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Inquiry Proposal

asweeney's picture

For my inquiry project, I want to create or think about lessons plans for a high school classroom using The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin and The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley. As I am using these two texts in my senior thesis project, I'm most interested in think about the ways these two text pair together to invite students to question the nature of religion. Baldwin and Malcolm X experience religion very differently from one another despite the fact that both discuss similar realities of racial oppression and the black and white binary in the US. I'm excited to see the extent to which discussing religion in the classroom is possible while being neither coercive or manipulative of student's beliefs. Like many of the topics we have talked about in Multiculutral Education, discussing the nature of relgion and how it acts to sustain one's political activism, for example, necessitates the asking of questions over bestowing knowledge. Baldwin advocates for an understanding of religion that is questioning, and even promotes a certain productive insecurity as to how we see our place in the world. Malcolm, on the other hand, begins with a more traditional understanding of religion but slowly moves closer to Baldwin's understanding. I'm going to use these lesson plans to imagine how reading BOTH texts together might be particularily productive (maybe more so than textbooks) in teaching about this era in history as well as providing the opportunity for students to discuss the nature of religion. Looking forward to any feedback you guys initially have! 


jccohen's picture


This is a provocative project!  You're in that interesting and complex realm of looking to teach about religion while not teaching religion exactly... What kinds of research will be helpful for you in developing this project -- that is, who might you talk with, what kinds of sources might you investigate to discover what educators and others can contribute to your thinking?

What kind of high school do you envision for developing this curriculum unit, that is, is this a public/private school, what are the expectations in terms of religion, who are the students...?  What's the class, e.g. English? Social studies?  These factors might help you consider how to frame key questions and concepts, for example.  I like a lot your idea about "discussing religion in the classroom...while being neither coercive or manipulative of student's beliefs," which seems to me an excellent goal but also problematic in light of Kumashiro's caution that all approaches are partial.