Saturday, August 04, 2007

Students take religious studies to be better people; profs want them to think more critically?

Students want to be better people but profs want them to distrust traditional faiths more? That's what a recent study suggests.

Some say there is a great divide in religious studies in the sense that students take it in order to become better people and profs teach it in order to ... What exactly?
Students want lots of discussion in class sessions and they want to learn facts about religious groups. They also want to become better people. Professors aren’t opposed to any of those things, but they are much more interested in teaching critical thinking. While the numbers vary, the gap between students’ and professors’ goals for these courses is evident at both religious and non-religious institutions.

Last November, lead investigator Barbara E. Walvoord of the University of Notre Dame announced these findings to a standing-room only crowd at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. They were based on a national survey of introductory courses in religion and theology, and destined for a book.
Walvoord noted that the statistics are surprising for many kinds of institutions — noting the low percentages of professors at religious institutions with moral and religioius agendas for their students, and the high percentages of students at secular institutions with hopes for such an experience in class.

Oh, it's not THAT difficult to understand. The students know there is an ocean out there (spirituality). They don't want to drown. They also don't want to stay to the beach all their lives. Or be hijacked by a pirate. But many profs at religious institutions are just marking time. What else is new?

A friend notes,
I think the most revealing part of the article is the professors’ emphasis on so-called critical thinking. Critical thinking, for them, means being skeptical of religion; it almost never operates in the other direction. Just look at how many chairmen of religious studies departments are atheists (e.g., Paul Mirecki in Kansas, Hector Avalos in Iowa).
Well then, rubber ducky , you and me are gonna sit this one out on the beach, I guess ... unless ...


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