Studying the Sacred in Schools

| 2/19/2008 2:19:54 PM

CambridgeColleges and universities are often thought of as godless institutions of secular thought and anti-religious sympathies, where Nietzsche, Darwin, and Marx are taught and religious thinkers are ignored. That may have been true for the past 50 years, but higher education is changing, and may be accepting religion and spirituality as integral parts of learning.

“Marginalized for the better part of a century, the study of religion is making a comeback in American higher education,” John Schmalzbauer and Kathleen A. Mahoney write for Contexts (excerpt only available online). Prominent thinkers including Cornel West, Harold Bloom, Toni Morrison, and Stanley Fish have all explored the idea of the sacred in their academic careers.

Some scholars have begun to incorporate religious thinking into their study, others are taking a “spiritual-but-not-religious” approach to learning, and still others are studying religion from an objective, non-theological perspective. All of these modes of thought, Schmalzbauer and Mahoney content, are aspects of the same multifaceted movement giving religion greater representation in the realm of academia.

Bennett Gordon

Photo by Tom Godber, licensed under Creative Commons.

Terry Wimmer
2/25/2008 7:06:49 PM

This is exactly what I do with my comparative religion courses at both the two year community college and four year university level (I have an MDiv). My course first uses a variety of technologies to teach the history of "major" religions. Then I require all my students to physically visit a religious community that is different from what they believe, including agnostics and atheists. They then must write a think pice is which they both describe their visit and offer reflections on it. While many initially moan and groan about making the visit, not one has complained after doing so. They then are asked to present their paper in class. It works well. I also have an MA with a double major in American National Government and Internaitonal Relations and both degrees have come in very handy given the current state of our world and peoples. Terry Wimmer

2/22/2008 12:50:25 AM

religious scholar. Surely a contradiction in terms.A student of mythology perhaps.

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