Several weeks ago, over 600 religious leaders, representing more than 120 countries and a wide-range of religious traditions (Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Indigenous, Jain, Muslim, Sikh, Zoroastrian, and others), came together in Vienna, Austria for the 9th World Assembly of Religions for Peace.
Posts Tagged ‘education’
This past February, the seven-part video series honoring Carl Sagan and his contributions to science was released, attracting the attention of scientists, spiritualists, and curious minds across the world. Now, Reid Gower, the maker of The Sagan Series, “has released a supplement…called The Feynman Series, featuring everyone’s favorite bongo-playing physicist,” Richard Feynman.
Why does our academic culture operate under the assumption that “secular” education is fundamentally distinct from or superior to non-“secular” education? The stereotypical notion is that “religious” knowledge is communicated through a ritualized process that emphasizes a teacher-student relationship, whereas “secular” knowledge is conveyed through critical, open discussions and less hierarchical relationships. But how different is the Western academy, really?
Earlier this year, Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, a former adjunct professor at King’s College, wrote an exposé for Killing the Buddha on the small Evangelical and—at least in the eyes of its authorities, if not in those of all of its students—politically conservative college housed in New York’s Empire State Building. Now, Andrew Marantz, of New York Magazine, takes a closer look at D’Souza’s tenure, the college’s sense of its vocation, and the student body being trained to become, in D’Souza’s words, “dangerous Christians.”
My dissertation is a comparison of the use of prayer, scripture, science education, and “high technology” in four religious high schools, and I’m rather provocatively labeling these four categories “moral technologies”: that is, tools created by (or provided to) humans that are used to accomplish certain moral goals. This definition builds upon Mitcham’s more expansive understanding of technology, and it is obviously deeply indebted to Foucault.
How might schools play a role in encouraging or discouraging civil discourse across religious and political lines? The National Endowment for the Humanities announces a two-year project designed to explore these issues, housed in the Philosophy Department at Fresno State. The department has issued a call for papers for an inaugural conference for the program, which will take place October 13-15, 2011, and will be followed by an edited volume and a workshop for teachers on how to cultivate civility in an increasingly religiously diverse classroom environment.
Over at U.S. Intellectual History, Andrew Hartman wants to know why, starting the 1970s, the Christian Right came to see “secular humanism” as a religion in its own right. He writes that we need “an intellectual history of the Christian Right’s critique of secular humanism,” for a number of reasons.
The problem as I see it is not that students in the liberal arts are somehow forbidden to argue their religious views but that, whether they are religious or secular, they do not get sufficient exposure to religious texts. These texts contain many strange and interesting things—often surprising to religious and unreligious students alike. They uncover possibilities of being human. But in order for these possibilities to emerge, they need to be approached in a secular spirit. That is, their specifically theological language needs to be translated into a conceptual language through which people can imagine a given possibility without a prior or subsequent adherence to it as the absolute truth.
Three cheers for Kahn et al., on the occasion of their bold ride into the heart of liberal arts territory, where they will wrest the definition of secular away from religion-banishing secularists and invite all voices, including theological ones, to a free-wheeling conversation about the nature of liberal arts education. Pointing to the collapse of the secularization thesis and the agreement of diverse philosophers that a secular space “scrubbed free of religion” is impossible, Kahn et al. believe not only that they will accomplish their purposes, but that the time is ripe for a truly inclusive conversation about the liberal arts. I applaud their optimism and respect their daring, but I caution Kahn to keep his riders together and enter only those colleges that invite them. Not all colleges ripen for difficult conversations at the same pace, and in many the inhabitants carry out their business oblivious to postmodern philosophical convergences or to the crumbling of secularization theory.
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation recently announced the launch of its “global schools program” in the United States.
A university campus has become the ground for a political battle between conservatives and moderates in Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pushed to take over Islamic Azad University, a private university, after it became a haven for political involvement in the Green Movement. This action seems to be directed at former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, founder and chairman of the board of Azad, who “all but allied himself with the Green movement” this past year.
In early June, the Claremont School of Theology announced that it would merge with its local Jewish and Muslim counterparts to form an inter-religious university this coming fall. Philip Clayton discusses the controversy this has aroused in conservative Christian communities.
President Obama’s recent initiative, Race to the Top, has received growing opposition from the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the US. Maintaining that competition is detrimental to education, this organization exceeding 45 million members wrote to the White House, “outlin[ing] its reasons for opposition, which include democratic governance of public schools over marketplace pressures, each child’s right to educational opportunity, the use of business-style jargon and evaluations in the discussion of education reform, and the disrespect shown by the reform movement toward public school teachers and principals.”
Yesterday afternoon in Jerusalem, vast numbers of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested the court-mandated integration of a religious girls’ school, raising provocative questions in the Israeli public about what constitutes racism, what defines religious adherence, and what enables effective learning.
At Miller-McCune, Michael Scott Moore reports on a German family that was granted asylum by a federal immigration judge in Tennessee, who found they “were at risk of persecution by German authorities because they wanted to home-school their kids.” The family was represented by the Home School Legal Defense Association, which took on the case “in the name of homeschoolers around the world.”Although the organization argues that the “Western nation should uphold basic human rights, which include allowing parents to raise and educate their own children,” Moore seeks to contextualize Germany’s schooling policy in light of these claims.
Education Review, an open-access online journal, reviews the recently published Public Education, America’s Civil Religion: A Social History (Teachers College Press, 2009) by Carl Bankston III and Stephen Caldas. While critical of some aspects of the argument laid out in the book, the reviewer is intrigued by the authors’ account of the development of schooling in the United States through the concept of “civil religion” and their skeptical perspective on Americans’ devotion to education.
At The Faith Divide, Eboo Patel weighs in on the ongoing “culture war” over the religious content of textbooks in Texas.
In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, Russell Shorto takes a long look at the Texas textbook controversy. Shorto comes to this journalistic party a little late, but his article is noteworthy both for its detail and for the way that he spins the article out into a discussion of the “Christian nation” debate.
At Washington Monthly, Mariah Blake comments on the ongoing controversy over Texas’s once-in-a-decade revision of its textbook standards. With standards for such subjects as English and science already revised, the current debate centers on Texas’s social studies standards. As Blake notes, textbook battles are “nothing new, especially in Texas.” But the current situation is unique in two ways.
At the Weekly Standard, Stephen Schwartz writes on recent changes in the ways American textbooks represent Islam.
Without art, Victor Shklovsky writes in “Art as Technique,” “life is reckoned as nothing. Habitualization devours works, clothes, furniture, one’s wife, and the fear of war….And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life.” In this spirit of freedom from anaesthetizing habit we can, and urgently should, take up the torn threads that tie humanism up with civic education. We humanists can join artists as cultural agents who promote creativity and interpretation as resources for social development. The objective is not a partisan victory but the formation of “thick” civic subjects who are alive to the world and exercise the free judgment that we learn, as Kant taught us, through developing a disinterested enjoyment of beauty. Democracy depends on sturdy and resourceful citizens able to engage more than one point of view and to wrest rights and resources from limited assets. In other words, non-authoritarian government counts on creativity to loosen conventional thought and free up the space where conflicts are negotiated, before they reach a brink of either despair or aggression.
When Obama intoned, “This is our moment. This is our time…Yes we can,” we needed to ask, of course, “yes, we can…what?” For me, the answer involves returning to my roots as an antiwar organizer and civil rights activist, my roots as a teacher who believes that schools and classrooms, at their best, are powered by the engines of enlightenment and freedom. The promise of education is always tied up with the radical proposition that we can change our lives right now, today, and that together we can change the world. It is a promise with particular resonance and urgency in a democratic society, for democracy assumes the necessity of continual and dynamic revitalization, and demands, then, regeneration as its lifeblood.
I had a college teacher certain he had found the solution to the problem of creationists, and, at the time, the disturbing news that the Kansas Board of Education would consider a change to their science education standards to incorporate creation-science. “I wrote a letter to the director of admissions,” he proudly told our small seminar, “and I said we should refuse all Kansas applicants.” The school at which this professor reigned was the sort of place whose decisions regarding admissions would make no small ripple, and we sniggered with the imperious pleasure of the privileged. “What an idea!” we hummed after class as we lurked in an archway, circled by our smoke, “Ban the idiots! That will surely show them.” The commentary surrounding Governor Sarah Palin’s creationism smacks of the same sort of pubescent snort. […]
The university classroom has become a battleground in the science and religion wars. In a controversial 2005 state of the university address Cornell University President Hunter Rawlings stated, “Religiously-based opposition to evolution . . . raises profound questions about . . . what we teach in universities and it has a profound effect on public policy.” The growing controversy over the role of religion in higher education led me to ask how top university scientists think they ought to respond to religiously based challenges to science. […]
The Immanent Frame symbolizes a sea-change in American higher education. When I was in graduate school in the early 1990s, I don’t recall the SSRC taking a special interest in the academic study of religion. Today a visitor to the SSRC webpage is confronted with an entire program area on “Religion and the Public Sphere,” with links to such topics as “Religion and International Affairs” and “The Religious Engagements of American Undergraduates.” Far from a marginal area at the SSRC, such initiatives have attracted the involvement of such world-class scholars as Talal Asad and Robert Bellah. […]