Critical Theory in World Religions
An experiment in Course (re)Design
Keywords:world religions paradigm, world religions, course design, teaching, pedagogy, critical theory
The World Religions Paradigm (WRP) remains popular in classrooms despite its embedded problems that scholars have recognized for decades. The primary ways of responding to those problems have been either to continue teaching the WRP out of convenience or to reject it, removing World Religions courses from a curriculum completely. Using Jonathan Z. Smith’s six rules on teaching an undergraduate religion course from his essay “Approaching the College Classroom” in On Teaching Religion (2012), the redesign of World Religions at Nebraska Wesleyan University (NWU) represents an important alternative. A model for those who recognize the problems with the WRP but who do not want to (or cannot) stop teaching the topic altogether, the NWU World Religions pilot course finds a way to do both, advocating for not only the continued offering of World Religions courses but the promotion of critical thought and self-reflection among students while doing so.
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