LAST WEEK TO REGISTER FOR 2011 DAN CONFERENCE - Registrations close Friday 25 March
Updated Conference Information will be emailed to all registered delegates by the end of March.
8th International DAN CONFERENCE 18-20 APRIL 2011
Engaging Sceptical Minds with Ultimate Questions
Newington College - Sydney

When we take students' ultimate concerns as our starting point, the classroom becomes a space where we can explore the metaphysical, ethical, spiritual and philosophical dimensions of being human.  What is a good life?  What does it mean to be human?  How do I find truth?  Why is there suffering and evil?  Opportunities to address such questions in a philosophically rigorous and existentially authentic way are rare, and yet answers have profound implications for the way we live. 
At the 2011 Dialogue Australasia Network Conference, outstanding educators will engage with and model strategies for exploring ultimate questions.  Keynote addresses will be followed by Making it Happen in the Classroom sessions, offering practical resources for both primary and secondary teachers of Religious and Philosophical Studies, Values and Ethics.  

May Issue of Dialogue Australasia Journal & 2011 Renewal Invoices

 - If you have yet to renew your 2011 DAN Membership or Journal Subscription, please do so before the end of March.  The DAN EO will happily email you a copy of your invoice to facilitate payment!
- Gaps in your Dialogue Australasia journal collection?  Back issues of most copies are available for $15/each (or $10/each for 4 or more issues) for current & new subscribers.  Check out details of past issues and how to order.

MOVIE: The Adjustment Bureau (March 2011 release, M Rated)

Written and directed by George Nolfi (screenwriter of Ocean's Twelve and The Bourne Ultimatum),The Adjustment Bureau is inspired by Philip K. Dick's short story Adjustment Team. It centres on the question 'Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us?'
Matt Damon plays a politician who learns there are forces conspiring to keep him apart from contemporary ballet dancer, Emily Blunt; forces that aren't to be reckoned with and that can erase his life if he doesn't play ball...Matrix-like (but less nuanced and over-expounded), The Adjustment Bureau offers another way into discussions with students exploring free will, predestination, choice, chance, relationships.
Watch the trailer and check out the Damaris Discussion Guide to the film that poses questions such as:
  1. In reality, do you think we are free to plot our own course through life? What other factors might influence our choices? To what extent do you think these forces control us?

  2. Thompson tells David, 'We actually tried free will . . . you gave us the Dark Ages for five centuries.' He goes on to explain, 'You don't have free will; you have the appearance of free will.' 
    Do you think the Chairman was right to take away humanity's free will after it was abused? Why is free will so fundamentally important to us?

  3. David assures Thompson, 'I know what I feel for [Elise], and it's not going to change. All I have are the choices that I make, and I choose her come what may.' What do you think of David's choice? Why is this relationship more important to him than his career?

  4. David: Why won't they let me be with Elise? 
    Harry: Because she's enough. If you have her, you won't need to fill that void inside of                you with applause and votes. 

    The Chairman manipulates David by depriving him of what he loves. Is this how you - or people in general - tend to think of God? Can you trace where these ideas have come from?
As the name suggests, Big Questions Online (a John Templeton Foundation initiative) is a portal for leading thinkers to explore the Big Issues through articles, interviews and blogs. Recent posts include:
  • The True Morality - Richard Swinburne, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, answers the question, 'Is science capable of providing a common morality?' (3:50 Video)
  • Shared Paradoxes - Russell Stannard, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the Open University, reverses the question, 'Does quantum physics have anything significant to tell us about religion? (5.10 Video)
  • The Biggest Big Question of All - Why is there something rather than nothing?  Michael Shermer proposes at least ten answers to what is arguably the biggest question of all.
Learning from One Another: Bringing Muslim perspectives into Australian schools is a comprehensive resource from the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies (University of Melbourne).  
The free, downloadable resource includes:

 - Strategies, content and learning sequences (primary & secondary) for introducing Islam and Muslim content into the classroom in each curriculum area.

- Basic information about Islam and Muslims in Australia and overseas, reflecting the diversity of beliefs, practices, cultures, ethnicities and languages.

 - Information about Muslims in Australian schools and practical approaches to engaging and including Muslim students.
Prayers Downunder Website (Under development)

Stuck for a way to help students reflect prayerfully on challenging worldwide events?  Or to give new expression to annual events in the liturgical calendar?  If so, you might be interested in the Prayers Downunder Website which will be launched in October.  It is intended that the site will work on a small subscription fee allowing people to download prayers which are contemporary, fit the lectionary (main celebrations), and which also relate to recent worldwide events.  
The creators of the site welcome any feedback/ideas you might have about this resource whilst it is still being developed. Examples of prayers include Christchurch Earthquake prayer and God bless Egypt.
  • Life's Big Questions (ABC Compass) Scott Stephens talks to well known Australians about their take on the meaning of life, their beliefs and pivotal experiences.  Hear from Masterchef's Matt Preston, The Chaser's Julian Morrow, Lindy Chamberlain, voluntary euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke, singer songwriter Clare Bowditch and film director Rolf De Heer.  Past episodes and transcripts can be accessed online, or watched live at 10pm, Sundays on ABC 1.
  • Islam and Egypt  (ABC Spirit of Things) With all eyes on the Arab world (and plenty being written and spoken on the unfolding revolutions), this interview offers two different views.  Egyptian-born Muslim feminist and New York-based reporter, Mona Eltahawy is an advocate of the Egyptian revolution and believes it will deliver freedom and democracy. Professor Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of the Egyptian founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, is a proponent of a new Islam that is modern but conservative.
  • Why science can determine human values by Sam Harris (ABC Religion & Ethics Online).  Harris defends his claims that morality and values depend on the existence of conscious minds (which can experience various forms of well-being and suffering in this universe). Conscious minds and their states are natural phenomena - fully constrained by the laws of Nature. Therefore, there must be right and wrong answers to questions of morality and values that potentially fall within the purview of science. On this view, some people and cultures will be right (to a greater or lesser degree), and some will be wrong, with respect to what they deem important in life.
  • The Search for Contentment in the Modern World by David Malouf (The Age Online). 'How is it, when the chief sources of human unhappiness, of misery and wretchedness, have largely been removed from our lives … that happiness still eludes so many of us? … What is it in us, or in the world we have created, that continues to hold us back?'  So asks Malouf as he discusses new and old ways to talk about contentment and the self. The full essay can be purchased from The Quarterly, Issue 41
Looking for a great book to read over the Easter break that offers an illuminating perspective(s) on contemporary practices of Hinduism?
William Dalrymple, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, 2009
Through the different religious paths of nine people, acclaimed historian and travel writer William Dalrymple explores the sacred in modern India.
A Jain nun tests her powers of detachment as she watches her best friend ritually starve herself to death. A woman leaves her middle class family in Calcutta and her job in a jute factory, only to find unexpected love and fulfillment living as a tantric in a skull-filled hut in a remote cremation ground. 
A prison warder from Kerala becomes for two months of the year a temple dancer and is worshipped as an incarnate deity; then, at the end of February each year, he returns to prison. An illiterate goat herd from Rajasthan keeps alive an ancient 200,000-stanza sacred epic that he, virtually alone, still knows by heart. A devadasi - or temple prostitute - initially resists her own initiation into sex work, yet pushes both her daughters into a trade she regards as a sacred calling...

Nine people, nine lives. Each one taking a different religious path, each one an unforgettable story.
  • Thursday 24 March:  Ethics and Peace Journalism with Professor Jake Lynch, Director Centre Peace & Conflict, Sydney, Centre for Ethics, Newington College, Stanmore NSW, 2011 Brochure 
  • Tuesday 29 March:  Philosophy for Children with Professor Philip Cam, Philosopher and Educationalist, Centre for Ethics, Newington College, Stanmore NSW, Booking Details
  • 13-15 April:  Introduction to Teaching RE in a Secondary School with Catherine Syms, St John's College, Auckland NZ, Booking Brochure
  • Thursday 28 April:  Introducing Buddhism: A Seminar for HSC Students with Gary Gach, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buddhism, Newington College, Stanmore NSW, Booking Details
  • 9-20 May:  Yr 10 & 11 Gifted & Talented Seminars with Julie Arliss & Jeffrey Hodges, Venues throughout New Zealand & Australia,  Seminar Topics & Booking Form
  • Tuesday 24 May:  Ethics and the Ten Desires that Drive Us with Dr Hugh Mackay; psychologist, social researcher, author, Newington College, Stanmore NSW, Booking Details
  • 18 July - 13 September, Wombat Education Teacher & Student Conferences with Dr Peter Vardy, Venues throughout Australia & New Zealand, Teachers:  Teaching RE & Values through the Arts, Students:  Thinking Allowed, Programme & Booking Details


Contact the DAN Executive Officer

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