Conversations and Contemplation

The Steward School
A panel discussion on faith
On April 30, a panel discussion offered students insight into some of the differences and similarities found in several faiths. In Steeber Commons, Upper Schoolers in the Honors course Topics in Modern World History listened attentively as panelists Padma Kancharla, Priti Gosar-Patil, and Scott Murrah shared their thoughts on Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, respectively. Leiah Laster ’26 served as moderator.

Topics in Modern World History is divided into two sections and is taught by Upper School Social Studies Teacher Sarah Dwelle and Upper School Humanities Teacher Trevor Smith. The course blends a study of revolutions in modern history with an introduction to religious studies. Students learn about the origins and beliefs of each faith before discussing a revolution that involves that religion.

“We recently finished an introduction to Hinduism and are currently investigating decolonization in India and the role Hinduism played in that push for independence,” said Mr. Smith. Ms. Dwelle added, “Our Upper School social studies team has long valued opportunities to connect our students with local practitioners of different faith traditions.”

The panelists shared their personal faith journeys and details about their religious philosophies. Leiah asked them questions that students had submitted in advance, which touched on a variety of topics, including holidays and celebrations in each faith; and how they feel about those who follow other religions. The gathering was an opportunity for students to see firsthand how the ideas they have been discussing in class play out in the real world. 

Spartans of all ages are continually engaged by topics and ideas that encourage critical thinking and empathy. 

Jordan Soloman ’26 said, “I learned more about the unique differences and similarities between these three fascinating religions. What I found most thought-provoking of all was their descriptions of how [the panelists] deal with discrimination. They stated that all people were equally valid in their beliefs and that if someone wishes to believe things about them, they simply let them do so."

Mr. Smith noted, “No matter how much we study the history, beliefs, and nuts and bolts of a religion, you can never truly begin to understand the depths of it until you hear from a practitioner. How they came to it and how they view their place in the world are essential for putting our understanding of these beliefs in context.” 

Ms. Dwelle hopes the gathering helped students better understand and respect the diversity of beliefs found in their community. 

“Hearing from local practitioners encourages students to continue asking questions and seeking answers,” she said. 


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