Church of England wants better RE

(188 Posts)

"Church of England attacks Michael Gove over state of religious education"

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/05/church-attacks-gove-religious-education-schools

As an atheist, I'm delighted that RE is being squashed out of the curriculum and that kids leave school seeing religion as a "mystery".

Why can't churches keep out of school? I don't want Scientologists there or the Pope.

Discuss

pointythings Netherlands Fri 11-Oct-13 18:49:10

That's exactly it, Errol - it's the lack of acceptance that you might be wrong which is the thing that I have trouble with. I work in the sciences, we live every moment in the knowledge that what we have found might well be proved wrong by the next generation of researchers. It's a good way of learning humility...

ErrolTheDragon Fri 11-Oct-13 18:10:53

I don't think its arrogant to believe something is true or false - so long as you recognise that its a belief and you may yourself be wrong.

This is the reason why I believe grin that RE should be unbiased. I firmly believe there is no god, but I don't believe that therefore my child should be told as fact in school that anyone who believes there is a god/gods is wrong.

pointythings Netherlands Fri 11-Oct-13 18:01:59

Errol I think that might have been aimed at me... I voiced the opinion that believing your faith was true and everyone else's was false was a form of arrogance because after all you can't really know, only believe.

ErrolTheDragon Fri 11-Oct-13 15:55:31

>If they're following the National Curriculum they do.

More accurately, the LEA's SACRE - but VA faith and 'free' schools unfortunately don't have to do this.

ErrolTheDragon Fri 11-Oct-13 15:54:07

>hence our kids learn what's right and good within other religions and their flaws and falsehoods.

do your children get to hear what others perceive as the flaws and falsehoods within your religion too?

Blessed - I'm sure you absolutely believe you're doing the right thing because you genuinely believe that what you believe is The Truth. But it doesn't sound as though you're equipping your children to make a genuine free choice, and this may backfire on your good intentions...

>I submit that after going through the sort of Christian school I support our children, with God's Word to back up their conviction, will be less willing to "change their mind" ...
IME they're actually quite likely to change their mind later on - not to follow a cult but to lose their faith.

I'm not sure who you think is taking umbrage that you believe some religious teachings are false. confused Atheists tend to believe that a lot of religious teachings are false.... but that it is not the job of the teacher conveying information to say which are true or which are false. That isn't relativism - its simply not imposing a particular set of beliefs (which may be correct or may not be) on pupils.

Coupon Fri 11-Oct-13 15:24:01

> No they don't, not in every school.

If they're following the National Curriculum they do.

sashh Fri 11-Oct-13 14:57:35

* Nowadays chldren learn about all five (or six) of the World's religions*

No they don't, not in every school.

pointythings Netherlands Fri 11-Oct-13 13:10:12

But blessed you are equating 'firm direction' with subscribing to a faith (in your case the Christian faith, in your friends' cases Islam or Judaism or Hinduism). You are unable to accept that it is possible to give children a high quality moral compass that is not faith based. That is where the disagreement lies - in your assumption that secular morality is always, always, always inferior to religious morality. The fact that many people with no religious beliefs live good, decent moral lives (and do not end up in cults) simply gives the lie to that assertion. We will never agree on this.

Common humanity dictates that we have common morals. All of us - or at least those of us who do not have personality disorders or sociopathic tendencies - are conditioned to live by moral codes that support a cohesive society. Things like not killing, not stealing, being courteous - there are others, it's a long list - those are all things which are readily taught because they are survival traits that make human society function. The underlying belief system of that teaching does not have to be religious for it to work. Personally I would label these morals as good, because I am not a sociopath. Having a set of laws and rules which work for everyone makes me feel safe and secure and allows me to operate on the assumption that most people are fundamentally decent. Everyone needs boundaries, adults as well as children, and human fallibility is one of the reasons why. However, those boundaries do not need to be set from a faith perspective in order for them to work.

And I will always have a problem with people who go through life believing that the tenets of other faiths are false and that their own are true. It's arrogant. I don't share your belief in God, but I am willing to accept that I may end up finding out I am wrong. Are you willing to accept the possibility that you may find yourself in the afterlife, learning that actually the tenets of your Christian faith are not the truth and that your Muslim/Hindu/Jewish friends were right all along?

By the way, I unreservedly apologise for describing your children's school as 'fundamentalist' and 'indoctrinating'. That too was patronising. We are all trying to do the best for our children, we just disagree on what that is.

blessedhope Fri 11-Oct-13 12:27:54

It seems my position has been badly misrepresented by those who claim to respectfully disagree with me- just for clarification:

1)I have NEVER advocated denying information about non-Christian religions or not exposing children to their beliefs. I said the school does discuss other beliefs, but from a Christian Biblical worldview not a detached position- hence our kids learn what's right and good within other religions and their flaws and falsehoods.

2)Thus, "presenting a variety of religious viewpoints" is NOT against my beliefs; presenting them without guidance as to how they relate to Truth is. The approach of saying they are all "equally valid" or implying truth is personal and subjective is anathema to us. This is why we find state school RE as generally taught unacceptable. I am disgusted by the false narrative that we want to keep our children ignorant of what non-Christians think due to "fear" of "other" ways or "difference"! I have profound theological differences with Muslims, Jews or Buddhists, not some sort of status anxiety about the fact that they aren't "one of us". That is an accurate description of the reaction that racists have to non-whites and migrants... not a true reflection of evangelical Christianity.

3)My DC's school does not support "looking down on" people of other faiths, but rejecting their false religious teachings. In fact, respectful interaction is encouraged as it is a good testimony to Jesus Christ which may help the prospects of conversion along, in addition to it just being the [morally absolute] wink right thing to do. As stated, I know atheists who sneer at the concept of faith in God, but they still treat me decently; one can think somebody's beliefs are wrong, irrational or even delusional without it affecting how you view them as a fellow human being. Exactly like Jesus did!

If you take such umbrage at the very fact I believe some religious teachings are [shock horror!!] false, that I see these questions as questions of Truth not of personal feelings or sincerity or social usefulness, then I cannot avoid the conclusion you are dangerously relativistic.

pointythings refers to Jonestown and Waco being potential consequences
unless a young person arrives at an understanding of morals and ethics through their own hard work and critical thinking because "anyone could change their mind". I submit that after going through the sort of Christian school I support our children, with God's Word to back up their conviction, will be less willing to "change their mind" at the word of a charismatic [small "c"!] leader than a young person exposed to a whole range of possible answers with no firm direction given.

One reason frequently given for joining cults and spiritually abusive groups is to seek, in an inevitably distorted form, the order and certainty of transcendent moral authority in a post-modern society where so many have been indoctrinated into thinking no such infallible guide could possibly exist, told to have it their way, that life is what you make of it. The exhortation to "develop your own morals" only exacerbates the problem; providing a balance between the authority of Truth and the imperfection of man as my faith does more properly resolves it.

All in all, those defending the educational philosophy I am against only reinforce my confidence that not trusting them with our kids' formation is unequivocally the right thing to do.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 09-Oct-13 11:17:42

In those cases, its analogous to the faith-based Free schools (and other faith schools) where prayer is part of the day. So long as the latter is allowed, no reason at all why the former shouldn't.

Relaxation techniques are a different matter entirely - I'm sure a lot of us have been to NHS or NCT pre-natal relaxation classes. That sort of thing could be useful and has absolutely nothing to do with RE!

pointythings Netherlands Wed 09-Oct-13 11:08:02

Errol I think there are one or two Free Schools where meditation is part of the day, but I don't know if it's mandatory or if children can be withdrawn. I wouldn't like mandatory meditation any more than I would like mandatory prayer. However, I would not object at all to my children being taught useful techniques for managing exam stress, and these could include relaxation techniques. My older DD uses these to help with nightmares and finds them very helpful.

If only people would review their position until it was the same as mine. grin

ErrolTheDragon Wed 09-Oct-13 10:22:35

Its good when a debate actually results in someone reviewing their position. smile

I was thinking about blessed's particular objection to children engaging in practices linked to eastern religions... if they were analogous to children being made to pray or participate in a form of worship, then they shouldn't have been included as part of the regular school day. (It could be an optional extra-curricular activity, in the same way that schools can have Christian Union meetings etc.). OTOH if they were simply some sort of physical/breathing exercise with no 'spiritual' aspect at all then the correct domain might be PE or PSHE.

pointythings Netherlands Wed 09-Oct-13 10:18:58

I still like your utopia, MuswellHillDad, but I agree that it was an unrealistic idea.

<quaffs sloe gin>

pointythings Netherlands Wed 09-Oct-13 10:18:05

Well put, Errol. People who don't want their children exposed to information about other religious and want RI instead of RE are - like blessed free to seek religious private provision. However, the debate is about RE in the state sector.

Relativism in the sense of 'there is no absolute right and wrong in anything' is an utterly abhorrent philosophy. However, absolutism in the sense of 'this is what is absolutely right and absolutely wrong' is just as abhorrent. It occurs both in religious belief systems (the Crusades and the Inquisition historically, the prohibition of education for girls, the assault on the sacred sites of other faiths, the settlements and land thefts currently) and in 'secular' systems such as the cult of personality in North Korea. Personally I see this as just another belief system, as Stalinism was and as indeed the veneration of Simon Bolivar was, but they are not conventional religions.

It's important that our children learn to think critically and don't accept the moral codes of others without question and good RE is vital in this.

^ it is not the job of the RE teacher or curriculum to dictate what that right or wrong answer is.^

This is the key to it all - unless a young person arrives at an understanding of morals and ethics through their own hard work and critical thinking, they can have their mind changed by literally anyone. I have no problem with people accepting a deity into their lives, but they have to do it of their own free will. Jonestown, Waco and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints tell us the dangers of having it otherwise.

Errol
"... unless it is a rather peculiar one which fears people having knowledge and thinking for themselves."

That, of course, was the problem with my initial post - I wanted people to forget about religion in order to achieve my utopia, which was a dumb and unrealistic position. Much better to fully inform and teach people how to think for themselves - that's why I'd like to see Philosophy/Critical Thinking replace RE and have RE "encompassed" in that class and in History lessons.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 09-Oct-13 09:54:52

I think blessed is conflating neutral RE with relativism. They are entirely different things. I'm not a relativist - I don't think many scientists are.

The difference may sometimes be quite subtle and teachers - being only human - may get it wrong.

It |isn't that 'there is no right and wrong answer' (on some ethical/moral questions there pretty clearly is) - it is that it is not the job of the RE teacher or curriculum to dictate what that right or wrong answer is.

Being presented with information about a variety of religions doesn't contradict anyone's world view, unless it is a rather peculiar one which fears people having knowledge and thinking for themselves.

pointythings Netherlands Wed 09-Oct-13 09:16:32

Errol I am an unashamed embracer of San Francisco values. But you knew that already. grin

pointythings Netherlands Wed 09-Oct-13 09:14:45

We follow our books, the Book in my case, alas false religious books in theirs.

Can't you see how patronising that sounds? None of my Muslim, Hindu and Christian friends speak like that. If they did, they would not be my friends. I would not want my children educated in an establishment that taught them to look down patronisingly on those of other faiths. Of course I completely respect your choice to do so.

I don't believe I've ever focused on the life of Jesus in any way - since I do not believe in God, I am hardly in a position to do so. What I do focus on is a society that functions, and that means not enshrining privilege in law for people of particular faith where it leads to disadvantage for people of other faiths. So no discrimination against gay people by anyone. Equally, no ban on religious symbols in public life unless there is a clear and real danger to wearing/displaying these. If a nurse on a hospital ward asked to pray for me, I would not be offended but I would politely ask him/her not to do so. That's basic human courtesy. However, if said nurse then started praying for me in my presence after I had expressly asked them not to, I would feel that was rude and disrespectful. None of that is about atheist inclusiveness, it is about common decency.

Lastly, I am prepared to accept that God may exist. After all I have chosen not to believe in him. However, until I meet him face to face and have proof of his existence, your belief in him is just as much of a belief as my belief in his nonexistence is. The fact that you have made a leap of faith and chosen to accept his existence as truth does not change that. It's not an objective truth, it's your truth.

Anyhow, back to RE - I think it can be a hugely valuable subject, but it must not be allowed to become RI again under pressure from the church.

In keeping with my Utopia, I have set up a round top table in the middle of our virtual tea room laden with cakes and tea for everyone to share.

brew cake

.... secret part of post only available to like minded people

look under the table. The Sloe Gin is there wink

alemci Wed 09-Oct-13 08:40:22

I like the salad bowl analogy. The melting pot is a bit naff.

alemci Wed 09-Oct-13 08:39:17

of course it did Muswell but that was politics and human nature, when the church gets entwined with the state and it was awful. The church adding in non biblical scripture and making it up as it went along. I probably would have been a heretic in those days. To me this is also like the N Ireland situation to some extent with people hiding behind religion to commit atrocities.

Hence people like Martin Luther, John Calvin springing up and the reformation. I don't think Jesus would have wanted it to be like that

it is a bit like how it is now in certain countries when religion dictates how people live their lives

I need some historical help here. Didn't Christianity force itself upon people and nations for centuries? I don't think that was the salad bowl approach. More like the scorched earth and reseed approach.

Can't help finding the contemporary complaints about the state religion being eroded slightly hypocritical and out of date in that context.

That said, I agree that we should respect each other's views. I just prefer the Russell/Einstein Utopian ideal where all tools for division are removed (war happens between countries and religions). It is the melting pot idea at its natural secular conclusion.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 09-Oct-13 08:29:41
CanucksoontobeinLondon Wed 09-Oct-13 03:03:58

What does "San Francisco values" mean? Just curious.

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