Thursday, September 22, 2016

99 Theses

In class today I took advantage of a cute monster someone had drawn on the board to make a reading comprehension drill more enjoyable. I hadn't intended it as a drill, but I wanted to see what students got out of an article we had read, and so asked teams of students each to prepare a three minute mini-lecture about it. None was quite what I expected - we don't do lectures here, so perhaps it's no wonder students don't know what a lecture it - but between them they provided a word cloud of most of the article's central categories. (I wrote key words down on the board as they came up in the students' presentations.) The larger historical argument went over most of their heads, though. Trying to draw them out about the "Long Reformation" (1300-1700) at the center of the piece's story (a term I'd put up before the presentations, hoping in vain that someone would refer to it) I finally realized most of them had no sense of any Reformation, long or short. "Protestant," a term used a lot in debates in religious studies I've told them about, was an empty signifier for most of them. One student recalled learning in a German class that Martin Luther had nailed 99 theses on a cathedral door, and had also invented the Christmas tree.

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