AAR Annual Meeting
November 18-21, 2017
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This Unit will promote the comparative study of religion education in public schools around the world. By encouraging interdisciplinary research on the ethical, legal, political, pedagogical, and religious issues that arise with the study of religion in elementary and secondary schools, we seek to deepen our understanding of alternative approaches to religion as an academic subject. We also hope to find new ways of responding to the increasing religious diversity in schools and societies and to study the relationship between religion education and citizenship education in pluralistic democratic societies.
Nationalism and Religion Education in Public Schools
Many public schools throughout the world have been promoting the ethics of civic nationalism and multiculturalism by preparing the next generation of citizens to “think globally, act locally.” These schools often used curricula to promote civic and religious liberty, equality, and pluralism, and to emphasize the majority’s duty to protect the most vulnerable. But these values are being threatened by a new wave of nationalism that has erupted throughout the world—a nationalism based on nostalgia, isolation, and ethnic cohesion.
For instance, months after the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, new Prime Minister Theresa May, charged with implementing the “Brexit” movement, said, “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what citizenship means.” Recent polls show that a majority of people in the following countries agree with her statement including: Chile, Germany, Indonesia, Mexico, and Russia. The countries with the highest number of people who believe that globalization is a force for bad reside in France, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia.
Given the global scale of these local trends, the Religion in Public Schools: International Perspectives Unit calls for papers that examine the intersection of religion and public schools in the context of the rise of isolationist nationalism. Papers may examine ways in which the explicit, implicit, hidden, or null curricula reinforce or counter isolationist agendas; how administrators ban or accommodate religious expression by minority groups in public schools and the public square; or how educators fuel or counter the anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant sentiments expressed in news media, social media, fake news, and political platforms. Special attention may be given to the ways that public schools, as agents of the state, reinforce or reject political proposals to profile or ban religious or ethnic groups through legal barriers or through the building of actual walls. These questions are designed to reflect upon the very purpose of public education in general and of religion education in public schools specifically. The question facing many citizens today is whether public schools should promote civic nationalism and cultivate global citizens or reject globalization by encouraging a new wave of isolationist nationalism.
For a possible co-sponsored session with the Contemporary Islam Unit, we welcome proposals that address the representation of Islam and Muslims in public school education, and the role of public schools in a climate of growing Islamophobia.
For a possible co-sponsored session with the Religion & Politics Unit, we welcome proposals that address religious dimensions surrounding “global citizenship,” including issues that traffic under this term. What does the language and possibility of global citizenship represent for its growing numbers of defenders and detractors alike? What responsibility do religion educators in public schools have for teaching global citizenship, particularly where it conflicts with national citizenship? Do religion educators share non-partisan values about democracy, human rights, or refugees? Should we be more explicit about the traits and habits necessary for citizens, and when are these controversial?
In an open call, we also invite papers that advance the mission of this program unit.