A national education group urged public schools nationwide yesterday to expand instruction about religion and suggested that local school officials involve ministers and other religious professionals in curriculum decisions.
The report by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, a professional group of 80,000 teachers, principals and other curriculum specialists, is the first by an organization of public school employes.
It backs a growing number of education experts, liberal and conservative, who believe that schools should do more to teach about the world's religions and their contribution to history, literature, art and music.
Many schoolbooks are virtually silent on religion, said the report, titled "Religion in the Curriculum."
For example, it said, "an elementary student can come away from a textbook account of the Crusades with the notion that these wars to win the Holy Land for Christendom were little more than exotic shopping expeditions."
The role of religion in shaping the United States, or in explaining current Middle East tension, is also absent, it said.
"We can't wait for textbook publishers to change their books," Gordon Cawelti, a former school superintendent and the association's director, told reporters yesterday. "We are encouraging people who make curriculum decisions to take action now."
The report suggests specific books that social-science teachers could use to supplement programs and urges school systems to train teachers how to instruct about religion without promoting particular beliefs.