A New Struggle: Religion and Belief is important in schools

“There is a growing danger of mutual incomprehension between religious and non-religious people. Religious Education is certainly not the only place where such issues can be dealt with, and in which potentially decisive views need to be discussed and debated, but it is a very important one.” (Clarke and Woodhead, p. 45)

Last week, a Tunisian student, Seifeddine Rezgui, walked along a beach at Port El Kantaoui, took a Kalashnikov from a parasol and shot and killed 38 people.

The massacre prompted David Cameron to remark that the fight against the Islamic State is the ‘struggle of our generation’. His comments prompted me to Tweet that if it is so, then “why isn’t RE on the Ebacc?”

I agree with @MarkChater1 that we should be careful not to position RE with counter-radicalisation requirements. What I meant by my comment is that RE, although not the only place ‘where such issues to be dealt with’, it remains the only subject which presents to pupils the chance for religious literacy and sound knowledge. Without it, we are lost. I think that fact is clear to most people. But, what should the future hold?
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Knowledge versus skills? It’s different in RE.

As a prospective PGCE student in Secondary Religious Education it was the one thing that really made me terrified. With a degree in History of Art was anyone ever going to believe that my subject knowledge is more than ‘good enough’ to train to teach? Luckily, the course leader thought that skills were more important, otherwise I think I would never have been able to train to become a teacher. However, throughout my training (and in my first job) it was a big question mark that I felt was placed over my head. I have had a few conversations with other teachers, lecturers and colleagues who are of the view that my degree might always count against me.

Subject knowledge is something that every teacher could and should always be working on. I love my subject. Despite appearances from my CV, my degree was full of Philosophy, Aesthetics and Critical Theory. Basically, Descartes, Plato, Marx and Adorno with the odd painting thrown in occasionally for good measure. To me, it was a Philosophy degree in disguise. But even so, as a teacher of RE, with a wealth of religion, culture and systems of thought available to become expert in, I have to get used to the idea that I will never know it all, even if I do have the opportunity to study for an MA.

So, perhaps I am biased in my view that skills in RE are more important than knowledge. I do think RE is different, I think it has a USP of the opportunity for pupils to engage with material analytically and critically. Unfortunately, RE is still trying to shirk off out-dated perceptions of its days as ‘Religious Instruction’ when it was first made an entitlement for all pupils in state-funded schools in 1944. Like the Women’s Institute, RE is not all jam and Jerusalem.Read More »

Religious Education and #charliecharliechallenge : It’s Time for a Lesson on the Occult.

I am not that worried about the recent social media trend for young teens and school pupils to play a game using two pencils and a sheet of paper to create a makeshift version of the Ouija board. A grid is drawn on paper to make four panels, two of which are labelled “yes” and the other two “no.” The pens are then put on top of another, positioned like a cross. The players call out “Charlie, Charlie can we play” or “Charlie, Charlie are you here?” Then they wait for the pen to move as they film the game for online posting.Read More »