REA 2013 conference: new curriculum, critical consumption, lunch conversations

I skipped the morning breakout sessions, and instead had a meeting and spent some time at the poster sessions.

First I met with Beth Katz, the executive director of Project Interfaith. I had attended a presentation Katz had given yesterday, and had become very interested in the curriculum guides she is developing. These curriculum guides are designed for use in middle school, high school, and college classrooms, but I wanted to talk with her about adapting and using these curriculum guides in congregationally-based education.

We had a good, fruitful conversation. After hearing what we’re doing in my congregation with our middle school group, she showed me the new middle school curriculum guide that Project Interfaith is going to release next fall. She was kind enough to agree to let me purchase a pre-release copy so that I could try it out in our congregation. This should be an exciting addition to our current middle school program in which we visit other faith communities at worship.

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After meeting with Beth, I went to the poster sessions. I particularly wanted to talk with Christopher Welch about his presentation titled “A Pedagogy of Critical Consumption as a Task for Religious Educators.” Welch is a Ph.D. candidate at Boston College, and his poster presented the research he’s doing for his dissertation. He has a model for using religious values to challenge the values of the wider consumer culture.

Welch teaches at a Catholic high school, so his doctoral work is grounded in his practical teaching experience with actual teenagers. I loved his model, but unfortunately now I can remember little of what was on his poster. This is the problem I have with poster sessions — I have a lousy memory to begin with, and then I spend more time talking with the presenter than actually working through the material on the poster. So I’m going to have to email Welch and ask him to send me a summary.

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Following the poster sessions, I attended the community luncheon. I wound up sitting with John Falcone, another Ph.D. candidate; Yolanda Smith of Yale Divinity School (and president of the REA); Mark King, who teaches high school at a Catholic school in the Bronx; and Beverly Johnson-Miller of Asbury Theological Seminary. We had a wide-ranging lunchtime conversation that covered both personal and professional matters. What really stuck with me, though, was talking about how we all want to change the world, to make the world a better place; and how hard it is to remember that the work we do as religious educators — whether in theological schools, high schools, or congregations — is indeed world-changing. And I argued that while of course we should do whatever social justice work we can manage, on top of our professional and personal responsibilities, the work we do as religious educators may be enough. We religious educators change the world through education.

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