Williams, Raymond. “Postscript,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 65, no.4 (Winter 1997): 851-854.

A 1997 special issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (JAAR) was dedicated to a series of articles produced by scholars involved with the American Academy of Religion workshops on teaching religion. Raymond Williams’ postscript to this issue discusses the future of the study of religion and its dependence in large part on “excellence in classroom teaching.” Williams suggests that teaching is undervalued by the academy as reflected in the lack of explicit training and preparation provided to graduate students as they enter into teaching. Nevertheless, Williams insists that teaching is vital for several reasons. First, he notes Kim Patton’s claim that “to ignore teaching simply is not adaptive.” Colleges and universities need to be able to adapt to students’ needs as well as trends within the academy, and teaching is a key component in this process. Second, lively, invigorating teaching enhances the quality of life of both professors and students. Third, constructive teaching allows students to form connections between the ideas and strategies presented in class and the issues in their own lives. Williams mentions that the role of professor is undergoing a change as a generation of professors prepare for retirement and as new technology impacts higher education, especially its methods of teaching. Conferences such as those conducted by AAR provide a safe place for faculty to discuss the challenges facing teachers of religious studies.