The Guardian view on religious education in schools: don’t trash it, transform it

Jun 14, 2015 by


Britain is no longer a Christian nation, but there is still a place in the curriculum and in school life for religious education that reflects today’s realities

Religious education is now an appendix to the school curriculum: a survival from earlier times which seems to have lost whatever use it once had, but which sometimes bursts out in painful and dangerous infections. The present legal settlement dates from 1944, and a time when it seemed self-evident, or at least very plausible, that Britain was a Christian nation. Parliament certainly could not then have imagined that the time was coming when there would be ten times as many Muslims as Methodists in Yorkshire. But even then the churches, which had built so much of the educational system, felt their position was under threat and fought to secure it. Hence the requirement for a daily act of worship of a mainly Christian character, which is the most often flouted aspect of the present settlement.

Successive governments, ministers and even churches have looked at this mess, considered the complications, and concluded that any change would be more trouble than it was worth. However, the time is now here for principled and decisive action. A report published on Monday from Charles Clarke, who has been both home secretary and education secretary, and Professor Linda Woodhead, the leading sociologist of religion in Britain, lays out the complications of the case very clearly, and points the way to necessary reform.

The religious aspects of the educational system can’t be abolished; but they need to be brought in line with contemporary realities. Christianity is now only the largest among many contending religions or life stances; among schoolchildren it may not even be the largest any more. In these circumstances, the state cannot mandate the practice of any one religion, nor demand that any one be taught as if it were true. But precisely because they are all contested it is vital that religious education teaches children how to live with others who inhabit entirely different imaginative worlds, whether these are explicitly religious or not. The British Humanist Association has long demanded that humanism be taught in schools as an alternative to religions. This is absolutely right — except that it must be taught as an alternative among religions and other faith systems. Humanism is not, after all, a materialist belief. You cannot weigh or measure the value of a human life.

Source: The Guardian view on religious education in schools: don’t trash it, transform it | Editorial | Comment is free | The Guardian

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1 Comment

  1. Ned

    I guarantee you HUMANISM is NOT being taught in ANY Muslim school in the UK – ONLY in Christian schools and secular schools in the UK. I also guarantee you that the “humanism” teachings will totally destroy any remnant of Christianity in UK schools. Such FOOLS! All trying to APPEASE Islam that wants them erased.

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