Monday, January 12, 2004

Rally and pray for credit 

Power Line adds some substance and quotes on this story from last week about a lawyer in Minneapolis who objects to a continuing legal education requirement for practicing lawyers to receive diversity training. The lawyer who has refused the training and faces suspension of his law license says the classes have become "a device of ideology". No other state has mandatory requirements like Minnesota's.

Rallies for credit, like those described in PowerLine's link, are not altogether uncommon in higher education. A strike by a campus union here two years ago brought out numerous students of the Department of the 3.7 GPA to show support. And Friday in the email came an announcement for a class built around a set of ecumenical dialogues, which strikes me as coming dangerously close to the line of teaching religion in a government school. (That is not to quibble in the slightest over the dialogues -- I might attend some -- but only over this below.)

REL 400 - Dialoguing with Jews in St. Cloud - 1 credit course (Spring 2004)

This is a community-experience based introduction to Judaism and to Jewish-Christian dialogue.
Tuesdays 6-8 pm (2/3, 2/10, 2/17, 2/24, 3/2, 3/9) at six different churches in and near St. Cloud, MN.
Speakers, panelists, participation of diverse area religions, kosher-style meal, videos on Jewish-Christian dialogue, personal contact with local Jews, child-care facilities, and much, much more.

Requirements: attendance and participation during a series of six 90-min. dialogues between Jews and other religionists in the community, especially Christians.

First and only meeting as a class:
After mutual introductions, I will introduce the course requirements and process.

Students will commit to a 500 word report with critical reflection on each dialogue.
Again, I'm not a lawyer and I'm inclined to think the dialogues are useful. My reason for bringing this up is only over the use of a government institution to give university credit for a religious discussion. Given the pains I observed instructors here go through in discussing, for instance, the New Testament, or the fact that some even objected to the title of a course on the Old Testament, I assumed the university had decided to build a high wall between state education and religious beliefs. There is, for example, a recently-established Orthodox church in St. Cloud. Would personal contact with local Orthodox Christians -- just as rare in St. Cloud as Jews -- qualify for this credit?

UPDATE: Eloise at Spitbull posts this as well, but tells me that we're not unique on making this course mandatory. I relied only on the National Law Journal article; we'll let the lawyers settle this one.