TLAR took advantage of a new format offered at the Classical Association 2014 (in Nottingham). We set up a roundtable to explore the experience of teaching, and being taught about, ancient religion in HE institutions.
TLAR was hoping to open up a space at the CA to think about the complexities of teaching and learning about this difficult topic, taking advantage of the wealth of experience likely to be present at such an event. And we were overwhelmed!
Over 40 people attended, from all levels of academic life and including national and international scholars. Some brief presentations were made during the event by Theodora Jim and Katerina Kouloutourou, who shared their thoughts on teaching ancient religion in Hong Kong, and religious concepts, respectively. The then-President of the CA, Martha Kearney, also popped in for a while.
There was a lively discussion, and the participants enjoyed sharing their insights into teaching practice and experiences. Some of the challenges identified as facing teachers and students of this subject included working with or against current attitudes to religious practice and beliefs (e.g., popular perceptions of the relationship between science and religion); difficulties in understanding abstract concepts such as belief or faith in a predominantly secular society; and showing sensitivity to the religious beliefs of individuals.
If there is the opportunity, TLAR hopes to hold a similar event at another CA conference soon.