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Religion and Art Appreciation

September 21, 2010

I think some students expect a religion class to be like an art appreciation class—some of them seem to think that what I’ll do is expose them to a lot of beautiful things that I’ll try to get them to appreciate by the end of the term.

Of course this is not what I do, and I’m of the opinion that the “appreciation” model is not pedagogically sound. What legitimate academic goal would it serve? I can see how it might be integrated into a liberal “can’t we all just get along” normative pedagogy, but that approach tends to be intolerably at odds with academic rigor (see “Our ‘Special Promise’ as Teachers” in Russell McCutcheon’s Critics Not Caretakers for why that approach might be problematic).

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 21, 2010 12:10 pm

    what a bunch of hippies!! ‘Getting along together’ involves tolerance which is a very bad thing when you’re tolerating extremism, fundamentalism, heaven versus hell, guilt and all the other things associated with religion. At best. what they all share in common, as codes for living well together, are things that can be ‘appreciated’, like looking after the sick and loving our neighbour – but some religions don’t even tell you not to tell lies! As human creations, religions are bound to contain aspects of human greed and selfishness despite their social purposes. As someone who had never believed in anything, my purpose in studying religions originally was to try and understand where from and why they came, why and what people believed and whether and how people could live with each other or even live without religion. There were all sorts of reasons… I took art history as well but not in order to learn to appreciate crap art, but probably to learn what the hell it was supposed to be and where it came from so I could learn to criticise it ‘constructively’ without merely slagging it off…

  2. September 27, 2010 8:07 am

    That’s why you don’t get ‘art appreciation’ courses at universities, since they’re left to Rotary clubs or local libraries to alternate on Thursday evenings with the make-your-own-soap and salsa dancing classes.

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