Irrelevant religion courses?

Many of us took courses in college we felt were unnecessary but few of us got to vent about it on University of Iowa sophomore Allie Wright uses her space to complain about how she found a religious studies course to be fairly irrelevant to her major--journalism.

Again, I am pursuing a career in journalism, and while that requires me to learn and understand many different topics, ancient religious beliefs are probably not going to be one of them.

On second thought, I’m not sure many people can successfully integrate these lessons into their career. Other than a pastor or rabbi of some sort, how many people regularly use statements and ideologies from a Tolstoy piece during their time as a doctor, lawyer or stockbroker?

Most of the comments did not respond well to the column, arguing that she should not avoid a class just because it doesn't directly impact her career. One student, however, argues that religion courses would be especially beneficial to Wright.

How as a journalism major can you cover different countries and cultures without knowing all about them? Shouldn’t this class allow you to know more about what you could be covering in the future? Your major above all could benefit from this class the most.

Like Wright, I attended a school that required some religion-related courses, and it sort of annoyed me at the time. Sure, I voluntarily attended Wheaton College where theology is kind of a big deal, but the religion-related classes didn't particularly interest me initially.

Most of my precious hours were spent slaving over the student newspaper and summers spent in newspaper internships, where I believed I would glean the skills needed for a future job in journalism. You can see some of that thinking come through in Wright's arguments, where practical experience trumps the classroom experience.

My point is that experience is more important than most courses offered at universities. Don’t get me wrong — college degrees are extremely important — but I think they are mainly just resume builders, at least for students in liberal arts programs.

No one can get a decent internship without being in college, and internship experience is often what leads to a job, not the classes one takes while in his or her undergraduate career.

However, the classes I took played an invaluable role in the writing I do now. One of my religion courses included sociology of religion, one of the most important classes in shaping how I think about religion reporting and journalism in general.

My professor challenged us to figure out ways to empirically measure something as amorphous as religion. Not only did the class teach me how to read tedious surveys and historical background, it showed me how you can report on something as vague as religion.

Anyone can learn the basics of the cops beat on the job with no formal education in criminology, but understanding and studying the intricacies of religion can help you understand the "why" question in the journalism who, what, where, when, why, how questions.

The pie chart in the upper left-hand corner shows world religions by percentage, as the CIA breaks them down. It's a little outdated, but it gives you the idea of just how religious the world is, something no journalist should ignore.

Journalists love to see experience on the resume, but perhaps some undervalue the role of a solid education. If you were giving career advice, what would you tell Ms. Wright?

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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