Friday, 17 February 2017

Does religion have a place in the modern curriculum?



This was my unsuccessful application for TEDxNorwichEd 2017. Obviously if it ever got anywhere close to being an actual TEDx talk, it would be a lot more refined and polished. Just thought it was still an "idea worth sharing", even in it's current application form state:

The Quick Pitch (50 words):

Many claim we live in a largely secular society, many claim their students are no longer religious - and as a result - some suggest surely it is time to remove religion from schools? 

However, I'd argue exactly  the opposite.

More than ever, current and future generations need to know more about religion rather than less. They need to be inspired to discover more about the driving force which has influenced, and continues to influence, billions worldwide. Neglecting this would be catastrophic.

A Brief Outline (400 words):

What other subject comes under as much scrutiny as RE? Why did the GCSE content 'annex' have to be approved by the Prime Minister himself? How does it sit as such a peculiarity: a legal compulsion, but locally determined? Part of the 1988 Education Act, but not part of the National Curriculum?

It is often a subject that polarises students, parents and teachers... love it or hate it?

I'd argue that the fact that we may be an increasingly secular society is irrelevant. I'd argue that the fact that less students in our classes are clearly defined as religious is irrelevant. 

The study of religion needs to be reclaimed from PHSE, Citizenship, British Values, the Community Cohesion agenda etc and return to a subject that can inspire future generations by helping them better understand the past, present and most likely (and perhaps most crucially), the future.

There is history, politics, philosophy, geography, poetry, music, literature and much more involved, but the study of religion and beliefs remains fundamental in understanding all of the above, and more. Omission from the Ebacc has done damage to the study of religion, but how else can students comprehend the complex world that surrounds them. People still live and die for their faith.

  • How can they understand why some Muslim women wear the burqa (and why this is can be a problem)?
  • How can they understand why Jews don't eat pork?
  • How can they understand that a knowledge of the bible is fundamental to understanding the English language and culture? [And why Richard Dawkins agrees on this in the God Delusion]
  • How can they understand why Sikhs are allowed to carry a sword?
  • How can they understand why Hindus believe in reincarnation (and what this means for the way they live their life)?

Oddly those who argue for the removal of religion from the classroom, are often experts in the field. We cannot allow future generations to be deprived of this privilege. To be a truly great future generation, we need to enable students to understand more, rather than less - and I firmly
believe the study of religion plays a really important role in this wider education. We need to inspire the future generation to be more peaceful, respectful, understanding and tolerant - yet challenging when necessary... we  should not respect or tolerate all beliefs. This will not coming by removing religion from the curriculum.

Is study of religion really as dangerous and indoctrinating as some claim, or is it simply a vital tool to help inspire a generation to better understand the world going on around them?

Maybe I'll try for TEDxNorwichEd 2019 with something a little less controversial...  "You should never speak about religion or politics."

Image courtesy: https://popefrancisnyc.org/fun-facts 

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