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Monday, March 10, 2008

Religion in the Writing Center

This is a topic I have tried to give some some thought to for quite some time, but I never seem to get anyway with it. I'm hoping perhaps someone can offer some insight or possibly lead me to an article somewhere.

My writing center seems to attract people with a very wide, and by no means mainstream, religious spectrum. All of our current "senior tutors" have a different religious affiliation (atheist, Pagan, Christian, and Jewish). We are all aware of each other's beleifs, and sometimes we discuss them, but we never talk about ways our religions may play into our work as tutors. What seems to bond us is the shared beleif in doing good work here on earth, in making that direct one-on-one impact, but also that sense of tolerance, if not respect, for each other's faiths.

Maybe this all stems from attending a liberal arts univeristy, where "tolerance" and "diversity" are the buzzowrds of the day. Maybe we just got lucky in my writing center and things worked out this way. I don't know. But it isn't just this current batch of tutors; I know we've had a religiously diverse tutoring staff in the recent past as well.

So what about your writing centers? Does religion come up at all? and if so, how? Are tutors generally from diverse religious backgrounds, or do they represent the basic religious make-up of your campus? And taking this into the theory-based side of writing center work, does our pedagogy influence this diversity, promoting or marginlaizing it? Should it?

4 comments:

  1. Really interesting questions, Andrew. I've never really thought about how religion plays into sessions and into the Center. I really have no idea what the religious beliefs of the tutors in our center are--I guess that it's never really come up.

    I have, though, met with writers and worked on highly religious pieces. I don't believe that my personal beliefs has ever affected a consultation. I really try to be open minded about every subject, although I did, once, suggest to a writer that they look at the opposite side of their religious beliefs, as well, when writing a religious based argument.

    Interesting...hmmm.

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  2. Andrew,

    Actually, I am in currently in a class that is exploring part of this idea. Our focus is on composition classes, but the same questions and worries apply.

    I can say from the work in the class, my life, a few books, and others' comments that religious beliefs shape us far more than we often imagine. They can shape our core identity, moral views, ethical view, social views, and relationship expectations. In the WC, it seems that the last is the most important. How we view and related to each other is paramount in working as a peer with an unknown writer, so some religious beliefs could create a problem. For example, if a client holds the religious belief that homosexuality is evil, and the tutor is gay, there can be problems. To a large degree, religion in the center can be viewed and worked with just like any other identifying group: homosexual, minority, political, racist, or ethnic. All of them craft and mold us and how we view our world; I do not feel that any one of them is more important than another. Therefore, I feel that religious beliefs should be treated just as any other belief, within the WC.

    As for my WC, we have a variety of religions represented, and it comes up from time to time. For the most part it is a non-event and is just mentioned in passing conversation or in relation to a literary or historical ideal or event. Looking at that, I feel that I have just labeled our center a group of geeks; sorry all. Best I can tell, the center represents the basic religious make-up of campus, but there hasn't been a poll.

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  3. Alisha - Thanks for the input. I agree it is an issue that doesn't come up often - that's why I feel so stymied!

    Zachery - Sounds like a great class. And my WC is a collection of geeks, too. No worries.

    You make very good points about not only how important religion can be in forming our worldviews, but how it works in relation to other factors of difference. Factors like race and gender are hard to get around because they are so visible, but it seems religion can so often fly under the radar. Maybe that's why I'm kind of intrigued by it.

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  4. Religion determines our beliefs. Our beliefs shape our way of looking out at the world, our personalities, our way of reacting and thinking. Every religion is different, but they all aim to more or less the same values. Sense of community and cooperation within groups is, in my opinion, common to all religions. Therefore, I think that religions, more than affecting negatively, helps the way we relate with our co-workers. We are all brothers and sisters after all, aren't we?
    As long as there is tolerance, religion shouldn't be an issue... at least it hasn't been in the enviroments where I have worked.

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