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Author Topic: Teaching Religious Studies in a public institution  (Read 7641 times)
unwishful
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« on: March 10, 2012, 4:16:54 AM »

  I have experience teaching Bible-related courses in the context of Christian universities and the like. I need some advice please on reorienting my ideas about creating courses for state-run schools in religious studies departments.  Presumably there's no place for saying anything about my own worldview nor really doing anything but presenting the history and beliefs of a religion in a fairly disinterested way (favoring nothing, disliking nothing). I'm even unsure in such a setting how I can help but be boring, since I assume I should be totally dispassionate about the whole thing, since I shouldn't care what students think of any given religious tradition.  Are there a few "must read" books that would help me shape my syllabus, course prep, and presentation?  Maybe I'm overstating the case, but I want to be sure that what I do fits appropriately into the department.  Thanks.
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systeme_d_
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« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2012, 4:25:56 AM »

I think you're really off base here, and if you're this clueless about how one goes about the academic study of religion outside of a religious institution, you probably shouldn't be teaching in a public university.

If you were educated entirely within religious institutions, your chances of getting a job in a public university are slim to none anyway.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2012, 4:26:15 AM by systeme_d_ » Logged

zharkov
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« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2012, 7:49:41 AM »


OP, by "Christian," do you mean fundamentalist?  Or all universities in the Christian tradition, including Catholic and perhaps Unitarian?  RS is not my field, but I went to a Catholic SLAC that had an RS faculty that included Protestant and Jewish members, and now includes a Muslim.  A Unitarian minister I know told me that one of the most influential profs he had at divinity school was a Jesuit priest.   

Was your education limited by having faculty only from your peculiar religious background?

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Adapting Zharkov a bit to this situation, ignorance and confusion can explain a lot.
monte_rio
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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2012, 11:19:16 AM »

Do you already have a job at a public institution, or are you wanting to reconfigure your teaching materials - while on the job market - for apps to public institutions?

There's more I could say in response to your query, but I (like systeme_d_ and zharkov) would need to hear more about what your situation is.
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zuzu_
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« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2012, 1:40:46 PM »

Your post sounds terribly clueless. College teaching is not about expressing your own opinions. History, English, PolySci, Phil, AND Religion profs teach this material dispassionately AND enthusiastically ALL THE FRAKKING TIME. The fact that you don't see this as a possibility is distrubing.

Just because you have faith in one religion does not mean that, as an academic, you can step outside yourself for a moment and examine those beliefs and assumptions. And just because you have faith in one religion does not mean that you cannot find wonder, mystery, and even truths in other peoples' religions. This is a Religion 101 concept.

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prof_cj
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« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2012, 2:17:50 PM »

My favorite religion courses in college were taught by instructors who made it very clear that THEIR OWN religious beliefs would have absolutely nothing to do with the course itself, because the course was about what was on the syllabus.

As an academic you have an obligation to the job to remove your own beliefs on material when you teach it.
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larryc
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« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2012, 2:53:55 PM »

When I teach history I don't represent one side in each conflict as the good guys and the other as the bad--even when it is very clear (ie: debates over slavery) which side best represents the current consensus. And my courses are riveting.

Riveting, I tell you.
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professor_pat
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« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2012, 5:32:27 PM »

OP, from your two previous posts I'm guessing that you're in the process of applying for an adjunct position at a state university to teach a course related to the Bible for a Religious Studies department. Is that correct?

Also, in other posts you mentioned applying to many universities without an interview. Were any of these public institutions? If so, how did you craft your application materials related to the issue of teaching Bible at a non-religious institution?

How about creating a draft syllabus outlining how you'd teach your preferred course to nonbelievers?
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westcoastgirl
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« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2012, 6:17:54 PM »

If you are looking for a conceptual approach in a religious studies department, I'd start with:


Critical Terms for Religious Studies, by Mark C. Taylor.

Eight Theories of Religion, by Daniel Pals.

I've found both helpful. I have something else sitting around somewhere; I can look later.
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systeme_d_
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« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2012, 7:25:17 PM »

For those of you visiting this thread who, like the OP, don't seem to know what we do in the academic study of religion, here are a couple of links:

http://www.studyreligion.org/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epoch%C3%A9
« Last Edit: March 10, 2012, 7:27:40 PM by systeme_d_ » Logged

westcoastgirl
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« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2012, 10:27:29 PM »

For those of you visiting this thread who, like the OP, don't seem to know what we do in the academic study of religion, here are a couple of links:

http://www.studyreligion.org/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epoch%C3%A9

Thank for those sites. I've used the first site in the past. I'm going to bookmark them now. My recs come from my year stint in religious studies. During the first month we read contemporary and classical theories of religion. I'll definitely be reading more as time allows.

I also looked at the stuff I had sitting upstairs and would also recommend J.Z. Smiths "Religion, Religions, Religious," Bruce Lincoln's first chapter in Holy Terrors, and Asad's "Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category" and "Anthropological Conceptions of Religion: Reflections on Geertz."

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unwishful
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« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2012, 1:09:47 AM »

  Thanks for the suggestions on what to read. I spent some time today on the web looking for resources and ordering books through my school's library.  I think I shouldn't post late at night.  So, let me try this again.  I have taught Bible in Evangelical universities and seminaries.  I am planning for teaching a course in an area that I find very interesting and has an important place in my own research.  I know, however, that there are indeed theories about religion and religious studies--I've just never read them--and that the approach to it would be most definitely different to some degree from what I have done before.  So I want to understand, by studying, what it means to teach about a religion in a non-sectarian context.  I assume that the normal methods of approach that I already use, textual, historical, cultural, and having students read and interact with primary sources, are all relevant.   I want to be sure, however, that I can present it in the proper context and from the proper perspective in a new setting.  I am looking forward to the class and have been thinking about trying things that are new to my approach that would make the course richer, and I want to do my best to teach it properly.  Thanks.

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systeme_d_
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« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2012, 1:12:19 AM »

I know, however, that there are indeed theories about religion and religious studies--I've just never read them--and that the approach to it would be most definitely different to some degree from what I have done before. 

And that, my good sir, is why you have no business teaching in a non-evangelical setting. You have not been properly trained in the academic study of religion.
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txgalprof
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« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2012, 1:13:22 AM »

As someone whose last religion class was as an undergrad, I am afraid that I am also painfully unaware of the academic study of religion. (However, I am always curious to learn new things!)

I just finished reading Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know --- And Doesn't by Stephen Prothero (http://www.amazon.com/Religious-Literacy-American-Know--And-Doesnt/dp/0060859520/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331442716&sr=8-1)
Does anyone know if this gives an accurate depiction of the field?

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systeme_d_
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« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2012, 1:19:31 AM »

Txgalprof, Prothero's book is an attempt to argue that knowledge about religion is important, not to introduce anyone to the academic study of religion.

Your question is like asking whether a book that explains why addition, subtraction, multiplication and division should be recognized as important and argues that these operations should be taught in schools provides an accurate depiction of the academic field of mathematics.  The answer is, of course, hell no.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2012, 1:22:55 AM by systeme_d_ » Logged

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