Rhetoric, Pedagogy, and the Study of Religions

Miller, Richard, Laurie Patton, and Stephen Webb. “Rhetoric, Pedagogy, and the Study of Religions," Journal of the Academy of American Religion 62, no. 3 (Fall 1994): 819-850.

Richard Miller, Laurie Patton and Stephen Webb ask several questions about the goals and aims of those teaching religious studies and what actually occurs in classrooms. The authors are concerned about the lack of a common working vocabulary for speaking about such philosophical issues. They note that teaching religion is typically classified according to one of two paradigms, either instrumental or transmission. The "instrumental" paradigm views teaching in terms of its technical components, while the "transmission" paradigm seeks to impart the concepts and tools necessary for critical analysis to the students. Miller, Patton and Webb propose a third alternative, the "rhetorical" paradigm. This model seeks to empower voices within the classroom, including that of the teacher. It requires teachers to reexamine the power relations present in the classroom and to reconfigure these relationship in such a way that students feel free to engage actively in the course. The authors consider the rhetorical model in light of the three specific subdisicplines of religious ethics, the comparative history of religions, and theology. (KH)