Saturday, January 28, 2006
Faith on the Quad
This is interesting: some academic group is calling for universities to engage religion more, both as a part of the curriculum and as part of students' lives. Who knows what this will mean in practice, but as an emphasis, it seems like a positive move. On one particular note, I think it's especially promising. In my teaching, I deal a lot of with religion and thorny moral/political issues it often touches on. What I've found is that students are very reluctant to engage on those issues, largely because they think that you just can't argue about religion - and, by extension, the sorts of moral issues it touches. I think they're making a mistake in equating the truth that we won't be resolving our moral and religious differences anytime soon with the (erroneous) claim that there's nothing to be discussed. But that's how they think. You might suppose that this sort of "method of avoidance" is productive of social comity - but that, too, would be a mistake. Since religion still, perhaps inevitably, shows up in discussions, the fact that people don't have any experience in discussing religion- related things, they have no idea how to do it reasonably and with some civility. I'm not sure that most universities will do that well in fostering civil dialogue, but it seems worth a shot.