Ever since Elder Ballard challenged graduating students to take a more active role in explaining and defending the gospel on the internet, I have felt that the time was ripe to develop an academic course designed to do just that. BYU is the ideal place to pilot such a program. Now the average student has a hard time justifying extra-curricular activities with all the other demands on their time. But offer up academic credit that can be used to meet religion requirements for participating on the internet and I anticipate a proverbial Helaman’s army could be mobilized.
The main attraction would be a weekly guest invited to speak on controversial topic open to the public. Of course, one can find a smattering of apologetically oriented lectures going on at BYU already at the Sperry Symposium, church history symposia, and church education week, etc. However, most of these forums have a continuing education vibe to them and are only sparsely attended by traditional students. Of course, there are intermediary outlets for exceptional students to present research whether it is the SANE conference or through submissions to a paper writing contest. That talent pool could be recruited from alongside seniors looking to fulfill their last religion elective.
The class would break up into sections and meet in smaller rooms and be taught by a regular instructor for the second hour each week. Grading would be largely based on writing assignments for blogs and keeping a journal of time spent on internet participation. Participation points can be gained on message boards, through making newspaper comments, or from critiquing or providing tech support for other students prior to web publishing. The text for the class would be a selection of articles drawn heavily from the Maxwell Institute, BYU Studies, and the Journal of Mormon History. Tests would be take-home and evaluate a student’s ability to find reliable sources to address specific criticisms against the church.
Realistically a class tackling controversial issues would no doubt create all kinds of headaches for BYU’s administration. I would like to know what other Bloggernacle participants think about the desirability and feasibility about such a class.