What is the point in RE? – Leah Delaney

2020 is one of the most crucial years of my life regarding my teaching career, as I will be graduating in July from Edge Hill University having completed my undergraduate degree, Secondary Religious Education with QTS, and begin teaching as an NQT in September. I could not think of a better way of starting this year than being surrounded by such inspirational and passionate RE professionals at NATRE’s Strictly RE Conference.

‘What is the point in RE?’ A question I myself have all heard a thousand times over; I feel for those who have been in the profession for several years. A question I find myself speculating how I should respond; how I can get a fourteen-year-old to fathom something that they have such trivial perspectives on. The ideas presented by Greg Barker, who delivered a session on the ‘Top 10 media to connect students to theory at GCSE and A Level’ really highlighted the idea that religion can be taught in diverse ways.

Presenting an image to a class that shows an image of a celebrity – they are hooked. A screenshot from a Marvel film – they are hooked. It invites for discussion amongst pupils, allowing their views to be expressed and promotes a passion or at least an understanding of why the study of RE is beneficial to their understanding of the world. Greg presented 10 images which he faced us with the challenge of identifying the relation to religion; the images were from a range of media outlets such as the news, advertisements, films, and art. One example that I really appreciated, was the painting “Poppy Field in a Valley near Giverny” by Claude Monet. We were asked ‘how many flowers are there?’ If you are not familiar with this painting, see here: https://www.claude-monet.com/poppy-field-in-a-hollow-near-giverny.jsp Monet can be used when teaching the Biblical creation story; a literalistic approach to Genesis, where one can ‘count’ the flowers.  In comparison, a metaphorical approach, a non-literalistic approach, whereby Genesis gives solely an impression of the truth and shows the goodness of the material world. I would have never linked these ideas together; maybe I am naïve, nevertheless I was very impressed by this idea presented to us by Greg. Another example I was impressed by, was a Diet Coke advert which raises issues about cultural images of perfection, the questionable benefits of dieting and the oppression that comes with it. You can see this advert here: http://propproject2k14.weebly.com/commercial.html. Taylor Swift is pictured, with the slogan ‘stay extraordinary’ next to her. This slogan was identified by Greg to be a religious connotation calling to Durkheim’s definition of religion as the movement from the profane, the ordinary, to the sacred, the extraordinary, and then back to profane. However, the advertisement promotes the idea that one stays forever in the sacred sphere.

Leah Delaney