Wednesday, March 14, 2007

As I was saying...

So, back here I mentioned Camille Paglia's Religion and Culture speech that was broadcast on C-SPAN. I promised to write some comments on it. Well, her monthly Salon column just came out today, and I remembered that I forgot to comment on the speech.

Alas, I did not take notes, so I will probably be a little scattered.

Let me start by saying that I have been a fan of Dr. Paglia's for many years, since my undergrad days at UF. I agree with most of her politics, but where she tends to go liberal/libertarian in her search for candidates to solve problems, I tend to think more moderately/conservatively. I think her opinions regarding cultural issues are just dead on.

What I liked most about Dr. Paglia speech is her insistence that religion must be understood and embraced, at least on an intellectual level. I, myself, am an agnostic, but I have always had an interest in people's religious beliefs and how those beliefs shape the cultures they create and the stories they tell. I believe that the movement to keep Judeo-Christian ideas out of public schools is misguided and that students would be better served if school districts included comparative religion courses in their curricula. Of course, such courses would need to be taught carefully, to ensure one religion is not taught to be above or below others, but I truly believe that these courses need to be taught.

I had something of an odd upbringing. I often say, "My daddy was raised Baptist, My mom was raised Lutheran, and I was raised." I remember going to Sunday school as a child, but, for me, it was another way to hear stories. When I was around 8 or 9, I came across D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths and was completely enthralled. At some point, my brain made the connection that the Bible stories from Sunday school and the stories about the Greek gods were basically the same. Nobody could tell me why we were supposed to believe in God but not Zeus. I decided to not decide and to believe that everybody had an equal likelihood of existing. I'll sort it out later.

What I found was that my interest in these different religions made my appreciation of history, art, and literature much stronger. I remember being appalled when one of my classmates in an upper-division Shakespeare course was having difficulties understanding some of the mythological allusions. How can anyone study Shakespeare without a foundation in Christianity and the classics?

I grant that there will be people who have no use for such matters. Another point that Dr. Paglia brought up during her speech is the necessity for the re-building of technical/vocational training in schools. Let's face it. There are a lot of students who have no interest in and no business participating in higher education. When did the school system decide everybody had to go to college? It's no longer true that only college-educated people get decent paying jobs. I'll bet your plumber and auto-mechanic make as much if not more than you do. The education system should re-open the auto and wood shops and bring back sewing and home ec. You might actually improve your graduation rates.

So, those are my thoughts. Go Art! Choose Religion! Literature Rocks!

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