Beliefs and Education Is religious belief a contributing factor to success in education? It’s a difficult concept to measure, but worth thinking about because religious beliefs pre-date inquiry by reason or science, which are recent channels for human learning. With careful examinations, the range of religion’s influence can be established, shedding light on whether religion really makes better students. The writer Darren Sherkat does not find a direct relationship between religion and college excellence, yet consents that indirectly many factors could be at play where it has influence.
Of these, the most profound is if religion can quell the human anxiety which Richard Miller describes in his essay “The Dark Night of the Soul” – an anxiety which he argues may be the intellectual consequence of the educational system itself. Many factors can influence students: how couldn’t it be, with the ever-growing cultural, intellectual and geographic diversity of college campuses? However difficult it may be to pinpoint solitary benefits attained through religion but several can be argued. For example, “Alcohol and substance abuse is the top predictor of negative ducational outcome. (Sherkat). Alcohol as well as any substance abuse goes directly against most conventional religious and moral codes. As the Bible tells us, “Enw, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these, I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. “(Galatians 5:21). Demographic data also show that religious students tend to be “older, often married, more likely to have children as well as working outside of school”(Sherkat 2), factors which all happen to correspond to better academic performance.
Both behavioral nd demographic factors statistically benefit religious students, but an even more profound impact may have been found by Richard Miller. Richard Miller writes that there is an “inescapable fact that the hierarchical, exclusionary environment of mandatory schooling fosters feelings of rage and helplessness that cannot be contained. The law drives everyone into the schoolhouses; the educational system then sifts and sorts its way through the masses raising expectations and crushing dreams as it goes. Eventually something has to give. “(Miller 422).
These ideas of rage and helplessness are the premise for his dark night of the soul” which he believes affects Just about every student to some degree. It’s a form of desperate anxiety which can motivate rash and harmful responses from people. Another underlying cause for the dark night can be that we “live in an Informative age and all the information is telling us that whatever we have done, we are doing and whatever we plan to do will never have any lasting significance”. With such a loss for self-worth, many a student may find struggling with the SAT’s a pointless task.
The oldest response to the “Dark Night of the Soul” nd its corresponding helplessness is found in the great books is faith. Faith which has been established in the student may counter educational anxiety to perform. Confirmation of this is found in Ms. Barbara Walvoord’s study of Introductory Theology and Religion courses in sixty six public and private institutions. She found that “Over one half of students identified their ‘own spiritual development’ as essential, or very important, goals in taking their course. ” This makes spiritual classes peculiarly attractive to students who seek answers from them, or at least some oundation of truth.
Rene Descartes searched for this foundation of truth, and at a moment of true despair he is said by Miller to state, “The only way out of this bleak environment that is haunted by malice demons and illusionary reports of the senses is to posit the existence of a firm foundation which… Descartes designated 434). Thus we can recognize the ubiquitous search for the will to know, to believe, and to understand. The religious believer submits his will toa greater power than the mind, the responsibility of creation, and strips the burden of complete uncertainty from them.
It’s reasonable to assume any reduction in anxiety could relax a mind for greater learning. Learning occurs in a social environment. “We need some ways to relate to each other as human beings, we need to work on getting connected”(421 Miller). Religious students are excellent at Just that getting connected – notice the TV ads for the Christian Mingle website, and the way true believers of Islam, Christianity, and Jewish traditions tend to stick together for their own good: “Religious activities provide basis for social support outside of home, thus combating the loneliness and isolation which an lead to health problems”(Darren Sherkat 2).
People can draw a sense of belonging from religious affiliation, having a sense of community which keeps them connected. Believers form a community which accepts each member with a common passion for their faith. They feel an acceptance and identity which turns strangers into brothers and sisters – way more than fraternities and sororities do. In an impersonal, demanding world like a big university or school, which can make students feel “insignificant”, such an institution of acceptance love must give pause: maybe it is helping religious believers academically.
Simply acknowledging the wide variety between the deities which have been worshipped throughout history demonstrates the human yearning for an explanation for existence and by association: a purpose. While a clear explanation or philosophy of purpose is not readily agreed by the human species, those who believe they possess such a purpose may have less anxiety than those who do not. Subjectively, religious people claim spiritual fulfillment, and that satisfaction is what needs to be understood when talking about academics. Religiosity may also be a mayor hindrance to learning.
Religious dogma may close the mind. Who hasn’t heard of the long scientifically shattered literal Biblical story of the world being thousands of years old? Who has not sided with Galileo when he has to apologize to the Pope that he is in error teaching that the earth orbits the sun instead of vice versa? Descartes is said by Miller to have “contributed to the large effort to liberate reason from the prison of religious dogma”. The rigid religious dogmas which prevailed until only a few centuries ago, and which some people still adhere too, may be significant obstacles to learning, and curiosity. oung fundamentalists are convinced that they know the Truth’ and that perspectives which deviate from the scripted narratives of their tradition are not only false, but potentially heretical. Critical argumentation about issues in politics, history, ethics, or sociology is difficult for fundamentalist Christians, since they believe that Biblical pronouncements are not only necessary explanations, but also sufficient. This orientation is particularly problematic in a context where 75% of college professors view the Bible as a book of fables (Ecklund & Scheitle 2005)” “(Darren Sherkat 4).
Intellectual knots arise when a student clings to beliefs as the only truth, especially in an institution of learning where Socratic questioning and the scientific method are the respected channels for learning. The “Dark Night of the Soul” is a poem in the 16th century by St. John of the Cross. The poem describes the struggle faithful Christians undergo when their faith is tested. In the modern university context, this struggle may get little respect no less relief from the environment. The religious student is alone. Yet by providing students with a firm foundation to rely on and to dimish the anxiety of the “Dark
Night of the Soul,” religion may be very helpful for students. The confident religious student may save precious energy on the existential struggle and focus on the subject at hand, which could lead to better academics. Works Cited – Sherkat, Darren E. “Religion and Higher Education: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. ” – Http://religion. ssrc. org/reforum/sherkat. pdf. N. p. , 6 Feb. 2007. Web. – Shaw, Brian M. , Hannah Bayne, and Sonya Lorelle. “A Constructivist Perspective For Integrating Spirituality Into Counselor Training. ” -Galen, Luke W. “Does Religious
Belief Promote Prosociality? A Critical Examination. ” Psychological Bulleti, 2012. Web. – Smith, Brian H. “Teaching The Devout Student: Faith And Scholarship In The Classroom. ” Teaching Theology & Religion 16. 2 (2013): 132-149. ERIC. web. 26 NOV. 2013. – BIG COLLEGES SEEN AS LOSING RELIGION: Christian Education IS NOW Taught Only at Smaller Places, Dr. Cline Says. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N. Y] 30 Mar 1936: 15. – Religion Held Part of Rounded Education Similar to Politics, Business or Industry New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N. Y] 01 Feb 1954: 26.