Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Day 3 of my course and today we're looking at the introduction of our first real independent research paper for JC students. This is the main reason why I decided to move my teaching in this direction from GP in the first place. A chance to work directly with pre-university students on the kind of stuff they will be doing at uni level. Something real, and concrete, and skills that have direct application to their near-future rather than some nebulous far-off date close to never.

It's a tough paper, all right. A 6-month programme during which individual students will submit a research proposal to be approved by a Cambridge board (not by the teacher!) followed up with a major essay of 2500-3000 words in length, about -- get this -- thought and thinking about a particular topic of study. For example:

We know that "Jedi knight" is becoming a recognized religion by the increasing number of people who are claiming to be followers of this pop-culturally derived belief system. So, by what basis do we identify a body of human activity as "religious?" Since a religion spreads by the successful transmission of a particular canon of knowledge thus creating new converts (who had previously believed in a different canon of knowledge), how might a person be attracted to change his/her religion which may entail the eradication his/her previous belief system in order to accept the new one? How might a convert deal with such a radical thought-changing experience? How might the convert's previous socio-religious circle deal with such a change? (I made this question up, so it probably needs work still).

Well, something like that. The focus is not on "religion," mind you, but rather on the creation, transmission, and perpetuation of the knowledge behind religion, and more importantly, how that knowledge is used to expand a religion's reach amongst people; and perhaps a further exploration into whether such usage might constitute an ethical breach in our modern day social contract to respect religious diversity amongst our people.

This type of exploration goes far beyond what GP ever pushed JC students to think about. I think they can rise to the challenge if they have guts and gumption enough. Wonder what my class size will be next year -- 8?

KI has the potential for great fun and learning, and heated animated discussion, but it's definitely not for the squeamish.

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