Two (Possible) Roles of Religion In A Global World

I’m currently writing a methods paper, laying out how I will conduct my field research among Quaker congregations. In the section where I’m dealing with culture and the role of the church I found Slavoj Žižek’s quote below to be insightful and to the point.

The social order in which religion is no longer fully integrated into and identified with a particular cultural life-form, but acquires autonomy, so that it can survive as the same religion in different cultures. This extraction enables religion to globalize itself (there are Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists everywhere today); on the other hand, the price to be paid is that religion is reduced to a secondary epiphenomenon with regard to the secular functioning of the social totality. In this new global order, religion has two possible roles: therapeutic or critical. It either helps individuals to function better in the existing order [Yoder’s Constantinianism], or it tries to asset itself as a critical agency articulating what is wrong with this order as such, a space for the voices of discontent [Sectarian Withdrawal?] – in this second case, religion as such tends toward assuming the role of a heresy.

Slavoj Žižek, The Puppet and the Dwarf, 3

Remixing In Rainbows (and the church)

Radiohead/ Remix/ Nude

In the spirit of creativity and utilizing the web to foster fan-based participation, Radiohead has launched the website Radioheadremix.com and are inviting everyone to remix their latest single “Nude.” They’ve split the song up into five separate tracks and have made each available for sale so that you can remix the song however you’d like. I was a little surprised and disappointed to see that they are selling the tracks, but otherwise I think it’s a pretty cool thing they’re doing. Despite the name of the band the number one remix right now is really good and worth listening too. Let me know if any of you decide to go ahead and make your own remix, I’d like to check it out and vote for it. Continue reading Remixing In Rainbows (and the church)

Looking Awry at Wes Anderson's Darjeeling Limited

This is an article that was published back in the fall in Fuller’s “newspaper” the SEMI (that issue of the paper can be downloaded via .pdf here). There are two reasons I am posting this now: first, I held off publishing it on gathering because I submitted it to another online zine hoping they would “print” it but alas, they apparently didn’t want it or at least that’s how I interpreted three emails to them with no response back.  And second (and more importantly!), Emily just got me a copy of the film today so it is on my mind. Given that The Darjeeling Limited came out this past September you may feel that this is a bit late, but in a world of such high DVD sales and rentals there’s no better time then right now (the movie was only recently released on DVD). As you will see I found the movie to be anything but a disappointment and think Anderson’s writing is very rich and worthy to be mined. In fact, many of you may remember me posting my initial reactions to the film here, and while there are some similar themes between these two, you will find that what you see below is an attempt to theorize and engage the film at a deeper level. Continue reading Looking Awry at Wes Anderson's Darjeeling Limited

The Newsies and the Kingdom of God?

NewsiesOk, so I’m late to the game, yes, I just watched Newsies for the first time. Emily still can’t believe I just now saw it. All I can say is that in my home growing up, with four other brothers, musicals weren’t really something we willfully chose to watch (but it was my loss!).

I’m glad I watched the movie for a number of reasons. Watching it as an adult really opened up some interesting aspects to the film. First I was surprised that Disney put out such a subversive film, I mean the whole movie is about organizing unions, child labor issues and corporate greed. It’s about a bunch of filthy-mouthed street kids who are homeless and uneducated yet organize after having the cost of their papers go up. Granted, the movie is based off a true story about a bunch of Newsies in the late 19th century who went on strike against Joe Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, and so it has roots in history, it still stands out as a rather provocative tale, especially for Disney.

Continue reading The Newsies and the Kingdom of God?

The Wire And Disrupting the Othering Process

Season02_posterart.jpg If you haven’t had the chance to watch HBO’s TV show The Wire I highly recommend you take the time and begin watching. It’s in its fifth and final season, so there’s plenty to keep your Netflix queue busy for quite awhile. While it may not a good show for the family or follow the sitcom-styled story line (where the narrative begins, climaxes and resolves in thirty minutes), it is the perfect show for those of you who like TV shows that feel like a good work of literature. It is a very elaborate story, with very intricate characters and development, but then again the show was written for five seasons from the start. This means the narrative in this show really takes its time to develop and you have a chance to watch the characters grow and change (or not change as the case may be).

Continue reading The Wire And Disrupting the Othering Process

Thoughts on pedagogy does technology in the classroom help or hurt

Screenshot 2-9

A couple weeks back I had the great privilege to meet with some of the faculty and staff at the school where I attend, to discuss updating the classrooms on campus for better learning. The school was recently awarded a grant with this specific task in mind.

One question raised was “What are the best ways in which we can spend this grant money on technology for learning?”

As the discussion unfolded, however, two sorts of issues became increasingly clear:
1) Assumptions of pedagogy
2) Technology and it’s relationship to learning (does it help or hurt?)

Technology and the Educator at the Center

We found that there are, obviously, different styles of teaching and with those styles come different assumptions about teaching. It’s interesting that when I first think about classroom technology I think of the typical setup with a projector, screen, speakers, podium, and computer. But all these things are aimed at the enhancing the lecturer as centerpiece of learning.

369711112 9Dbd57Aae5 O In the modern world we are obsessed with performance based styles of learning. It seems like every time we, students or Christians, get together we have someone talk at us, and we get very little interaction with our peers and/or speaker. This trend was made popular, at least in the church, by revivalist preachers such as Billy Sunday and Charles Finney. Many of us believe it is a very tired pedagogical method. One person comes to the classroom, or congregation and disseminates all the information he or she can do, through spoken word, video clips, powerpoint, etc. The Lecturer as the learning centerpiece has become a standard assumption of pedagogy in many classrooms.

While I do mind learning from lectures – they are not the only or even the best way to learn. Jane Vella has written a lot about adult education and talks about the importance of task oriented learning and small group work.

Most of my favorite professors from Undergrad and Graduate school engage the class in a variety of learning styles including small group work and round-table discussions. In these classrooms, students demonstrate the skills necessary to achieve the course objectives, they put into practice what the professor hopes for them to learn; just telling them how to do it doesn’t prepare them.

At any rate, when you have money to spend on “classroom” technology the focus tends to become the professor and enabling him or her to be better at performing and delivering content. It’s one of modernity’s fetishes, words and the people who speak them. In this view the responsibility to learn the material is taken off the learner and placed on the educator, as if to say, “the better content I can deliver as a professor, the better skills I exhibit as a lecturer will make the students learn what they need to know.”

Technology and the Learner

369396660 8Cc26F35Ec Even deeper is the issue of whether technology aids or harms learning. People will take their sides quickly on this issue. Should we allow computers in the classroom? Should we make all the professors learn powerpoint? Should all classrooms be wired for the web? One thing to keep in mind is that technology has ordering power. A majority of fundamental questions now revolve around whether technology is useful or not, it orders a majority question and decision we make as educators in the Western world.

One thing we discovered in this discussion about pedagogy and technology was: Technology often times controls the pedagogy, rather than the pedagogy controlling the way technology is used.

People are worried that if the school offers “podcasts” of lectures the students won’t come to class. This is a real concern, and one that gets at some “base” questions about what it is we are attempting to do in the classroom. If our lecture is the basis for our whole pedagogical style then handing out audio files from a class leaves us vulnerable to the power of technology. But if handing out an audio file is only a small part of what happens in the classroom, and the classroom is still the laboratory where understanding and experimentation takes place, then we may be all right.

But using technology in the classroom will continue to raise questions, and we must first be serious about a technology free pedagogy, so that the technology we do use is only a tool and not a crutch.

An Experiment in Learning

369711110 3E9Bd02Bfd O-1 I for one hate powerpoint, am easily distracted by the things on my computer, and like to surf the web. I also rarely enjoy (or benefit from) a 2 hour lecture where students do everything possible to keep up with what’s being lectured about by typing frantically on their keyboards. In my own experience I learn very little this way.

So, I decided to do an experiment this past quarter. I bought a pad of paper to take notes on instead of typing them out on my laptop. This enabled me to engage my professor and classmates without having to focus on my computer screen and word processor. But I also used technology as a tool – I purchased a very inexpensive and easy to use recording program called voice candy and used my laptop to record the 3 hour class periods (not lectures) so I could review them later.

This helped me keep my head in the class discussion at all times, I handwrote notes, and drew out diagrams (Nancey Murphy, the prof for the class, loves to use diagrams and pictures). I was able to engage my classmates eye to eye in our wrestling with the course material, but I can also go back and review the audio and type out notes as I need to.

The point of this was to find a way in which I could use technology as a tool, that wouldn’t impede my learning. It’s really easy to get distracted with your laptop open in a 3 hour class! It’s also really easy to think we’re learning, while playing games, surfing the web, and chatting online, when in fact we’re doing very little of that.

I really think my experiment helped me learn and get to know my classmates better.

And so after all this a different questions seems more appropriate:
“How can we help to empower student-centered learning? And what tools can help make this possible?”


Credit for header image here and the sleeping students photo here.