Inquiry or doctrine

Gargi Bhattacharyya considers the relationship between education and religion.

Universities in this country broadly champion secular ideals. Whatever the circumstances of their formation, higher education institutions value their independence from state and church (and temple and mosque and synagogue and gurdwara). This is part of what we think universities are – spaces of free debate and enquiry, free from the strictures of doctrinal thought. According to this view, good education cannot belong to any one tradition. There is no benefit to being taught among people like yourself, in fact this is a disadvantage to the interrogatory processes of higher education…There may be unspoken norms, but broadly, doctrinal thought is frowned upon and is considered insufficient to a proper education.

There it is again, as with the Edwards piece, Group A and Group B, rational inquiry versus unfalsifiable dogma. (Merlijn and John M point out that there are religious people who as Merlijn put it ‘have a certain degree of critical distance between them and their beliefs’ – religious people who are not dogmatic and who do value rational inquiry and belong to Group A rather than B, or perhaps to Group C. A fair point. Not all religious people are dogmatic. But to the extent that they’re not, their allegiance isn’t really to Group B. They’re not so much an exception to Group B as they are members of Group A with some B inclinations. In short, we can consider them as part of Group A if they like, because any dogmatic beliefs they are loyal to or fond of, are safely bracketed and/or put in question. The opposition remains the same. The point is not so much how to allocate all religious people, as it is how to think about doctrinal thought as doctrinal thought.) Good education, as Bhattacharyya says, needs ‘ interrogatory processes’ rather than doctrinal thought. Just so.

[T]he ideal of the university as a place of free thought is not a bad model for understanding how people might learn things…[T]he university ideal suggests that the most important thing in relation to education is access – to learning resources, to informed and inspiring teaching, to a variety of ideas and ways of thinking and to a mixed and unpredictable bunch of others who are all curiously trying to learn as well…The catch is that all must learn to hear and consider unfamiliar and, perhaps, unpalatable views and beliefs, not because becoming educated demands adherence to any particular view, but because becoming equipped to contemplate all views is what makes you educated.

Which is why ‘faith’ education is not education but something else.

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