Explore the Religious Worlds of New York, and the Religious Lives of Your Diverse Neighbors
The religious landscape of the United States has shifted dramatically in recent years, with the arrival of new Americans from every corner of the globe and every faith tradition. If America's K-12 students are to become truly educated, engaged citizens of our multicultural democracy, they need to understand this rich religious diversity. The Religious Worlds of New York summer institute contributes to such understanding by helping public, private, and parochial school teachers teach more effectively about the everyday lives of American religious communities.
This website introduces teachers to the Religious Worlds institute and offers them a range of resources for classroom teaching, in order to enrich the study of religious diversity in American schools.
The Religious Worlds institute is a project of the Interfaith Center of New York and Union Theological Seminary, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It brings teachers from throughout the United States to New York City, where they work with leading scholars of religion, meet with a wide range of religious leaders, visit a number of houses of worship, conduct field research in a religiously diverse neighborhood, and develop their own religious diversity curriculum projects. Through this combination of classroom- and community-based education, the institute introduces teachers to American religious diversity, helps them distinguish between academic and devotional approaches to the study of religion, and gives them the pedagogic tools they need to teach about contemporary lived religion, in addition to the conventional world religions curriculum. The institute met for the first time in July of 2012, and received overwhelmingly positive evaluations from participants (click here to read a few). We hope to offer the institute again in the summer of 2013 and beyond -- ideally on an annual basis.
America's K-12 schools can play a vital role in fostering interfaith understanding. But unfortunately, too many teachers are unprepared to teach effectively, appropriately, and constitutionally about contemporary religious diversity. As a result, too many students learn little more than the basic facts, dates, and doctrines of major religious traditions. This superficial form of religious literacy does not prepare our students to participate in the civic life of a pluralistic society. Our students need to learn the doctrines of major world religions, but much more than that they need to learn about the religious lives of their diverse neighbors. They need an academically grounded engagement with the social realities of contemporary religious communities. They need to know how their experiences of American society may be radically different -- and not so different at all -- from the experiences of their peers living in different religious worlds.
The Religious Worlds of New York summer institute will help teachers and students explore the everyday life of American religious diversity. The institute will thus help to transform the study of religion in American schools, and empower a new generation of Americans to bridge the divides between their religious worlds.