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Believe It or Not: Addressing Religion, Faith, and Spirituality on Campus. The Association for American Colleges and Universities Annual Conference January 2007 New Orleans. Table Topics As you get settled, read these over. You will be asked to pick one for discussion later.

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Believe It or Not:Addressing Religion, Faith, and Spirituality on Campus

The Association for American Colleges and Universities

Annual Conference

January 2007

New Orleans

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Table TopicsAs you get settled, read these over. You will be asked to pick one for discussion later.

#1 Religious Literacy: Colleges and universities need to do a lot more to ensure that graduates have the knowledge and skills that they will need for a religiously pluralistic world. To meet this challenge, they will have to consider what faculty need to know, value, and be able to do to teach for a religiously pluralistic world as well.

#2 Preserving Public Reason: Colleges and universities must support learning that is values-neutral and affirms standards of intellectual reason and academic freedom, particularly in the face of religious assertions.

#3 Religion in the Classroom: Passionate believers and committed nonbelievers will learn through their individual lenses. Both are equally entitled to academic freedom in the classroom.

#4 Spirituality: As educators, we should encourage students to search for spiritual meaning and to explore the spiritual dimension to their learning.

#5 Tolerance and Public Discourse: Colleges and universities should be teaching tolerance and promoting ground rules for public discourse on matters of religion, faith, and spirituality..

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Wingspread ConferenceReligion and Public Life: Engaging in Higher Education

  • Split between—

  • Those pressing for greater involvement with students’ struggle to make sense of questions of meaning and purpose

  • and

  • Faculty committed to teaching the discipline—”sticking to the text”

    • “The moral obligation of the teacher is to ask inconvenient questions”

    • (Max Weber ~ Science as Vocation 1918)

    • The first are seen as “change agents” wanting to turn the faculty into “therapists and community organizers”

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Faculty Resistance & the Processes of Modernization and Secularization(Beyond Newton and Nietzsche)

  • Festschrift for Robert Bellah

  • Meaning & Modernization: Religion, Polity & the Self

  • Positivists (explicit & implicit)

  • - strengthened in post WWII Era

  • - rational inquiry, scientific and technological

  • advancement

  • - university expansion and faculty status

  • - assumptive world of the academic professional

  • - Cold War Vietnam War

  • - modernization: celebrated, then challenged

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2. Post-modernism Secularization Wallace Stevens –The final belief is to believe in a fiction, what you know to be a fiction, there being nothing else. The exquisite truth is you know it is a fiction and that you believe in it willingly.3. Post-secular Era - Symbolic realism(Bellah) - Transcendent meanings - Anti-reductionist - Personal and community - Spiritual and religious

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Meaning Making in the New Academy Secularization

  • Pedagogical Transformation

  • - From focus on:

  • - Faculty Learning Making of Meaning

  • - Diversity of students, global orientation

  • - Three thrusts:

    • Relational learning

    • - collaboration, particularly with peers

    • eg, - learning communities

    • - democratic dialogue

    • Engaged, active learning

    • eg., - service learning

    • - community-based research

    • - undergraduate research

    • 3. Technologically enhanced learning

    • - democratization of information

    • - faculty role is assisting in transforming information

    • into knowledge and hopefully, wisdom

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An Alternative Epistemology Secularization

Transforms Faculty/Student Relationships

- objective/subjective

- knowledge/commitment/identity

- holistic and integrative

“The radical split between knowledge and

commitment that exists in our culture and in

our universities is not ultimately tenable.”

(Bellah, 1969)

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Alternative Epistemology, continued Secularization“The preoccupation with academic objectivity precludes a self-conscious search for value and meaning, and, as a result, ‘commitment to the truth has been divorced from questions of the good’.”(Sharon Deloz Parks)

-Gives voice to those marginalized by race, ethnicity, gender, and class (post-modern) but opens for new consideration questions of meaning, community, and commitment, recognizing the legitimacy and importance of spiritual and religious dimensions of knowing.

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Faculty Priorities Secularization

From Wayne Booth Vocation of the Scholar

- Courage

- reveal one’s own deeper assumptions

- be open to student concerns with making of


- confess one’s vulnerability

- Humility

- acknowledge that one does not have all the


- provides support as well as challenge (Perry)

- relinquish need to control & be open to


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Boundaries Secularization

  • Faculty see themselves as Boundary Crashers

  • Respect personhood of the student

    • Their right and responsibility to make meaning of

    • of their lives

  • Resist indoctrination or imposition of one’s own values

  • Create a “safe space” for exploration of issues of

  • meaning and purpose

  • Clifford Geertz:

  • “Human beings are supported in webs of meaning

  • they themselves have spun.”

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Classification of Student Learning and Development (Desired Ends)and Program Interventions (Appropriate Means)

Ends/Means Culture Curriculum Co-Curriculum Community