Teaching people about culture can mean many things, and we aren’t restricting ourselves to thinking about Scotland. Cultural education can mean raising awareness of a particular culture such as Islam, or changing the culture of large organisations such as the NHS across England, Scotland and Wales. Cultural education can also be giving school children and students a greater understanding of their past using new and interactive technologies or can provide adults with a new perspective on the present.
Working closely with the NHS, Heather Walton from the College of Arts has helped to produce a framework for the 3-4,000 chaplains across England, Scotland and Wales working within the health service. With Walton’s input, her particular specialism of reflective practice became an important element of this first competency framework for chaplains, giving rise to a more caring culture.
Julie Clague has also helped implement a cultural shift, increasing the dialogue between faith-based and secular organisations regarding HIV/AIDS. Since joining the HIV/AIDS Advisory Group of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), she has helped to educate staff and influence HIV policy.
Again in the field of medicine, academics in the College of Arts have made humanities modules a mainstream part of a medical student’s education. Collaborating with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the team have also been funded by Creative Scotland to research the role of visual arts in healing further – culture for patient and doctor!
Saeko Yazaki’s launch of the report on ‘Narratives of Conversion to Islam in Britain’ brought together over sixty Muslims and non-Muslims to discuss what it means to be a woman converting to Islam in Britain today. Based on work Saeko had done with the Centre for Islamic Studies at Cambridge University, this brought together academics and local community members to talk and learn from one another.
The subject of Sectarianism in Scotland is another that should be handled carefully, as Tom Devine did when he spoke at the first event of the Scottish Religious Cultures Network. Despite aiming to be “resolutely controversial” in his lecture, he promoted the conservative approach to writing history: don’t go further than the evidence allows. What he found was that there is an over-emphasis on sectarianism, which may result from the style of teaching of Scottish History in schools.
Schools can benefit hugely from the work of the College of Arts, with such projects as the Scottish History in Schools website and the People of Medieval Scotland database showing how university research can translate easily into classroom-ready resources.
Text by Jennifer Hilder.