Academic Year 2011-2012
Janet Bordelon is a Ph.D. candidate and Jim Joseph Fellow at New York University in Education and Jewish studies. She graduated magna cum laude from Colby College with a B.A. with honors in History and Government. As a Frankel fellow, she completed her M.A. in Judaic studies from the University of Michigan in Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism. Her research focused on the “parting of the ways” between Judaism and Christianity; her thesis investigated religious syncretism in the Greco-Roman world through a study of ancient epitaphs. At Michigan, she served as a Graduate Instructor on courses in World religions and the Bible as literature. For the next four years, Janet taught and developed history courses at the secondary level that emphasized the importance of religion and the development of world-views in human history. At NYU, her research focuses on the current treatment of religion, in particular Judaism, in secondary school history classrooms. Her goal is to demonstrate that the academic study of religion and the historical development of world-views can be used by both public and private secondary school humanities teachers to enhance the learning processes and critical thinking outcomes in their classrooms. She hopes that her research will help teacher educators better understand how to support and train future history teachers with teaching about religion in an accurate, fair, and compelling manner in order to promote tolerance and understanding among adolescents.
Rethinking the Multi-Cultural Paradigm for Teaching about Religion in Global History Textbooks
As a Tikvah scholar, I plan to examine the treatment of minority religions, specifically Judaism and Islam, in history textbooks used in French and US public secondary schools. History textbooks are especially informative because they reveal much about a nation’s priorities and values, and, in countries like the United States and France, they are the primary academic space where religion is covered. I believe that because educational praxis in both setting is governed by constrictive paradigmatic concepts of culture—multiculturalism in the US and laïcité in France—dominant approaches of historical textbooks in both settings inevitably reflect a limited conception of all religious traditions, ignoring the complex ways in which religions have and continue to manifest themselves in human societies.
By gaining an understanding of the pedagogical construction of Muslim and Jewish civilizations and societies in these books, we can begin to detect the underlying political and social policies of these different nation states towards religious and cultural minorities. It also provides a valuable opportunity to examine how mediating agencies—publishing companies, interest groups, and differing authorial viewpoints—influence the final determination of the quality, orientation, and content of history textbooks in different contexts. In hopes of engendering more nuanced historical understanding and appreciation of religious difference among adolescent learners, the second part of this study will measure the treatment of minority religions by texts adhering to these confining paradigms against the historical textual treatment of minority religions within an alternative, interpretive paradigm that is increasingly being employed by texts used in British secondary classrooms.