AMST 211 Frameworks for Religion & Public Life

How we debate is just as important as what we debate. Hot topics give the illusion that we must be hot-headed. For instance, if we enter a disagreement with the intent to "win the fight," then the aggressive mood we bring influences the outcome of what we see as a zero-sum game. Does one person's win always need to be another person's loss? How might one person change the nature of a debate by framing it in non-dualistic ways? How can we transform competitive environments into professional, collegial settings? In this course, you will engage people from a wide range of identities and viewpoints and practice how to preserve the dignity of the person with whom you disagree.

1791 Delegates · February 4, 2021

This course has two sections designed to teach people how to dialogue across differences: frameworks and approaches.

Part 1. A framework is a theory or a conceptual lens we will use to view religion and public life issues. Frameworks help us set parametersu2014the ground rulesu2014for our collaborative work, ensuring academic professionalism and integrity. These frames allow us to examine, test, refine, and adapt our thoughts and behavior, inspiring us to bring our best selves to this challenging learning process. Examples include:

  • Practicing mutual understanding, aware that understanding need not imply agreement.
  • Using the moral imagination to see an ethical dilemma through the perspective of all the stakeholders involved.
  • Speaking from our standpoint, not for any other group or identity, and not expecting others to do the same.

Part 2. Disciplinary approaches are methods that learners, scholars, and professionals use to enrich how they construct knowledge in different academic disciplines or fields of study. These approaches provide blueprints of best practices for researching controversial topics. Examples include:

  • Conducting thought experiments to investigate the boundaries of ideas;
  • Listening for logic fallacies in our arguments while practicing intellectual humility; and
  • Identifying the implicit biases that may undergird certain positions.


Dr. Nathan C. Walker

President, 1791 Delegates

Beatrice Barjon

Teaching Fellow, 1791 Delegates
Thomas Jefferson University

Civic Education for a Common Good

We apply the U.S. Department of Education’s Consensus Statements about Constitutional Approaches for Teaching about Religion

▸ Our approach to religion is academic, not devotional;
▸ We strive for student awareness of religions, but do not press for student acceptance of any religion;
▸ We sponsor the study about religion, not the practice of religion;
▸ We expose students to a diversity of religious views, but may not impose any particular view;
▸ We educate about all religions, we do not promote or denigrate any religion;
▸ We inform students about religious beliefs and practices, it does not seek to conform students to any particular belief or practice.

We apply the American Academy of Religion’s “Religious Literacy Guidelines”

▸ “Religious Literacy Guidelines for College Students.” American Academy of Religion, 2019.
▸ “Teaching About Religion: AAR Guidelines for K-12 Public Schools.” American Academy of Religion, April 2010.

We apply the National Council for the Social Studies C3 Frameworks for Religious Studies

College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards, “Religious Studies Companion Document for the C3 Framework.” Silver Spring, MD: National Council for the Social Studies, 2017.