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ERIC Number: EJ1097625
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Silenced by Religion: Reflections on Situations from College English
Johnson, Margaret E.
CEA Forum, v37 n1 Win-Spr 2008
The social constructivist and cultural studies bent of so many writing and rhetoric classes emphasizes inclusivity, encouraging students to share their ideas and to broaden their understanding of a range of cultural concerns. Most often, the students professors strive to include are those from ethnic subcultures that have been historically marginalized, and their work as instructors assists in the creation of more progressive learning experiences. What happens, however, when the population that is in need of voice is one that sometimes resists these diverse, inclusive tendencies? About 50% of the student population at the public university where Margaret Johnson works are members of the same religion--a specific Christian denomination. Many students from this particular religious group who attend the university often assume that instructors and other students might have a negative response to their particular religious beliefs, due mainly to their understanding (or misunderstanding) of academic expectations. Conscious of the marginalization of their beliefs in the larger academic world, these students usually refrain from making comments in class that would indicate their particular religious orientation. Working to develop a serious academic identity is difficult for all students, but when students with strong religious identities work to alter their public identity for the college classroom, the process of identity formation becomes particularly challenging. What challenges instructors, though, is working with students whose identities are in flux, who are learning how much to share about themselves and how much to hold back. In encouraging their students to share their personal experiences, including religious ones, in classroom contexts--through discussion and writing--it seems instructors are potentially achieving the free and open participation of each student and the validation of each student's experience and beliefs, though at the same time placing students in moments of potential conflict or discomfort. In this article, Johnson discusses the effects of this conflict on students, both those who subscribe to a common religion and those who do not, and on their work in class, and she addresses the challenges of developing an effective inclusive classroom within such an academic environment. Though some of the circumstances she shares in this article may be specific to her university, the issues they raise are relevant to any academic institution located where a large part of the population belongs to a common religious organization.
Descriptors: Student Diversity, Religion, Religious Factors, College Students, Student Participation, Identification (Psychology), College English, Teaching Methods, Classroom Environment, Writing Instruction
College English Association. Web site: http://www.cea-web.org
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Idaho
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A