Who’s Teaching Whom?

syllabusAn undergrad student is helping out in my large enrollment Introduction to the Study of Religion this semester, getting some experience in the classroom and doing some extra readings on teaching and designing courses. Because comparison is the basis for making any sort of novel claim about the world (“Oh look, that’s higher than this”), one of his first assignments was to hit the web and find several sample syllabi, from other schools, as examples of how other people structure their intro courses. Continue reading

Survey Says…?

Picture 2Have you seen this new Pew Foundation survey on being Jewish in America?

Like all surveys it raises some interesting questions, such as whether it simply describes an already existing object of study (one that nicely divides into a variety of easily and clearly distinguishable sub-types) or whether the questions, categories, and sub-divisions actively constitute an object of study.

What’s more, who is doing that constitution: group members themselves or the people who study them? For a survey such as this is likely aimed at simply documenting how members of a group think about themselves — it’s an opinion survey, after all. But what’s a scholar to do with its results? What do we do with any group members’ own self-representations and claims (sifted through the demographer’s questions and assumptions, of course) about themselves and the world around them?

So, as a scholar, what do you do with a survey that says…?