Teaching Religious Studies and Religious Literacy for College Students

Monday, December 10, 2018
Gene Gallagher, Connecticut College

About the Presenter:

Gene Gallagher is the Rosemary Park Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Connecticut College and founding director of the Joy Shechtman Mankoff Center for Teaching & Learning. He is also a co-chair of the new AAR effort to create guidelines about what every two- and four-year college graduate should know about the study of religion. He also contributed an excellent chapter in the new Oxford Handbook of Religion and American Education about the history of religious studies in higher education.

Gene Gallagher retired from teaching in 2015. His interests focus on new religious movements with a comparative and historical perspective. His intellectual interests in this area shape how he teaches a series of case studies, including courses on Understanding Global Religions, Cults and Conversion in Modern America and Holy Books: Scripture in the Western Tradition. Gallagher was named the 2004 Connecticut State Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In 2001, he received the American Academy of Religion’s Excellence in Teaching Award.

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Ethics and Religious Culture: Teacher Education in Quebec

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Sabrina Jafralie, McGill University

Presentation Description:

Dr. Jafralie shares about the history and current status of the Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) program in Quebec. She has taught the ERC curriculum since its initial implementation in 2008 and also teaches pre-service teachers about the curriculum. Her research examines the need for more teacher education about religion in Quebec in order to improve the treatment of the ERC curriculum in primary and secondary schools.

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Fall 2018 Check-In Meeting

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Meeting Description

Members provide summaries of the projects they are currently working on. Presenters include: Alice Chan, Ryan Gardner, Gayle Pagnoni, Ben Marcus, and Kate Soules.

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National Policies and Guidelines for Religion and Education in Albania

Monday, September 24, 2018
Benjamin MarcUs, Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum INstitute

Presentation Description

We take turns sharing updates about our work and the year ahead before a presentation by Ben Marcus about his experience in June 2018 creating national policies and guidelines for religion and education in Albania, generously funded by a Fulbright Specialist grant.

About the Presenter

Benjamin P. Marcus is the Religious Literacy Specialist with the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute, where he examines the intersection of education, religious literacy, and identity formation in the United States. He has developed religious literacy programs for public schools, universities, U.S. government organizations, and private foundations, and he has delivered presentations on religion at universities and nonprofits in the U.S. and abroad. He has worked closely with the U.S. State Department, Interfaith Youth Core, the Foundation for Religious Literacy, and the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme in the United Kingdom.

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 Designing A Course of Religious and SEcular Worldview Literacy at BYU-IDaho

Thursday, April 5, 2018
Ryan Gardner, BYU-Idaho

Presentation Description

In our current global community where misunderstanding regarding the religious and non-religious worldviews of ‘the other’ lead to conflicts of various kinds and degrees, increasing students’ religious & secular worldview literacy at all levels is desperately needed. Next week, I will be sharing my experience with the process (so far!) of proposing and designing a course on religious and secular worldview literacy at a religiously-sponsored institution of higher education (Brigham Young University-Idaho is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). The main items for my presentation will focus on: receiving administrative support, surveying campus-wide student interest, involving students in the process of course design, and other positive opportunities that have opened up as a result of this process.

About the Presenter

Dr. Ryan Gardner received his Ph.D. in Education (with an emphasis in Curriculum & Instruction) from Utah State University. He also holds an M.A. in Religious Education from Brigham Young University-Provo. After teaching seminary (religious education for high school age youth) and institute (religious education for college age youth) for 11 years, he had the opportunity to help develop curriculum for seminary and institute programs worldwide for Church Educational System of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for three years. From there, he came to Brigham Young University-Idaho, where he has taught courses primarily in LDS Church history and scripture for nearly six years. His passion for the subject of religious & worldview literacy comes from his involvement with the Religious Education Association for the last eight years, his attendance at the 2015 Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah, and his recent experience at the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women at the UN. He and his wife Kathryn have six children (and one son-in-law) and a rescue greyhound that everyone in the family adores!

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Gathering (in) America: A New Kind of Conference on Religion and Education

March 7, 2018
Leif Bergerud (Conference Director)
Briana Smejkal (Assistant Director, Minneapolis Site Coordinator)
Sarah Heitkamp (State Coordinator: North Dakota)

Presentation Description

Our presentation provides a sneak-peek of a conference we’ve created – Home(lands): The American Heartland in Religion and Education – to be announced 02 April and set to occur 18-20 October at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design in Minneapolis. It’s the first of 3 conferences over 12 months in 3 US regions (Heartland, West, South), representing a triptych (The American Frame) on Religion and Education in America.

 The “Home(lands)” conference constitutes not only an engagement with crucial issues within the central region of the United States at a crisis moment, it also unfolds our first attempt to refigure the academic conference format itself via the arts so as to create a new kind of gathering – one situated upon, and which seeks to creatively destabilize via embodied engagement, margins within which problematic and stagnant binaries (e.g. university/public, abstraction/materiality, humanities/sciences) remain in place. A new kind of academic conference meant to meet our perilous moment, one in which distrust of American institutions (e.g. colleges, K-12, religious centers, museums) is at its height.

About the Presenters

Leif Bergerud is a doctoral student at Columbia University focusing on intersections of Religion & Education in America. He is currently based in New York City. Briana Smejkal holds a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and primarily works with sculpture, illustration, design, photography. Originally from the Black Hills (SD), Bri is currently based in Minneapolis. Sarah Heitkamp is an artist based out of rural Petersburg, ND. She received her MFA in Visual Art from the University of North Dakota where she is currently the Curatorial Assistant for their art collections.

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Making Sense of Separationist and Accomodationist Narratives through the Lens of Theological Convictions

Thursday, February 15, 2018
Brett Bertucio, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The presentation is an overview of Brett’s proposed dissertation research.  Brett’s project asks how the personal theological convictions of mid-century Supreme Court Justices, current secondary civics teachers, and curriculum developers in the intervening period (1960-present) shape(d) their professional work involving the Religion Clauses.   Brett is particularly interested in how “separationist” or “accomodationist” historical narratives “travel” or are handed down through official or unofficial curricula as well as how educators navigate often conflicting policy landscapes and community cultures. 

Brett is a Ph.D. student studying history and philosophy of education.  His research interests revolve around the history of standardized testing as well as topics in the intersection of religion and education.  His current projects include a history of the implementation of testing programs in rural schools during the 1920s and an analysis of how inherited theological concepts have shaped federal court rulings involving religion and the schools.  Before coming to UW-Madison, Brett spent several years as a middle school and high school teacher.

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Updates from REC Members

November 11, 2017

In this meeting, members give updates on their work across many different fields, including recent conference presentation, educational initiatives, and research projects. Watch the recording to hear about all of the exciting work that REC members are doing.

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Teaching about Religion in Texas

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Gayle Pagnoni, Boniuk Institute, Rice University

Dr. Gayle Pagnoni shares her experiences creating a partnership between the Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance at Rice University and the Houston Independent School District.

Gayle has taught in secondary and tertiary education for over a decade, and holds a doctorate in Religion from the University of Florida.  With undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and International Relations, and a Master’s in Latin American and Caribbean Studies with emphasis in Sociology, she specializes in western hemispheric religion and globalization.  Her focus is on monotheism and in particular, Christian diversity, including a uniquely American variety – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  She joined the Institute in August 2016.

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Religious literacy from community groups

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

To date, our REC calls have focused on religious literacy in public and private schools, and in higher education. To inform ourselves of the valuable work that is also done in these contexts by community groups and NGOs, our June 7 call welcomed two representatives from the Kaur Foundation, Mirin Phool, co-founder and president, and Dr. Pritpal Kaur Ahluwalia, Associate Director of Education and Community Development. They presented on the origins of the foundation and the religious literacy efforts they have established with teachers and schools in the US, especially vis-à-vis instruction about Sikhism.

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More on the Kaur Foundation

Responding to Religious Diversity and LIteracy in Classical Education

THURSDAY, May 18, 2017

This session details the measures that can be implemented to foster religious literacy and diversity in non-sectarian Classical curricular model.

Presenter Bio:

Timothy Hall is the Director of Academics at Thales Academy in North Carolina. He is the author of several textbook supplements, curricula, standards and several popular history texts including The Complete Idiot’s World History and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Middle Ages. He was the course co-creator and administrator of the MOOC on Kierkegaard at Coursera entitled “Søren Kierkegaard: Subjectivity, Irony and the Crisis of Modernity.” His recent research focuses on the philosophy of Kierkegaard and non-cognitive education and religious literacy and diversity in schools.

At Franklin Academy, the largest public charter school in NC, Timothy has taught AP World History, AP European History, AP Psychology, and Medieval Studies. He has received numerous awards, including schoolteacher studentships to Oxford University for curriculum development and research fellowships to the Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Timothy has also collaborated with the College of William and Mary in Virginia in the development of curriculum materials for the teaching of the principle of separation of church and state in American history as an extension to a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar in which he participated. You can find his page here.

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Teaching about Religion in the Academy and In Public

Thursday, APril 20, 2017

This talk discussed two fundamental contexts/spaces in which those who teach about religions in a public or land grant university, such as the University of Minnesota, inevitably become involved. Each context/space holds its own challenges and problems, from a general devaluing of the humanities to widespread stereotypes about religions and those who ascribe to them. Significant areas of overlap exist as well, including a general discomfort with talking about religions, and will also be explored. These challenges will be considered in light of the Second Annual Public University Religious Studies Department Chairs Workshop, held at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte on April 8.

Presenter Bio:

Dr. Jeanne Kilde is director and co-founder of the program in Religious Studies at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Her interdisciplinary, wide-ranging scholarly work includes investigations into the dynamics, structures and contestations of religiously-charged space. Dr. Kilde has also written on the intersection of religion and education, notably in her book Nature and Revelation: A History of Macalester College.

At present she is currently at work on a range of writings, including “The Afterlives of Religious Buildings: Theorizing Space and Time,” and a digital humanities project co-authored with Marilyn J. Chiat titled “Houses of Worship and Immigrant Neighborhoods of the Twin Cities, 1840-1940.” Prior to her appointment at the University of Minnesota, she served on the faculties of Macalester College, Cleveland State University, and the University of Notre Dame. To learn more about Dr. Kilde, her past research and present projects, please visit her faculty site

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(note: the meeting starts around 30:00 in the recording)

Practitioners’ Perspectives: Public School Teachers Share CLassroom Experiences

TUESDAY, March 14, 2017

John Camardella and Seth Brady are two high school teachers in Illinois who are rising stars in the field of religious literacy education. They have been absolutely critical to the NCSS-AAR project to develop a framework for religious studies. Besides their very successful world religions classes with amazing enrollment, they’re forging new paths in the field. Seth is a policy advocate in Illinois who helped pass a global studies certificate for high school students. John leads a groundbreaking adult religious literacy education course for the parents of his students.

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Intersections of Religion & Education in the American Heartland

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A discussion led by Leif Bergerud about an upcoming conference series on the intersections of religion & education in different regions of the United States: “The first of three regional conferences (American Heartland; American West; American South) during the 2017-18 academic year exploring and developing points of contact between the fields of Education & Religious Studies. Conferences are intended primarily for current graduate students but recent graduates, as well as serious undergraduates, are encouraged to both attend as well as to submit abstracts under the call for papers.”

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Fall 2016 End of Semester Reflections

TUESDAY, November 29, 2016

Members of the Collaborative reflect on successes and challenges of the Fall 2016 semester and review the direction of the Collaborative.

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Report on the 12th International NUREMBERG Forum: Public Theology – Religion – Education

Tuesday, OCtober 11, 2016

Callid Keefe-Perry reports back from the 12th International Nuremberg Forum: “Public Theology – Religion – Education” sharing about the European context of this research and what might be some areas for connection to this new “Center” in Germany.

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funding for religion and education research

Wednesday, JULY 27, 2016

Nate Walker presents a preliminary list of funding sources for graduate students and early career researchers and organizations engaged in religious literacy and religious liberty education.

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2016-07-27 REC Funding for Religion and Education Research

Teacher Education about Religion

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Kate Soules presents her research about roles of teacher education and religious literacy, the current state of teacher education about religion, and her past and current projects related to teacher education.

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Religion & Education Collaborative | Tuesday, July 12, 2016