On Teaching Religion

When I first started teaching in my current institution, a decade or so ago, I was impressed by the diversity of students in lectures. Lots were believers of one sort or another, but many others would describe themselves as atheists and agnostics. Whatever they thought about religion, they shared an intellectual curiosity and open-mindedness that made teaching the best part of my job: they enjoyed being challenged in their assumptions, and they loved exploring the ways religions have shaped and been shaped by cultural, social and political shifts. Most noticeable of all, students rarely expressed a need to proclaim or defend their own faith perspectives in lectures. But things are so different now... Recently, a group of students in a lecture refused to undertake the work set because they didn’t want to apply postmodern perspectives to what for them was a sacred text. A female colleague was accused of being ‘stupid’ and ‘lacking authority’ by those who believe a woman has no right to teach others about religious texts. Other colleagues have been marked out as heretics in lectures.

Anonymous Academic, "Teaching Religion: My Students Are Trying to Run My Course," The Guardian - http://gu.com/p/3mhhf

I remember teaching religion and theology at a Russell Group University in the UK some years ago in a similar way to this academic's experience, i.e. open-minded, diverse, curious. It is sad to think that this is being eroded.

timothywstanley@me.com