Religion & Ethics Newsweekly Offers Innovative Web Site Course On Teaching Religion

October 7, 2004

The project is supported by a matching grant given by program funder Lilly Endowment Inc. in an effort to extend the reach of the weekly broadcast, which is distributed to PBS stations on Fridays at 5 p.m. ET (check local listings).

Based on the Colgate University course entitled “Religion and the Quest for Meaning,” the video represents an innovative example of how to teach about world religions using the news – particularly the role that TV, radio, newspapers and other media can play in the classroom. The Web site course not only features classroom footage shot on location in
2003-2004 and augmented by the course description, syllabus, and exam questions, but also includes bonus interviews with Colgate professors Christopher Vecsey and Timothy Byrne who talk about the role religion plays in politics and politics in religion; how they integrate reading the news into teaching about world religions; what students learn from the course about their own religious traditions and how people around the world define their lives in religious terms.

In the first part of the course, students use the pages of The New York Times – from op-ed articles to Art & Leisure stories – as their source for a wide-ranging discussion focusing on the topic of Judaism, including perspectives on anti-Semitism, relations between Muslims and Jews, the concept of sacred space, and the connection between religion and the arts. In Part 2, students continue their study of Judaism by discussing examples from the news that address the diversity of Jewish experience, what it means to be a Jew, religious observance in Judaism, comparisons between Judaism and Islam, and the role that interpretation and conflict play in religion itself and also in news coverage of religion. And, in the last part of the course, students are given the opportunity to meet with New York Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein to ask questions about reporting on religion, especially the issue of covering religion after Sept. 11 and what makes religion a news story.

Additional resources for elementary, middle and high school teachers, including lesson plans, teaching tips, a detailed list of resources and a downloadable Viewer’s Guide that features a selection of essays on topics covered in the weekly program, are also available on the RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY Web site.

RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY is recognized as a leading broadcast resource for major stories and news coverage on the importance of religion in shaping both national and international events. Shirley Ragsdale with the Des Moines Register writes “The show has become something of a blueprint for how to accurately report on religion.” And Adelle Banks with Religion News Service says the program “provides an important source of information to members of the general public who may not understand the nuances of the religious world that it reveals.”
Executive editor and host is Bob Abernethy. Executive producer is Arnold Labaton. Major funding is provided by Lilly Endowment Inc. with additional support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Mutual of America Life Insurance Company.

For more information, contact:
Mary Schultz