New identity and National Entitlement
13 February, 2019, Alice Sarbicki
Religious Education has long suffered with an identity crisis but it is more important than ever that we utilise this vibrant subject to support students in understanding the world around them and becoming global citizens. In this blog I will commend the Religious Education Commission’s recommendation to change the name of Religious Education to Religion and Worldviews and their insistence that this subject should be a ‘National Entitlement’ for every student.
First I want to celebrate the commission’s recommendation to rebrand the subject. As the world has changed around us some teachers, parents and students have lamented that Religious Education has not adapted and renewed itself. As a result our subject has (falsely) been seen by some as irrelevant. Whether you agree with this or not it is undeniable that many schools have changed the name of the subject, often not including the word Religion, and others have abandoned teaching the subject all together.
The name of something goes to the root of its purpose and the purpose of Religious Education is something teachers and researchers feel the need to address again and again. This speaks of an insecurity at the core of Religious Education and its reason for existing in the curriculum. Until we have a clear purpose we will struggle with the day to day task of teaching students. Not to mention persuading schools not to cut our subject from their curriculum.
The Religious Education commission offers much needed clarity. It outlines a clear, unifying purpose based on a foundation of solid research. It also raises the status of Religious Education, now Religion and Worldviews, and places it firmly within a school’s curriculum. It persuades us of Religion and Worldviews’ undeniable importance to children and a school environment.
Next I want to address the Commission’s call that this should be a ‘National Entitlement’ for every student with full backing and funding from schools. For all kinds of reasons, good and bad, religion is in the headlines. Even those who do not read the news can appreciate that religion is one of the most important factors shaping our world. Simply put, if one fails to understand the world’s religious beliefs and practices, then one fails to understand the world.
If you think that statement is provocative, then look at the alternatives. Science can tell us what’s happening in the world and why. But it can’t explain people’s motives. Economics can tell us about the costs and benefits of our actions. But it won’t tell us why we still do them. History, literature, social theory can all open up a world of ideas. But they can’t tell us, today, what people actually believe in and what motivates them.
Changing the name of the subject to Religion and Worldviews best represents what we do in our classrooms. It sends a clear message to those teachers, parents and students who have puzzled over the purpose and relevance of our subject.
Regardless of what sort of school you work in ‘Religion and Worldviews’ explores the world as people find it; it is exciting, provocative, and vital. Only this subject shows us a world people live and die for, and the God and god’s people worship in their lives and deaths.