The Commission on RE (2018) report uses the title ‘Religion and Worldviews: the way forward’. In the media, in meetings I attended and on social media it was clear that for some there was an instant connection with this reimagining of RE as ‘religion and worldviews’ for others there was indifference and for others there was consternation.
I want to share with you why I think this reshaping of RE is right for this moment.
In a meeting recently, I was asked to give a simple definition, of the term ‘worldview’. I confess mine was probably the simplest in the room, but this is what I said:
‘How we make sense of the world and the impact this has on daily life.’
My point was that we all have a worldview.
My worldview is influenced by an institutional one, namely Christianity, but this itself is a complex and diverse worldview. My worldview is also influenced by my parents, my education, my interests, by values and passions. I know many other Christians and their worldview is not the same as mine. My worldview influences how I live my life, what I do with my life, how I spend my money, how I conduct myself as so on.
To catch hold of the vision of the Commission on RE is to grasp the fact that worldviews are fundamental to human life. This insight means that RE can only ever be inclusive, it can only ever be applicable to all pupils, it can only ever inform and challenge children and young people to consider their own and learn deeply about the worldviews of others.
The Commission on RE defines a worldview as,
‘….a person’s way of understanding, experiencing and responding to the world’. (p.26)
The report makes clear that religions are worldviews, as well as there being non-religious worldviews. This is important as it clarifies the position of religions within religious education alongside non-religious perspectives. It also shows why the title used is ‘religion (singular) and worldviews’. Religion as a category is to be studied alongside worldviews. This to me is also important. I remember a SACRE meeting many years ago where a number of religious community representatives said that they did not belong to a ‘religion’. They belonged to a faith, or belief system, a way of life or a philosophy of life. There was debate about the nature of the word ‘religion’ itself. These kinds of conversation are essential in the classroom today to help children and young people navigate the world in which they live.
Finally, when considering writing this blog I thought it would be interesting to hear the voice of primary teachers on this topic! How would they define a worldview? Here is a selection of responses from a recent meeting I hosted with RE Subject Leaders, used with the teachers’ permission:
‘What people believe and think, how they live their life, what values the person has and the impact on their community, home and how they live’ (Rebekah Moran)
‘An informed opinion that can be formed by few but impacts on many; may be linked to social/economic/political experience’; may attempt to offer an answer or solution to a needs/crisis /issue….’ (Chris Allen)
‘A belief or opinion held by people which influences human behaviour and contributes to culture, values or a belief system. It influences your own personal daily life and contributes to the choices and decision a person makes’ (Elizabeth Cooper)
‘The lens through which we see the world. This lens is intrinsically linked to our culture, heritage and place in history. It is influenced by the sum of the thoughts which have gone before. It is also influenced by more personal circumstances such as family, education and geographical location. It is a composition or construction through which we make sense of the world around us’ (Jay Lindner)
These comments show the institutional nature of worldviews as well as the personal, and their impact on the world. This is why religion and wordviews IS the way forward for RE
Dr Kathryn Wright
Independent RE Consultant, a co-opted member of the NATRE Executive and sits on the board of the RE Council of England and Wales