Reza Aslan, Islam, and the Cultural Studies Approach to Teaching about Religion

(What this title lacks in pith it makes up for in accuracy.)

Reza Aslan is a historian of religions who happens also to be a Muslim. While these two identities can lead to confusion in certain members of the media (see this interview here), those matters are not the primary focus of this post. Instead, I want to use a recent interview Aslan did with CNN to illustrate the ways in which he utilizes a cultural studies approach to Religious Studies. Continue reading

Four Noble Truths Lesson Plan, Part One

4NT in Tibetan

Or, Why 2×2 is greater than 4

The Four Noble Truths are at the heart of the Buddha’s teaching. In fact, all subsequent teachings – be they by him or by any other Buddhist teacher – fit somewhere into this fourfold structure. For years, I had presented them in a list, but more recently – especially as I’ve worked to make these ideas clearer to my 6th graders – I’ve been organizing them differently. And, as a result, the students seem to understand the underlying logic and structure of these ideas better than they might have.

There’s also the fact that I rename one of the truths. (I will have to hope the Buddha understands.) Continue reading

Dharma: The First Lesson

A previous post has some thoughts on the idea of dharma and its importance within Hinduism and Hindu ethics. This post will sketch out a lesson plan I do with students in the hopes of introducing them to this complex idea.

At the start of class, I make a drawing on the board with four columns, asking the students to copy it into their notes. Then I ask them to think of 5-10 examples (depending on age of the students) of responsibilities for each of the following individuals. Usually I go with something like these four:

You [The students] | Mr. H [me] |   Your Dentist  |  President Obama/Head of School*

Continue reading