Readers’ Forum: 11/5/19

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Requirements for religion professors

Recently, I drew attention to the startlingly few female faculty members who teach in
Religious Education here at BYU. Something that also should startle us about Religious
Education is the degree that qualifies the professor to teach the subject.

While many professors studied degrees relevant to the classes they teach such as Hebrew
Studies, Mesoamerican Archaeology, Egyptology, American History, etc., several other
professors earned degrees in unrelated fields such as education or law.

As the university says that religious education courses should “be credible, rigorous,
university-level experiences in learning,” I do not think students can have experiences like
this without faculty members who have done Ph.D. work directly related to what they teach. Simply put: we wouldn’t have a law professor teach chemistry, so why should they teach religion?

Anyone can teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but in order to differentiate religious education courses from Sunday school, seminary or institute courses, I think we need professors who spent their graduate work examining the culture, context and language of the texts that the courses center around.

Without doing this, the university does not facilitate scholarly conversations with the texts
we study and instead, focuses almost entirely on the experience of a text. This is necessary
for believers, but more serious academic rigor is needed for students.

Inspirational speakers who use eisegesis and experiences to create warm feelings are great, but not necessarily in the classroom. No subject should be taught without the Holy Spirit, but that requires the subject be taught.

—Hanna Seariac
Boston, Massachusetts

The truth about studies abroad

You never know until you try — isn’t that how the saying goes? The same is true of one of the greatest opportunities BYU students have — the opportunity to study abroad.

When one hears the words “study abroad,” the initial reaction usually has to do with a fear of the bill attached, but through BYU, the costs will be half that of other universities. While one could travel in New Zealand for a moderate $12,000 with any other program, BYU’s Kennedy Center and wonderful donors have dropped that price to as little as $5,000. For a semester in a new land with thousands of unique experiences every day, that’s too good an offer to pass up.

Not only is the cost vastly reduced for students, a study abroad can grow students’ skills in their fields. Studying in a new culture opens the eyes to new understanding and literally opens new pathways of learning in the brain.

You don’t need to be at the top of your class or the most popular person around to go. You’ve seen the study abroad backpacks around, haven’t you? They’re everywhere! And if you ask any of those people if their experience was worth it, they’ll probably tell you it was worth every penny.

—Ryan Magleby
American Fork, Utah

Were we actually prepared for college?

Young adults graduate from high school academically primed, but emotionally unprepared for college; the lack of emotional preparation found on college campuses can be alleviated through educating college-bound high school students about homesickness, depression and culture shock. Due to an increasing focus on college admissions, high school programs fall short of equipping students with the necessary skills to emotionally succeed in college.
As high school graduates transition into college life, they are bombarded with emotional
hardships. While settling into their new lives, the majority experience a common issue — homesickness. Common derivatives of homesickness are depression and culture shock.

BYU notified all of its freshman students about the commonality of this emotional situation via email during the third week of the 2019 school year. According to this email, “research shows that 69 percent of first year college students report feeling homesick.” With such a commonality among college freshmen there is a disconnect with the prevalence of the conversation had before hand. Earlier education of how to recognize and cope with the symptoms of homesickness would help new students experience to a lesser degree.

The attributes of going off to college are not diluted if there are greater mental
preparations had in advance. Instead, the transition to a new lifestyle would be less strenuous, and students would experience greater enjoyment in the present. In addition, a realistic portrayal of college would enable incoming students to better prepare for the journey ahead.

—Abigail Lee
Dixon, California

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