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Difficult Dialogues Discussing Religion In the College Classroom “Let Them Remain Free”

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Presentation on theme: "Difficult Dialogues Discussing Religion In the College Classroom “Let Them Remain Free”"— Presentation transcript:

1 Difficult Dialogues Discussing Religion In the College Classroom “Let Them Remain Free”

2 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar A Faculty Development Seminar Sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning LaGuardia Community College Supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation

3 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar This program draws upon the widespread variety of traditions and experiences represented in the classrooms and community of the most diverse college in the most diverse county in the USA. Developed and coordinated by Vanessa Bing, Social Science Department Bret Eynon, Center for Teaching and Learning Larry Long, Human Services Programs Bill Seto, Center for Teaching and Learning

4 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar Questions for the Participants in the Seminar: What do we want to undertake for ourselves? What do we want to offer to our colleagues? What do we want to provide for our students? What do we owe to the grant?

5 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar What do we want to undertake for ourselves? Explore, learn more about the world’s religions Address one or more challenges related to our own work Participate in interactive experiences that make us more adept at deepening discussions in our classrooms while managing conflict with a sure hand

6 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar What do we want to undertake for ourselves? 1.Explore, learn more about the world’s religions Method: A visitation/encounter project, in which each participant teams with another to visit/encounter a religion or point of view that is not familiar to either person. Reports on line and to the October seminar

7 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar What do we want to undertake for ourselves? 2.Address one or more challenges related to our own work Method: Select a project based in the classroom. In the Fall, shape it, partly based on the our experience in the seminar. In the Spring, carry it out, and discuss the results with our seminar colleagues.

8 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar What do we want to undertake for ourselves? 3.Participate in interactive experiences that make us more adept at deepening discussions in our classrooms while managing conflict with a sure hand Method: engage in interactive role plays and other exercises within the seminar to increase our skills at facilitation and conflict management

9 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar What do we want to offer to our colleagues? Guidelines for managing difficult dialogues Resources for greater knowledge of religious content An awareness of the issues related to religion that can propel a classroom into conflict, or make a student feel disrespected

10 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar What do we want to offer to our colleagues? 1.Guidelines for managing difficult dialogues Method: Search for guidelines based on the experience of colleagues at other colleges, and field test them to provide an optimum set of principles. Make these available on the College website.

11 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar What do we want to offer to our colleagues? (Cont.) Method: Develop a set of databases available on line for colleagues to consult. Possible topics: Information resources Current events or issues related to religion Reliable information about a wide range of religions that are likely to be represented in LaGuardia classrooms Historic moments in the course of religious freedom (and oppression) in the USA (continued)

12 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar What do we want to offer our colleagues? (cont.) List of possible topics (continued) How religion impacts the social roles of men and women The interplay between religion and science How religion and other approaches (e.g., Secular Humanism, atheism) relate to each other Successful approaches that bring people together across religious lines on campus

13 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar What do we want to offer our colleagues? (Cont.) Method: Seminar participants select a topic for a database resource. They function as the editorial committee for the topic, responsible for finding items, placing them in the proper format, annotating them, and putting them on the website. Other seminar members also contribute items that they discover.

14 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the seminar What do we want to offer our colleagues (Cont.) An awareness of the issues related to religion that can propel a classroom into conflict, or make a student feel disrespected. Methods: Conduct some focus groups with students on their beliefs, attitudes, and feelings as they relate to participating in class around religious topics Keep a log of incidents on other campuses that will alert us to issues that may appear here

15 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar What do we want to provide for our students? An awareness of the principles and traditions of religious freedom in the US, even as these are undergoing change An opportunity to speak comfortably about their beliefs n an atmosphere that accepts such ideas An opportunity to apply critical thinking skills to topics related to religion An opportunity to discover wider sources of information about their own and other religions

16 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar What do we owe the grant? When our work is done, to make our work available to others outside the College. To participate in the “culminating event” that will be held in May.

17 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar Some Readings Eck, D. (2002). A new religious America. San Francisco: HarperCollins. Thomas, N. (2005). A more perfect union: Religion, Public Life, and Higher Education. Society for Values in Higher Education. Talmadge, R. (2005). “Let everyone remain free”: The difficult dialogues project. Long Island City, NY: LaGuardia Community College.

18 Difficult Dialogues – Overview of the Seminar Ready References Smith, H. (1991). The world’s religions. San Francisco: Harper. Novak, P. (2000). The world’s wisdom: Sacred texts of the world’s religions. Grants Pass, OR: Four Star Books.


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