#CFP Diversity in the Religion Classroom

#CFP Diversity in the Religion Classroom January 11, 2018

I thought this call for papers was worth sharing for at least two reasons. One is that the topic itself is an important one: diversity in the classroom. Here is an excerpt from the call for papers:

A key principle of global citizenry is recognizing the power of diversity. As educators and learners, we understand that “Students should develop a delicate balance of cultural, national, and global identifications” (Banks, 2004), if they are to succeed as individuals and global citizens. Thus, for the spring 2018 issue of the Atrium, we invite you to share with us your articles and stories on the topic of diversity and global citizenship. Talk to us about diversity related issues you or someone you know may have faced in your classrooms, any successful actions taken to mitigate issues, or any ideas used for making curriculum more diversity focused. For this issue, we also welcome faculty-student partnered essays to be included in a special section, the details of which are given at the end of this CFP.

The other reason for sharing this call for papers is that it begins with the famous “parable of the elephant.” That parable, as usually understood, does provide a nice image of the way that our collective knowledge is more secure than anything that an individual, or a single culture or religion, can offer unilaterally. The relevance of this to education and pedagogy is clear.

But that parable’s origins, as a recent article by Adam Miller in Bulletin for the Study of Religion points out, was in a context that aimed to show how wrong everyone (or everyone else) was, not how right we all are in part, nor how right we can all be together through collaborative effort.

The diversity of prior knowledge (in degree, extent, and accuracy) that students bring to the religion classroom also presents challenges to an instructor. Some of you will remember that I tried many years ago to develop an online interactive textbook to try to address this aspect of student learning. For those who haven’t heard about it (since I haven’t mentioned it here for a very long time), it is still online and you can check it out here:

https://blue.butler.edu/~jfmcgrat/Interactive/Bible/

elephant and religions

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  • John MacDonald

    I always liked giving students Multiple Intelligence surveys at the start of the year, and then turning the info from the surveys into Bar Graphs so the students can consider their interests/aptitudes. The hard part is the programming/assessment/evaluation process where students have the opportunity to make Multiple Intelligence products that are given the same “grading weight” as essays and tests. Mind Maps and Concept Maps are good options for visual learners (especially Concept Maps).

  • Daniel Fisher

    For what it is worth, I have always held a most deep philosophic and logical objection to the blind men and the elephant analogy, on multiple levels.

    First, every blind man’s conclusion is not simply incomplete, it is *wrong*. An elephant, in toto, is not like a snake, nor a sheet of leather, nor a tree stump. If someone’s blindness lets them conclude that their limited perspective is in fact representative of the whole, then their perspective is simply erroneous.

    Secondly, the parable is told from the perspective of someone who claims can, in fact, see the whole picture, claiming knowledge of the elephant that all us poor blind men don’t have. However unintentional, it comes across as arrogant to be told that I, in my religion, am just a blind man with part of the truth… while I’m told this by someone who somehow claims to have divined the true nature of elephants.

    Thirdly, as applied to religion, it entails a silent elephant that either cannot or will not speak and reveal himself to the blind seekers to give a genuine and real knowledge of himself. Is this what we are wanting to posit about the God who at many times and in many ways… spoke to our fathers by the prophets but in these last days… has spoken to us by his Son?

    • I think your first point is either spot on or seriously troubling, depending on your point of view, since by definition the fullness of the reality of God is beyond the ability of a human mind to grasp in its entirety.

      Your second point about the arrogance of the one who claims to know that others have grasped reality in part is a valid criticism that has often been made.

      Your third one seems problematic because it starts with what we as human beings think we ought to have, and then demands that God provide it. Yet the diversity of views even among those who agree on matters such as the authority of the Bible strongly suggests that God does not speak in a manner that would eliminate disagreement and confusion. And so perhaps your assumptions and understanding of Hebrews 1:2 are wrong, or if correct, then perhaps the author of Hebrews, whoever that may have been, was simply incorrect.

      Of related interest:
      https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/elephant-in-the-room