“The religious diversity of the American classroom has exploded in recent years, but our approaches to teaching and learning, and to giving diverse faiths a voice in the public square, haven’t kept up,” says Wayne resident Dr. Khyati Y. Joshi, an expert social scientist whose work focuses on multicultural education and religion in America, particularly South Asian religions like Hinduism, Sikhism, and Islam. “Religious literacy is now an essential skill for teachers, policy-makers, and all of us.”
The way immigrant and second-generation Americans live their religions, and respond to their status as religious minorities in a country where Christianity remains normative, is the basis of a presentation Professor Joshi made at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 20, as part of a conference presented by the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the non-profit organization Hindu American Seva Charities, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Joshi had been invited to discuss her research to help improve understanding of South Asian religious communities in the United States and inform the development of policies and best practices in the area of Homeland Security.
“It’s very clear that teachers and principals don’t know all that can be done because of the fear of saying the wrong thing,” says Joshi. “Educators can’t teach what they don’t know. Because people are not informed about many religions, including their own, they don’t talk about it. (We need to) let students know that they can talk about it.”
Joshi’s White House presentation was not the first time policy-makers have looked to her research for policy guidance. In 2009, she addressed the roundtable meeting ‘Racism in the OSCE Region: Old Issues, New Challenges,’ sponsored by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the 56-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), in Vienna, Austria. She has lectured in the U.S. and India on topics related the Indian Diaspora in the United States. She also consults with school districts and trains K-12 teachers across the United States.