Our university remains attached to its founding in 1829 as an Anglican institution committed to the promotion of religious life and theological learning in its students.
Its Christian identity and values are embodied in the Associateship of King’s College award (AKC): an optional course open to all students that is modelled on the original award of the college. The AKC builds upon its philosophical and ethical teachings ‘to promote intelligent, open-minded reflection’.
Perhaps it was curiosity more than anything, then, that led me to take the AKC course. I was intrigued by how King’s could support a traditional, theological agenda whilst still maintaining its reputation as a modern, forward-thinking, socially liberal institution; one that is inclusive of all students regardless of religious orientation, gender and all other means of social categorisation.
Three years down the line, attending the AKC has become something of a personal test: one of them being to continue to stand it when each speaker seems to present something more ludicrous, illogical and blinkered than the one before.
When the AKC claims that it ‘enables students to develop an enquiring mind’ and ‘to be educated about important issues’, it does so within a very strictly controlled, narrow-minded and gendered framework.
Throughout the course we’ve heard from a grey-haired white man in a suit followed by another grey-haired white man in a suit, with the only woman speaker being Dr Carlisle, the programme’s director. Our minds can enquire into the world but this world is a male construction supporting male beliefs. We can be educated on important issues but these issues are male issues. Why is there no acknowledgement of this in the AKC? We are being taught a half-truth.
It’s 2015 and much of the current course belongs to a time that has passed. The fact that the AKC continues to perpetuate the idea of the Christian concept of God-and women- as more worthy of attention than other beliefs (there is a whole semester dedicated to the Christian school of thought but only one lecture planned on Buddhism) is reflective of our university’s bias to its Anglican creation.
There is some hope for the AKC, however. Semester two promises a more representative line-up of speakers, with topics as far-reaching as ‘Islamic Self-Identification in the East End of London’ and ‘Religious Innovation in China and Mongolia’.
The backward teachings of the AKC proves that KCL has failed to take note of its students’ rejection of the College’s out-dated, didactic Christian vision that offends and ignores so many different human experiences. By all means, the course is interesting and has the potential to be a positive force in keeping King’s history alive, but it makes no effort to include modern, philosophical interpretations of experiences outside of our patriarchal view of history.
The AKC must modernise if it wants to be taken seriously.
To see what the AKC had to say in response to this article, click here