I am agnostic and I try to approach each person with respect towards their own ideas of religion and faith, and how this has informed who they are at the time of our meeting.
But this has not always been the case, I never identified with one religion growing up as I attended a predominantly Christian leaning school whilst at home, celebrated Sikh and Hindu special occasions. During secondary school, moving into university, I identified as atheist but over time this morphed into being agnostic. Reaching my own conclusions, hopes, as to what on earth this could all be about (spoiler alert, I am no nearer an answer than Douglas Adams stating “42”). Religion is confusing, challenging, wonderful and horrific; it’s the reason we have some of the most beautiful art, music and observationalists, as well as death derived from misinterpreted and/or appropriated ideology.
I state this to observe that students and tutors can be definite in their own beliefs. Or find themselves just as lost and bewildered as I was, as a student, and continue to be as an adult.
How could you apply the resources to your own teaching practice?
Working within a Journalism department and teaching from a documentarian perspective, I found the Religion, Belief and Faith Identities website to be a fascinating resource. When marking a brief I could see the site being used as a personal point of reflection, to ensure that I am approaching work dealing with personal content to a student, with an open mind. Concerning the work featured in the Students & Alumni section, it’s important to bear in mind that the tutors marking such work would have largely come from completely different backgrounds in all aspects and as such, would have had to approach such work anew and openly.
However, imagining work such as those featured in Variant Space being marked, also prompted me to questions who are the right examiners? Especially within a creative institute, UAL student work is so subjective; to me there is almost a disconnect between the work a person creates outside of an institute and the work created to conform to the bureaucracy of universities, when their simply playing “the game”.
How could you integrate the research/work your students do on this subject into your teaching/professional practice? Can you cite examples?
The ethics surrounding a journalist or documentarian’s choice of subject can already demand a high level of reflection as to why one would choose to point their camera or pen at a subject. Just as important is the aspect of faith and the responsibility of impartial coverage, whether concerning the subject matter or the opinions of the author influencing their decisions. As well as, in some cases, an individual choosing to cover a story with their own biases openly informing their resulting conclusion and presentation of materials.
Recommending the website, or certain case studies, as part of a reading list prior to commencing a practical or theoretical project, allows the student to keep in mind the relevance their own agenda, and even unconscious religious/non-religious bias, has upon their work. I would love to be able to chair a class discussion around this topic however such a lesson is also open to much downfall and victimisation. A possible iteration of such a deliverable lesson could match an ethics lecture I attended which was chaired by a BBC lawyer who fielded general questions after a presentation on BBC case studies which had faced ethical dilemmas. I believe such a format and presentation would work around other industry case studies which could address how journalists or documantarians had acknowledged religion in articles on, i.e., war, or how BBC coverage of anti-Semitism within the Labour party is being presented, etc. Chaired by an industry specialist and associate lecturer allows for a greater formal discussion of “talking shop” rather than opinion … or am I being too optimistic?