SINGH STREET STYLE

SINGH STREET STYLE.

Not really a full post, but just an awesome street style blog that you can now buy t-shirts from. Some more of a public service announcement.

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Hello there, Pittsburgh!

You may have noticed some silence on the blog…in the past few weeks I’ve moved to a new/old city of mine, Pittsburgh, PA, and that has taken up much of the time since the school year ended. Turns out it is a lot of work to pack up all of your belongings, move them across state lines, while selling one house and buying another.

A first craft project in the new house--1950s postcards of Pittsburgh.

But, we made it! Along with the move comes a change in occupation, of course, and mine is a little free-form at the moment. After ten years of teaching, I am taking break from the classroom for a few reasons. The first is that it is frighteningly difficult to get a good Social Studies position in the Pittsburgh area (this is what higher pay gets you, NC State Legislature, if you’re listening: almost zero teacher turnover). The other, more exciting reason is that my fiancee and I are expecting a baby in November, and I wasn’t feeling confident about starting at a new school only to take several months off beginning late fall. As a result, I’m piecing together work that I find interesting and challenging. I hope to devote more time to this blog (several post ideas in the works!), will be working as a Program Assistant at the Frick Art and Historical Center, working on developing Library of Congress resources for an AP US History timebook, mentoring newer AP US History teachers online with the College Board, and continuing to write content for TE21, an assessment company based out of Durham. I can only imagine that adding a baby into the mix will make this all even more interesting and challenging!

So wish me luck on my new adventures (and feel free to check out my new professional website here) and I hope to be writing more as the days go by. Thanks for sticking with me!

Five Ideas for Teaching East Asian Religions

Whew! My classes have made it through our unit on East Asian Religions, taught half by my student teacher and half by myself. Hopefully they saw past the shifting teaching styles and gained some understanding of Confucanism, Daoism, and Shinto. Here are some ideas I thought worked well:

1) Is Confucianism a Religion or a Philosophy? This was a discussion led by my student teacher that linked back to our conversations earlier in the year about what it means to really be a religion. She used excerpts from a Useless Tree blog post that responded to this article by Peter Berger, as well as another short excerpt from Prothero’s Book, God Is Not One. While I think the readings themselves can be challenging for students, I enjoyed how they got students to re-evaluate the question of what is a religion. While Useless Tree notes that “there is little, if any, concern for cosmological origins or after lives” in Confucianism, I would challenge my students (and Useless Tree) to consider whether spirituality must be confined to questions of our beginnings and endings. Like Prothero, it seems to me there is some sense in a spirituality that aids in the “individual transformation” (his words) that is the mark of our living experience. On the heels of learning about Buddhism, which, depending on the branch, can be similarly removed from deities and the cosmos, and as we prepare for diving into the religions deriving from the Middle East, this conversation was particularly useful as a means for discussing what it means to be a religion and to stretch our original definitions even further.

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The Untouchables (or, Those Subjects Which We are Hesitant to Teach)

Scrolling through my blog reader feed Friday afternoon, I was struck by an image from Scott Schuman’s street style blog, The Sartorialist. The image is captivating: a young woman sweeping the street in Delhi, her face covered with bright sheer scarves, a floral tunic/kurti bright against a muted backdrop of two others in western dress. I stopped to take it in and noticed the title given by the blog’s author: “The Untouchables.”  I pressed on then, reading through the comments, interested in the response that such a post would draw.

On the Street…The Untouchables, Delhi « The Sartorialist.

The points brought up by readers of The Sartorialist were interesting, if not entirely surprising. While the blog typically includes shots of fashion editors and stylists pre-shows, more and more Schuman has been traveling to worlds away from Milan and Paris and capturing the essence of local style. Typically, I find these images more engaging–I think he has a way of capturing the sense of pride and ingenuity that people from all classes and locales can express in their own clothing. But there are those who comment that these images are out of place on the blog, or out of touch with the realities of life for people in these locations;  that they show a superficial view of the locale. In this case, readers expressed concern about the ethics of such a shot, of evaluating it for beauty, questioning why it was supposed she was an “untouchable” (something I wondered, too), and, from one commenter named “Nina” stating: “Basically, please don’t go to India and be all “wow, look at the poverty, so sad.””

I’m not entirely sure what Schuman was thinking by posting his image, but I am sure he was aware that it would invite questions and perhaps criticism. It reminded me of the challenges I feel when addressing the issue of caste, India, and Hinduism in the classroom. Whenever I ask students what they know about Hinduism, caste is one of the first things that comes up. But I’m never entirely sure how to handle the caste system and its role today in India: I have no firsthand experience of the nation. I find myself, like Schuman, raising more questions than giving answers and I worry about perpetuating stereotypes or misconceptions and even about offending Hindu students in the room. However, from what I can tell based on conversations and readings, there is still discrimination based on class and race in India (as in every other country in the world) and it is connected to, if not reflective of, Hindu beliefs. Therefore it merits discussion in the World Religions classroom.

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