Category Archives: Education

Humanism included in online RE resources

The Guardian has a revieew of ICT resouces to support religious education classes.

It refers to REonline, “perhaps the best UK’s subject-centred site…run by the Christian foundation, Culham Institute”

“We’ve analysed the national framework and identified the key concepts,” says Tony Parfitt, who runs the site. “The framework now mentions 10 major faiths rather six, including Bahai, Humanism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism. We have 10 people from the faith traditions writing about them, and we give links to websites and supplementary reading. That’ll all be free with REonline.”

The inclusion of Humanism is welcomed especially in light of  calls from Ofsted for religious education to include non-religious beliefs. Although in reality it is pretty uneven and not particularly favourable, with humanism lumped in with ethical egoismfor example (but not say rights or utilitarianism) in one section. At least it’s a start though and hopefully more, better resources will grow in time. (I am involved in developing some myself so watch this space!)

Raising children in a religion – abuse or stability?

Next up to take on Richard Dawkins is the Guardian’s Anne Karpf. She begins:

If Richard Dawkins had his way, a fair number of you and, as it happens, me, would be had up for child abuse. According to him, that’s what religious indoctrination of children by their parents is. And if you can sue for the long-term mental damage caused by physical abuse, he argues, why shouldn’t you sue for the damage caused by mental child abuse?

If you accept Dawkins’s characterisation of religion, you’d probably agree. Religious parents, to him, are Mr Dogma and Mrs Bigot: they terrify their kids with tales of eternal hell, fire and damnation, when – that is – they’re not carrying out female circumcision or coercing them into forced marriages. Flat-earthers the lot, they’re brainwashers, fanatically opposed to science and rationality.

Isn’t it curious that we tolerate the stereotyping of religion in a way we’d never abide with race, religion [sic] or gender? I certainly don’t recognise myself in this caricature.

Hmmm in fact Karpf is the one doing the misprepresenation here. Continue reading

University classes promote respectful religious debate

The Comombus Dispatch reports on a new project at Ohio University that aims to teach students how to have open, reasonable discussions about difficult questions of faith. The University is one of 27 colleges and universities receiving a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation through the Difficult Dialogues Initiative, a project coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

The project aims to face up to the difficult topics that are too often glossed over or shied away from: Continue reading

Creationism in the UK – do you want the good news or the bad news?

The good news as reported by Ekklesia is that in England “after a number of requests from teaching unions and civic bodies, including the Christian think-tank Ekklesia and the British Humanist Association, the UK Department of Children, Schools, and Families has issued guidance for teachers uncertain whether and how to discuss creationism – which is rejected by both scientists and theologians as lacking factual and theoretical value.

A statement on Teachernet, a government website, states that “Creationism and intelligent design are not part of the National Curriculum for science” and describes “intelligent design” as “a creationist belief” that “is sometimes erroneously advanced as scientific theory but has no underpinning scientific principles or explanations supporting it and it is not accepted by the international scientific community.”

Not only is it good news that creationism is being clearly put in its place but it is also a demonstation of how religious and non-religious bodies can work together on common causes. Archbishop of canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has also described creationism as “a category mistake” in religious thought.

The bad news is that in Northern Ireland the Department of Education has said the teaching of alternative theories was a matter for schools. Continue reading

Different beliefs are united but unheard in calling for fair and equal education

Simon BarrowEkklesia’s Simon Barrow writes in Comment is Free that Gordon Brown was right to use biblical language at the Labour Part conference against those employing religious rhetoric to oppose diversity and equality in family policy.

He goes on to argue thast “a similar pluralist case now needs to be made in relation to faith schools – where the government’s desire to ease its finance problems and promote social cohesion is misguidedly colluding with the wishes of some leaders of faith communities (not least the Anglican and Catholic churches) who are looking for a new role and new credibility in their battle against long-term decline and public indifference.

At the moment, the case against the selection, segregation, employment restrictions and discrimination wrapped up within the pro-faith schools agenda is being heard as an essentially “anti-religious” one. The exclusive tenor of some secular groups is not helping with this, given the sensitivities involved. Continue reading

How effective are electronic petitions?

Petitions have long been sent to the British Prime Minister by post or delivered to the Number 10 door in person. But since November 2006 people have been able to both create and sign petitions on the Number 10 website too, giving them the opportunity to reach a potentially wider audience and to deliver petitions directly to Downing Street.As of mid-June 2007:

  • 22,336 petitions have been set-up by users, of which 7.563 are currently live and available for signing, 2680 have finished and 10,501 have been rejected outright.
  • There have been 4,431,417 signatures, originating from 3,214,070 different email addresses.

All petitions have a deadline and once passed the government will email their current position on the issue as long as it has received over 200 signatures (unless they relate specifically to small groups for example, people from a small community). The advantages of the system are that petitioners can show their support much more easily and that government can then write directly to people much more efficiently than if they had to respond to individual letters. It also forces people to be a lot more specific in their points. At the same time it offers people a way to vent their frustrations and connect with government more easily than if they had to knock out a letter. Continue reading

Government blocks secular school that would teach all world views

Anushka Asthana reports in the Observer that senior government officials have blocked attempts to create the first school without an act of collective worship branding it a ‘political impossibility’.

Dr Paul Kelly“Dr Paul Kelley, head of Monkseaton High School in Tyneside – the first to join the government’s flagship ‘trust school‘ scheme – wanted to challenge the legal requirement in all state schools for pupils to take part in a daily act of worship of a broadly Christian nature. There are only a handful of exceptions at faith schools where the daily worship can be based on a different religion.

He also wanted to change the way that religious education was taught, introducing tuition about a number of world views, some that involved faith and some that did not. He intended to follow a ‘third way’ that neither banished religion from the classroom completely nor had children attending daily worship.

According to the Observer “One senior figure at the then Department for Education and Skills, told Kelley that bishops in the House of Lords and ministers would block the plans.” Continue reading