Religion on Campus

Religion on Campus

Religion on Campus

Religion on Campus

Synopsis

What religion really means to today's undergraduates. Investigating the practice and teaching of religion at American colleges and universities, the authors of this book uncover a surprisingly diverse and vital religious scene on campus. Based on extensive fieldwork at four very different U.S. institutions, the book challenges theories of the secularization of higher education and the decline of religion on campus. It reveals instead that both the practice and the study of religion are thriving, nourished by a campus culture of tolerance, diversity, and choice.

Excerpt

This book of case studies originated in a desire on the part of its authors to observe closely the current shape of religion on U. S. college and university campuses. During the last ten or fifteen years, a large number of studies have examined religion in higher education. Historical investigations have depicted religion's changing roles in American colleges and universities. Other, more normative works have recommended ways in which religion's presence on the higher-education scene might be improved or transformed. Still others have surveyed the attitudes of faculty who teach religion on our campuses, argued the relative value of "objectivity" or "advocacy" as a pedagogy in the religious studies classroom, or bemoaned the widespread secularization of the contemporary campus. Largely missing in these studies has been a close, firsthand inspection of religion on campus. In particular, they simply have not supplied answers to basic questions like how, and how widely, do today's American undergraduates practice religion during their college or university years? In what manner do students understand and talk about their religious or nonreligious postures? What opportunities are provided for undergraduates to study religion? What approaches to that study do the teachers of those undergraduates take? These are the fundamental questions this book attempts to answer with respect to four very different campuses in the United States.

The chapters that follow concentrate on the present and chiefly employ the methods of ethnography to determine the present shape of things. All three authors are historians as well as students of the current scene, however, and thus have been sensitive to the ways in which the contemporary situation has exhibited striking continuities as well as arresting discontinuities with the past. Religion has long figured importantly in the history of American higher education, but its role has changed as America and its educational institutions have changed. In the colonial period, a number of major colleges were founded primarily for the purpose of educating clergymen. Thus Harvard College opened its doors in the seventeenth century in order to teach Puritan ministers how to nurture the burgeoning communities of New England with the milk of the Christian gospel. Disputes over the most appropriate preparation for ministers led to the founding of Yale College at the beginning of the eighteenth century and the later founding of William . . .

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