Preface

Photograph of the Earth taken on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17
If you do much surfing on the web, you know that most religious sites are static and boring, that is, they have a lot of text and expect the person reading to just absorb the given point of view. Even the sites that are dedicated to education are often just text, text, and more text. These sites usually reflect what Brazilian educational theorist Paulo Freire has called "the banking concept of education."

In "the banking concept of education," you and I have brains that are like empty piggy banks and a teacher just deposits information into our brains and then we make withdrawals from this "bank" when we need a certain fact, skill, or value.

Freire believes that this is a way to make learners passive and, in fact, slaves to whomever organizes the deposited information. In his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, he presents this concept and begins to develop new ways of educating that encourage learners to interact with and become masters of knowledge rather than merely storehouses of facts. Freire, although an educator, is teaching the basics of what scholars of religion call Liberation Theology.

Another educator, bell hooks, (aka Gloria Watkins) has written several books which also address the idea that education and the organization of knowledge is often a coercive and dehumanizing activity. Her best known book, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, demonstrates the danger of this passive style of learning and then leads the reader to consider more interactive methods. She demonstrates the liberating effect of more interactive learning especially for women, African-Americans, and sexual minority persons.

On this site I will work to follow the critique of Freire and hooks and demonstrate that religious education can be engaging, interactive, and ultimately liberating. I will also follow the lead of Howard Gardner who in his book Frames of Mind demonstrates that all learners have what has come to be known as multiple intelligences or ways of absorbing and processing information. No one always learns best by sitting in a lecture, and everyone benefits through the use of a variety of kinds of information presentation. Some people learn through movement, some learn through discussion, some learn through music and so on. I will attempt in this project to use a wide sampling of the technologies and methodologies that are currently available on the internet to do education that forces/permits the learners to interact with the lesson and find the lesson a source of liberation.

The subject I have chosen is spirituality. This will be taught so as to be useful to persons from a variety of religions, ethnicities, and nationalities. I am working from the belief that spirituality is something that we all possess and have the ability to encourage in ourselves even those of us who do not believe in or practice any organized religion. I am presenting spirituality as a way of engaging with and being mindful of the world and our relationships within it. I am presenting spirituality as a way of experiencing the world.

My belief going into this class is that healthy spirituality is not captive to material values or social expectations. All of us can benefit from practices that help us relate to our selves, our neighbors, and our environment in ways that honor who, what, and why we exist. Spirituality covers everything from prayer and meditation to massage and sports, from music and art to laughter and the smell of your Mom's kitchen.

If you would like to read an academic article explaining this project with all its academic and theological justification and jargon you can do so here.

These pages are freely offered to anyone who finds them useful. If you have the time, I'd love to hear what you've been able to use of this material and how you integrated it into your curriculum. Additionally, if you find errors in the coding or in the text, please let me know at stu@stusmith54.com.

You're welcome to link to these pages, or, if you're technologically inclined, you're welcome to cut and paste this code into your own website. All I ask is that you link back here and that you respect my desire to keep these supplementary materials available without charge to everyone.

Stu Smith
Chicago, Illinois
January 22, 2001