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Church of England wants better RE

(188 Posts)
MuswellHillDad Sat 05-Oct-13 21:09:09

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

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.


ReallyTired Sat 05-Oct-13 21:21:49

There is a difference between relgious education and relgious instruction. Nowadays chldren learn about all five (or six) of the World's religions. Learning about what Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Buddism and christianity believe helps tolerance between groups of people. It also helps children understand the reasons behind certain historial events and current affairs. Whether we like or not religion has shaped our laws, history, literature and music.

I feel that it is a mistake that RE does not have a national curriculum. It allows faith schools to leave out the teaching of other religions. School RE lessons should be "some people believe" rather than "we believe".

I would like to see the rights of parents to remove their children from RE lessons to be revoked. Learning about other people's beliefs is useful to us all.

Theimpossiblegirl Sat 05-Oct-13 21:28:32

My children attend a church school but receive a really good standard of RE teaching, imo.

DD (10) came home last term saying that she was learning about Islam but didn't know much about it. She then proceeded to tell me all about the 5 Pillars in great detail and spoke about how it was good all of the religions she's learned about want everyone to be nice to each other. I really can't fault that.

I do think a comprehensive guide to teaching RE would be useful though, as DD may just have been lucky to have had a good teacher.

mummytime Sat 05-Oct-13 21:48:31

The syllabus for RE is usually set by the LA, or for a Church school by the Diocese. For C of E this does mean world religions are taught. It Christianity which is often taught the poorest.

JanuaryMadness Sat 05-Oct-13 21:55:55

I dislike organised religion as a whole. However religion forms the basis of world cultures, our entire history, politics and knowledge enables our ability to understand and empathise.

Lack of understanding is dangerous.

I think religious education is vital. However I dont think my ideas are really on the same page as the CoE. I would rather HE than send my child to a religious school.

Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Sat 05-Oct-13 22:16:28

Our local primary school, our catchment school, which is a five minute walk from our house is a C of E school. It got Outstanding in its last Ofsted report and is always oversubscribed. I'm not too keen on the religious paraphernalia but as it's such a good school in so many other aspects I don't think it matters. They learn about religions in the same way that they learn about languages or history. It's just another subject. They dance, learn poetry, sing, play instruments, do a wide range of sports as well as all the academic subjects. I'm surprised they fit anything else in.

MuswellHillDad Sat 05-Oct-13 23:40:41

Good rebuttals.

However, religion is just one dimension of multi-culturalism and doesn't deserve special attention. History, social sciences, philosophy, anthropology, etc are the right places to illustrate the breadth of belief.

LittleRobots Sat 05-Oct-13 23:42:06

A good proportion of the syllabus when I taught it was philosophy and ethics.

MuswellHillDad Sat 05-Oct-13 23:51:20

Happier if religion is presented as a subset of Philosophy and Ethics, a means of delivery perhaps.

Not happy when RE is the place where P&E are explores as it implies the absence of morals and ethics outside religion.

Semantic perhaps and hopefully most students would see the distinction, but why get it wrong from the outset?

Yakky Sat 05-Oct-13 23:51:52

We were made to do extra RE classes as a form of detention at my school!
Religion should be taught at home (or not in the case of athiests).
Much more important that children learn how to read & write correctly first going by the awful spelling of some of my DS's friends.

ABitterPIL Sat 05-Oct-13 23:53:46

I challenge you to find established cultures which do not have religion at their core?

Trying to study philosophy, ethics, history, social sciences and even mathematics and physics (we need to have a basic understanding of the people who made scientific discoveries and how they reacged their conclusions) would be like trying to understand chemistry without a grasp of atomic structure.

Yakky Sat 05-Oct-13 23:57:55

I don't see how Newton and gravity had anything to do with RE.

LittleRobots Sun 06-Oct-13 00:02:57

Our A level syllabus started with Plato and Aristotle, looked at some of the historic arguments for the existence of God (and obviously their flaws, a good exercise in the practice of understanding logical argument). The problem of evil in its various forms and how religion and philosophy attempt to deal with this. The nature of knowledge and religious 'knowledge', what counts as a religious experience, etc.

It also looked at ethics of abortion, euthanasia, and all the usual debates. So much historically has been within the context of a religious society so it makes sense to discuss in context. Of course there's no suggestion a Christian viewpoint is the only or superior one. In fact the various inconsistencies are explored.

As for whether one needs God to discuss morality - yes that's on the syllabus too!

bbboo Sun 06-Oct-13 00:09:53

How strange that people do not want to learn about other religions - or any often explains the background to other cultures, beliefs, the basis of behaviour, the roots of extremism or tolerance .... the laws of a country are often based on their religion. Doesn't knowledge foster understanding/comprehension/tolerance?. Surely knowledge is power? Any decent RE teacher talks about 'some Christians believe' etc . It should not be taught of as fact but a belief .Any decent RE teacher will talk about 'some people (Muslim/Christian/Athiest ) believe etc . Some may even point out the similarities/differences between the religions and talk about how it ties in with morals and values. In the end, children spend far more time with their families,and absorbing their values and morals, than they do in the RE lessons at school. (Re lessons are one hour a week compared to 168 hours at home) - surely enough time to discuss the merits or not of religious belief? and time to explain why athiests do not agree with Islam/Christianity/Buddhism etc. History, anthropology, philosophy of a country are often built on their religious beliefs - it is difficult to discuss these without some knowledge of their religious background! I do not believe religious knowledge is the be all and end all of everything, but understanding of other cultures can be difficult without it!

MuswellHillDad Sun 06-Oct-13 09:48:51

Wow, it's like the enlightenment never happened. Philosophy, ethics and morals are not a subset of religion. It's the other way round, no matter how much history from the middle ages you bring to the table.

Religion is a historical legacy for promoting morals/ethics and philosophy. The classes should be Philosophy and Citizenship not RE classes. You would still get an understanding of religious culture and variety.

Sorry if you feel your faith has been demoted to a subset of something else, but if you don't allow that then I suggest you are prejudiced against agnostics and atheists as it gives precedence to belief over non-belief. Philosophy has no preference and at least could be taught with a starting point that looks at belief and non-belief on an equal footing.

blessedhope Sun 06-Oct-13 10:35:23

^Muswell- I disagree...the Enlightenment introduced worthwhile progress in science, but none in morality (in fact some strains of Enlightenment thought were markedly immoral and their baleful influence continues to this day.)

I hold a full blown Christian worldview, not a secular humanist one. If I was sending my children to a state school I would rather have no RE/moral education at all and would withdraw them from the former, because curricula are often produced by ultra-liberals working from the false assumption that people's religion is "true for them" and one is no different to another. Whereas I tend to believe that Christ's sacrifice was for all and He is the Way, Truth and Life so accepting or rejecting Him is sorta more important than picking your favourite drink or footy team...

These sort of books don't teach actual morals but are stuffed full of values clarification and affective education [who made Jerome Bruner, Lawrence Kohlberg and New Age self-esteemy types God? The One who purposed this universe sure didn't...] I am not willing to let trendy professionals introduce the wicked lie of relativism into any precious young souls under my care, thank you very much.

However, they are at a good Christian school so they will be getting a Biblical world view. This means they will be taught the Truth from God's Word (not just "my" or "our" truth or "our" "god" or "one of many equally valid ways") and will learn about other religions' good and morally neutral parts, but also where they go wrong and how to witness for Christ to those spiritually trapped in false faiths. Treating truth as subjective is 100% unacceptable to us.

What annoys me even more is the idea regularly pushed by faith bashers that teaching Christianity without any compromise as Truth leads to "intolerance" or not "understanding" other people and cultures; it doesn't pass muster in the VAST majority of cases. Almost every evangelical, Pentecostal or orthodox Catholic I know is loving and respectful to ALL people as Jesus told us to be, though I would love it if everyone accepted Christ I have no wish to force anyone to convert. And I can't speak for every anti-relativist Christian but I and my family certainly "understand" different faiths- I just don't agree with them! I'd prefer consistent Christians and consistent members of other faiths to be open with each other about their disagreements instead of all this inter-faith nonsense where people end up all believing pretty much the same, or not caring, just in case others are offended.

The simple fact that naturalistic atheists, who cannot possibly see my belief as "another valid way" because they deny the supernatural is valid in the first place, are perfectly civil and courteous to me and have been throughout my life is consistent with that.

MuswellHillDad Sun 06-Oct-13 11:04:27

I am not the greatest historian, so I'll accept your account of the enlightenment. I also accepted, at the beginning of this thread, the rebuttal that understanding religion is better than ignoring it, given the ubiquity of belief in culture and history. Listening to counter arguments and accepting new evidence is how I roll grin

I also think that our children get there beliefs, morals and ethics from home. Discussion in the school setting is not going to be central to their thinking compared to what Mum and Dad say/do/think. So I also like your idea that it isn't taught at all at school. As I said before, it will be captured plenty in History.

I'm, egotistically, disappointed that no-one seems to readily or explicitly accept my contention that RE is a subset of an agnostic topic, Philosophy, Morals and Ethics. People do seem very keen to forget that and keep presenting P.M.&E. as a subset of RE. Is the logic of my contention wrong or is it too humbling to admit its truth?


averyyoungkitten Sun 06-Oct-13 11:16:20

Can I just correct the misconception in the title here? It is NOT the Church of England who have said RE is badly taught, it is Ofsted. The C of E report has picked up on it.

However, I do not think anyone needs to be told this. Re has been taught badly for at least 20 years - the time I have been in teaching,- to my knowledge.

Whatever anyones views , Religion is an integral part of society and culture, especially as the country is now multicultural. Failure to teach about RE s a failure to teach about society.

Personally, I would be happy to have an education system where no religion at all were taught by anyone rather than one where RE is badly taught ( and overall mainly by atheist teachers in my experience, who have neither knowledge themselves nor depth of understanding. But that will not help our children adapt to a society and world like the one we live in - where religions (not Christianity) is very important in may aspects of world affairs and conflicts.

You cant understand 9/11, the middle east conflicts, most recent world history ( eg, Hamaas , the Taliban, The Kenyan shootings recently , if you ddo not understand the cultures, let alone understand the society we live in , which is far more complex in its conflicts. Hor can you deal with prejudice if you do not understand the cultures and religions underneath them)

MuswellHillDad Sun 06-Oct-13 11:20:28


A failure to teach about History, which includes religion, would be a disaster. That doesn't need a dedicated RE class, that needs a good history class.

PS - I don't work for the Guardian, Ofsted or the CoE shockso can't take any responsibility for their poor headlines.

PeggyCarter Sun 06-Oct-13 11:30:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FannyMcNally Sun 06-Oct-13 11:32:20

In primary it would help if it was called KUW (knowledge and understanding of the world) or just UW like in Early Years. It could still encompass RE units but would be less contentious and more relevant.

MuswellHillDad Sun 06-Oct-13 11:40:51

Thank you PuddleJumper. My ego is now a little more inflated. blush

averyyoungkitten Sun 06-Oct-13 12:21:10

What exactly are those ethics/morals that will be taught in schools?

At the moment it seems to be political correctness that is taught. Forgive me for my cynicism and my sinfullness even but I am not happy about many of those things that are currently taught.

At a very basic and practical level, like many people, I do not want my DC being taught someone elses idea of what is right or wrong.

At a very practical levl also , from the other side of the classroom door, I know how difficult it is for any teacher to teach anythintg that may have any ring of morality. I dont teach RE , so its not my problem in a classroom and I often keep off the subject if it does arise just because I know someones mum/ dad/ carer/ guardian may not like it. So in many respects it would be better by far if there were no religion, philosophy or ethics taught in schools at all.That is a radical position I know.

Consider the dilemma of the RE teachers in the school where I work. We have no muslims, we have one Buddhist who doesnt seem to know very much about Buddhism but is Buddhist anyway. We have six pagans - but they do not all share "Paganism" Some are new age hippies and one is an old Wiccan. There is a small group of fundamentalist Christians - who withdraw their children from RE. There are a whole bunch of "anything and nothings" We have three sikh's and one non practicing Hindu. Then we have a small Jewish community in the school. Not all a rereligious.

Then we have a brad spectrum of ethnic groups beyond that, and beyond that, an even broader cultural/ social mix.

Several of the new age hippies are against It, let alone RE. It is like walking on eggshells to mention anything, especially the hot topics - abortion, marriage, homosexuality. I am told euthanasia is "safe" as most of the children agree on that one.

I am fortunate, I do not have to teach any of it. I feel for those who do.

MuswellHillDad Sun 06-Oct-13 13:10:00

I suppose the only message we really need is the difference between right and wrong in society. That's probably reinforced every day through rules and tolerance.

So now I'm torn between nothing or teaching Philosophy and Citizenship. Still not wanting RE as a topic in its own right. shock

Good RE will teach about different religions and about ethics and philosophy. If I understand the report aright then the number of schools who have teachers trained to teach this complex subject are diminishing and some schools have shut down the RE department entirely. RE is one of the few subjects which gives children some space to think about contemporary issues - how do we decide what is right and wrong? Do we take a utilitarian or consequentialist approach? Is natural law the way to approach right and wrong? How have the major religions approached these issues?

What all three of my children got from RE lessons was a good grounding in philosophy and one has gone on to study it at university. All of them have had to study practical ethics and think through issues such as abortion and euthanasia. They had got the basics of Christianity from Sunday School but what the school did really well was introduce them to the other religions and their festivals. It is a pity more children don't get this opportunity?

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