October 22 2018

by Linh Hoang, Siena College

Pie chart displaying religious affiliation of Asian Americans v. the general US population

“I am nervous going into the temple.”

“I am not sure what to do.”

“What if I make a mistake?”

These statements were uttered by my students as we entered the Hindu Temple Society of the Capital District of New York. The five students had not been in a temple before, knew very little to nothing about Hinduism, and I had presented only a brief introduction on Hinduism during the second week of the semester. When we entered the temple, we immediately saw a sign instructing us what to do. This put many of the students at ease as they proceeded to follow the posted instructions.

by Ronald Y. Nakasone, Graduate Theological Union

Pie chart displaying religious affiliation of Asian Americans v. the general US population

When offering a course on Buddhist art and aesthetics at the Graduate Theological Union, I always include a session on the art of sho (calligraphy), a major genre in East Asian culture that is still practiced among the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans in the United States. The three-hour session begins with a brief introduction to the history of calligraphy, the varieties of brush, paper, and ink, and most importantly, the pedagogical strategy of transmitting the art and aesthetics of line and space that are employed to write Chinese ideograms and Korean and Japanese syllabary. The remainder of the class is devoted to demonstrating select aesthetic qualities present in different Chinese and Japanese calligraphy samples. Subsequently, students are given the opportunity to hold the brush and write characters and syllabic forms. Lines and space formed by a soft brush cannot be appreciated unless one experiences the use of the soft brush.

by Brett J. Esaki, Central Michigan University

Pie chart displaying religious affiliation of Asian Americans v. the general US population

Colleagues have often suggested that I open class with popular culture in order to excite students for what comes next. However, I would caution that though this may seem like an unproblematic way to drive and to sustain student interest in historical, complex, or foreign course material, popular culture can upset and alienate students. Based on my experience teaching American art and popular culture, I understand that there will be students who react defensively to the material based on personal commitments, which is not unlike the majority of religious studies classrooms. Issues of race are also part of my courses on the religions and arts of American ethnic minorities, and these issues can make this challenging reaction more acute. I have devised a scaffold for my courses so as to calm student defensiveness and harness some of the emotions for student learning.

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