Some miscellaneous notes on, and information from, the Religious Education Association annual conference:
The conference proceedings are online, an consist of working papers presented at the conference in Research Interest Groups and Colloquia:
One of the pleasures of attending the conference was seeing luminaries in the field of religious education like Gabriel Moran and Thomas Groome; these are people who wrote books and articles that were formative in my own development as a religious educator. I also enjoyed hearing the REA archivist’s report, in which he talked about previous REA members who had also influenced me. It was also affecting to hear about the death of Harold Burgess when recently deceased REA members were recognized before Saturday night’s banquet; Burgess’s Models of Religious Education was a very important book for me in my first five years working as a Director of Religious Education. Continue reading “REA conference, part seven”
“Diversity and Neuroscience” was the title of the fifth plenary session of the annual conference of the Religious Education Association (REA). Moderator Harold Horell introduced the panel discussion with two questions:
— What are the implications of neuroscience for the field of religious education? — and
— How did the presentations and conversations address the racially and ethnically diverse constituencies of the Religious Education Association?
Claire Smith of Saint Paul School of Theology was the first panelist to speak. “I found in this conference an awareness of the issues of diversity,” she said, “and a concern to include all.” She gave several specific examples, e.g., the recognition of native peoples in the opening ritual.
While there was a general awareness of diversity issues within the REA, Smith offered two cautions.
First, much of the brain research we have is provisional, and “we should not treat it as gospel.” In spite of this caution, Smith said that there is much that comes out of this research that are important for our work as religious educators. Continue reading “REA Conference, part six”
During the Saturday afternoon breakout session of the Religious Education Association annual conference, I attended a workshop titled “Practical Neuroscience for the Pews”; it was led by Mary Cheng and Alan Weissenbacher, both doctoral candidates at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.
Of the six people who participated in this workshop, three were full-time practitioners working in local congregations: a catechist serving a Roman Catholic parish outside Toronto, a pastor serving a Uniting Church congregation near Brisbane, Australia, and me, a minister of religious education from California. Another participant was associated with Fordham, but she also served in a local congregation, and I believe at least one other participant also served a Catholic parish. The workshop leaders encouraged full participation from the rest of us and allowed the conversation to range widely; as a result, this report may seem a little disjointed. However, the workshop seemed anything but disjointed: at the end, several of us agreed that it was by far the best presentation yet.
Goals and ends
Weissenbacher and Cheng began by asking us to consider what our goals are as religious educators, and to consider how brain science gets us to our goals. Then Weissenbacher asked a provocative question: If we use brain science to reach our religious education goals, how are we different from those who use brain science to practice mind control? Does what we are doing lay the foundation for more intrusive mind control techniques? He said that key difference is that religious educators (ethical ones, anyway) respect the agency of the people they are educating; furthermore, religious educators will be quite open about the techniques they are using. Continue reading “REA conference, part five”