The Church of England has recently criticised the government over limited resources being devoted to training religious education teachers, branding it as a scandal that is affecting “an essential part” of every child’s studies. The criticism comes as a Ofsted report finds that more than half of all schools have been failing pupils in their religious education, a subject which the watchdog claims is increasingly important “in an ever more globalised and multicultural 21st century” because of the way it promotes respect and empathy. Ofsted added that children are leaving school with a “very limited understanding” of Christianity.
I picked this up from a Local Government Information Unit briefing and it made me think about my religious education at school. To be honest I can’t really recall any of it at all! What I knew about religions on leaving school I had picked up from my C of E church going (St Andrews – Maghull & St Helens – Sefton Village) and things I had read myself. On that basis the criticism above goes back around 40 years and probably more! Evan as an atheist I can see the value of youngsters gaining some insight into major world religions as what you may call ‘useful information for life’.
By now you will have realised that I walked away from religion, many years ago I would add, but I guess that I did so not because of what I did or did not learn about it all at school but because of my own reading and discussion with friends.
The big test for our society is not what religion we follow (or not) but how tolerant we are of those with differing views and beliefs, how we embrace the diversity of differing views and whether as free thinking individuals we close to take up a religion or not. Other than providing useful information about the value systems of various major religions I see no other need for this to be a part of a youngster’s education; it certainly was not a part of mine but maybe religious readers of this posting would say that contributed towards me becoming an atheist. Now there’s a thought……….