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Teaching about re-incarnation in Year 8

Discussion in 'Religious Education' started by cariad2, Oct 4, 2015.

  1. cariad2

    cariad2 New commenter

    I've always taught in Reception or Year 1 and am completely ignorant about secondary teaching, so I'm asking this question as a mum.

    My daughter came home last week, bursting to show me a video that they'd watched in her R.E. lesson. It turned out to be this one.

    For those of you who don't want to have to click on the link, it's an American TV programme about a young boy whose parents believe that he's the re-incarnation of a WW2 fighter pilot.

    I don't have any problem with this video being shown in class. Even as a sceptical adult, I found it intriguing and I can imagine that it would stimulate a lot of discussion in class. However, I am concerned about the way that it was used. My daughter said that the teacher told them that the video had a lot of evidence for re-incarnation and that a few of her friends said later that they now believed in reincarnation on the basis of the video.

    It only took me 5 minutes of googling to find this website.
    It says that when the boy was a toddler his dad too him to the Kavanaugh Flight Museum in Dallas where he was fascinated by the World War II aircraft. It goes on to say that there was a Corsair aeroplane, and to suggest simple, rational explanations for other things shown in the first video.

    I feel that the class should have been shown the first clip, discussed it, given the arguments from the 2nd link, discussed them and then be allowed to make up their own minds. I was going to email the teacher to express my concerns, but my partner says that's what I should expect from a church school (none of us are believers, but my daughter chose a CofE secondary) and there's no point making a fuss, and my daughter hates fuss and begged me not to say anything.

    Any comments?
  2. jerseyperson

    jerseyperson New commenter

    Hi there. I know this reincarnation story very well as I use it to springboard from when teaching about reincarnation to A level students. Can I say, firstly, that the church school thing shouldn't have any bearing, as belief in reincarnation is not a mainstream Christian belief, so it's certainly not being taught from that perspective.
    The question of whether a balanced argument should be given is an interesting one. If the teacher's aim is to just introduce students to the sort of evidence there is for reincarnation (which is how I use it) then a balance at this stage wouldn't be necessary (though in my experience a discussion of whether the case is fraudulent has never not followed!). If the topic is simply different views about life after death then I think the teacher might well select their evidence purposefully and may wish at this stage to avoid an evaluative discussion...maybe they're more interested in just getting students, at first, to open their minds up to the mere possibility.
    On the other hand, maybe the teacher is merely beginning with the explainy side of reincarnation and will return to the evaluative side, so it may be that the clip will get followed up later with other points of view. Do you know what the overall topic/scheme of work is? that would be useful.
    On the issue of students suddenly believing in reincarnation, I would just tell you a warning story. Each year I teach a topic called "Should I eat meat?" we explore at length the moral, health and environmental arguments both for and against eating meat. I have painstakingly selected a balance of viewpoints. But EVERY year 2-3 students go home and tell their parents that they want to become vegetarian because of RE lessons. I don't know how many times I've had to reassure parents I'm not trying to convert their children to veganism. Some topics just have a certain magical appeal to students, to the point, where they don't remember ALL the things they learnt in class. Of course I'm not saying that's happened in this case, just something to bear in mind.
    AndrewB1972 likes this.
  3. cariad2

    cariad2 New commenter

    Thanks for the info.
    Have you only used this when teaching A level students? I just wondered as you said that a discussion of whether the case is fraudulent has always followed. Maybe this is because the students are older and more cynical, and also they may have had their critical thinking skills honed at GCSE level.

    My daughter is in year 8. She is just turned 13 and most of her friends are still 12. Although they like to act grown up, they do seem pretty innocent/naïve/gullible in a lot of ways. They are likely to take this kind of video pretty much at face value.

    I haven't seen the scheme of work, but do know that they are studying Hinduism at the moment. I can see that the video would be a way of making the concept of reincarnation accessible to the students.

    I talked to my daughter again this afternoon, and it seems that the lesson was taught by a supply teacher (although it was the regular teacher's lesson that he used). I know that as a parent you can't take your child's version as 100% accurate, but she's adamant that after showing the video he said that it included a lot of evidence for reincarnation and that he didn't follow up the class discussion by presenting any other information about the case such as that presented in the 2nd link.
    I'm hoping that the regular teacher will follow up this lesson with an evaluative session. I think that it's important that children of all faiths and none are taught about world religions and different beliefs, but I also think that they should be taught to distinguish between fact and opinion, and to question what they see and hear.
  4. monicabilongame

    monicabilongame Star commenter

    Yes, they should be taught the difference between fact and opinion, and I would be surprised if they weren't - but this IS a faith school... It is also important that they understand that just because they (or you) don't personally believe in something, that does not mean someone else's belief is worthless just because it cannot be proved.

    There is a lot of evidence among those who believe in reincarnation to support their belief in it - probably because they interpret certain things in a way that supports their belief. For someone who does not believe in reincarnation, they will interpret the same things differently, so as to support their own particular take on it. It's how we work - very few if any are capable of completely unbiased thinking.

    If the topic is Hinduism, then the teacher should be teaching what Hindus believe, and that includes reincarnation and the sacredness of cows. He would not be taking the core beliefs and dismantling them to demonstrate that Hindus are wrong - any more than he would be dismantling Christian or Muslim beliefs to demonstrate that they were wrong either. That's what atheists do - people who don't believe in anything and who don't understand how anyone else can believe in something so obviously silly. Allow your child to learn about different religions as taught by the school - there'll be plenty of time and opportunity for intellectual discussion and evaluation later on.
  5. cariad2

    cariad2 New commenter

    I'm not expecting a teacher to look for facts to prove or disprove reincarnation or any other belief.

    What I'm expecting is that a teacher shouldn't use a video to stimulate discussion, especially a video such as this one which has been debunked, say that it offers evidence for reincarnation and not inform children that the video is controversial or mention some of the other explanations for what they have seen in the video.

    It is a faith school, but I would expect teachers to encourage a questioning attitude during an R.E. lesson that they might not encourage during the daily Worship. We visited 4 schools before applying for a secondary place for my daughter. One of these was a Catholic school which has a very good reputation locally. We all felt very uncomfortable walking round - it felt like being in church at times - and we knew that it wouldn't be the right school for non-Christians. But the C of E school that we visited felt completely different. The Head told us that their Christian values were very important to them, that they wanted to expose children to something that they might not otherwise experience, but wouldn't be trying to shove their beliefs down anyone's throats. Which is why, as atheist parents, we were happy for our daughter to choose that school.
  6. monicabilongame

    monicabilongame Star commenter

    Perhaps the teacher is not aware of the second link you posted that suggests alternative reasons for the child's apparent past-life memories? Perhaps if you feel very strongly about this you could politely and non-confrontationally draw their attention to it as a point of interest?
  7. Geoff Thomas

    Geoff Thomas Star commenter

    "Perhaps the teacher is not aware of the second link you posted".

    Then s/he should not be using the video at all.

    A supply teacher walking into a class, playing them a video which I am prepared to bet a lot of money on fits with her/his "ideas" and then walking out again.

    I would suggest that s/he needs keeping an eye on.
  8. jerseyperson

    jerseyperson New commenter

    If a teacher were taking a lesson on humanism or atheism would you expect the teacher to instigate a critical discussion of their disbelief, explaining why religious believers think they have it wrong? I'm interested because I teach Humanism to year 8s and I encourage discussion but I certainly wouldn't contrast a humanist PPT with a series of documentaries aiming to prove the existence of God.
    monicabilongame likes this.
  9. jerseyperson

    jerseyperson New commenter

    Sorry- I didn't read your earlier point where you said you're not expecting a teacher to prove or disprove what's being taught. I don't need to show footage of this being debunked- no matter what age I showed it to I would automatically ask students if they see it as evidence or not and we would possibly consider other ways to explain the data being presented.
    monicabilongame likes this.

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