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Religion Belief & Faith Part 2: ‘Religion in Britain: Challenges for Higher Education.’

March 5, 2017 in Inclusive Teaching & Learning

I read through the following three headings of this paper in detail to respond to:

Multiculturalism (Mahmood)

Minority identities (Mahmood)

Religion and knowledge of religion in UK universities (Calhoun)

The two aspects of this paper under the above headings that were new to my understanding of the challenges of religion in higher education are:

  1. There was a lack of explanation about intersections with religion or faith.

After reading up on Gender so intensely and becoming more aware of the implications in a learning environment as a result, I struggled with this paper barely mentioning the repercussions of not supporting a student who is not sure about their religion, faith or beliefs. Maybe they began their studies as a religious person and decided to become Agnostic. What if a student wishes to change these as a result of discovering who they feel more comfortable to identify as from perspectives of gender or sexual orientation. Some useful links I came across whilst pondering this:

http://www.bgiok.org.uk/being_gay/religion.html

http://www.religioustolerance.org/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2009/jul/02/gay-rights-india

What is a student becomes lost or aligns themselves as Agnostic, not Atheist? How does a teacher support that student, allow them to creatively explore that if they want to?

2. I hadn’t realised that the term ‘multiculturalism‘ had become an unpopular concept amongst politics and the public recently.

Personally, I don’t feel it is outdated, but perhaps an older form of our vocabulary that has since developed into more sophisticated terms such as ‘multiculturalist sensibility’. I experience that we have developed further vocabulary, just as we have created around terms to describe Gender as vastly to adapt and reflect the more subtle and wider range of religions the UK (and certainly London) has to represent its people.

Multiculturalism is perhaps too much of a generic term these days, but it’s definitely one I consider an important part of my vocabulary. When discussing these subjects you often reflect on your own identity within them. I’ve grown up knowing that I am from a ‘minority identity‘. I have a subtly different Bengali accent to someone who’s family is from Bangladesh, because my parents came from West Bengal. My mum and dad had a strong upbringing around Hinduism, so whilst I learnt about that, it was not through practice of Hinduism myself, it was through observing others, attending celebratory festivals surrounding the religion, and slowly learning about them alongside my observations of the English society in the Midlands I grew up in. A few generations have developed in which there has been a mix of people like me – where really, I am not fully ‘at home’ in either the Midlands or in West Bengal. But this transient feeling has interesting creative perspectives. I enjoy the artist Hate Copy for this reason. She plays on the American humour in which she lives to describe traditional traits of a culture she (the artists) has grown up amongst:

Illustration with Caption on saucer

by artist Hatecopy

Laddoo illustration on saucer

by artist Hatecopy

fairnlovely illustration

By artist Hate Copy

Trust no aunty illustration

by Hatecopy

 

From reading the ‘Religion and knowledge of religion in UK universities’ section of this paper, I began to wonder how we could progress from this tentative avoidance of discussing the subject within an art and design curriculum. So my question about this paper is about providing practical examples of good or bad teaching practices in a religious context. Where can we find such examples that can assist teachers to learn about the subtle and drastic implications? Where can teachers investigate, practice and learn how a design of a teaching session can impact upon someone’s learning because of their strong adherence to faith, a religion or their own beliefs, personal to just them? Should teachers be consulting the universities’ Chaplains to seek guidance on a regular basis, to share and build a religious literacy? At UAL can this be feasible, considering there are only two Chaplains providing support across 6 university sites?

http://artschaplaincy.net/chaplains/

Ultimately, is there a way to avoid ‘religious illiteracy’ unitedly, build confidence in teaching without individual research and interpretation (and fear of misinterpretation)?

 

 

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