Monday, February 1, 2010

A Bad Case of Senioritus

This weekend kicked off my final master's class - Islamic Fundamentalism. It was the only class offered this quarter that I had not previously taken. After several hours of mind-boggling dissection of the various Caliphs of early Islam, the professor looked at our blank faces and repeated his admonishment that this was an advanced class that required some previous study of Islam, which sorry to say, I do not have. So, I went to the library and checked out "Islam for Dummies" which I hope to credit with saving my academic tush.

It seems to me that if a master's program offers a course that requires a prerequisite, they should also OFFER that prerequisite, but I am too tired to fight, and so off to the Qur'an I go. (The Qur'an is one of our 4 textbooks, as is "The Al Qaeda Reader") Unfortunately this is not a Middle Eastern politics class (which seems to be the point of a masters in politics, no?) but a religion class. I'm so irritated. I was hoping to read book #7 on the Cuban missile crisis and call it a day.

In college I took a a Greek Mythology class, and after a few classes of countless indecipherable names, jealousies, battles, deaths, rebirths, it occurred to me that I was being forced to memorize someone else's fairytale, which seemed like an incredible waste of brain power. The wave of deja vu is washing over me.

Recently, I started to think that teaching religion in school wouldn't be such a bad thing. I stand by my feeling that creationism needs to steer clear of science class. Things taught in science must be subjected to the scientific method. But in a world where so much of history and current events revolve around the religions of the world, shouldn't we at least be getting as much of an introduction to Islam as we do to Greek Mythology? I mean, here I am, at the tail end of a Master's program in International Relations and I barely can tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shi'ite. And by barely, I mean that I know that they're spelled differently. For example, I've written entire papers on Hamas from a "how do we deal with them" perspective, but I really know nothing about them or how they came to be.

The information is out there, sure, and any curious person can take the time to find out more. But I also think that a world religion class taught in high school might open up a group of say, Christian Fundamentalists, to see that even though everyone they've ever met is Christian, that a good portion of the rest of the world is not. Might a few of those kids then be encouraged to find out more about those non-Christians instead of thinking of them all as heathens? Maybe not all, but definitely a curious few.

Of course, this can never happen in the public schools - I mean can you imagine development of the curriculum? Activist school boards, trying to skew the way certain religions are presented. Parents, refusing to sign the waiver to let their kids learn about certain religions. The Gubernator, appointing a panel of theologists on the government payroll to come up with a testing scheme? It would be a nightmare. Even if you say that religion is the reason for so many of the world's problems today - that's the best reason to teach about it I think.

Until then, I will continue to lament my public school education and make up for lost time.

No comments: