When it comes to education in religion, there are many issues and different aspects that arise with the method of teaching and the method of learning. In Kathleen Engebretson’s peer-reviewed article, “Foundational Issues in Educating Young People for Understanding and Appreciation of the Religions in Their Communities”, she discusses her developed ideas on how to embark on the education of the varieties of religion and how to overcome expected barriers.
Engebretson’s article touches base with the in depth perceptions of religious studies, however, prefers referring to it as education for understanding and appreciation of the religions, as the term religious studies may presume too many assumptions. Her article is scrutinized into six different sections: terminology, religious superiority, fundamentalism, religions and history, students’ beliefs, and critical reasoning.
Nevertheless, all these different sections ultimately lead to the same goal and help build the base of education in religion. Engebretson firmly believes that if a teacher can engage in some careful reflection and students can respect the ideas presented while maintaining an open mind both parties will surely result in enrichment. Engebretson covers many main points in her arguments about how to educate students where they come to an understanding and appreciation of the studies of religion.
Firstly, she discusses the issues about the terminology of religious studies, or also referred to as interfaith and interreligious education, and how by looking at it as trying to understand and appreciate the religions in their communities it builds awareness about certain aspects of human experience. Also, this method allows students to have imaginative participation where it enables them to “step into the shoes” of religious followers of all types, or at least come to a grasp of it.
Secondly, she examines the barriers of religious superiority and how believing that one religion is greater than another and there is only one path to salvation can be a true obstacle. She notes that this ignorance opposes against the basics of education and rejects the growth of religious morals. As teachers, she states that the best way to come about this obstacle is to study all religion as equals, by listening and reflecting.
Thirdly, Engebretson explores fundamentalism, often referring to fundamentalist Christians, and how these types are often closed minded and resist any challenge to their belief. To overcome this barrier, teachers must have perseverance, understanding, and empathy when attempting to open the minds of these students. Fourthly, she considers religions and their history and how some history can be frowned upon. She expresses that although history will be brought up, it is key to remember that the main purpose of the education of religion is about enlightenment and fulfillment.
Fifthly, the article points out that it is important to make a note about the types of students being taught because ultimately it is up to the student if he or she is prepared to participate. However, teachers can aid by being knowledgeable in the students’ religious attachments. Lastly, Engebretson covers critical reasoning and voices that both teachers and students must be prepared to face issues involving the analysis of the teachings which contains extremes on each end of the spectrum. Because of this, teachers must inquire questions of truths that lead students to think rationally.
Kathleen Engebretson ensures her assertion that covering these foundational issues will equip teachers with an essential guide to educating young people for understanding and appreciation of the religions in their community. By analyzing phrases of religion, assumed religious ranking, fundamentalism, religion and their universal history, students’ faiths, and critical interpretation both teachers and students can be guided to ultimately finding improvement in the experiences that make up their world.