TRiP, one of the Being Human project’s four components, used the Spring 2019 planning semester to set the stage for subsequent work with a series of collaborative meetings between faculty and graduate students. The aim was to reflect on diverse experiences of teaching religion both within and outside the public university classroom; to create a distinctive sort of public among ourselves; and to reimagine teaching religion in public as a collaborative activity rather than a transmission of expertise. Our first gathering was jointly led by Josie Wenig, a masters student who had just returned from the Weaving Knowledge Workshop in Thailand, and Naiyi Hsu, a PhD student from Taiwan who specializes in Confucian and Daoist texts. We read and discussed a piece on “world-weaving” and Japan’s Imperial Rescript. This pairing of seemingly unrelated topics prompted a wide ranging discussion about what teaching involves, where religion can be found, and how encountering religion outside the classroom might change the way we teach and learn.
These discussions continued in five subsequent TRiP workshops over the course of the Spring semester:
John Walsh, Associate Professor of Information and Library Science at IU, presented “Spider-Man and Swinburne: Modeling Text Corpora in Pop Culture and Victorian Poetics.” Professor Walsh discussed ways to make (arguably religious) archives accessible and analyzable to public audiences through digital means.
Jolyon Thomas, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, presented “Making Morality: Moral Education in Japanese Public Schools, Postwar and Present.” Professor Thomas discussed the ways in which Japanese public education has sought to shape morality from the 1950s to present day.
Richard Nance, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at IU, presented “Difficulty.” Professor Nance asked: Teaching is hard - should we try to make things easier, either for ourselves or for our students? What is gained, and what is lost, when we paper over—or when we avoid papering over—the hard stuff? In this workshop, Professor Nance explored a series of exhibits that embody, point to, or create different forms of difficulty— forms that may have something to teach us about our own predispositions and temptations as teachers and students of religion.
Meng Zhang, graduate student in Religious Studies at IU, presented “Teaching Religion in Public: the Case of Yuelu Academy.” Meng discussed the Yuelu Academy, an institute at Hunan University, that hosts three departments: the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, the Department of History, and the Department of Archeology. Her discussion focused on the Academy’s understanding of the goal of education together with its self-identification and public engagement. She asked: Do we have a similar or different understanding of the goal of education? Can we do similar things when teaching religion in public?
Erin Parks, IU Religious Studies 2007 Graduate and local athletic strength and conditioning coach, presented “Teaching the Volatile to the Vulnerable: Athletics and Religion in Public.” Erin shared her experience of personally shifting from an “idea presenter” in the lives of children to her current role as an “in the difficulty” mentor to over 160 of our community’s children. She asked: When we give adolescents the responsibility of living in the tension of uncertainty, exposing the monumental task of defining one’s own framework for decision making, do our responsibilities change as educators? How do we explain volatility as a prolific, dynamic environment and not simply destruction of boundaries and knowledge? Should we?
The department will continue these discussions next year, in thematic semester discussion each led by a pair of faculty and graduate students.