Education by correspondence is now a quite flourishing enterprise. Penn State presently enrolls about 25,000 persons for credited courses; Brigham Young, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin are universities with comparable programs. In each case, people outside the normal college population are being offered opportunities for further professional or personal growth. My department at Penn State has decided to offer religious studies by correspondence, and I have written the first course: Religious Studies 1: Introduction. What follow are specimens from this course—possible stimuli for your department's consideration of religious studies by correspondence, as well as fillips about the nature of religious studies, Jainism, and Taoism.
The first materials below come from a “General Introduction.” In my total booklet they are followed by general directions from the correspondence division about the preparation of a lesson report (LIF), examinations, final grades, etc. The two sample lessons illustrate typical booklet units based (as correspondence courses usually are) on a core textbook. Following Man's Religions, by John Noss, my course has twenty lessons (see “Table of Contents” appended). Lesson 4, on Jainism, exemplifies the usual commentary. Lesson 9, on Merton's Chuang Tzu, aims at varying the objective fare with something more lyric.
In these twenty units, then, I have tried to compose an equivalent of a regular three credit (quarter system) course. The reading materials amount to about 1,100 ordinary pages, while the student's written work amounts to about 50 typed pages. This surely does not substitute for a live teaching presence, but it may bring ultimate concerns to a new and receptive audience.