Tag Archives: Religion and Education

Tittensor, “The House of Service: The Gulen Movement and Islam’s Third Way”

Next month, Oxford will publish The House of Service: The Gulen 9780199336418Movement and Islam’s Third Way, by David Tittensor (Deakin University, Australia). The publisher’s description follows.

David Tittensor offers a groundbreaking new perspective on the Gülen movement, a Turkish Muslim educational activist network that emerged in the 1960s and has grown into a global empire with an estimated worth of $25 billion. Named after its leader Fethullah Gülen, the movement has established more than 1,000 secular educational institutions in over 140 countries, aiming to provide holistic education that incorporates both spirituality and the secular sciences.

Despite the movement’s success, little is known about how its schools are run, or how Islam is operationalized. Drawing on thirteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in Turkey, Tittensor explores the movement’s ideo-theology and how it is practiced in the schools. His interviews with both teachers and graduates from Africa, Indonesia, Central Asia, and Turkey show that the movement is a missionary organization, but of a singular kind: its goal is not simply widespread religious conversion, but a quest to recoup those Muslims who have apparently lost their way and to show non-Muslims that Muslims can embrace modernity and integrate into the wider community. Tittensor also examines the movement’s operational side and shows how the schools represent an example of Mohammad Yunus’s social business model: a business with a social cause at its heart.

The House of Service is an insightful exploration of one of the world’s largest transnational Muslim associations, and will be invaluable for those seeking to understand how Islam will be perceived and practiced in the future.

Panel on Tax Reform and Education (Feb 25)

On February 25, the CUNY Institute for Education Policy in New York will host what looks to be a fascinating discussion on tax credits for primary and secondary education–including education in religious schools. Past CLR Forum Guest Ashley Berner (left), the Institute’s Deputy Director, will be one of the panelists. Here’s a description:

For most Americans, “public education” has meant the traditional neighborhood school. That once-unassailable image is changing, however, as states and districts have begun to sanction a wider array of schools such as magnets and charters, and new school funding mechanisms such as tax credits and vouchers – stirring up controversy in the process.

There are important arguments on each side. To its defenders, the dominant model reflects democratic governance structures, advances citizenship formation, is ideologically neutral, and should be preserved with minor adjustments. Innovators, for their side, believe that the expansion of educational options yields better academic outcomes and more diverse classrooms, extends choice to more families, advances pluralism, and aligns the United States’ school system with those of other democratic nations.

New York is now considering a bill that creates an Education Investment Tax Credit to stimulate up to $300 million in charitable donations for public classrooms and for K-12 scholarships for students to attend Catholic, Jewish and other private schools. Please join us for a lively discussion of the bill’s benefits and limitations in light of international education systems.

For details, please click here.

Barnes, “Education, Religion and Diversity: Developing a New Model of Religious Education”

This month, Routledge will publish Education, Religion and Diversity: Developing a New Model of Religious Education by L. Philip Barnes (King’s College London, UK). education, religion The publisher’s description follows.

The challenge of diversity is central to education in modern liberal, democratic states, and religious education is often the point where these differences become both most acute and where it is believed, of all curriculum subjects, resolutions are most likely to be found.

Education, Religion and Diversity identifies and explores the commitments and convictions that have guided post-confessional religious education and concludes controversially that the subject as currently theorised and practised is incapable of challenging religious intolerance and of developing respectful relationships between people from different communities and groups within society.

It is argued that despite the rhetoric of success, which religious education is obliged to rehearse in order to perpetuate its status in the curriculum and to ensure political support, a fundamentally new model of religious education is required to meet the challenge of diversity to education and to society.  A new framework for religious education is developed which offers the potential for the subject to make a genuine contribution to the creation of a responsible, respectful society.

Education, Religion and Diversity is a wide-ranging, provocative exploration of religious education in modern liberal democracies. It is essential reading for those concerned with the role of religion in education and for religious and theological educators who want to think critically about the aims and character of religious education.

Smyth, et al., eds., “Religious Education in a Multicultural Europe”

UntitledIn August, Palgrave Macmillan will publish Religious Education in a Multicultural Europe: Children, Parents and Schools, edited by Emer Smyth (ESRI), Maureen Lyons (U. College Dublin), and Merike Darmody (ESRI). The publisher’s description follows.

Religion and schooling has become a controversial issue across Europe. But we know little about how these tensions are experienced by children and their families. This groundbreaking book draws on an innovative, comparative study to examine how religious and/or secular beliefs are formed at school and in the family in five countries with very different educational systems (Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Malta, and Scotland). New information on how schools and families influence the development of children’s religious identities is presented by placing the experiences of primary school children at the centre of the research, yielding fresh insights into their perspectives on religion and schooling. The book adopts a multidisciplinary perspective, thus providing a more holistic perspective on the processes at play. Importantly, it offers insights into key policy issues concerning the place of religion in the school system, illuminating current debates around religion and multiculturalism across Europe.

Datla, “The Language of Secular Islam”

Last month, the University of Hawaii Press published The Language of Secular Islam: Urdu Nationalism and Colonial India by Kavita Datla (Mount Holyoke College). The publisher’s description follows.The Language of Secular Islam

During the turbulent period prior to colonial India’s partition and independence, Muslim intellectuals in Hyderabad sought to secularize and reformulate their linguistic, historical, religious, and literary traditions for the sake of a newly conceived national public. Responding to the model of secular education introduced to South Asia by the British, Indian academics launched a spirited debate about the reform of Islamic education, the importance of education in the spoken languages of the country, the shape of Urdu and its past, and the significance of the histories of Islam and India for their present.

The Language of Secular Islam pursues an alternative account of the political disagreements between Hindus and Muslims in South Asia, conflicts too often described as the product of primordial and unchanging attachments to religion. The author suggests that the political struggles of India in the 1930s, the very decade in which the demand for Pakistan began to be articulated, should not be understood as the product of an inadequate or incomplete secularism, but as the clashing of competing secular agendas. Her work explores negotiations over language, education, and religion at Osmania University, the first university in India to use a modern Indian language (Urdu) as its medium of instruction, and sheds light on questions of colonial displacement and national belonging.

Grounded in close attention to historical evidence, The Language of Secular Islam has broad ramifications for some of the most difficult issues currently debated in the humanities and social sciences: the significance and legacies of European colonialism, the inclusions and exclusions enacted by nationalist projects, the place of minorities in the forging of nationalism, and the relationship between religion and modern politics. It will be of interest to historians of colonial India, scholars of Islam, and anyone who follows the politics of Urdu.

Rosen on the Liberal Case for Educational Accommodation of Religious Groups

Apropos of Erwin Chemerinsky’s illiberal proposal to close down all private and religious schools, here is a liberal argument for accommodation of the educational preferences of (some) religious and other “perfectionist” groups: The Educational Autonomy of Perfectionist Religious Groups in a Liberal State, by Mark Rosen.  The influence of Rawls on Rosen’s work is very substantial, but Rosen departs from Rawls in several interesting ways.  Arguments like Rosen’s are not the only way to think about issues of educational pluralism (and it seems to me that Rosen’s piece has nothing to say about the educational autonomy of non-perfectionist groups, such as one might find at your typical secular private school).  For a different approach, see this earlier post on Ashley Berner’s essay.  But, like Berner’s essay, Rosen’s is a serious and thoughtful attempt to grapple with these problems.  Here’s the abstract.

This Article draws upon, but reworks, John Rawls’ framework from Political Liberalism to determine the degree of educational autonomy that illiberal perfectionist religious groups ought to enjoy in a liberal state. I start by arguing that Rawls mistakenly concludes that political liberalism flatly cannot accommodate Perfectionists, and that his misstep is attributable to two errors: (1) Rawls utilizes an overly restrictive “political conception of the person” in determining who participates in the original position, and (2) Rawls overlooks the possibility of a “federalist” basic political structure that can afford significant political autonomy to different groups within a single country. With these insights, I argue that some, though not all, religious Perfectionists are consistent with a stable liberal polity, and explain why foundational Rawlsian premises require that Perfectionists be accommodated to the extent possible.

My ultimate conclusions are that liberal polities ought to grant significant autonomy to those illiberal groups that satisfy specified conditions, and that the autonomy of such “eligible” illiberal groups is subject to two further constraints, which I call “well-orderedness” and “opt-out.” The autonomy to which eligible Perfections are entitled includes the authority to educate their children in a way that provides a fair opportunity for the groups to perpetuate themselves. The constraint of well-orderedness, however, permits the State to impose educational requirements that facilitate peace and political stability. Accommodating eligible illiberal groups, subject to these constraints, is an instantiation of liberal commitments, not a compromise of liberal values.

Chemerinsky Urges Compulsory Public Education

I am not attending the AALS conference this year, but I thought to reproduce (with permission) a message on a constitutional law listserv that I’m on, written by Pepperdine law professor Mark Scarberry.  Mark reports his impressions of a presentation by UC Irvine law dean Erwin Chemerinsky:

Dean Chemerinsky stated, if my memory is correct, that the only way to deal with educational disparities and the problem of (de facto) resegregation of public schools is to require all children to attend public schools and to require that they do so within districts made up of metropolitan areas. That would include suburbs along with inner cities, so that racial integration by busing will be possible. He stated that Milliken v.  Bradley should be overruled, so that suburban school districts could be, for these purposes, combined with inner city school districts to allow integration. He also stated that Pierce v. Society of Sisters should be overruled, so that all children could be required to attend these racially mixed public schools. As I understand it, he thinks that only if whites are required to put their children in the same schools as those attended by racial minorities will there be the political will to provide the resources so that minority students can receive a quality education. He said that parents who wanted to have their children receive religious education or other forms of education could have them receive it after school or (I believe he said) on weekends.

I don’t think he meant to say that the right of parents to control their children’s upbringing and education would be eliminated, but that the right should be overridden by a compelling state interest in providing an adequate education to all students. It wasn’t clear to me whether he wanted all the work to be done by the courts, with courts holding that the Constitution requires that all students attend schools on such a metropolitan-area racially-mixed basis (either as a matter of equal protection or as a matter of a fundamental right to an adequate public education) — or, alternatively, that the Court should allow Congress or states to impose this scheme.

Since it impinges on various law and religion issues, I thought this proposal might be of interest to CLR Forum readers — the legal implications of compulsory public education and the overruling of Milliken v. Bradley and/or Pierce v Society of Sisters would be substantial, and it is notable that someone of Chemerinsky’s status in constitutional law is suggesting this.  There is certainly a pressing need to take seriously the problem of grossly undereducated children in urban and poor areas, and the consequences of Milliken were pretty awful, though what exactly is to be done about that is obscure, at least to me (this is not my area of expertise).  But this proposal seems, as Mark later notes in his message, rather illiberal.  It also doesn’t quite do justice to the reasons for attending a religious school, or any private school for that matter (admittedly, my own educational experience has been entirely within such schools).

I also wonder whether Dean Chemerinsky, as part of his proposal, would be favorably disposed to overruling McCollum v. Board of Education, in which the Court in 1948 held that it violated the Establishment Clause for public schools to release students for religious instruction on school premises, taught by teachers outside the public school system.  It seems to me that Dean Chemerinsky would probably approve of Zorach v. Clausen (but maybe not, because the released time program was being conducted during regular school hours, let alone all of that “Supreme Being” stuff), where the Court in 1952 approved released time religious instruction off school premises.  In conjunction with the (constitutionally mandated?) elimination of private schools, does he envision a larger role for the state (financial or otherwise) in religious education?  If not, after private and religious schools are closed down by the state (whether by judges or by legislators), where would students receive the education that their parents, and they, actually want?

Davis & Miroshnikova, “The Routledge International Handbook of Religious Education”

This August, Routledge published The Routledge International Handbook of Religious Education edited by Derek Davis (Baylor University) and Elena Miroshnikova (Tula Leo Tolstoy State Pedagogical University). The publisher’s description follows.

How and what to teach about religion is controversial in every country. The Routledge International Handbook of Religious Education is the first book to comprehensively address the range of ways that major countries around the world teach religion in public and private educational institutions. It discusses how three models in particular seem to dominate the landscape.

Countries with strong cultural traditions focused on a majority religion tend to adopt an “identification model,” where instruction is provided only in the tenets of the majority religion, often to the detriment of other religions and their adherents. Countries with traditions that differentiate church and state tend to adopt a “separation model,” thus either offering instruction in a wide range of religions, or in some cases teaching very little about religion, intentionally leaving it to religious institutions and the home setting to provide religious instruction. Still other countries attempt “managed pluralism,” in which neither one, nor many, but rather a limited handful of major religious traditions are taught. Inevitably, there are countries which do not fit any of these dominant models and the range of methods touched upon in this book will surprise even the most enlightened reader. Continue reading

Larry Gatlin and Jonathan Rauch on Christian Groups at Vanderbilt

Now there’s a pairing you don’t see everyday. Country music star Larry Gatlin and Brookings Institute scholar Jonathan Rauch both weigh in on Vanderbilt’s denial of recognition to Christian groups in this new video from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education (FIRE). Vanderbilt denied the groups recognition under its all-comers policy, which requires groups to open their leadership positions to all students, even students who disagree with the groups’ principles. In CLS v. Martinez (2010), the Supreme Court held that such a policy is consistent with the First Amendment. Many American universities have such a policy, but not all; recently, for example, SUNY-Buffalo decided to allow the local chapter of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship to require its leaders to affirm the group’s beliefs. The FIRE video is a very good introduction to the topic; unfortunately, Vanderbilt apparently did not accept FIRE’s invitation to present its side of the story.