As part of a Catholic school, it's a major challenge to take religion out of the 'it's compulsory, so I hate it category'. Any ideas on how to move effectively to life-related, mind-engaging, content-robust religious education? The most effective units we have are for senior students "Ethics and ethical controversies" where a range of ethical theories are explored against a background of an ethical issue of the student's choice, and 'Science and the Bible' where various controversies and developments are used to explore different possible ways of Science and Religion relating.
I'm especially pondering good ways to Web 2.0-ise some of the thinking and submitting process.
[I shouldn't need to include a caveat in this area, but just in case. I'm not interested in doctrinaire responses. (I can go to answersingenesis and read Dawkins and Dennett quite happily myself.) I want my students to be thinking, not subscribing to an ideology and least of all someone else's ideology!]

Tags: critical thinking, religion, science

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I am also part of a Catholic school, as well as the product of Catholic education. My experience is that students are engaged when it becomes practical and directly related to their lives. Using Safari on my Mac I can search RSS feeds. RSS is essentially a database and many news related websites have RSS subscription available. Doing this kind of search lets you easily search for and track a particular topic across a variety of news venues. As Catholics, or really as anyone holding a particular belief system, it is important to see a variety of sides on current issues and then develop your own opinions. In my senior year, I had a social studies elective called "current affairs" and it learning how to navigate the news while also applying certain aspects of my Catholic faith to understand and deliberate. If student shave access to web browsers, in particular RSS capabilities, they could work on their own or in groups to see a variety of sides to different issues. Just a thought.
Sitting here thinking about it, I am also working on implementing an iPod Touch program at our school. Some of the Apps that the teachers are discovering and using are iBreviary, iRosary, and The Bible. Another place where students can encounter their faith is through Facebook. I know that Facebook can be touchy with some school with regard to safety and is often blocked by the network - but it does have some really great uses. There are TONS of facebook groups. A few of which are apologetics based and enter daily into very engaged intellectual discussions in defense of their faith. Students tend to like a challenge, so having wholesome but also challenging debates might be a great way to make studying religion accessible. It could even be a classroom activity, finding a discussion on one of those facebook groups and then coming up with answers. As the teacher, you could be the expert in the room to help guide discussion, but they would be using a medium with which they are very familiar.
Cassy - can you post a list of some of these Facebook groups?
My favorite is Apologetics Knights. They actually find discussions on a variety of other facebook sites and then provide the links on how to get involved on those discussion boards. They also discuss apologetic strategy on their own group's page. Do a search for "Catholic" and you can constrain it to only include groups. I believe that the Vatican has a page, there are pages for Rosary's and prayer groups. I think Catholic Match also has a facebook group - that is how I met my husband, but I also made alot of friends and was able to get involved in alot of discussions. I'll take a look and see if I can find some more.
In my opinion the introduction is critical. I have pupils that state that they hate religion and see no point in studying it. I usually start with showing a movie. I use "The matrix" or "Planet of the apes"(2001) as a way of showing that religion doesn't need to be all biblestudies, but can be a way of regarding life and all that is happening around us. Use the movies in an Dan Brownish way to make a point that things can be seen frpm different perspectives. Mind you I teach in Sweden and I think that it's easier to amaze the pupils with the messianic substance in both movies since we're a very secular society. But at least it got them interested in learning about religion.
Wow! This discussion has now had life for some 2 1/2 years!

Cool short article appeared along the way: Created Equal: How Christianity Shaped The West. Couple quotes:

"Christianity, from its very beginning, discouraged the enslavement of fellow Christians. We read.. that Paul himself interceded with a master named Philemon on behalf of his runaway slave, and encouraged Philemon to think of his slave as a brother instead.

"Confronted with the question of how a slave can also be a brother, Christians began to regard slavery as indefensible. As a result, slavery withered throughout medieval Christendom and was eventually replaced by serfdom. While slaves were “human tools,” serfs had rights of marriage, contract, and property ownership that were legally enforceable.

"Moreover, politically active Christians were at the forefront of the modern anti-slavery movement. In England, William Wilberforce spearheaded a campaign that began with almost no support and was driven entirely by his Christian convictions—a story powerfully told in the recent film Amazing Grace.

"Among the first to embrace abolitionism were the Quakers..."
I think it's brought on by pure ignorance. Dumb people are homophobic. Dumb people also, in GENERAL, tend to be religious. (I'm saying in general because there are also smart religious people, but they're usually the ones who don't take their religion as seriously.)

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Quentin, I'd invite you to get to know Dr. Francis Collins, appointed by Pres. Obama to be Director of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Collins formerly led the Human Genome Project, "This remarkable international project culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book.

Dr. Collins' own research laboratory has discovered a number of important genes, including those responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington's disease, a familial endocrine cancer syndrome, and most recently, genes for type 2 diabetes

"Dr. Collins has a longstanding interest in the interface between science and faith, and has written about this in The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press, 2006), which spent many weeks on The New York Times bestseller list."

In a White House ceremony on October 7, 2009, Dr. Collins received the National Medal of Science, the highest honor bestowed on scientists by the United States government.
To what you are replying? What is the "it" to which you are referring? What is brought on by pure ignorance? At the moment you are the one sounding ignorant. Not sure what your opinion about religion or religious convictions about homosexuality have to do with a discussion about integrating technology into the teaching of a particular topic.
Er, hi Quentin,
Your comment just underlines my opening caveat, which I'll repeat here

"I shouldn't need to include a caveat in this area, but just in case. I'm not interested in doctrinaire responses. (I can go to answersingenesis and read Dawkins and Dennett quite happily myself.) I want my students to be thinking, not subscribing to an ideology and least of all someone else's ideology!"



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