Page 18 | Ka Leo | Wednesday, Feb. 29 2012
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Best professor: Jay Sakashita
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Religion professor Jay Sakashita, who received both his bachelorâ€™s and masterâ€™s degrees at UH MÄ noa, specializes in Japanese religions.
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Not all good professors were good students. In fact, religion professor Jay Sakashita allows his rocky academic experience to guide his teaching. â€œI used to get Fâ€™s a lot. On a regular basis,â€? said Sakashita. â€œI know that there are students like me, or how I was, in the class, so I try to make sure that I can reach those students.â€? One of the ways he relates to students is by sharing stories and connecting his lessons to personal experience. â€œBecause I was such a poor student, what helped me to get Câ€™s and to do OK and to pass was ... if I could see [the subject â€™s] importance,â€? said Sakashita.â€œStudents have a better chance of finding the class interesting if it is somehow connected to things that are going on in their lives.â€? Because religion is intimately tied to ever yday life for many students, Sakashita feels that it â€™s easier for them to engage. â€œ[Religion] was the only subject I got Câ€™s in â€“ in the rest I got Dâ€™s and F â€™s. I thought, â€˜ Thereâ€™s hope.â€™ You see, religion saves!â€? Sakashita joked.
ĘťS E N S E O U T O F N O N S E N S E Ęź Sakashita also addressed the more controversial aspects of teaching religion. He said his intention is not to promote particular beliefs, but to explain them to those who donâ€™t share that faith. â€œOur class is not interested in the truth,â€? said Sakashita. â€œYou ďŹ nd the truth in your temple, your mosque, your shrine, your church. The closest we get to the truth is to make sense out of nonsense.â€? Students sometimes take his teaching personally. â€œIâ€™ve had students walk out,â€? said Sakashita. â€œSome have said â€˜Youâ€™re gonna go to hell.â€™ And I said, â€˜Oh well, better music.â€™â€? But overall, students respond well. â€œThe positive actually far outweighs the negative,â€? Sakashita said. â€œWeâ€™re not here to judge. Weâ€™re not here to convert. Weâ€™re not here to destroy anyoneâ€™s faith. Just make sense out of nonsense.â€?
S TAY I N G H U M B L E Although Sakashita has received positive feedback in the past, he was surprised that students voted for him. â€œIf I were to vote for best professor, I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m even one of the best ones in this department,â€? he said. â€œIf these students took their [other religion professorsâ€™] classes, I think their names would be there, not mine.â€?