“What’s in a name?” But RE is no rose….

“If you have not guessed my name by month’s end, then you shall be mine!” ― Rumpelstilzchen

In all three of the recent ‘game-changer’ reports, Clarke/Woodhead, RE for REal, and Woolf, calls are being made for great revolution in RE. A lot of what is being discussed makes a whole lot of sense… until you get to the name-change business.

I am, actually, in favour of changing the name of RE. I do think it matters. BUT. If we are to re-brand our subject we must think like business people. A name is a banner to fly, and also a kernel. It is an important factor, but what is more important is the thing which it represents.

Paul Tillich (1886-1965) was a German-American Christian Existentialist philosopher and theologian. He felt, contrary to the logical positivists of the Vienna circle, that religious language is full of meaning. For him, words are signifiers or symbols; they represent a concept and participate within that to which they point. They are intricately involved.  If I say ‘God is love’ then that is not merely a sign of what God is, but is a participation in the reality of God. Religious language for Tillich operates in a similar way to music or poetry or art; having a deep and profound effect on us which can only be explained in a limited way. Language functions as a symbol, offering a new level of reality and a new perspective.

Other words which are immanently involved with the concept they are representing or pointing to include ‘Religious Education’. RE is no longer a good name because it has become somewhat tarnished. A new name is important, but what is more important is what it stands for, what it encompasses. If we get that right, then the name will follow. I always loved Opal Fruits, they were my favourite confection. It was a mystery to me why they were rebranded as ‘Starburst’ when nothing changed about the product. To me they will always be ‘Opal Fruits’ because nothing really changed about them. If we are to change RE for the better, we should do that. Changing the name is not the main issue.


Further Reading




Clarke/Woodhead in June: http://faithdebates.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/A-New-Settlement-for-Religion-and-Belief-in-schools.pdf

REforREal in November: http://www.gold.ac.uk/media/goldsmiths/169-images/departments/research-units/faiths-unit/REforREal-exec-summary.pdf

Woolf Commission in December: http://www.woolf.cam.ac.uk/practice/commission-on-religion-and-belief.asp


I actually wrote this post before reading this from @opendoorteaching great minds…. https://opendoorteaching.wordpress.com/2015/06/24/rs-by-any-other-name-would-smell-as-sweet/


This blog is part of #BlogSyncRE. For information please follow @REEchoChamber or go to https://thereandphilosophyechochamber.wordpress.com/


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