Friday, October 16, 2009

Religious literacy

Our college's Religious Studies Minor has just been officially approved!

I'm not sure why it's taken so long, but the point is: it's finally real! We hope and expect that many more students will be interested in a minor than in a major. But what should the minor require, and why? Our proposal suggested some distribution requirements - Theorizing Religion, one "western" and one "non-western" course and three more, of which two should be in the same area - but it would be nice to offer a broader rationale.

Today I was happy to discover a candidate in a definition of "religious literacy" proposed by Diane L. Moore:

The ability to discern and analyze the intersections of religion and social, political, and cultural life. A religiously literate person will possess a basic understanding of the history, central texts (where applicable), beliefs, practices and contemporary manifestations of several of the world's religious traditions and religious expressions as they arose out of and continue to shape and be shaped by particular social, historical, historical, and cultural contexts. In addition, a religiously literate person will have the ability to discern and explore the religious dimensions of political, social, and cultural expressions across time and place.

"Overcoming Religious Illiteracy: A Cultural Studies Approach,"
in World History Connected, November 1996; qtd. in Diane L. Moore,
"American Academy of Religion Guidelines for Teaching about Religion
in K-12 Public Schools: Introduction and Parts One and Two,"
Religious Studies News 24/4 (October 2009), 27-28.

That this definition was developed in connection with K-12 education isn't a problem, though in a broader sense it's an embarrassment: students at American public schools are religiously illiterate on arriving in college. And actually, if you think about it at the college level, it's a pretty ambitious goal.

(The photo of Jefferson Market is unrelated, but it was taken today!)

No comments: