Skip to content

On Destroying Students’ Faith

April 28, 2009

I can’t do it. As critical as I am in the classroom, I recognize that there are important psychological benefits to participation in religious traditions.

In particular, I have a student in AA who looks to a “higher being” to help him. I have another student with a serious physical handicap who turns to” Jesus” for emotional support.

Rather than press the issue when credulity rears its ugly head, I tend to always leave an “out”: “Well, I could be wrong; who’s to say?”

I completely hate this sort of stupid liberal “to each his own” crap, but I resort to it when I’m afraid something I’m saying will destroy a student’s faith. I think it’s an intellectually impoverished position, but the trade-off—not ruining a student’s emotional world—might be worth it.

However, it is quite possible that I take myself way too seriously and I don’t have any such power over my students. Maybe I’m fooling myself to think I could challenge them the way I think I can

2 Comments leave one →
  1. bradcorban permalink
    April 28, 2009 10:48 pm

    As someone with a “faith,” I fully support it being destroyed from time to time. The “out” you can give is not that a student keep her or his old belief system, but that they can begin to create a new and/or improved one.

    As a seminarian, I sometimes want to drill my fellow classmates on their belief systems, because I think they need to be more nuanced and articulate. Too many of my peers have nebulous belief systems, and that’s NOT good for them NOR for their parishioners, if they ever serve as a church leader. Well-developed belief structures are essential if you want your “faith” to actually affect everything you do, assuming you think your faith is that important. (And I do.)

    My opinions here betray my annoyance at pastors and seminarians with nebulous religious ideas that have no footing, can’t be coherently discussed, and are therefore irrelevant.

    Perhaps I need to learn patience, but until then, teacher, I want you to keep deconstructing as much as possible, while still encouraging students to do some constructing of their own, imploring them to explore, and advising them to foster wisdom.

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    April 29, 2009 7:59 am

    Brad, I don’t think I disagree with what you’re saying. The cases in which I pull up short is when students are, in my opinion, psychologically needy, or something like that (I’m clearly not a psych prof!). I challenge students all the time. But with the boy in AA, I wouldn’t want to push him so far that he decided that maybe the AA “higher being” thing is bogus. He needs that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: