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Friday Forum: Keith Barton
September 13, 2019 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
‘Your Question Doesn’t Make Sense’:
How Southeast Asia Complicates U.S. Teaching about World Religions
Professor of Curriculum and Instruction
Indiana University – Bloomington
Most U.S. students learn about “major world religions” as part of social studies in middle or high school, but the curriculum typically focuses on similarities among religions—beliefs, holy books, founders, places of worship, and so on. This model is derived from a Judeo-Christian-Islamic model, but it has limited relevance to other religious traditions. Southeast Asia in particular represents a challenge to how religion is taught in the United States: Beliefs are not as central to many religions there, there may be no systematic body of theology, and the boundaries between religions are not always distinct. Drawing from experience in Singapore and other parts of Asia, this talk highlights ways in which U.S. educators are frequently constrained by their own cultural backgrounds and how they may unwittingly convey misleading depictions of specific religions and of the nature of religion itself.