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a journal of analysis and comment advancing public understanding of religion and education
(more on the Journal)

Fall 2001, Vol. 28 No. 2

Thayer S. Warshaw – A Tribute 


Charles R. Kniker, James K. Uphoff, Nicholas Piediscalzi, James S. Ackerman, and Charles C. Haynes

This is a tribute to a man who may be the single most influential person in the last thirty years in developing pedagogy to teach about religions in public education. To celebrate the many contributions that Thayer made, and to reflect his diverse interests and complex personality, we thought it helpful to have reflections from several colleagues. Jim Uphoff chose to describe Thayer’s involvement in curriculum planning in the years following the landmark Abington v. Schempp (1963) case. Like Jim, Nick Piediscalzi is a retired Wright State University faculty member who shared workshops and many conversations with Thayer over the years. In addition to analyzing Thayer’s contribution to the field, Nick notes two other recently deceased pioneer scholars in the public education religion studies movement, Robert Michaelsen and Ninian Smart.

James Ackerman writes about what some would describe as Thayer’s "finest hour" -- his partnership with James Ackerman in directing four-week summer workshops at Indiana University on "Teaching the Bible as/in Literature," a Lilly Endowment project lasting nine years and culminating in the tenth year with an N.E.H. Institute. The seeds planted in that garden have produced many flowers, including teachers who developed unique lesson plans, and helpful books edited and/or written by Ackerman and Warshaw (unfortunately, only the second edition of a co-edited student textbook is still in print).

I write about Thayer’s involvement as editor. He became the founding editor of a newsletter for the National Council for Religion and Public Education (NCRPE), a coalition of ecumenical religious groups and educational organizations that was formed to promote teaching about religion. Thayer, then "retired," became the manuscript editor for Religion & Public Education. Due in no small measure to his influence, the journal became a highly respected forum for scholarly articles in the field. Charles Haynes, active in several organizations and now Senior Scholar with the First Amendment Center, was NCRPE’s next to last president. Charles provides a perspective on the impact Thayer had on others, ranging from professional education circles to persons engaged in formulating legislative policies.

Like all such tributes, the writers apologize in advance for not covering other dimensions of our unique friend and colleague, a long-time car dealer (with his father), who became a brilliant classroom teacher. Thayer may have viewed himself a reluctant pioneer. Our perspective is that he was a sparkling schoolroom saint.

[Fall 2001 Issue Contents]