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19 - Teaching about religion at the religiously affiliated university: taking the issue seriously and strictly—a reply to Robert Baird and Robert Minor

from Part III - Teaching religion

Scott S. Elliott
Affiliation:
Adrian College, Michigan, USA
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Summary

The last two issues of the Bulletin contain discussions bearing on the purpose and method of the discipline of religious studies. In their June 1983 article, Robert Minor and Robert Baird argue that curriculum and program should be related to a clearly articulated purpose, determine such a purpose by distinguishing teaching religion from teaching about religion, and suggest that only the latter is “constitutionally appropriate at the state University” (Minor & Baird 1983: 69). Recognizing that many teachers may find this difficult— they may, e.g., regard their discipline as “existentially relevant,” or assume that understanding a religion requires participation, or claim that by not recommending a particular worldview they unconsciously promote skepticism, relativism, and the like—the authors nevertheless stick to their guns. Neither helping students fulfill personal quests for identity, nor the inculcation of values and character formation (the Indiana University Study is dismissed on this account as “both naive and parochial” [ibid.: 71]), but only teaching about religions to “enable students to understand other people and cultures” (ibid.: 71) will do as a valid rationale for the study of religion in the state university.

In their October Bulletin reply, Julia Benton Mitchell and David B. Annis, perhaps with a more restricted view of the term “religion” in mind, argue that Minor and Baird have drawn invalid conclusions from the valid premise of the necessity of teaching only about religion.

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Reinventing Religious Studies
Key Writings in the History of a Discipline
, pp. 115 - 118
Publisher: Acumen Publishing
Print publication year: 2013

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