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a journal of analysis and comment advancing public understanding of religion and education
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Summer 2009
Vol. 36 No. 2

Spirituality in Higher Education: Problem, Practices, and Programs:
A Response

Nadine S. Pence

Seeking to understand the role of education in shaping an undergraduate’s construction of meaning is at the heart of the research sponsored by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) under the title “Spirituality in Higher Education,” the conversations within higher education around teaching toward the “Big Questions” sponsored by the Teagle Foundation, and the essays that have been collected in this volume.  This process especially haunts those of us who educate within the field of religion because every particular religion has a set of claims and beliefs related to its understanding of life and its meaning, and every faculty member in the field has to negotiate the terrain between teaching students and the perception that doing so is to participate implicitly in the process of making disciples.  This is not to say that other disciplines do not have the capacity to “form disciples,” but teaching religion is particularly suspect within our institutions of higher education because of the rather speckled past between religious institutions and the freedom of inquiry.

And so when the HERI research and the Teagle “Big Questions” advocate a more active engagement by the faculty member with students’ developmental and faith life, one can expect that there would be a host of reactions that not only tap into the questions that are raised by those particular enterprises, but also those contentious discussions within the field itself.  The three sections of papers presented in this journal to which I am to respond are no exception. 

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