‹ speculatio pauperis in deserto

Tags / teaching

Jan 15, 2024
One of the particular challenges of teaching theology today—even to students who have some religious background—is the utter lack of theological formation most people in the United States receive. Some students may come in with some religious formation, in that they have participated in their church’s faith formation classes or even theology classes in a religious high school, but that formation tends to be more catechetical than theological. To oversimplify, catechesis provides a student with a religious community’s answers to theological questions, but it does not always provide the rationale for those answers.
Clarkson University announces plan to phase out majors in humanities, communications. [Kelly] Chezum [Clarkson’s vice president for external relations] said the university has always been focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The nine majors being phased out — social documentation, history, literature, sociology, film, political science, digital arts and sciences, communications and media, and interdisciplinary liberal studies and humanities — represent less than 2% of students. Very often when programs in the humanities are cut, the cuts are justified—explicitly or not—by pointing out how few students will be affected by these cuts.
(Well, not quite Theology 101; rather, Theology & Franciscan Studies 101, which isn’t exactly an intro to theology.) I’m finally getting close to a “final form” for my sections of “The Way of Francis & Clare.” The course schedule, including reading assignments, is mostly set, but what’s really tied together the entire course is the integration of a service learning project throughout the semester. Throughout the semester, students take what they learn about Franciscan values to design, plan, & implement a service project that does some good for the local community.
How to teach a course on Francis & Clare of Assisi?1 The 101 class offered by the Department of Theology & Franciscan Studies at St. Bonaventure University is titled “The Way of Francis & Clare.” This course aims to introduce students to the Franciscan roots that underlie the mission & values of SBU by a semester-long study of the lives & writings of Francis & Clare. Teaching such a course is not without its challenges.