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Religion must be in key school exam, insist faith leaders - Comments

mjwemdee's Avatar Comment 1 by mjwemdee

The subject, he said, was just as academic and rigorous as history and geography

Hmmmm.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 10:37:31 UTC | #582818

BowDownToGizmo's Avatar Comment 2 by BowDownToGizmo

Nice one Britain.

It is important to understand religion though, my suggestion is to replace RE lessons with RD lessons and let's have religion taught as part of history.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 10:40:19 UTC | #582819

Pete H's Avatar Comment 3 by Pete H

Kind of revealing statements from all and sundry. The sad implications being that all important learning ceases after school, and that everything one needs to know and be should be the responsibility of secondary school teachers - under the direction of the wise and authoritarian elite. Presumably it has not occurred to these great wise men and women that they should attempt to learn something after as well as during formal education. Which might be the difference between education, which never ceases, and training, which is good enough for the purpose.

It’s an American context but Albert Jay Nock has some interesting views on this topic:

Here’s a few paragraphs from Nock on Education by Wendy McElroy

Nock made a crucial distinction between being 'educable' and being 'trainable.' An educated person was one who had profited from absorbing 'formative' knowledge. As a result, he had developed "the power of disinterested reflection." That is, he could reason toward truth, unencumbered by emotional reactions or prejudice. Rather than aiming at a vocational goal, education aimed at the joy of ideas and produced men to whom learning was pleasure. A knowledge of Greek and Latin was particularly important because it allowed us to view the record of inquiring human minds for over 2500 years.

Nock explained that education produced 'intelligenz' [sic] -- "the power invariably, in Plato's phrase, to see things as they are, to survey them and one's own relations to them with objective disinterestedness, and to apply one's consciousness to them simply and directly, letting it take its own way over them uncharted by prepossession, unchannelled by prejudice, and above all uncontrolled by routine and formula" (On Doing the Right Thing And Other Essays, 9). The educated man was capable of independent thought. Unfortunately, Nock believed few people were educable.

By contrast, most people could be trained. The trainable person profited from instrumental knowledge. In his essay "The Nature of Education," Nock explained, "When you want chemists, mechanics, engineers, bond-salesmen, lawyers, bankers and so on, you train them; training, in short, is for a vocational purpose. Education contemplates another kind of product..." (The Book of Journeyman, 45). Nock's did not mean to denigrate those who should be trained, rather than educated. He wrote, "Education, property applied to suitable material, produces something in a way of an Emerson; while training, properly applied to suitable material, produces something in the way of an Edison" (Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, 270). Thus, to Nock, science was a matter of training and many of the world's most eminent men were not educated, but trained. He wrote, "Training is excellent, and it can not be too well done, and opportunity for it can not be too cheap and abundant... (Free Speech and Plain Language, 211).

The main problem with the American educational system was that, in attempting to educate everyone equally, it encountered Gresham's law and ended up educating no one adequately. Instead, it provided only training, even to those who were educable. Under the current system, he believed that "the study of history, like other formative studies, does not even rise to the dignity of being a waste of time. What with the political, economic and theological capital that has to be made of it...it is a positive detriment to mind and spirit" (The Book of Journeyman, 47). Indeed, "Following the strange American dogma that all persons are educable, and following the equally fantastic popular estimate placed upon mere numbers, our whole educational system has watered down its requirements to something precious near the moron standard. The American curriculum in 'the liberal arts' is a combination of bargain-counter, grab-bag and Christmas-tree" (19).

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 10:40:48 UTC | #582820

josephor's Avatar Comment 4 by josephor

Religion must be in key school exam, insist faith leaders

I disagree. Religion crops up in various other subjects such as history and civics etc. I have no objection to having "Religion" as as extra curricular activity that students can study if they wish to like tarot card reading or astrology, but not as an exam subject.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 10:41:50 UTC | #582821

Anthese's Avatar Comment 5 by Anthese

I may well be wrong but I didn't think RE (religious Education) was available as a school subject; I thought only RI (Religious Indoctrination) was available.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 10:45:32 UTC | #582822

Billy Sands's Avatar Comment 6 by Billy Sands

Anthese, you are wrong. It is available in Scotland at least. Unfortunately, it was compulsory though. Having gone to a "non denominational school", we were never indoctrinated - although, I remember they let the bloody Gideons into school assembly once. The only good thing was that everyone was drawing cocks on the new testaments that were handed out or using them as footballs :-)

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 10:57:02 UTC | #582829

josephor's Avatar Comment 7 by josephor

I may well be wrong but I didn't think RE (religious Education) was available as a school subject; I thought only RI (Religious Indoctrination) was available.

In Ireland RI and RE are supposed to be separate subjects in Schools but in practice it is lumped together as most schools have representatives of religious orders on their BODs.This leads to the danger that RE would be taught from a very biased perspective, so that in effect it can only be described as RI.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 10:58:21 UTC | #582830

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 8 by Richard Dawkins

I have received an invitation, via a highly respected humanist quarter, to give a quotation in public support of the national month celebrating RE in schools, which will be this March. It is organized by the Celebrating RE Committee, which is part of the Religious Education Council.

I can see why the Humanists might support this initiative. Dan Dennett has pointed out that teaching children about all the different religions might be the quickest way to destroy the evil of religion. I get that. But it only works if RE classes really do teach the full variety of religions, in such a way that their absurdities and their mutual contradictions are not concealed. I could not bring myself to support any educational program in which the children are taught the superiority of any one particular religion – their 'own' religion. Nor any educational program that suggests that religion, any religion, has something worthwhile to contribute to morals or our understanding of the world. Nor any educational program in which children are taught that religion, any religion, is automatically worthy of 'respect', simply because it is a religion. And I am highly sceptical of Blairite optimism that teaching different faiths fosters tolerance and cooperation among them. Certainly not if Islam or Roman Catholicism are among the candidates.

In the light of this, the whole tenor of the Bishop of Oxford's statement above combines with that of the Religious Education Council to turn me away from supporting this initiative. If anyone has a good reason to disagree, I would be glad to see it.

Richard

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 10:58:21 UTC | #582831

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 9 by AtheistEgbert

I agree with your decision, Professor Dawkins. Although I think it is a good idea to be educated in an objective and balanced way about religion, it's unlikely that this will ever be the case in reality. It's too much of a trojan horse for children.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:08:53 UTC | #582838

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 10 by DamnDirtyApe

The chairman of the Church of England's education board, the Bishop of Oxford, the Right Rev John Pritchard, said that failing to take the study of religion seriously was "highly dangerous" at a time when groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) were staging violent protests against British Muslims.

Actually sometimes that's a bit more like this:

http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/article/1018/A-plague-on-both-their-houses

Two sides of hate faced each other today in West London. As Britain remembered those who had died in past wars, 30 Islamist extremists, under the banner of Muslims Against Crusades (MAC), hurled abuse, burned poppies and waved their hate-filled placards. A few metres away 60 supporters of the English Nationalist Alliance and the English Defence League pushed their own intolerant message.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:08:56 UTC | #582839

opposablethumbs's Avatar Comment 11 by opposablethumbs

Religion as a phenomenon and religions as they manifest themselves in practice in human society should be studied in History and in lessons combining "Citizenship" with ethics and critical thinking. Having a whole subject stream devoted only to these myths and the behaviour people attribute to believing in them gives the wrong impression, as it could easily imply that the myths themselves are somehow worthy of respect. We don't need to believe in Asgard or Animism in order to find studying them interesting and informative, after all.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:13:34 UTC | #582841

Mr Blue Sky's Avatar Comment 12 by Mr Blue Sky

Prof I suspect that any involvement by yourself would become part of a propaganda campaign showing you in a bad light. The pressure is building and perhaps they are starting to feel like a minority at last. If somehow you had editorial control over every word that you might utter it would lessen my skepticism but I cannot believe it would be worth risking your reputation and the gains we have made since this site was inaugurated. I was heartened to read that RE is not in the Baccalaureate. To victory...

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:21:36 UTC | #582842

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 13 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 11 by opposablethumbs :

Religion as a phenomenon and religions as they manifest themselves in practice in human society should be studied in History and in lessons combining "Citizenship" with ethics and critical thinking. Having a whole subject stream devoted only to these myths and the behaviour people attribute to believing in them gives the wrong impression, as it could easily imply that the myths themselves are somehow worthy of respect. We don't need to believe in Asgard or Animism in order to find studying them interesting and informative, after all.

I totally agree about religion as part of history lessons. But I'm highly sceptical about 'citizenship' lessons. Again, all very good ideas in theory, but potentially disastrous in practice.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:26:56 UTC | #582845

Drosera's Avatar Comment 14 by Drosera

Religion should be studied in the Psychology curriculum, to provide real-life examples of mass hysteria and delusion. Or, as others suggested, as part of History class, to demonstrate the extent to which crazy myths pervade our culture.

It has no place as a subject in itself. Otherwise, why not teach astrology or card reading?

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:27:31 UTC | #582847

Southpaw's Avatar Comment 15 by Southpaw

I'm all for it. Compulsory R.E. at my secondary school was key to my becoming an atheist; one lesson on transubstantiation and I was in more a less a constant state of amused disbelief for the rest of my so-called education.

The only way I could see RE being an important part of a curriculum is if it were a true comparitive religion course, teaching the overarching effects of religion, giving no weight to any particular one, and also, importantly, including the fact that many, many people have no religion, and the reasoning behind that.

But as that will never happen they might as well forget about it and let pupils choose a useful course like I.T. or Business Studies instead.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:34:42 UTC | #582848

opposablethumbs's Avatar Comment 16 by opposablethumbs

Comment 13 by AtheistEgbert

You're right, sadly "citizenship" lessons can go the same way as RE - they ought to be about encouraging people to think and to question prejudices, but are all too often about shepherding pupils into a particular convenient fold.

Perhaps I should just refer to ethics and critical thinking, and leave it at that!

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:35:16 UTC | #582849

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 17 by Paula Kirby

I used to share the view that it was useful to teach children about the different religions, and that RE could therefore be justified, provided that's what it was doing. But I'm changing my view, I think.

For one thing, it is too open to abuse by those who wish to abuse it: I hear too many, too varied reports about the nature of RE teaching in our schools to be able to feel confident that it's consistently taught as it should be.

For another, why the emphasis on religion? Why does it need a special curriculum area devoted to it? Why not a subject called 'Ideas, past and present', or something like that: something that would introduce young people to a whole range of different ways people have used over the ages to help them understand the world? So it would include various approaches to philosophy and ethics, as well as the various religious beliefs. And critical thinking should be included in that too.

The focus on religion, rather than on ideas in general, helps to reinforce the fictional notion that religion has something unique to contribute to our understanding of the world, rather than that it is simply one of many approaches. I say no to anything that puts religion on a pedestal and labels it 'special'.

As for the idea that "RE is a real tool for creating that kind of cohesive community and society that we're looking for... we neglect it at our peril", well that's just a joke. It is religion, and the insistence on the importance of religion, that is leading to the creation of more and more faith schools - which are not only exempt from even a pretend-requirement to teach religion neutrally, but by their very existence are a truly divisive feature of our society, ensuring that the idea of a 'cohesive community' will remain just that - an idea - for as long as they exist. If the bishop is concerned about the divisions in society, teaching RE is not the answer: stopping dividing our young people on the basis of their parents' religion IS.

If we retain RE at all, in any form, then I would suggest it should be re-named 'World Religions', and taught as such. But my own view is that we would be serving our young people far better by doing away with it as a separate subject altogether, and ensuring that all pupils, from whatever religious background, are educated together so they can get to know each other as real, rounded human beings and not just members of a particular 'faith'; and that that education should include an introduction to a whole range of ideas and cultures, including - but certainly not limited to - a variety of world religions.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:38:45 UTC | #582850

Art Vandelay's Avatar Comment 18 by Art Vandelay

It's inevitable that RE lessons become skewed in favour of the school's ethos. My children's excellent comprehensive school is neverthelss C of E, and they often tell me about the latest scary-eyed RE teacher arguing the christian corner, rather than simply presenting the ideas. This of course is counter-productive in a room of surly teens and my son recounts with relish how they trashed that days diet of woo.

Hmm, now I'm not sure if that's s point pro or anti! Given the choice, I think the school would rather it's religion were tacitly accepted and not subject to scrutiny, discussion, and inevitably, derision.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:39:01 UTC | #582851

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 19 by Marcus Small

I am at present re reading a comparative History Religion East and West, by the late Trevor Ling, in the preface he writes of a pious clergyman who on hearing that young parishioner was reading Comparative Religion at University exclaimed in horror, 'My dear, I would rather you read Lady Chatterley's Lover then that subject.'

The book it self was a set book for my degree course. It is a little out of date, but what it reveals is this; Most people are fairly uninformed when it comes to religion, especially but not exclusively the religious.

Religion is still a huge cultural phenomenon, even in secular Britain where institutional has been in rapid decline.

Religion is a study in and of it self, and subject taught in University.

I think the RE should really be RS (religious studies or the study of religion), it should be taught in school as it is in university.

It should not be a means of propagation and nurture, that is the work of the religions themselves.

Comment 11 by opposablethumbs

Having a whole subject stream devoted only to these myths and the behaviour people attribute to believing in them gives the wrong impression, as it could easily imply that the myths themselves are somehow worthy of respect.

That is a Christian and protestant culturally conditioned view of religion. Religion is not just about texts and stories. This is an easy mistake to make in a religious culture dominated by the religions of the book, but it is a mistake non the less. A mistake that exemplifies if I may say the need for good religious studies.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:41:00 UTC | #582852

Southpaw's Avatar Comment 20 by Southpaw

For another, why the emphasis on religion? Why does it need a special curriculum area devoted to it? Why not a subject called 'Ideas, past and present', or something like that: something that would introduce young people to a whole range of different ways people have used over the ages to help them understand the world?

An excellent idea. Lump it in with alchemy, phlogiston, and all the other outdated misconceptions that are no longer useful.

This reminds me of something Sam Harris wrote. To paraphrase, if we all woke up tomorrow having forgotten everything, so that we had to re-learn it all, what would we re-learn first? Food production, medical care, etc., one would assume. At what point would it be useful to know that Jesus was born of a virgin? Or that Isis had horns like a cow?

The world has moved on but is still dragging behind it the burden of Iron Age ideas in this one area. Why?

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:45:50 UTC | #582855

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 21 by Marcus Small

Comment 8 by Richard Dawkins

Dan Dennett has pointed out that teaching children about all the different religions might be the quickest way to destroy the evil of religion. I get that. But it only works if RE classes really do teach the full variety of religions, in such a way that their absurdities and their mutual contradictions are not concealed.

I should perhaps say that in my own case that the opposite was true, the study of religion has deepened my interest in the religious world and stimulated my religious exploration. Contradiction abound even within religions, let alone between religion, but there are points of convergence and they are what I find interesting.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:52:49 UTC | #582856

petengeth's Avatar Comment 22 by petengeth

"Religious studies has proven itself to be a valuable contribution to the academic curriculum, teaching students to respect themselves and others and, importantly, build identities which contribute favourably to all areas of society," he said.

They cover gay bullying then do they?

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:57:41 UTC | #582858

ajs261's Avatar Comment 23 by ajs261

Unless I've misunderstood the purpose of the English bac, it seems to be a test of a student's core academic performance. In which case I really don't see why RE should be included. A study of the history of many different religions without indoctrination could be useful yet I do not feel it to be a significant indicator of a student's academic performance when compared to English, maths, science, history or geography.

From my experience of GCSEs (4 years ago) I do not recall RE being particularly difficult compared to the above subjects. I myself took the Religious studies short course GCSE. I revised for it only on the morning before the exam and got 100%, whereas getting 100% in the above subjects would probably be extremely difficult even with much more revision.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 12:12:15 UTC | #582864

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 24 by Vicktor

It's a shame the West is still grappling with religion on issues like this. I can only imagine how many more centuries it's going to take "developing countries" to get even this far.

Teaching children about religions should be fine. But really, let's not waste any time, money or energy on their "content".

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 12:14:01 UTC | #582865

hypnoticbob's Avatar Comment 25 by hypnoticbob

The chairman of the Church of England's education board, the Bishop of Oxford, the Right Rev John Pritchard, said that failing to take the study of religion seriously was "highly dangerous" at a time when groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) were staging violent protests against British Muslims.

This almost sounds, to me, as a threat of violence. Take it or leave it, but this sounds not like some twisted hyperbole.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 12:17:05 UTC | #582867

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 26 by Alan4discussion

"Religious studies............"The multi-disciplinary nature of the subject, involving textual study, philosophical thinking, ethics, social understanding and the skills of analysis and reasoning, develops critical thinkers," said Benjamin.

Members of the academic community joined calls for the humanities element of the English bac to be reconsidered, praising RE as a great developer of critical faculties as well as a key link to history, art, culture and politics.

Ha! Ha! Ha! - Critical thinking from fumble-brains united!

While some studies of comparative religions give background understanding, the separation of evangelical woo from history is important so that the history is looked at objectively and not taught on a basis of "cheerleaders for religion X " or "political system Y ", as I have often seen.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 12:20:21 UTC | #582871

clarerethink's Avatar Comment 27 by clarerethink

Tough! Bish! Commens 14 + 17 saY it all! HaHa...yet more progress in UK. KEEP IT COMING!

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 12:21:38 UTC | #582872

TheRationalizer's Avatar Comment 28 by TheRationalizer

I think that comparative religion should be compulsory from the ages of 11 to 13 - start of senior school, but not a mandatory subject after children take their options.

Like the religious education I received in senior it should discuss ALL religions (although mine for some reason excluded Christianity) and it should follow a very tight curriculum to avoid bias.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 12:23:25 UTC | #582874

Drosera's Avatar Comment 29 by Drosera

Even if RE did teach the full variety of religious ideas objectively, I would still not be in favour of it. What would such a course have to offer? One day devoted to the tenets of Christianity, one to those of the Muslims, the Jews, the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Vikings, and so on, for a full semester? What a waste of time that would be! All this nonsense can easily be boiled down to a single lesson in History class, giving the broad outlines of the idiocy in each case ("Christians believe that the first humans were a couple called Adam and Eve, who listened to a talking snake, and because of that etc., etc."). Spending more time on it would give the subject an air of respectability it doesn't warrant. As a species we should really try to outgrow religion, which is best done by ignoring it as much as possible, and ridiculing it when we can't ignore it.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 12:25:53 UTC | #582876

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 30 by Vicktor

Comment 29 by Drosera

As a species we should really try to outgrow religion, which is best done by ignoring it as much as possible, and ridiculing it when we can't ignore it.

Amen.

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 12:28:52 UTC | #582877