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Religious Literacy Project
The Religious Literacy Project, headed by Diane Moore, is a new initiative begun in 2011 that will enable Harvard Divinity School to continue its nearly four decades of leadership in religious studies and education in the United States.
As a successor to the Program in Religious Studies and Education (a ground-breaking teacher-education program within HDS, founded in 1972), the Religious Literacy Project (RLP) will be a virtual resource and research center housed at the Center for the Study of World Religions. Its primary aim will be to create and maintain resources designed primarily for public-school teachers and their students that will promote a better understanding of the religious dimensions of multiculturalism in civic life.
The project is based on three premises:
- There exists a widespread illiteracy about religion that spans the globe;
- One of the most troubling and urgent consequences of this illiteracy is that it often fuels prejudice and antagonism, thereby hindering efforts aimed at promoting respect for pluralism, peaceful coexistence, and cooperative endeavors in local, national, and global arenas; and
- It is possible to diminish religious illiteracy by teaching about religion from a nonsectarian perspective in primary and secondary schools utilizing a cultural studies methodology.
The initial resources will be created to supplement and enhance commonly used textbooks that introduce religion at the middle and secondary levels in world history and world civilizations courses. Other resources will be developed to supplement and enhance English and world literature courses, highlighting commonly taught texts with significant religious themes or dimensions. A third set of resources will focus on teaching sacred texts, including, but not limited to, the Bible. A fourth will be case studies of significant historical events involving religious issues, and a fifth will provide resources for educators to understand and teach about contemporary issues related to religion.
In addition to the content resources outlined above, the RLP will also generate and publicize relevant research regarding religion and education, with a special emphasis on the relationship between literacy about religion and civic and moral education in a global world.
The Religious Literacy Project will function in tandem with the Certificate in Religious Studies and Education program that is jointly sponsored by Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Extension School. This program targets in-service teachers, who can earn the certificate by taking courses through the Extension School that offer them the content and skills required to teach about religion in constitutionally sound and educationally innovative ways in their K-12 classrooms. The certificate is available for distance learners as well as those who reside in the greater Boston area.
Construction of the Religious Literacy Project website will begin during the 2011-12 academic year and be launched in a series of stages over the next three years. Diane Moore, who teaches part-time at both HDS and Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, will head the project, which is made possible through a generous donation from Bruce McEver, MTS '11.