Faith & practice in RE – Are we presenting the reality?

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Inspired by an animated talk on this at the #RETeachmeet at the Culham St. Gabriel’s weekend last year and then more recently by Tom Sherrintons blog on homophobia, I’ve been thinking about how the RE key stage 4 curriculum could be developed.  

In the GCSE syllabus I teach we basically have to teach religious views on moral issues and be able to give an opinion on the issues and/or the religious views. Very basic reasoning skills are needed ( developed reason & simple counters) however there isn’t much scope for a coherent extended argument. Whilst the current format makes it easy to mark, I think we’re restricting developing the students reasoning and argument writing skills which is a high level skill that is transferable across the curriculum. 

So I have been thinking about some content that I think today’s children want and need to know and understand; the real life manifestation of religion in the UK, not just the core teachings & practices. They should be studied along side each other. I believe RE has a huge job in preparing children for life and the more they understand the practices of those around them the more chance they have of being able to engage in the UK as a truly multi-ethnic and multi-faith society.

I have posed it as a set of questions that could be turned in to statements. My thoughts are that they allow students to investigate real life examples and use these as kinds of case studies to back up their points. Some are based on common questions that students ask me I.e ‘Miss, I was christened, does that make me a Christian?’This also allows them to focus on their local faith communities as they can use examples from near them as case studies. These are just suggestions and are unrefined and unedited. I hope others can add/amend/delete as they see fit.

 

  1. Why don’t some believers in a faith follow all the teachings? How do they justify not following their holy book/leaders?
  2. What difficulties might a child face growing up in the UK being a Christian? Why?
  3. What difficulties might a child face growing up in the UK following a religion other than Christianity? Why?
  4. What is a faith school? How does it differ from a non-faith school? Why might a person go to a faith school who is not a follower of that faith?
  5. Where does religious teaching & practice conflict with UK law? What options does a faith member have?
  6. What religious rights does an individual/ group have in the UK? How do these compare to other countries?
  7. Why do people take part in celebrations of a religious nature if they do not believe in that religion? Is this a problem for members of the faith?
  8. In the world of work, how might religion be encountered?
  9. How is culture often confused with religion? Can they be totally separated?
  10. If you are brought up in a religion (and have taken part in religious ceremonies) does that automatically make you a member of a faith?
  11. How does the UK media represent religion? What bias may there be? Why? 
  12. Does the internet accurately reflect the belief and teachings of religions? How and why?
  13. Why might someone claim to be a follower or not be a follower of a religion when the opposite is true? Can it be justified?
  14. Is the UK still a Christian country? Why?
  15. How might living in a particular area of the UK impact your experience of religion? 
  16. How has the presence of religious buildings changed in the UK? What key issues are there regarding religious buildings?

Assessment

I think that students should have the freedom to create logical, balanced well supported arguments based on everything they have learned. They should be taught basic reasoning skills to construct their arguments. This means any topic can be applied. It requires a good knowledge and understanding for it to be coherent. Here is a suggested format…

 

“______________________”

Write an argument to either support or challenge this statement. In your answer you must include:

  • A clear conclusion of your point of view
  • at least two reasons that support your view
  • evidence/example/case study/quotes that support the reasoning
  • a counter view with dismissal

Example case studies/evidence/examples:

  • Catholic use of contraception
  • People that celebrate Christmas/Easter yet are not Christian
  • The UK law on polygamy 
  • UK census results
  • The Church of England selling church land and property

 

I would be interested to hear people views on this, including further ideas of key issues for RE students of today.

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3 thoughts on “Faith & practice in RE – Are we presenting the reality?

  1. Good post, as an RE HoD I’ve already been in discussion with my Department about planning lessons for next year that explicitly tackle the relationship between religion and our modern liberal democracy. In particular the relationship between the right to freedom of speech and belief.

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