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Re -What's the point ?

Discussion in 'Religious Education' started by waynejones, Feb 17, 2012.

  1. Do we really need to be taught RE as a separate subject or can it be browsed through SMSC agenda ?
  2. It may be appropriate for the writer of the post to explore with his colleagues how to improve the SMSC in his 'satisfactory' school too, because if it is just 'satisfactory' (as stated in its recent OFSTED report) then it needs to be developed. When a school urgently needs to improve, this is no time to think of ditching RE, in fact, this subject can be central in providing a vision for improvement.
  3. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    RE is one of the most important subjects in the curriculum. It helps our students to understand themselves and explore the great eternal questions about life and existence, which we engage with throughout our lives. It explores the aspect of life which is subtle and spiritual which no other subject can engage with in the same focussed way.

    In science we look at the outer world, the physical world, but that is not all that there is in life. If you look in a mirror you see the reflection of your physical body - which science can tell you a lot about. But is that who you really are?

    Not only does RE teach us to think about and reflect on these great questions but it explores some of the greatest answers to these greatest questions that have ever been given - over the aeons and in all corners of the world. It expands the mind. Did you know that Socratese once said that an unexamined life is not worth living?

    And that is not all. I often say that RE is like a dance. First you look at the world from your own corner, from where you stand, and try to understand life from that perspective - but then you step into the shoes of someone else, from differrnt cultures and traditions, and learn to see it through their eyes, This develpment of empathy is perhaps the most important skill we can give our young people in todays complex and fragmented world.

    Do you want a world of harmony and understanding where differences are appreciated and not feared? Then strengthen RE in your school and campaign for it to be included in the EBacc.

    I understand the ire expressed by others here but this guy is just ignorant. When he understands why RE is so vital he will be on our side completely.
    ozincg likes this.
  4. Wayne,
    what concerns me is what is behind your question. As an AST perhaps you are in a position of influence and sit at the management table where options like this are discussed.
    My understanding of the law is that as long as approx. 5% of timetable is given over to RE, it does not matter how it is 'packaged'. The concern of my colleagues (and myself) is that what you are proposing would dilute that content to nothing, or at least nothing more than 'implicit' RE with an emphasis on the 'Moral, Social and Cultural'.
    I am afraid that your interest is sympomatic of what is happening nationally, that for various reasons, RE is being sidelined in too many schools. How would you feel if I suggested that a school delivered Science, not as a discrete subject, but through other subjects ? I am sure you would feel suspicious.
    I have mentioned to Stephen Lloyd MP that this discussion is taking place, as his new all-party parliamentary group on RE needs to be aware that these kinds of serious questions are being raised.
    Please reassure me that you have RE as a high priority in your school.
  5. Better still, why not just kill it off altogether? As Thomas Paine once said, the study of theology is the study of nothing and exactly the same can be said of RE. I am resisting the urge to laugh at those who play up it's so called 'importance' in helping students understand the world around them and moral questions.
    The subject I studied at university - Philosophy - could do that job ten times better and without resort to the unlikely nonsense peddled by religions in what is supposed to be the 21st Century.

    In my school where I teach ICT, I am not the RE department's best friend, because I am forever telling students who claim to be struggling with my subject that it's a 'bigger doss than RE'.

    I also help a lot of kids at lunchtimes with RE homework, using philosophical training to help the students see through the hilarious nonsense that religions expect people to believe. I get best attendance at the start of the year when the year 7's are given their first projects - usually based on the kind of juvenile 'proofs' for the existence of 'god' that the RE department give them because they know they have not yet got the intellectual capacity to see through them.
    Away from school, I used to be a youth worker. In that role, I would give the kids awkward questions to ask their RE teacher. That was fun, because most of them went to a local Catholic school.

    My own school is supposed to be a non-aligned comprehensive run by a head who has said on countless occasions to the kids that he's not religious. But, in addition to the RE department being run by regular church goers, we've got a head of science who plays a internet based Christian radio show at full volume in her classroom when no ones around and hates the idea of teaching Darwin. We;ve also got a cookery teacher running an Alpha Course at lunchtimes. Samaritans Purse continue to con our kids into given them shoe boxes AND of course, no matter what religion their parents are or are not, every Year 7 is handed a bible by the Gideons as regular as clock work on the third year 7 assembly in September. I have suggested setting up a secular society at the school, but have been told its a might too sensitive a subject to broach.
  6. pete14

    pete14 New commenter

    It is hardly surprising that you are not the RE dept's best friend. With such crass unprofessional behaviour undermining colleagues in a different department, just because you don't agree with what they are teaching (which they may or may not believe to be true anyway), I would be surprised if you were any dept's best friend. Why shouldn't somebody run an Alpha Course for kids who want to attend? what is wrong with doing good by providing showboxes for those less fortunate? and most importantly, why shouldn't kids be given the chance to think about a religious apect to life along with all the other secular aspects to life they study at school? Your disparaging remarks about your own subject 'bigger doss than RE' make me wonder whether you are the best friend of colleagues in your own department (if indeed you teach in any departnment in any school).
    My only fear about you setting up a secular society in school (and yes, I think you have the right to set one up) is that it will become another vehicle for undermining and slagging off RE in an unprofessional manner rather than genuinely considering issues from a secular point of view. Maybe that is why you aren't allowed to do it.
    Even though I have posed questions, I don't intend to get into a dialogue, so perhaps best if you don't reply.
  7. As an HT and an ex University Lecturer in a humanities subject I can assure you that RS (its not RE) is an extraordinary subject which, outside of its subject specific topics, teaches students to think, to construct an argument and the value of an independent mind. This are transferable skills for life and for higher academic study.
    Increasingly it is a subject requested by Universities.
  8. P_Storfhack - I hope your Philosophy essays are more intellectually rigourous than your forum posts: you are conflating four quite distinct ideas. Religious Studies is the secular study of religions and religious beliefs, it is not the same thing as Theology, which could be defined as the study of God, and usually takes place from the perspective of a particular faith community. To apply Paine's point to RS, you'd have to be able to show that there are no such things as religions, which is plainly nonsense. RS is also not the same thing as evangelism or trying to convince people that your beliefs are right. A good RS teacher asks their students to reflect on and question their own beliefs - but most of us would see it as wholly inappropriate to try to force our beliefs on our students (it seems you have no such qualms, so I guess you are an atheist evangelist). Finally - Religious Studies is not the same thing as religious belief. There are plenty of atheists and agnostics who study RS, and plenty more who teach it (myself included), there are also religious people who find other subjects more interesting - your colleagues in the Science department for example.
    littlefletch and PaulMartin78 like this.
  9. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    P_Storfhack's view that Philosophy is some kind of superior discipline is a bit dubious, isn't it, given what some of the great philosophers have argued (or what is implied by their arguments)?
    For example:
    Grass isn't green (Locke)
    Dan Brown is better than Shakespeare (Bentham)
    To be kind is selfish (Hobbes)
    You cannot be sure that the sun is going to rise tomorrow (Hume)
    Harry Potter exists (Meinong)
    Selfishness is a virtue (Ayn Rand)
    You should never, ever lie (Kant)
    You should never urinate facing the sun, eat beans, step across a pole or write in the snow(Pythagoras)
    Personally, I love philosophy and wouldn't mind too much if RS morphed into it one day.
    But P_Storfhack's post caricatures philosophy and - from what I can tell - suggests that it consists of little more than Logical Positivism.

  10. Although I love the techniques of Philosophy 4 Children, I don't think it can carry a whole curriculum. The philosophy I've seen in secondary schools also seems culturally limited with generally no acknowledgement to thinkers outside the western tradition.
  11. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    I agree with your point about Western bias. Personally, my favourite philosophers include ChuangTzu, Nagarjuna, Mencius and Dogen.
  12. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    Absolutely disagree. Oh it is great to promote thinking and logic but we are dealing with religion in RE (education about the WHOLE world of religion). We are no simply (as would be the case if we were actually RS) studying the different religions.

    Philosophy, from what I have seen of it, is interesting and important, It encourages our young people to think and debate in a logical and intellectual way. But when we explore the religions we are delving deeper than that, exploring truths which are subtle and elusive, which are not cut and dried, definable in a fixed and provable way.

    Not only do we enable our young people to explore their own self understanding and appreciate the spiritual aspect of their own lives, but we are giving them insight into the whole world of religion - and it is a powerful force in our world. If we were to ignore it and remain ignorant about it, the world would still be there, the religions would still be there, but we would have no way of understanding and engaging with people who view the world from a different perspective.

    There are two attainment targets in RE. One is to learn about a religion (religious studies) the other is to learn from that religion - and explore the insights and issues which it raises from our own perspective. That's what give RE a strong spiritual foundation and makes it so much more relevant than pure RS would be.
  13. Milgod

    Milgod Established commenter

    Do you, as RE teachers, look at the negative aspects of religion?

    Is RE as important as it once was with the number of people (and especially children) not having any faith.

    All of the greater aspects of looking at what children believe and feel about themselves can be done without RE.

  14. monicabilongame

    monicabilongame Star commenter

    Yes - but define 'negative'? Is it the religion that is at fault or is it people's application of it?
    Yes - faiths are deeply held and energetically protected. In a world where what happens in one country impacts so strongly on other countries, it is is more important than ever. Otherwise some d*ckhead burns a Q'ran and is then surprised that Muslims protest and take violent action.
    No - given that it is part of the human condition to look to something greater than themselves. It does not ultimately matter if the deities are created by or exist independently of human imagination - what matters is that humans have a need to have a 'god' in their lives, and it is this primeval urge and the human response to it that is studied in RE.
  15. Dear P_Storfhack
    As another graduate of philosophy, I am pretty must disgusted by your approach, not to RE, in particular, but the other subjects and positions of colleagues within your school.
    I am an RE teacher but one who struggles daily to not bring any kind of ideological influence into my teaching. I realise that this is impossible but there is a difference between actively working to impress your ideology upon your students and actively trying not to. I am a rigourous, critical and reflective practitioner who encourages this in my school. You, however, have publicly acknowledged the arrogant manner in which you intellectually manipulate the positions of your students with your sophistry- something you are referring to as philosophy?!
    You, from your little, ignorant little space, deride the world views of some of the greatest and most influential thinkers of all time. Do you not believe that one of your students could be deeply spiritual, even religious, yet be happy and fulfilled and possibly find the answer to AIDS or cure cancer.. maybe develop a theory of space and time to rival Einstein (Jewish)?
    There is nothing at all about your post that leads me to believe that you have the best interests for your students at heard, at least with regards to their existential and personal develpment.
    littlefletch likes this.
  16. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    sorry for the funny formatting. The security guy is waiting for me so no time to alter anythng, it just pasted like this
    The fact that
    many of our young people are ignorant enough to think that ‘science has proved
    that God doesn&rsquo;t exist&rsquo; is a reason for giving them good RE, not against it.</font>


    my view RE is even more important than it once was &ndash;

    because whatever we happen to believe in this country, world-wide religion is
    still just as important as it ever was and it is a real force in people&rsquo;s
    lives, something deeply associated with their family, their culture, their
    inmost identity. It is something that people will live and die for and if we
    don&rsquo;t understand and respect that then the world becomes a more dangerous place
    for us all.

    because the current fashion of aggressive exclusivist atheism that we find in
    our society is very recent. To appreciate our British heritage, our culture, our
    laws, our art, our architecture and the whole moral framework of society, our
    young people need a basic understanding of Christianity.

    d) The greatest &lsquo;voice&rsquo;
    in support of atheism at the moment is Richard Dawkins and yet he makes it
    clear that he is not sure that there is no such thing/being as God. </h1>

    He is regarded as the most famous
    atheist in the world but last night Professor Richard Dawkins admitted he could
    not be sure that God does not exist.
    <font size="3">&ndash;
    and he told Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams that he considered himself Agnostic
    rather than atheist (see article
    By John Bingham, Religious Affairs Editor - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9102740/Richard-Dawkins-I-cant-be-sure-God-does-not-exist.html
    - I will copy this article, plus more on the subject if I can find it - and
    make it available as a resource.</font>

    7:19 AM GMT
    24 Feb 2012)</font>

    The fact is
    that God is not something that can be proved or disproved. Faith in God gives a
    Theist a particular way of approaching and making sense of life. We all have to
    make sense of life. RE helps our young people to engage with that process. </font>

    c) Of course in RE we look at the good and bad aspects of
    religion. As others have said in this thread, philosophy and ethics are
    important aspects of RE. We are not preaching one view but exploring the whole
    field of religion with a view to understanding the religions better and
    learning from them.</h1>

    We are inherently a &lsquo;moral&rsquo; species, all, atheists and
    theists alike, aware of the reality of good and bad. Theists would suggest that
    this springs from our Creator in whose image we are made (Judaism and
    Christianity) &ndash; who is not just our creator but also closer to us than our jugular
    vein, than our breath, than our heart-beat (Islam) &ndash; who is our true essence,
    to be known and realised (Hinduism and Sikhism) or our true &lsquo;Buddhahood&rsquo; and
    goal in the extinction of Nirvana) in the non-theistic philosophy of Buddhism.</h1>

    d) Materialism is always in quest of greater wealth. Our
    current economic crisis and environmental crisis show that &lsquo;money is a false
    God.&rsquo; We are chasing after and &lsquo;worshipping&rsquo; something which is ultimately
    unable to give happiness and may even destroy society as we know it. So if
    materialism proves to be &lsquo;bad&rsquo; then what might give us a better star to sail
    by? At the heart of all religions is something called &lsquo;revelation&rsquo; something
    that comes from a &lsquo;higher source&rsquo; than ordinary human mind. The great religions
    and religious teachers of the world are concerned with this reality. They teach
    principles which, if followed faithfully, can bring peace and happiness,
    courage and satisfaction. Our materialistic society is based on greed and
    selfishness. Spirituality and that is what you find at the heart of all the
    religions, is encouraging people to live by principles of self-giving and altruism.</h1>

    RE is about
    thinking and reflecting, understanding and empathising. The more I see of the
    ignorance out there, in our society and the wider world, the intolerance, the
    closed minded attitudes, the more I realise how important, vitally important,
    it is to have good RE in our schools &ndash; and how this is something that Britain
    really can lead the world in. </font>

    I am still
    working on this but the library is closing so I&rsquo;ll copy and paste it as it is. </font>

  17. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    There are some interesting points there durgamata. But I'm not sure that calling what is at the heart of religions 'revelation' is a good idea. It doesn't chime very successfully with Buddhism where there is no 'higher source' as such (unless one wants to get into a technical discussion about the notion of, say, Trikaya in the Mahayana tradition).
    I would also dispute that we are 'inherently a moral species'. Psychopaths, for example, simply lack a conscience. They are incapable of empathy and they cannot be reformed. The condition is inheritable too.
    Just try googling the phrase 'corporate psychopath' and you'll see what I mean. Patricia Churchland's book Braintrust has an interesting section on this issue and looks at how our sense of morality may have evolved.
  18. Just realised no one has answered your first question.
    I think that your questions rests on the assumption that there is a negative aspect to religion.
    I'm not sure if there is any negative or positive aspect to religion - have you ever considered that it might be a neutral thing?
    I think this video is relevent, the famous Hitchens vs Blair debate ("Is Religion a force for good in the world?"):

    In response to your questions, I think both debaters raise interesting points, so as an RE teacher, I think I'd hope to encourage students to consider both points of view.
  19. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    There's a very good discussion and evaluation of Richard Dawkins' views about the 'negative aspects of religion' online.
    Type 'John Holroyd' and 'Dawkins' into Google and then click on the link to Philosophy Now.
    If you go to the Philosophy Now website directly you will be requested to pay a subscription. Going about it the roundabout way I have recommended will ensure that the full text can be viewed.
    Holroyd is an RS teacher in the Independent sector and quite a formidable philosopher in his own right.
    Those on here who are interested in responses to Richard Dawkins and the New Atheism should this article especially stimulating.

  20. TheBigA

    TheBigA Occasional commenter

    That seems a rather simplistic way of dealing with a complex and interesting issue. Psycopaths can also be characterised by failure to accept responsibility for their actions which often involves manipulation of others through their denial. I wonder whether they attempt to manipulate because they understand it could benefit them, and if so, that seems to me a form of moral reasoning.

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