Religious Education with Warts June 18, 2007

Religious Education with Warts

According to the BBC, A report from England’s Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) says that Religious Education classes in the country “must provide children with a more sophisticated understanding of the subject in a post-11 September world.”

What does that mean?

It says teachers should include ways in which religion is not always a force for good.

I’m surprised that wasn’t taught before…

The BBC article states that the classes discuss religion in the context of contemporary issues and moral qualms, such as the War in Iraq. But you don’t get the full understanding you need to make sense of the impact of religion in our world.

One of the most radical suggestions in Ofsted’s report is that religion should be taught warts and all. The inspectors called on teachers not to shy away from controversy, but to accept in their classes that religion could be a force for bad as well as for good.

“Pupils should be taught that religion is complex,” says the report, “and should be given the opportunity to explore that ambiguity.”

And, oh, how many warts there are.

I do hope they teach about warts in several religions, not just Islam, which seems to be the focus of this article.

(Thanks to Ash for the link!)

[tags]atheist, atheism, England, Ofsted, Religious Education, War, Iraq[/tags]

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  • What one should appreciate about religious education (the only compulsory subject, yet also the only one without a standard in the national curriculum) in the UK is that it’s all treated as if a) it’s historical, b) it’s benign, and c) everyone already has one.

    At least it was in my day. One can hope that things have changed in the interim, although by the sounds of this article, not much has. Saying that, at least RE teachers as I knew them didn’t have to belong to a faith group to be able to teach it.

  • Ash

    religious education (the only compulsory subject…)

    eh? did you have a choice about english, maths + science then?

    nullifidian’s right tho, standards in RE can be set by individual authorities in england, and even if they get a national concensus on standards it will only apply to state schools – leaving faith schools up to their own devices…

  • eh? did you have a choice about english, maths + science then?

    For practical purposes, no, although it was never clear as to whether this compulsion was for the LEA’s provision, or for the student’s attendance. As far as my school education went, it was (to me) all mandatory.

  • Thanks for bringing the BBC article into our attention. Is religious education compulsory in UK?

  • Darryl

    The UK is forever puzzling me: they seem so forward-thinking in so many ways, yet the tolerance they show to fanatical groups in England that openly and loudly declare their intention to subvert British law and culture cannot be other than backward and stupid. Has anyone noticed the birth rates in Europe these days, and the demographic trends? What are they doing?

  • Brendon Lake

    If you discuss the history of religion, you are discussing the history of humanity, and humanity has loads of warts wherever you look!

  • Mriana

    It’s not compulsary here in the States and I hope it never is, but in the high school I attended it was an English course elective and taught as literature. In the local uni, it is in the Religious studies, but it’s not taught by one particular view. In fact, you learn things that your Church probably won’t teach you and if they do, you are very lucky to be in a liberal church- IMO at least.

  • Ash

    University – as far as i’m aware, it’s a compulsory subject in the first 3 years of secondary school (ages 11-13), after that it becomes optional for GCSE. again, it’s been a while, but when i was at school, 3 years allowed us to get taught a bit of history (the ‘good’ bits), and basic descriptions of holy books + worship buildings (ie religiousity from a christian perspective). we only focused on ‘major’ religions – ie christianity, judaism + islam, and it was so dull no-one learnt a thing anyway.
    Mriana – the importance for it being compulsory here, and taught well with all the warts, is precisely because we are non-secular – if religion is gonna contaminate our politics, it’s really important that kids should have some understanding of it – and all its faults, hipocrasies etc.

  • Mriana

    Mriana – the importance for it being compulsory here, and taught well with all the warts, is precisely because we are non-secular – if religion is gonna contaminate our politics, it’s really important that kids should have some understanding of it – and all its faults, hipocrasies etc.

    I don’t think it would fly well in the U.S. We’re suppose to be a secular nation, but people would be up in arms about it due to our First Amendment which includes Separation of Church and State. Many people would probably see this as a violation of that amendment and be up in arms about it. The Christians esp. would complain about teaching the faults of Christianity even though the faults are very much there.

    I’m not sure how making it compulsary makes a country secular though.

  • Ash

    Mriana – that was my point – i’m english + we aren’t a secular country. i’m thinking if it has to be there, the ‘warts and all’ approach can only be a good thing. i don’t think it should be a compulsary subject in the US, as you’re supposed to be secular (which is weird coz the US seems to have more problems with religion trying to dominate politics), but maybe england can educate itself out of a potential hole.

  • Mriana

    Yes, I know, it is odd. We are suppose to be a secular nation, yet the Religious Reich keeps trying to take over. I don’t think they have read our Constitution very well and it seems our pres had disregarded it.

    I’m all for education, esp of religion, but will they teach it as a means of OK here are the different religions and their problems, now you choose what you want or will it show the violent history of each one- esp the main three. Will it show that Christianity started with a mix of Judaism and Paganism or will it ignore that? Will it tell the kids that Islam came a from a dream/vision, just as Paul had a dream and started Christianity to spread more? Will it show that the Christian texts was borrowed and/or stolen from other myths and rewritten to make it Christianity?

    IMHO the only way to educate one out of religion is show the real origins, not what a small group want people to know. The warts are fine, but show the myths they developed from too and the battle to force Pagan to turn Mithra (or whatever man/god) to Jesus and alike. Make them question if any of these people were ever real, so that they go one to find the answer for themselves and not what some church tells them to believe.

  • From what I recall, christianty was basically taught as whatever combination of the MMLJ that suited the particular teacher as “fact” (in as much as “Jesus existed”). There was a brief tip of the hat to judaism, but no discussion as to the pagan origins, other religions of the time/region. Neither was there any discussion as to interpretation, philosophy or evidence. If anything, it always seemed to be presented as “history with a bit of myth”.

    There were also discussions of the usual suspects: islam, judaism, buddhism, hinduism, shinto although none of these were treated with any more than a cursory overview.

    The origins of religions were completely brushed over, as if they were lost in the mists of time, never to be discovered.

    Britain is not by any means a secular country, and won’t be until the monarchy is removed and the church and state are separated. Hell, even our second parliamentary house, The House of Lords, has a fair number of bishops (appointed by other bishops) setting the rules.

    I’m not against the teaching about religion, I’m just against the teaching of religion (i.e. as if it’s a fact of reality/history).

  • Mriana

    Oh brother! That could make things worse not better. If teachers sit on the fence, which maybe due to fear of those who claim that religion, it won’t help much. Either it is fact or it’s myth, but it can’t be both. Of course, modern day religion is IMO “evolved” myth.

  • TBH, as most people in the UK don’t take much, if any, notice of religion, it’s mostly just out of ignorance that people say that they are “CofE” (anglican) when filling out forms and whatnot. Most people really don’t give a crap (read “believe”) what the RE teachers say.

    I suspect that it’s mostly only those that have grown up in strictly religious households that continue in any kind of faith tradition with any fervour.

    The UK is technically a (albeit mild) theocracy although in practice we’re a secular democracy. Personally, I’d rather we were both technically and practically a secular democracy, with appropriate religious freedoms, but I’ll have no truck with religious persecution nor privilege.

  • Brendon Lake

    Fact: as historical information, the Bible is extremely accurate, any historian can tell you that.
    If that is the case, why are we in such a hurry to bin it and God?

    They say truth is stranger than fiction, this Truth is rather too uncomfortable for most. The truth is that as mankind we must recognise we’ve blown it and we have no other hope than a God whom we cannot see, whom has given us all the information we need about him in the form of the Bible.

    Don’t knock it ’till you’ve read it

  • Darryl

    Brendon, get a grip here. I dare say all of the people that regularly post comments on this blog have read the Bible; some of us likely know it better than you do. I’m no historian, but from what I hear the Bible is not the text that historians of antiquity turn to first when they’re doing research. Archeology gives us a much better record.

  • Mriana

    Brendon, I have read it more than once and have studied throughly to know what is what. Maybe not as much as Mike, but I’ve studied with some pretty good theologians. Even historians debate the Bible’s historical accurracy and even then they agree about what is not accurrate in the Bible.

    BTW, there has never been a world-wide flood, so in that respect and many others, the Bible is inaccurate historically. You don’t even have to go to science to find this, theologians will tell you that too, unless you have one who insists that the Bible is inerrant- Sorry, it’s not inerrant.

  • Robert Tapp

    When it began, UK religious instruction in state schools (as distinct from private ones) included an option for and Lancaster U, under Ninian Smart, was training teachers to do that. Established denominations as well as Church of England could also be chosen.

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