faith is like a fire

from Islamic terror is real, as is Jewish and Christian terror.

We need to admit that faith is like a fire – it can warm a home or burn it down. It’s not the fire; it’s how it is used. We need to simultaneously call out those who use their faiths as destructive fires and also remind people that just because terror is an expression of some people’s faith, it is not the only expression of that faith, or even an essential part of it.

Reading this got me thinking about my English 101 religion theme (that I’ve taught twice — last Winter and Spring). In the last essay, students are to write a persuasive essay on the question, “What is the value of religion to society?”  The majority end up picking an aspect of religion and using that to argue that religion helps or hinders society. I want to find a way to get them thinking more of the complexity of the topic. I haven’t emphasized that enough in class before. I’ve focused on the rhetorical “moves” academic writes make (using They Say, I Say by Graff and Birkenstein).

I’ll probably use Elbow’s “Believing and Doubting Game(s)” as a way to help them deepen their understanding by doubting what they believe and believing what they doubt.

But, overall, need to do some more thinking.

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“Majoring in the humanities and social sciences puts a damper on religiosity”

Saw this in the New York Times last Sunday.

Losing My Religion, November 1, 2009

MAJORING in the humanities and social sciences puts a damper on religiosity. Thank (or blame) postmodernism, the staple of humanities classes, with its notions of relative truth (opposed to religion’s absolute truth) and questioning authority. “These are arguments that students find persuasive,” says Miles Kimball, an economics professor at the University of Michigan. He and three colleagues analyzed data on the religious attitudes and observance of some 26,000 students across the country over six years.

How important do students think religion is in their lives? For scale, Miles Kimball says, if the difference between the religiosity of people living in the Bible Belt and those in the rest of the country equals 100, then the effect of majoring in a particular subject would be:

-47 Social science
-28 Humanities
-24 Physical science/math
-14 Engineering
-13 Biology
0 No college
+2 Business
+10 Other
+16 Vocational
+23 Education

Not surprising, though I didn’t realize majoring in social science made SUCH a difference (as opposed to humanities). Yep, if you take a postmodern perspective, you’re more likely to focus on social structures as ways of improving the world than on the divine or the spirit.

Also — no matter how many times I read it, I don’t get the thing about “if the difference between the religiosity of people living in the Bible Belt and those in the rest of the country equals 100, then the effect of majoring in a particular subject would be.”  It would seem that would mean that majoring in social science makes a person 47 points closer (i.e., further away from “100”) to the non-Bible Belt population. Anyway, doens’t matter — the scale works without that scale.

NOTES ON John D. Groppe’s “The Writing Classroom as a Spiritual Site of Composing” (1995)

NOTES ON John D. Groppe’s “The Writing Classroom as a Spiritual Site of Composing.” Paper presented at 46th CCCC (Washington, DC, March 23-25, 1995).

John Groppe, in his “The Writing Classroom as a Spiritual Site of Composing,” prefaces his remarks by saying that he came to this topic after attending the “Spiritual Site of Composing” session at the 1992 CCCC. One panel had discussed ways to help students write about “their religious experience and convictions” in an academic context, and Groppe had noticed that the audience members afterward had “tended to focus [their questions] on the students who were judged to be fundamentalists, members of the religious right” (2). Groppe adds / explains, “In the urban setting where the panelists worked, the so-called “fundamentalists” included Islamic students as well as students from a variety of Christian backgrounds. One member of the audience was there, he admitted, to learn about such students so that he might be able to help them break out of their fundamentalist restrictions” (2).  [Use in Cat 1 chapter?]

Groppe then transfers his discussion to the more broader category of religious student in general, those for whom “the academic atmosphere is, at best, not neutral but empty of teachers and classes that would encourage them to deepen their religious resources” (2).  Or academia is for them hostile. Groppe references Mark Schwen who “sees that the current academic climate is hostile to religion” and who traces that hostility back to the Englightenment (and its objectivism or foundationalism (Groppe says Schwen uses both terms)) and its desire to avoid violence.

LDM — this is interesting because 1) I just watched NT Wright (in a video of him at a Los Ranchos Presbytery retreat) in which he makes a very similar point: that religion was kicked out of academica, at least for one reason, in order to avoid war and conflict. (When was the 100 years’ war and all that?)… And because 2) this whole “religion causes conflict” idea comes up so often in my students’ synthesis papers (though that’s probably also because that is also what Rushdie and the Dalai Lama also talk about), and it comes up in, for example, Bill Maher’s Religulous. Steve (Marjorie’s Steve) was telling me Friday night (when I was there playing poker) that Maher actually asserts in that movie that without religion we wouldn’t have wars. (!)

Groppe goes on to summarize Schwen’s argument: “According to the objectivist tradition, religion is at best a group-think, an anti-intellectualism; at worst, it is a crusade seeking to become a moral majority by suppressing all opposition. Nonetheless, in the name of objectivity and the avoidance of suppression, some voices are suppressed” (3).

Groppe also brings in Martin Marty who asks academics to “recognize the genuine humanity of people in religious movements” (4).

In order to help religious students “put their experiences into a larger context without negating their experience,” we need to recognize 1) the “dynamics of religious experience” and 2) “the variety of verbal genres that embody those experienes” (4). And recognize 3) the correspondences between traditional religious modes of appropriation and expression of experience and secucular or non-religious experience” (4).

So Groppe wants to apply his thinking to both religious and non-religious students, because he believes “the same social-psychological dynamics are at work” and the “same variety of verbal forms is put to similar uses” (4) by both groups. But there’s an ADVANTAGE to studying these dynamics and forms in religious groups = “number, variety, and stability of such groups, the abundance of written sources for study, and the abundant opportunity to observe such groups in meetings of worship services and to see first hand the role of verbal forms in their communal life” (4-5).  LDM – So mainly study religious groups / students because it’s easy to?

Grope then provides an example of the variety of religious verbal forms in Benjamin Chavis’ experience becoming exposed to various religious verbal genres while he was serving time in jail. Chavis recorded his theological and ethical reflections in “several literary forms: prayers, laments, meditations, exaltations, critical interrogations, poetry, prophetic prose, doxology, and liturgy” (qtd in Groppe 5).

But then Groppe moves quickly to saying that the PROPHETIC UTTERANCE is probably the “most familiar” (5). – Shrill to many outsiders, but they forget it was the genre of the civil rights movement, as well as movements against Viet Nam and nuclear weapons (yes).  Groppe adds a nice point: “It is often the genre through which people learn of the destruction of the rain forest or the ozone hole or the dangers of population growth, sexual harassment and gender equality, or AIDS” (6).  Prophecy “has both a negative and postive side” (6).

Trick is to help students “get at [the prophetic form’s] origins and possiblities” (6).  It’s connected also to “personal testimonies or autobiographies, lyrical meditation, and songs…” … “epistles of encouragement, instruction, or admonition…” (MLK).

LDM – makes me think that really “prophetic utterance” in Groppe’s definition is like polemic, but more acceptable because 1) it’s less strident, and 2) can often be productive / encouraging.  Prophecy as light polemic? Prophecy as constructive polemic?

PROBLEM, Groppe points out, is the academics tend to privilege 1) academic discourse, or 2) creative writing (6-7).  Groppe then gives a further example of the advantage of working off campus (gains more diversity of genres, etc).  RESULT OF THIS PROBLEM: 1) Limited discourse genres. 2) We teach students to “treat pieces of discourse discretely, atomistically” (7).

By way of example, Groppe says something that really struck me: “For instance, we ask students to writer persuasive discourse and then criticize what they have produced because they have only preached to the converted and have not persuaded anybody; we critique the students because they have not found an audience” (8).  LDM Ouch. Wow, true.

Aristotle etc: Effective persuasion is based on premises between rhetor and audience.  “Effective persuasion is based on some degree of solidarity, or identification with the audience. We ask students to write persuasively, but we do not help them find community or bring more fully to mind the communities they belong to. Instead we ask them to persuade the class, with whom, from their perspective, they have only accidental relationship. We put them in a situation which can provide them no premises on which to base their arguments” (8).

Okay, then Groppe moves on to say that the “mother lode of premises” is “expressive discourse” [manifestoes, testimonies, prayers, etc] (8).  He goes with James Kinneavy’s view that “expressive discourse is, in a very important sense, psychologically prior to all the other uses of language” (qtd in Groppe 8).  Groppe then asserts that “referential and persuasive forms depend on expressive forms of discourse” (8). LDM – simply because the expressive aspect is where the connection is? the premises are? between rhetor and audience?

So, Groppe continues, we should…
1)    Not avoid prophetic utterances from our students
2)    encourage students to “recover the symbols, ideas, and experiences that underlie” their prophetic utterances (9). LDM – at least one other scholar is saying something similar to this, but can’t think of who it is. I keep thinking of Dively’s thing about getting religious students to examine their “subjectivities.”
3)    NEXT encourage students to “explore the variety of written resources within the tradition of their communities – the meditations, prayers, songs, testimonies and autobiographies, manifestoes, the full range” (9).  They get a better grasp of their own experience and confidence.  LDM – Cf. Montesano and Roen p 87 in Vander Lei.  Cf my own Mdiv experience.

ADVANTAGES TO this pedagogical strategy:
1) All students need “to find and to express the solidarity that they need to write well” and to “explore new situations” (9).
2) BUT ALSO cognitive and intellectual growth: by exploring their own “spiritual roots” (9). LDM AH HA yes.  Cf my MDiv!  Students will discover: a) “exemplary figures” (who lived their faith differently), b) “rich dialectics” – e.g., between apostolic and contemporary. “They will discover history, contingency, and divergence in a non-alienating way that will help them begin to manage the divergence and contingency” (10). YES NICE. Cf Edler.

Groppe concludes:
Religious students  their own rich and varied tradition  1) they explore and write from strength, and 2)they see “similar social-psychological, mythological, intellectual dynamics in new settings”, and 3) the classrooms “may begin to become communites of choice” (10).  LDM – which brings Groppe back to his intro where he talked about religious students expriencing a hostile environment (like Israelites in Babylon).

get at library: Balancing Acts (ed. Anderson et al)

Get Balancing acts : essays on the teaching of writing in honor of William F. Irmscher / edited by Virginia A. Chappell, Mary Louise Buley- Meissner, Chris Anderson from library. See if Anderson’s essay “Descripton of an Embarrassment” is significantly “expanded” (from the ADE version).

PE1404 .B25 1991  AVAILABLE

NOTES ON Lizabeth Rand’s “Enacting Faith: Evangelical Discourse and the Discipline of Composition Studies” (2001)

Discusses Stephen Carter’s complaint in The Culture of Disbelief (that religious devotion / expression is too often trivialized) to lead up to saying “My point is that our own discourse at times trivializes and misrepresents faith-related expression” (350).

Under subheading “Christian Identity and our theoretical assumptions,” (351) Rand discusses a few “questions being raised by religious scholars” (351) – their concerns about postmodern academy…
1)    James Calvin Shaap described the antogonism he experience toward religious faith when he was in grad school and argues that, in Rand’s words, “religion should be considered a difference along with identity markers such as race and sexual orientation” (351).
A)    Then Rand quotes George Marsden saying that attempts at diversity actually lead to “a dreary uniformity” (33, qtd 351).
2)    “Christian scholarship” discusses also concern that perspectivism [relativism] “has come to occupy a privileged and potentially dangerous place in contemporary culture” (351).
a.    Roger Lundin and others “fear that “construction” has replaced “discovery” as the key metaphor to describe the way we make meaning, that truth is no longer considered to be “found” but only “made” by our manipulation of language (and its manipulation of us). 352 […] Rand continues, “Postmodern self leaves no room for a religious conception of truth or ethics” (352). To this Rand simply points out that she agrees that Pmists have sometimes been dismissive but that Xtns have been overly defensive, adding that Lundin doesn’t take into account feminist studies or critical pedagogy – these movements show that we ARE defined by narratives (which Lundin had said we’re not), etc.
3)    Daniel Reynaud asserts an alternative to the either/or of religious belief and contemporary philosophy. 352.  Reynaud argues that “the problem with postmodern theories is that they become all-encompassing: “ 352.  Rand them quotes Reynaud as saying something I’ve often thought: that yes, of course, in the phenomenological world (“this world”), postmodern is right to say that human perception is limited, etc. But that PM misses the possiblity of something absolute beyond our experience. 353.
a.    Reynaud also points out that language isn’t as fluid and variable as PM want to say.
b.    Rand then lists a few questions writing instructors could ask their students, e.g., “How does the struggle to overcome sin affect your life and the decisions you make about yourself and others?” and I wrote in the margin, “Duh. this is an old theological question. It’s as if compositionists are simply asking their Xtn students to think more within their Christian tradition, to become better Christian intellectuals (to be more like ME basically!).

Christian identity and our profession (353)
1)    COMP STUDIES APPLIES EVOLUTIONARY THINKING TO ITS TREATMENT OF THEORIES. New is Good. Rand then discusses Roskelly and Ronald’s Reason to Believe: Romanticism, Pragmatism, and the Possiblity of Teaching (1998) in which “one of the main points of their argument is that because we have embraced evolutionary models of development and change in our theories of learning since the time of Darwin, we continue to take a linear, survival-of-the-fittest approach to the making of knowledge. This approach “relies on replaclement as necessary and desirabley, and on novelty as necessarily more complex, more ‘fit’ – and therefore better” (101)”. (353)  R and R “maintain that the privileging of what is different and somehow “new” always puts theories in competition rather than in conversation with one another” (353).
a)    All this is apparently to support Rand’s contention that composition studies has too often seen evangelical and other religious discourse from students as “outdated” and/or “naïve.” (354).

a)    EXAMPLES of this EVOLUTIONARY THINKING. Rand then describes the many ways in which compositionists have use evangelical language to villify theories it doesn’t like:
1)    HASHIMOTO  AGAINST EXPRESSIVISTS. His “Voice as Juice.” “probably the most vilified group in compo studies, the “expressivists,”…” 354. She discusses Hashimoto’s sarcastic article against expressivism – “Voice as Juice: Some Reservations about Evangelic Compositions” which “goes so far as to say that expressivist teachers are shameless soul-winners” (354).  LDM – Rand quotes Hashimoto as saying that these “voice evangelists” are against the “evils of complexity,” etc. I don’t get that, don’t get how those who emphasize voice and expression are against complexity. Seems they very much are.  Rand questions “whether [Hashimoto] has exmined his own attempts to convert us in his insistence that personal writing generates such a lack of intellectual depth” (354-55).
2)    JOHN CLIFFORD AGAINST CURRENT-TRADITIONALISTS. Clifford, like Hashimoto uses opposite-evangelical language to denigrade current-traditionalists.  He compares current trad teachers to God – “dispensing knowledge and wisdom from a position of absolute authority” (355).  Rand: “A Christian metaphor has been turned against itself, effectively trivalizing the language of born-again conviction and faith itself” (355).
3)    ELLEN CUSHMAN AGAINST the ASSUMPTIONS Of CRITICAL PEDAGOGY. Cushman is concerned about “the movement’s religious talk” and doesn’t want to be “anyone’s savior.” 356.  Rand points to the “Robin Hood” metaphor Cushman uses of activism.  Rand: “…perhaps if we tried to collapse the binary between “rebelliousness” and “religiosity” (even evangelical religiosity), we would find new ways of talking about faith” 356.
4)    LAD TOBIN IDENTIFIES as RELIGIOUS.  Teacher as preacher (or rabbi, in his case). But Tobin also trivializes / disdains evangelicalism: he is “as disdainful of evangelicalism as the next academician” (he says).   Rand: “the assumption that an academician would automatically be disdainful of evangelical faith puzzles me” (357).
a.    TO SUM UP… Rand continues, “I need to be clear that it is not our disapproval of oppressive Christian religious practices that I question: it is the way we call upon metaphors so precious to many devout people. We trivialize faith when we imply that to believe in sin or salvation just isn’t credible or that evangelicalism is so easily dismissed. Our options are then narrowed for thinking about this kind of religious expression in the classroom.”

Christian identity and our classrooms. 357
Compositions have various negative responses to students who write about their Xtn experience: “embarrassment, anger, and a refusal to even consider an essay based on what is termed “dogmatic,” dualistic thought” (357)
1)    JANICE NEULEIB’s description of the AP essay readers, who were “appalled” by such “pious-sounding language” (357)
2)    CHRIS ANDERSON.  CA worries about the unexamined assumptions of his TA (which makes her position somewhat hypocritical); she needs to give religious rhetoric “its due” (13) because describing faith is very difficult.
a.    Rand’s critique: “…although defending the use of religious rhetoric, [CA] makes clear that it must be of a certain type in order to succeed in the secular classroom. According to him, the “testimonial,” “Guideposts magazine type” offered byt eh TA’s student Cathy will certainly fail: “It’s not just the simplicity and superficiality [of such writing] that bother me. I’m bothered more by Cathy’s assumption of authority, however mild, even sweet, which is what I think bothers all of us – not foolishness but foolishness that is unware of itself” (12). Anderson would seem to contradict himself when later he declares that “no kind of lnaguage should be seen as necessarily superior to any other” (13). Granted, he concedes that Cathy’s rhetoric is appropriate in other situations – “a church meeting, in prayer discussions, and so on” (13) – yet that admission seems to count for little. Her “sweet,” “foolish” discourse is good enough only for worship and prayer (and, one would suppose, for Guideposts readers). I understand that as composition instructors we want our students to become more critical and self-aware. But calling their religious expression “superficial” and “sweet” bothers me. Anderson is troubled by the TA’s inability to problematize her own position, yet he appears to repeat the same mistake. He claims to be open to the possiblity of faith-centered discourse but never stops to consider the rather condescending ways he constructs those who identify as Christian” (357-358).
3)    DESCRIPTION of BELIEVERS as “WITNESSES” 358ff
a.    Acts 1:8
b.    Php 2:3-7,9, 2:10-11
c.    Rand is intrigued by the term “witnesses” 359. “Witnessing talk” is the kind of faith-centered discourse about which writing instructors complain most frequently and is the location from which we borrow in our criticism of other theoretical positions within compo studies” 359.
d.    PARALLELS BETWEEN THIS WITNESSING TALK AND OUR OWN FIELD.
1)    SUBJECTIVITY. SELF. CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain. Xtns need to “die daily.” “This need to die daily is, in a manner of speaking, what we as comp scholars encourage in our own students. Social epistemic rhetoricians in particular posit that none of us are “unified subjects” or “autonomous beings” (Berlin, Bizzell, Faigley). They refute the idea of a rational, coherent self fully in control of its own destiny, though, as many theorists have pointed out, the ideology of capitalism promotes such a view of subjectivity: [quote]. (359) Cf Dively.  “Compositionists call for students to “lose” the notion of a unified self (ultimately oppressed because it is distracted from cultivating greater critical awareness) in order to “find” the multiple and partial self (ideally liberated because it is conscious of the reality of social construction): we act as witnesses hoping to convert others to the faith. Our testimonials suggest that we desperately want our students to “get saved” – to get outside themselves so that a life-changing transformation can occur.” 360
2)    PAULO FREIRE. AUGUSTINE. testimonials and bearing witness… to “ongoing struggles for social justice” 360. “For comp studies, evil results from a lack of critical consciousness. It is a remarkably similar conceptualization to that offered by fourth-century rhetorician St Augustine:” [quote from Augustine talking about  how evil takes away our agency.] Original sin = lack of true agency. “Compositionists who testify to the injustice of racism, sexism, and classism draw our attention to outward evils [cf to Aug’s emphasis on inward evils] created by human beings’ inward lack or poverty of imagination and spirit. This lack is strengthened when others are convinced of its logic or inevitability. We typically argue that agency cannot be assert until the self becomes  reflexive enough to gain a “sense of itself” as socially produced in and through language. Only then, it would follow, can one be set free or “born again” in some sense: empowered to resist cultural codes that create suffering and alienation” (361).

Christian identity and the rhetoric of resistance. 361 ff
Stephen Carter also points out that, as Rand says, “the refusal to surrender one’s moral beliefs to the authority of others is finally “a trait that liberal politics should value, not oppose, for it yields precisely the diversity that America needs” (174).
“Religion, rightfully understood, is a subversive force; thus, if writing instructors want to motivate evangelical students to reflect upon faith-centered identity, perhaps we should start from the premise that religious convictions (even those within conservative forms of Xty) are considered by many to be “radical,” and we should frame our questions in more evocative ways”“ (361)
Rand then quotes RUBIN as pointing out that “linguistic resistance does into arise from ignorance of standard forms; to the contrary, maintaining nonstandard forms often entails considerable language awareness” (Rubin 8).

When writing instructors try to makes Xtn students testimonials into something “more sophisticated,” they “failed to recognize that appealing to the transgressive nature of this kind of subjectivity might produce better results.
1)    Chris Anderson “suggests that it is possible to offer a model of a “better, because [it is] more sophisticated, understanding of religious experience” (15), which strikes me as not only somewhat presumptuous but also lacking respect for the deeply intimate and profoundly personal ways that human beings come to make meaning of what is sacred” 362
2)    Ronda Leathers Dively “also concludes that the dualistic quality of much of their discourse must be reshaped into a respectable academic form” 362  Rand wonders specifically about Dively’s assumptions when Dively says “Many [Christians] who have been fed [a] narrow view of subjectivity may perceive themselves as rigidly defined by belief in the tenets of holy scripture and of faith in the existence and saving power of Jesus Christ. …” [LDM I’m not even understanding what Dively is saying here.]  RAND: “I’m troubled by the lingering assumption that we’d naturally think it constrictive for God to be at the center of someone’s universe.” 362
a.    Dively and Anderson assume this submission of one’s will to X leads to a lack of critical thought. 362.  Rand: but this “kind of obedient rhetorical stance is also considered to be transgressive of the established order and therefore reflects people’s ability to think and act for themselves. Evil triumps when the self is compelled to follow worldly teachings that reflect the enslaved ego rather than the bold and daring ways of God” 363 [nice]. [Cf Romans 12]
b.    “Witnessing talk DOES involved a complex interrogation of the self: it can in fact be thought-provoking” 363
PEDAGOGICAL ADVICE
We should ask students…
“to explain how their resistance to mainstream values and culture has shaped their lives and how those outside their immediate faith communites respond to them” 363
Suggestions for writing assignments…
writing about their religious subculture [cf Dodie’s assignment like that]
ethnographic project, interviews…

CONCLUSION
“I do believe we can challenge students to think further about their religious identities.” 364 … to call upon a quote from [Thomas] Newkirk’s book [The Performance of Self in Student Writing], “the spirit of [the invitation that we offer to students remains] critical. It is one thing to demonstrate an alternative – to extend a repertoire; it is another to try to eradicate a ‘lower’ form of consciousness” (102)” 364.

“Comp studies itself preaches  a kind of born-again faith: we want students to get saved and to resist subject positions that discourage critical awarness. For that reason alone we should not view testimonial rhetoric as anti-intellectual or cliché. Perhaps we should invite students to explain why this kind of discourse has had such significance in their lives. We should promite further conversation about evangelical identity and its central importance to many people’s worldview.” 362

NOTES ON Janice Neuleib’s “Spilt Religion: Student Motivation and Values-Based Writing” (1992)

Finally, I’m posting something. Messy notes. But notes, nonetheless.  And I’m typing while standing up — ’cause my hip bursitis is irritated big time — and probably from too much sitting over the last two or three weeks, writing papers and preparing my course.  So I stand. Here I stand.  I can sit no other. ;)

In “Spilt Religion: Student Motivation and Values-Based Writing,” published in Writing on the Edge in 1992, Janice Neuleib suggests that writing instructors would do well to learn how to respond to religious values-based writing from their students in such a way 1) that encourages the student’s self-knowledge / awareness of the sources and implications of her values, 2) that encourages students to tap into the “flow” and “peak experience” that writing about deeply-held values can provide (and which gives power to writing and thought), and 3) that helps students discover the values that “evoke [their] passions and those of [their] readers” (49). Neuleib discusses Csikszentmihalyi (on flow and optimal experience), James Porter (on need for revival of classical notion of ethos), and James Zebroski (on the power of personal values / experience to be used to doubt and question “those above us in the system”) in order to differentiate between more purely philosophical or rational writing/thinking and values-based writing/thinking. They both produce “flow,” but the latter produces “a different level of intellectual excitement” (45).

Basically, Neuleib is saying that we ought to encourage value-based (religious / spiritual) writing in our students and we ought to learn how to respond well to it, because: 1) that kind of writing is where the power is — the power to understand one’s OWN thinking / feeling and the power to tap into one’s audience’s own thinking / feeling, AND to have the strongest impact on the world.

In other words, if we just stick to the “disappassionate and logical” we are “dispossessed of the necessary connections with the compelling experiences that focus and motivate our writing” (46). Cf Crowley.

_____

AP exam essay readers wanted to give essays using religious language “very low score[s]… for lack of reasoning ability” (42). But for Neuleib, religious knowledge (using words such as “Bible” and “sin) = self-knowledge. “When I asked the readers to try submitting language like “through greater self-awareness we can learn about our own responsibilities for the evils that befall us and others and can become depressed by that responsibility, feeling grief and sorry.If, however we take that self-awareness one step further and forgive ourselves our past errors and indiscretions, we can learn to live happier and more fulfilling lives, making use of our sorrows,” they were startled at their decreased irritation” (43).

LDM — if I understand Neuleib correctly, she’s taking a student’s religious conversion narrative — e.g., “I was lost and now I’m found for God saved me” (or somethign like that) — and translating it to say, “I was lost and now I’m found because I figured out how to save myself.” It’s hard to say whether I’ve got her meaning exactly right, though, because Neuleib doesn’t give an example of what she’s translation; she just gives the “translation” (as in the one above).

But this translation method does seem like Neuleib’s effort to enable writing instructors to see beyond what they might disagree with (different values? or different religion? or different language?), in order to see the ideas and reasoning and writing ability of their students.

She continues, “… so we must find approaches that enable us to negotiate the differing terms in which we phrase our values. Though my redefinition of terms might have offended the young writers who wrote passionately of their religious convictions [yes, it probably would], their readers were able to accept the phrases I substituted whereas thsoe readers before refused to consider the socially and politically charged expressions of what to them seemed naive and immature thought” (43).

LDM — well, isn’t one better solution then to enlighten teachers so that they can see mature thought in thought that is not like their own? or to see mature thought in language that is not like their own?

cf. Crowley. …”To be dispassionate and logical is to be dispossessed of the necessary connections with the compelling experiences that focus and motivate our writing” (46).

Neuleib draws on Jim Porter’s call for revival of ETHOS [“Values are rooted in experiences and our interpretations of those experiences. The writer / rhetor can only discover and interpret those values by writing through the issues that deeply move and motivate and, i would add, by doing so invigorate the writing experience itself”] and James Zebroski’s “six ways in which he continues to interrogate his own teaching… [doubt, resistance, skepticism, “study up” anthropology, literacy and power as public issues, and narrative]. Neuleib describes her experience being a “table leader” at an English examination, the way her graders wanted to grade down students who used religious language [to a question that ask a basically religious question! in this case], and the way in which her advice to them to translate the students religious language / phrases with “self-awareness” and “personal knowledge” enabled the readers “to see the writer as a person with an idea that might qualify for a middle score” (43).

RELIGION, EMOTION, and FLOW. Neuleib draws on Csikszentmihalyi’s to remind us of the importance of emotion in good writing, in “flow” (44).  “He found that writers in English classes unfortunately do not often epxerience such conditions [wherein self-consciousness disappears, concentration intsense, excellent flow…]. I would speculate that the rules against emotionally-packed expression in school might inhibit students’ discovery that writing can produce optimal experience” (44).  Neuleib then goes on to distinguish between the flow produced by philosophical and value questions, the latter providing a “different level of intellectual excitment” (45).

“VALUES VERSUS VISIONS”.  “I think that the readers at my table responded negatively to student AP writers who talked about Jesus because both the readers and writers had confused rules with values and routine with ritual, perhaps because we are unsure of our values and have so few really effective rituals in our culture.  To return once again to Csikszentmihalyi, optimal religious experience tends to be lacking in our culture, except perhaps at rock concerts, symphonies, or among the few mystics experiencing the mythic power of ritual. Since we have little experience of the ritualistic ecstacy, Csil.. describes in other cultures, we tend to see religion either as keeping the social order or as comforting (or boring, depending on one’s perspective) repetition” (46).  […] “I want to meet students where they stand on values but move them toward a perspective that can enrich both their writing and their ability to articulate the sources of their values” (46).

NOTES ON Moffett, “Censorship and Spiritual Education” (1989/1990)

Moffett, “Censorship and Spiritual Education” (1989/1990)

Moffett argues that true spiritual education (that which enables one to rest in the oneness behind the plurality of things) is the best model to use for literacy education, education which, more specifically, encourages exposure to the universe of discourses, texts, and voices — with little or no controlling that exposure by teachers.

M beings by defining spirituality in contrast to religion and morality. The latter have to do with group meaning; the former with “perception of oneness behind the plurality of things” (113).

M then describes a textbook controversy that took place in 1974 in West Virginia. Protestors feared losing their children to outside influences. “They believe that most topics English teachers think make good discussion are about matters they consider already settled” (114).

M points out that the “real enemy” is the “outsider,” because outsiders attack authority in general. Then M simply says that it’s easy to make a connection between attacking authority and attacking the nuclear family.  He then provides examples of two pieces of literature that censors claimed showed parents as failures: Gina Berriault’s short story “The Stone Boy,” and Oscar Lewis’ The Children of Sanchez. 114

Censors feared also that Christ himself was being attacked. M says censors were upset with poems that, as M states it, “try to make Christ real to today’s secular readers” (115).  These include T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magic” which is called “mocking and blasphemous.”

Censors feared also attacks on the state. In his own program, M was using or planning on using transcripts of testimony from Vietnam vets. These censors thought to make students feel guilty (!). M then points to the way in which the censors were trying to avoid self-examination, and then points to psychological research on “authoritarian or dogmatic personalities” which points to the way in which these personalities are accompanied by “anti-intraception” or fear of inwardness (115). [LDM – hence also why personal writing, or even process writing, any self-aware writing can be so helpful.]

But M goes on to say that “Know thyself” is the “supreme tenet of spiritual education” (116). [LDM cf Augustine?]

The censors would calls personal or self knowledge “invasion of privacy.”  Which in turn, says M, the censors connect to “morbidity and negativity which, if denied in oneself, becomes targets in books” (116).  [LDM VERY INTERESTING POINT, and one no one else I’ve read has made]

M then lists five pieces of literature that one censor listed and gave reasons for rejecting: They include Alfred Noyes, Kipling, Poe, Jack London. For example, “”Danny Deaver,” Rudyard Kipling – Poem concerning a military hanging” (116) or “To Build a Fire,” Jack London – A man freezes to death” (116).

M then points out that the “case the censors make differs not a great deal from Plato’s reason for banishing the poets. Dwelling on Barth’s “bad news” just keeps you down. Why not keep fixed on the good news, gospel, the word of God?” (116). IN other words, we become what we think about (so the sayings go).

But M reminds us that literary artists try to WORK as good news “even though it may be wrought from the bad news of self-examination and other worldly realities, because they feel the transformative effect of the imagination.  In its secular way literature tries to act as gospel. But if read shallowly, both holy writ and literature can be dangerous, because their rhetorical power and spellbinding stories can attach readers even more to surface forms than they already are” (116). GOOD REMINDER.

M then spends a couple paragraphs developing his claim that “schools will become spiritual to the extent that they reduce manipulation” (117).  Otherwise we “infantalize” students. [cf Salman Rushdie’s use of that word in “Imagine There’s No Heaven…”]

—– > put students “in a stance of responsible decision making and in an unplanned interaction with other people” (117)
1)    drop textbooks. Use trade books. [LDM find where I saw someone else saying that – check eng 588 notes]
2)    “go strongly for” individual and small group reading
3)    no syllabi. Instead a classroom library
— >because “Any specific presenting and sequencing of texts… shorts circuits the learning process and undermines the will of the student” (117). (emphasis in original) [LDM Counter to some of what we discussed in 588 – re the need to sequence texts in ways that promote intertextuality, etc]

“Pluralism is central to this process because spirituality depends on widening the identity” (117).  And knowing = identifying

We need to expose students to:
    all kinds of discourse
    all heritages
    all kinds of voices

[LDM but M doesn’t talk about making these assumptions explicit in the classroom Cf Bizzell.]

M then contrasts his now-developed concept of spiritual education with its opposite: AGNOSIS (118).  Agnosis is the “not wanting to know” that happens when our sense of selves as individuals and groups fear learning anything “that will disturb such identifications” (118). “Agnosis is self-censorship.” 118

[whole paragraph] “Creek preachers aren’t the only ones afraid of reading and writing. We all are, and that is the real reason that reading and writing have proved inordinately difficult to teach. Literacy is dangerous and has always been so regarded. It naturally breaks down barriers of time, space, and culture. It threatens one’s original identity by broadening it through vicarious experiencing and the incorporation of somebody else’s hearth and ethos. So we feel profoundly ambiguous about literacy. Looking on it as a means of transmitting our culture to our children, we give it priority in education, but, recognizing the threat of its backfiring, we make it so tiresome and personally unrewarding that youngsters won’t want to do it on their own, which is when it becomes dangerous. This is an absurd state of affairs, but it is a societal problem going beyond schools alone to the universal fear of literacy – a fear based on ethnocentricity – and to the educational goal of transmitting the culture” (188).

M then asserts that really we worry too much about transmitting culture – because culture is “caught, not taught” (118).  So, basically, “if we pulled out all the stops on literacy, quit fearing it, and gave it to youngsters wholeheartedly for personal inquiry, we would produce a nation of real readers who would be far more familiar with great books than they are today. Overcontrolling the content of reading, writing, and discussing has the same effect as censorship. Let’s not castigate those bigots over there if we’re doing our own version of the same thing” (188).

“The world is warring right and left because the various cultures strive so intently to perpetuate themselves that they end by imposing themselves on each other. These lethal efforts to make others like oneself burlesque the expanded identity that would make possible real global unity. The secret of war is that nations need enemies to maintain definition, because differences define” (118-119).

M ends by kind of philosophizing or theologizing that the reason cultures HAVE religions or anything (like “great books”) that tries to transcend its own (cultural) exclusivity is because that exclusivity is so dangerous [and M must think cultures are at least somewhat self-conscious of that danger].  “Actually, I think the deepest spiritual teachings in all cultures have tried to achieve this goal but, in doing so, seem subversive, which is why they had to go underground, where historians rarely find them. If schools [as opposed to religions? or spiritual traditions?] took on the transcending of cultural conditioning, it would hardly mean more than fulfilling the already professed goal of teaching the young to think for themselves” (119).

But, he points out, “truly free inquiry” always conflicts with the goal of “cultural transmission and identity maintenance” and so “we have sabotaged our own noble aim” (119).   He ends by saying “If we educate youngsters to transcend their heritage, they will be able to transform it…” (199).