funded schools is religiously-affiliated schools. Why not the fine journalists at the Citizen-Times?