Tough times for religious studies

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Fortyeightvows
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Tough times for religious studies

Post by Fortyeightvows » Thu Jan 26, 2017 11:03 pm

"The AAR and SBL recently issued the latest iteration of the jobs report tracking Employment Services listing data from July 2015 through June 2016. It continues the vital task of identifying key employment trends in religious, biblical, and theological studies as advertised on the AAR and SBL Employment Services website. The collection and evaluation of this data set facilitates annual updating of employment related offerings and long-term analysis of the field, but does not have predictive value for the larger job market in religious studies or the national academic job market(s)"

"Fewer institutions hiring fewer faculty spells an historic low for jobs in religion. The number of positions advertised through AAR-SBL Employment Services declined by over ten percent from academic year 2015 to academic year 2016."

"The number of countries represented among job listings in AY16 dipped to eleven, the lowest number of countries since AY08."

https://www.aarweb.org/sites/default/fi ... 5-2016.pdf

https://www.aarweb.org/employment-servi ... obs-report

steveb1
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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by steveb1 » Fri Jan 27, 2017 1:46 am

I don't want to say too much and/or say too much negatively, but these statistics probably reflect the larger culture's unreasoning bias against religion. If religion is seen as useless, harmful - and above all, debunked - then of course the public loses interest in it, and this will be reflected in religious education. A sad thing, especially poignant in the wake of the recent death of pioneering religious scholar Huston Smith. Gone are the enthusiastic days of discovering mystical traditions, shamanism, Asian religions so prevalent in the late 50s and on into the 70s.

It seems that fundamentalism has won - religious fundamentalism, which most of the public identifies with anti-science thinking and I.D./Creationism; and science fundamentalism/scientism, which like its religious counterpart measures "reality" only by its own narrow, exclusionary principles.

Christianity, like it or not, was the US's moral backbone and metaphysical bulwark since the nation's inception. Of course the Founders were mostly Deists and Unitarians, but the "backbone" I am speaking of is the specifically religious and moral center of the core American conscience. It was the background against which politics, the media, and daily life was played out. A lot of Americans regularly attended church and church-related activities and organizations. Of course, most of that has dropped off, and dropped off to the point that Christianity and Christians have in a real sense become "the new Jew" in terms of being scapegoated and despised. Christians are often treated as some kind of weird, toxic, invasive species instead of the mainstay that, until relatively recent times, they had been.

Not much has arisen to replace Christianity in America - not much spiritually speaking, that is. But secularism, humanism and cultural marxism have become the havens of those who would have been orthodoxically-religious in earlier times. One unfortunate effect of this is the attempt to be religious by embracing non-religious religion, such as "Death of God" Christianity and the new forms of secular forms of Buddhism which utterly reject the Transcendent and the Buddha Realms. This kind of substitute religion is, paradoxically, opposed to religion; opposed to any idea of Transcendence, whether of a divine Absolute or the reality of a non-material subjective human entity. Matter and its processes reign supreme. All else is illusion and delusion. A terribly corrosive thing for religion and spirituality.

These factors being in place, it is not surprising that religious education is on the wane. This is personally painful for me. Maybe there are things to be done that could revitalize religion in the public eye. But if not, the Buddhist teaching that all things are impermanent might need to be applied to this issue.

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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by DGA » Fri Jan 27, 2017 2:30 pm

This is a trend in hiring practices in academia. Universities never recovered from the 2008 economic crisis. In fact, more and more cuts are still coming. Full-time, tenure-line faculty are not getting hired except in fields that are grant-funded. The same trend holds in the humanities, for instance. People still read a lot of books, but no one's hiring professors of literature anymore. History is as popular as ever, arguably, but no one hires history professors anymore. So smart people simply decline to spend five to ten years on a PhD that will get them a job making coffee at the mall. Ask me how I know.

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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by Derek » Fri Jan 27, 2017 4:36 pm

Although there had been academic study of comparative religion on a small scale for a long time, the field of Religious Studies really took off during the economic boom that followed WWII, and in particular during the vast expansion of higher education that took place during the 1960s. It makes sense that Religious Studies would be seen as an expensive luxury now that the years of go-go growth are over.

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anjali
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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by anjali » Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:26 pm

DGA wrote:...Full-time, tenure-line faculty are not getting hired except in fields that are grant-funded. The same trend holds in the humanities, for instance. People still read a lot of books, but no one's hiring professors of literature anymore. History is as popular as ever, arguably, but no one hires history professors anymore. So smart people simply decline to spend five to ten years on a PhD that will get them a job making coffee at the mall. Ask me how I know.
I hear ya. What I have seen is a trend toward hiring mostly adjunct instructors with a relatively small core of full-time faculty. This allows institutions to save on health care cost, and easily scale staffing levels by simply not renewing contracts, which are on a term by term basis.

Relative to the topic, the school where I currently teach at doesn't offer a single religious studies course. I just checked.
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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by DGA » Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:32 pm

anjali wrote:
DGA wrote:...Full-time, tenure-line faculty are not getting hired except in fields that are grant-funded. The same trend holds in the humanities, for instance. People still read a lot of books, but no one's hiring professors of literature anymore. History is as popular as ever, arguably, but no one hires history professors anymore. So smart people simply decline to spend five to ten years on a PhD that will get them a job making coffee at the mall. Ask me how I know.
I hear ya. What I have seen is a trend toward hiring mostly adjunct instructors with a relatively small core of full-time faculty. This allow institutions to save on health care cost, and easily scale staffing levels by simply not renewing contracts, which are on a term by term basis.

Relative to the topic, the school where I currently teach at doesn't offer a single religious studies course. I just checked.
I am working at a community college now, in administration. Depending on the metric, it is either the largest or one of the largest such schools in the US (six campuses, enrollment near 50,000 students). Some religious studies coursework is offered, but no two-year degree or certificate.

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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by treehuggingoctopus » Fri Jan 27, 2017 7:40 pm

DGA wrote:This is a trend in hiring practices in academia. Universities never recovered from the 2008 economic crisis. In fact, more and more cuts are still coming. Full-time, tenure-line faculty are not getting hired except in fields that are grant-funded. The same trend holds in the humanities, for instance. People still read a lot of books, but no one's hiring professors of literature anymore. History is as popular as ever, arguably, but no one hires history professors anymore. So smart people simply decline to spend five to ten years on a PhD that will get them a job making coffee at the mall. Ask me how I know.
All of which belongs to the set of policies which have been consistently implemented since the 1980s (in Western Europe at least). They essentially aim at destroying the humanities and entirely subjecting what remains of the world of academia to the rhythms of the market.

Naturally, behind these policies lies an equally clear and consistent ideology (no special hatred towards religious studies. "It is nothing personal.")

The ambitious project has been carried out with great gusto.

It has been a resounding success.
. . . there they saw a rock! But it wasn't a rock . . .

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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by DGA » Fri Jan 27, 2017 7:54 pm

treehuggingoctopus wrote:
DGA wrote:This is a trend in hiring practices in academia. Universities never recovered from the 2008 economic crisis. In fact, more and more cuts are still coming. Full-time, tenure-line faculty are not getting hired except in fields that are grant-funded. The same trend holds in the humanities, for instance. People still read a lot of books, but no one's hiring professors of literature anymore. History is as popular as ever, arguably, but no one hires history professors anymore. So smart people simply decline to spend five to ten years on a PhD that will get them a job making coffee at the mall. Ask me how I know.
All of which belongs to the set of policies which have been consistently implemented since the 1980s (in Western Europe at least). They essentially aim at destroying the humanities and entirely subjecting what remains of the world of academia to the rhythms of the market.

Naturally, behind these policies lies an equally clear and consistent ideology (no special hatred towards religious studies. "It is nothing personal.")

The ambitious project has been carried out with great gusto.

It has been a resounding success.
You're describing what we usually call neoliberalism or neoliberalization these days. It's had its successes and its failures. What has it accomplished?

1. It reasserted the power of the moneyed classes in Europe and the US in a time of crisis, and in some cases invented a capitalist class where one did not exist before (as in China).

2. As a political program, it has not entirely lost legitimacy on the political right and center, which is baffling because...

Neoliberalization has failed in its core promise of growth for everyone, increased growth all around, rising tides to raise all yachts. The "just increase the size of the pie but do not change the proportion of the slices" argument has proven a total sham.

(this is more or less a precis of the David Harvey version of the story)

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treehuggingoctopus
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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by treehuggingoctopus » Fri Jan 27, 2017 8:03 pm

By "success" I meant it is quite successfully realising its goal. As far as its influence on the society goes, it is a cataclysm.

Btw, I do not think neoliberalism is really an ideology anymore. It may never have been anything close to it, actually. It is a malady, or possibly a symptom of a malady, which is consuming us -- and that is in all likelihood why it has been so absolutely unstoppable. (Nominally) left-wing parties has proven as susceptible to it as anything else -- and I do not mean just the Labour Party but also the likes of Syriza.
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Queequeg
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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by Queequeg » Mon Jan 30, 2017 11:35 pm

I have an MA in Religion. Wife just received her PhD in Art History focusing on a genre of Japanese Buddhist/Shinto paintings, so I'm living the academic life precariously through her.

I suspect Religion as a distinct subject is going to continue to dwindle. The big, private research universities (Ivies, Chicago, NW, Mich., Stanford) and traditional liberal arts colleges will keep the departments. As for public research universities, I think it will depend on the institutions. Colleges and Universities at the second tier and below... the further down the rankings you go, probably less and less religion (less and less liberal arts, period).

I suspect Religion is going to go the way of Anthropology and Sociology Departments - basically, consolidation into other departments.

Some unsolicited practical advice for current and future Religion specialists who want a job after they graduate - MULTI-DISCIPLINARY APPROACH. You need some material angle to your research - archaeology, art history, economics, cartography (SEXY!) (Look at the schedule of talks for conferences like AAS for a pulse on what's hot) etc. etc. And become a capable translator. If all you want to do is text studies, or merely focus on ideas, you need to blow everyone away - be a freaking genius, hard to do without coming off as a blowhard. For us mortals incapable of a tour de force dissertation, workaday, professional approach is critical - this is as much a profession as being a doctor or accountant or lawyer. Having a substantial Chinese aspect of your research is an excellent professional move - ridiculously valued right now. If you're studies are in East Asia, you will probably lose out to the Chinese specialist every freakin time. India and Tibet are exotic, but the endowments are not yet arrived in large amounts ($$) for those areas of study. Not like the East Asians who want to make a Confucian splash and show their support for education.

Pardon my cynicism. Wife needs to get a job. Its been long enough.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

narhwal90
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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by narhwal90 » Tue Jan 31, 2017 1:19 pm

I know 2 people in PHD programs in religious universities have their entire programs cancelled- not curtailed or reduced, simply eliminated by beancounter and tough luck to the students. These were vocational sorts of programs that integrate pastoral care and professional counselling in various ways to more effectively treat people. Cost-cutting and market shrinkage is a problem on the religious side as well, even in large well established and well supported institutions.

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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by Agnikan » Wed Feb 01, 2017 2:03 am

narhwal90 wrote:I know 2 people in PHD programs in religious universities have their entire programs cancelled- not curtailed or reduced, simply eliminated by beancounter and tough luck to the students. These were vocational sorts of programs that integrate pastoral care and professional counselling in various ways....
Aren't professional counseling MA or PhD programs still pretty popular?

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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by Caoimhghín » Wed Feb 01, 2017 12:56 pm

narhwal90 wrote:I know 2 people in PHD programs in religious universities have their entire programs cancelled- not curtailed or reduced, simply eliminated by beancounter and tough luck to the students. These were vocational sorts of programs that integrate pastoral care and professional counselling in various ways to more effectively treat people. Cost-cutting and market shrinkage is a problem on the religious side as well, even in large well established and well supported institutions.
Did they at least sue? I remember Queen's University in Kingston tried to cancel their Fine Arts program while others were still enrolled, but didn't on account of the massive class-action lawsuit aimed at them if students couldn't graduate. Canadian law might be different in this regard though.
歸命本覺心法身常住妙法心蓮臺本來莊嚴三身徳三十七尊住心
城遠離因果法然具普門塵數諸三昧無邊徳海本圓滿還我頂禮心諸佛

In reverence for the root gnosis of the heart, the dharmakāya,
for the ever present good law of the heart, the lotus terrace,
for the inborn adornment of the trikāya, the thirty-seven sages dwelling in the heart,
for that which is removed from seed and fruit, the upright key to the universal gate,
for all boundless concentrations, the sea of virtue, the root perfection,
I prostrate, bowing to the hearts of all Buddhas.

胎藏金剛菩提心義略問答鈔, Treatise on the teaching of the gnostic heart of the womb and the diamond, T2397.1.470c5-8

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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by tingdzin » Thu Feb 09, 2017 4:40 am

DGA, octopus, steve -- all right on the button.

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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by narhwal90 » Thu Feb 09, 2017 4:02 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
narhwal90 wrote:I know 2 people in PHD programs in religious universities have their entire programs cancelled- not curtailed or reduced, simply eliminated by beancounter and tough luck to the students. These were vocational sorts of programs that integrate pastoral care and professional counselling in various ways to more effectively treat people. Cost-cutting and market shrinkage is a problem on the religious side as well, even in large well established and well supported institutions.
Did they at least sue? I remember Queen's University in Kingston tried to cancel their Fine Arts program while others were still enrolled, but didn't on account of the massive class-action lawsuit aimed at them if students couldn't graduate. Canadian law might be different in this regard though.
US law in this case. One of those concerned discussed some of the other students' responses which began with outrage etc- the question she was considering was what is the payoff of a lawsuit vs getting on with some other program.

The other student is involved with Catholic inner city service and counselling, I believe she is a nun working with the most needy and disadvantaged in the face of reorganizations and consolidations of parishes, congregations getting pushed around- I didn't get the impression she was too concerned, her focus clearly being service; if she is no longer employed in one way then it will be a different way- though the upheaval in their congregations is certainly painful.

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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by Invokingvajras » Wed Mar 08, 2017 10:50 am

What's the scenario like across the pond, such as in European and Asian countries? Is there really any sort of marketability? I've heard that religious academia is still doing fairly well in places like the UK and the Netherlands, though I'm relying mostly on hearsay.

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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by Brunelleschi » Wed Mar 08, 2017 4:53 pm

steveb1 wrote: Not much has arisen to replace Christianity in America - not much spiritually speaking, that is. But secularism, humanism and cultural marxism have become the havens of those who would have been orthodoxically-religious in earlier times.
I'm sorry to point this out but you could you refrain from using that term. I'm sure you mean no harm but cultural marxism is an inherently racist term with its roots in "Kulturbolschewismus" used by the nazis (this is its direct roots).
One unfortunate effect of this is the attempt to be religious by embracing non-religious religion, such as "Death of God" Christianity and the new forms of secular forms of Buddhism which utterly reject the Transcendent and the Buddha Realms. This kind of substitute religion is, paradoxically, opposed to religion; opposed to any idea of Transcendence, whether of a divine Absolute or the reality of a non-material subjective human entity. Matter and its processes reign supreme. All else is illusion and delusion. A terribly corrosive thing for religion and spirituality
That is true but on the other hand we see people being drawn to more "traditional" religious communities with a focus on ritual. People from protestant countries are converting to Catholicism, Islam, or exploring Buddhism. There are still some areas such as "the hard problem of consciousness" (qualia) which is yet to be "solved" by science/scientific materialism.

Regarding the hard problem of consciousness: http://www.iep.utm.edu/hard-con/

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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by Malcolm » Wed Mar 08, 2017 5:13 pm

steveb1 wrote:
Christianity, like it or not, was the US's moral backbone and metaphysical bulwark since the nation's inception.
I completely disagree with this sentiment.
But secularism, humanism ...
Secularism and humanism spring directly out of the Enlightenment, the actual source for moral and philosophical underpinnings of the US. I am in complete favor of the continued secularization of our educational system. The Gvt. should not fund religious schools in anyway since it is a violation of the establishment clause.
One unfortunate effect of this is the attempt to be religious by embracing non-religious religion, such as "Death of God" Christianity and the new forms of secular forms of Buddhism which utterly reject the Transcendent and the Buddha Realms. This kind of substitute religion is, paradoxically, opposed to religion; opposed to any idea of Transcendence, whether of a divine Absolute or the reality of a non-material subjective human entity. Matter and its processes reign supreme. All else is illusion and delusion. A terribly corrosive thing for religion and spirituality.
From a Dzogchen point of view:
  • Since there is no object to attain, there is nothing other than the three realms.
These factors being in place, it is not surprising that religious education is on the wane. This is personally painful for me. Maybe there are things to be done that could revitalize religion in the public eye. But if not, the Buddhist teaching that all things are impermanent might need to be applied to this issue.
We do not need religion. We need direct perception.

M

tingdzin
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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by tingdzin » Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:54 am

Brunelleschi wrote:There are still some areas such as "the hard problem of consciousness" (qualia) which is yet to be "solved" by science/scientific materialism.
If one is seriously interested in the "problem" of consciousness, which is actually a chimera, one could go deeply into the Yogacara understanding of the 7th vijnana, or read the Princeton psychologist Julian Jaynes' take on the subject, in his Origin of Consciousness . He and Daniel Dennett, who is cited in the bibliography of your article, had a lot of ideas in common. First of all, one has to thoroughly examine one's ideas of what the word "consciousness" even implies. Jaynes does this very well.

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Re: Tough times for religious studies

Post by treehuggingoctopus » Thu Mar 09, 2017 4:27 pm

Invokingvajras wrote:What's the scenario like across the pond, such as in European and Asian countries? Is there really any sort of marketability? I've heard that religious academia is still doing fairly well in places like the UK and the Netherlands, though I'm relying mostly on hearsay.
I do not know anything about the Netherlands but I would be really surprised if the situation there were much different from what is happening across Europe. In the UK we are toast, pretty much. There is still much resistance but the juggernaut seems entirely unstoppable.

A Swiftian response from Terry Eagleton:
http://www.socjobrumors.com/topic/the-s ... agleton-uk
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