Education About Asia: Online Archives

Getting the Foundations Right When Teaching Asian Religions

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For teachers seeking resources to instill greater global literacy on world religions, it is the best of times and the worst of times. Cultural diversity in American schools is increasing, and the number of Hindu temples, mosques, and Buddhist meditation centers is rising. Because of popular media, references to Hindu gods, Daoist geomancy, or Buddhist karma teachings no longer seem exotic. Yet much information about Asian religions, whether promulgated by mass media or local practitioners, can be problematic to contextualize. Pernicious or idealizing stereotypes abound, and fringe groups(e.g., Hindu nationalists, new religions, New Age sects) aggressively try to cast their sectarian views as mainstream. Parents of students may impart idiosyncratic or distorted information as well. Well-intentioned educators must sort through all of this when teaching Asian religions….The essay that follows, based upon topics teachers have found most useful in my programs, is an attempt to provide such a foundation.