ASREL-L reactivated

John McRae jrm at
Wed Dec 14 04:53:23 EST 1994

--------------------------- Original Message ---------------------------
file: asrel-l.announce.95spring
rev:  1.01; last revised December 14, 1994

    Announcement of the Re-commencement of

              ASREL-L, or

      The Asian Religions Discussion List

           for spring semester 1995

    list owner: John McRae, jrm5 at

[Please distribute to all relevant discussion lists.
Sorry about any resulting duplication!]

The Asian Religions Discussion List has been established
to function as a discussion section for introductory
courses on Asian religions.  Its first semester of
operation was spring 1994, when it was used by classes
at Cornell University, Indiana University, The
University of Calgary, Washington University of St.
Louis, Kenyon College, and Siena College. In its second
semester of operation, fall 1994, it was essentially

Please note that this is a CLOSED list -- the only
people allowed to participate will be faculty, teaching
assistants, and students currently involved in
teaching/taking introductory courses in Asian religions
offered at the college level, as well as authors of
books used in those courses.  (Faculty who are
considering using this list in future courses and
authors of books used in introductory Asian religions
courses will also be allowed to participate.)  We extend
our apologies to others who might be interested, but
administrative constraints make this restriction
necessary at present.

The goal of this e-mail discussion list is to allow
students and faculty to exchange ideas and information
about Asian religions, and we hope that the
conversations that take place on this list during spring
1995 will continue to be lively and educational.  The
faculty involved will use this list to distribute study
and discussion questions, homework and extra credit
assignments, and other timely information to the
students involved.  Students are invited to ask and
answer questions of/from the faculty and especially
of/from each other, to express their own opinions and
analyses, and to collaborate within established
guidelines with fellow students on homework and extra
credit assignments.  There is also a companion list
(sort of an on-going teachers' conference) named

Therefore, please note and respond to the following as

1.  If you're teaching an introductory course in Asian
religions (preferably a pan-Asian survey, but also
single-tradition courses) and are interested in having
your students use this list, please contact me at

Please do not expect any reply UNTIL AFTER January 15,
1995; I will be in Yunnan Province, China, until January
13, after which I will spend some time in Japan.  I hope
to be able to get at my e-mail and take care of initial
subscriptions to this list then, but I will not return
to Cornell until January 23, 1995.  My first classes are
on January 24, so I'll be pretty busy then!

2.  All faculty involved will be required to perform the
following tasks:

   A.  Provide me with names of students and their
e-mail addresses, so that I can subscribe them to the
list.  (This is a closed list, and automatic
subscription is NOT possible.)  I will provide
subscription files to assist you in this procedure.

   B.  Spend a predetermined amount of time for a
specified number of weeks during the semester monitoring
and guiding discussion. (See added comment below.)

3.  Faculty are encouraged to make participation in
ASREL-L an integral part of their teaching.  That is,
rather than inviting students to participate on a
voluntary and/or extra-credit basis, I recommend making
participation in ASREL-L either required for all
students or a possible substitute for conventional
discussion sections for those who are interested.
(There's more on this below, too.)

4.  It is not absolutely necessary that all our students
be studying exactly the same thing at the same time, and
it is inevitable that our syllabi will vary.  However,
for your reference, the following will be some of the
discussion topics used in my own course (our sections
meet on Thursday and Friday, but the e-mail discussion
list will no doubt only begin its coverage on Friday

Jan. 26-7:   Vedic fire sacrifice
Feb. 2-3:    Ancient Indian philosophies of
                 transcendence (the Upanishads)
Feb. 9-10:   The spiritual discipline of yoga
Feb. 16-17:  Problem, solution, and goal in Buddhism
Feb. 23-24:  Emptiness and popular faith (Mahayana
Mar. 2-3:    Theism and duty (the Bhagavad Gita)
Mar. 9-10:   Political service as religious ideal (the
                 Confucian Analects)
Mar. 16-17:  No section (we're starting spring break!)
Mar. 23-24:  No section (we're on spring break!)
Mar.30-31:   Naturalism and transcendence in Chinese
Apr. 6-7:    Unitary keys, complex pantheons in Chinese
Apr. 13-14:  Background/foreground in religious change
Apr. 20-21:  Faith and grace (Japanese Pure Land
Apr. 27-28:  Native and foreign, established and new
                (Japanese Shinto)
May 4-5:     Contemporary Asian religions

Now let me expand on point 2B a bit.  Our experience
during the first semester ASREL-L was active was that
virtually all the faculty involved (myself included!)
effectively disappeared from the list toward the end of
the semester, no doubt due to the pressure of other
responsibilities.  As a result, what had been a very
balanced dialogue lost its focus.  Therefore, this
semester (and in the future) I must require that
participating faculty (including teaching assistants)
sign up for a certain number of weeks as discussion
monitors.  Hopefully, there will be enough participation
such that this is not an excessive burden.  When you
send me e-mail indicating your interest in this list,
please indicate which weeks you'd prefer to monitor.

Finally, a bit more on point 3.  I don't think that an
electronic discussion list is going to be the right
thing for ALL students, but it will add an important
option that will be good for some of them.  These
include students who cannot conveniently attend the
regular discussion sections, or who feel
bored/intimidated by listening to a couple of loudmouths
(sometimes the instructor!) while everyone else sits
quietly.  My theory is that, by removing a certain
percentage of students from conventional discussion
sections and thereby making the numbers more manageable,
you not only provide an exciting option for those
participating in the electronic discussion list but also
improve the quality of discussions in the conventional

However, I must also point out that it is not going to
save you or the students any time each week! You or one
(or more) of your teaching assistants is going to have
to spend at least an hour a week monitoring and
responding to messages, probably two hours or more.  The
good side is that it is possible to foster an
interesting give-and-take between these discussions and
your in-class lectures, since you can post discussion
questions to the list and then respond to the ensuing
dialogue in lectures. Response from the students who
participate has been extremely positive!

I look forward to hearing from you. As noted above,
please circulate this message to anyone you think might
be interested. I look forward to "talking" to you
sometime in mid- or late January!

John McRae, list owner
jrm5 at

(Note:  If you use the "reply" feature of your e-mail
program to respond to the following form, it would be
convenient if you delete the preceding material.  You
may of course cut and paste this form into a new


Please answer the following questions:




Telephone number:

Primary e-mail address:

Any secondary e-mail addresses:

Course designation and title:

Probable number of students (estimate) on ASREL-L:

Check one:  ASREL-L will be required ___ recommended ___

Weeks you are willing to monitor (specify by
Thursday/Friday dates, one week per choice):

     First choice:

     Second choice:

     Third choice:

     Fourth choice:

If you wish, you may include any comments, or even the
names and e-mail addresses of your teaching assistants
and/or students here.  (Teaching assistants should fill
out the preceding form, too.)  Thanks!

John McRae, ASREL-L list owner
jrm5 at

[end of file]


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