1st Edition

Teaching Religious Literacy to Combat Religious Bullying Insights from North American Secondary Schools

By W. Y. Alice Chan Copyright 2021
    254 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    254 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This text explores the phenomenon of religious bullying as it manifests in two North American contexts and theorizes religious literacy as a viable school-based intervention to promote understanding of religious and non-religious difference.

    Using substantive, qualitative data from schools and communities in California and Quebec, Teaching Religious Literacy to Combat Religious Bullying examines the impact of mandatory religious literacy courses delivered in secondary schools and identifies curricula, teacher attitudes, training, and administrative support as key determinants of course impact. Drawing on Bronfenbrenner’s social-ecological framework, the text then illustrates how the environmental factors both in and outside of the school considerably influence teacher and student attitudes to religious and non-religious traditions. Practical recommendations are made to combat overarching societal trends and religious discrimination within the classroom, and context is cited as key to an effective discussion on religious literacy more broadly.

    This text will benefit researchers, academics, and educators with an interest in religious literacy, religious education, the sociology of education, and those looking at the field of bullying and truancy more widely. Those interested in intersectionality, marginalized communities, secularism, and educational policy will also benefit from the volume.

    Chapter 1: How I Came to These Questions

    Chapter 2: Grounding the Discussion: A Space for Religious Identities and Religious Understanding

    Chapter 3: Religious bullying: Why Should We Care?

    Chapter 4: Religious literacy: Why Does It Matter?

    Chapter 5: Context matters: Past and Present Influences in Quebec and California

    Chapter 6: Methodology and Timing Matter: North American Politics from 2016 to 2017

    Chapter 7: Findings: Modesto, California

    Chapter 8: Findings: Montreal, Quebec

    Chapter 9: Yes, Religious Literacy Can Inform Religious Bullying, Positively and Negatively

    Chapter 10: What This Means for You: Recommendations


    W. Y. Alice Chan is Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Centre for Civic Religious Literacy (CCRL). Dr. Chan completed her PhD at McGill University, Canada.

    “With the tremendous increase in hate crimes based on religion the world over, it is urgent to understand the issue of religious bullying among young people, and attempt to prevent it in school when the seeds are often planted. Alice Chan’s book on religious literacy as a means of combating religious bullying will not only serve as a tool for addressing bias-based aggressive behavior but also makes a timely and significant contribution in filling the gap in literature in religious bullying. This research indicates that courses on religious literacy have potential, but they are not sufficient in preventing bullying. The intersection of several factors makes it essential to have a social and structural environment that supports the educational strategies.”

    -- Dr. Ratna Ghosh, Distinguished James McGill Professor and W.C. Macdonald Professor of Education, McGill University, Canada

    "Religious diversity is an important element of contemporary social life. It is therefore vital that there is space for religious identities and practices in social institutions, civil society and everyday exchanges between people. Drawing on empirical research in California and Quebec, Alice Chan makes a compelling argument for religious literacy as a key to living together. Chan makes a passionate argument for the case that religious literacy enhances the possibility of better understanding one another and as a consequence a richer and more inclusive society."

    -- Dr. Lori G. Beaman, Canada Research Chair in Religious Diversity and Social Change, Professor in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa, and Director of the Nonreligion in a Complex Future Project

    "In Alice Chan’s wonderful book, Teaching Religious Literacy to Combat Religious Bullying, she asks one basic question: Can religious literacy inform religious bullying? Her answer is an unmistakable YES. However, the yes also reflects a well-researched understanding of complexity. Chan shows us how knowledge can help and hurt depending on how it is taught, learned, and experienced in specific communities. Using two case studies seldom if ever compared—Modesto, California and Montreal, Quebec—Chan looks at curriculum and at the context in which that curriculum is taught and learned. Making it clear that bullying, religious or otherwise, comes from multiple sources, Chan provides a thoroughly researched guide for educators and anyone concerned with building a diverse, respectful, and thoughtful community."

    -- James W. Fraser, Professor of History and Education, New York University, USA