Tim Hall, Ph.D.
It is a daunting task to teach about religion for even a veteran teacher entering the classroom. So what web resources are available to educators to aid them in their efforts? So with this blog, I will be writing less and linking more.
As I have detailed before, the problem with the world religions model used in most classrooms is that it is typically static. The methodology is embedded in the past and out of context for deep student understanding. For students to fully participate in civic life filled with religious diversity, they need to understand the variety and complexity of religious beliefs and traditions. To gain this understanding, educators should use the lived religion model. One way to enhance this model can be through the effective use of film in the classroom. Good movies on religion help diminish stereotypes. As Ben Marcus suggested, they help reveal to students that:
- Religions are internally diverse, not homogenous.
- Religions are dynamic, not static and fixed.
- Religions are embedded in cultures, not isolated from them. Religions influence culture, and culture influences religions.
Also, the movies on religion demonstrate that religious identities are formed in a variety of ways through the 3 B’s, which I have detailed in past blogs:
- Belonging (1)
So below are some media resources that teachers may use to draw out these understandings for their students as they learn about the world’s religions.
- Buddhism – “The Little Buddha“: Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, 1993.
- Christianity – “A History of Christianity“: Written by Diarmaid MacCulloch, 2009
- Hinduism – “Sanjay Superteam“: Directed by Sanjay Patel, 2015.
- Islam – “Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story“: Directed by Robert Gardner, 2014.
- Judaism – “Fiddler on the Roof“: Directed by Norman Jewison, 1971.
- Shinto – “Spirited Away“: Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 2001.
- Sikhism – Kaur Foundation – Cultural Safari & Sikh Kid to Kid
- Traditional religion – “The Book of Life“: Directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez, 2014
Also, here is a list of useful websites by educators to be used as general resources for the classroom.
- Bill of Rights Institute – Religious Liberty: An American Experiment.
- God in America – A very well-done documentary on the history of religion and religious diversity in America.
- Harvard Pluralism Project – Case studies and background resources.
- Hindu American Foundation: Hinduism – Information on fundamental Hindu beliefs.
- National Geographic: The Story of God – Beautiful cinematic documentary on world religions.
- Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life – Statistics and data on religious diversity in America.
- Religious Freedom Center – Offers badging courses for teachers on teaching about religion in the classroom.
- Religious Freedom Institute – Supports and educates for religious freedom, an essential human right. (I am a Senior Fellow at RFI.)
- Religious Literacy Online Course @ EdX – Examines the function of religion in historical and contemporary societies.
- Sikh Kid to Kid: Sikhism – Student-friendly site on Sikhism.
- Unity Productions Foundation: Islam – Great films on Islam.
Finally, here are the links to various national institutional guidelines and documents, which can help administrators and teachers create the best possible learning environment for teaching about religion in their schools and classrooms.
- American Academy of Religion: Guidelines for Teaching about Religion in K-12 Schools
- American Academy of Religion: Religious Literacy Guidelines for College Graduates
- First Amendment Center: Finding Common Ground – A concise guide for schools and classrooms.
- National Council for the Social Studies: Position Statement on the Study about Religions in the Social Studies Curriculum
- National Council for the Social Studies: Religious Studies Companion Document to C3 Framework
- The Society of Biblical Literature: Bible Electives in Public Schools – A Guide
- OSCE: Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Schools
All of these resources will help educators in the development and teaching of religion in the classroom in a dynamic and lived way, enhancing a deep student understanding of the variety of beliefs and religious identities in the twenty-first century.
(1) Benjamin Marcus, “Chapter 1: Teaching About Religion in Public Schools,” in Haynes, Charles C., ed. Teaching about Religion in the Social Studies Classroom.
Source of some links: Christopher C. Murray, Jr., “Chapter 9: Navigating Media Sources to Study World Religions,” in Haynes, Charles C., ed. Teaching about Religion in the Social Studies Classroom.