Thought-provoking ideas in religious studies

It would be a grave disservice to college students “to ditch religious research in school” (Loose canon, 5 December) and to trivialise multifaith religious training as “mushy relativism” is unjust. Educators from Bosnia visiting our extensive school have been astonished and envious of the chance to investigate and appreciate diversity in religion.

A pupil advised our visitors that she had “always thought fundamentalists were Muslims. Now I realise that newspapers stereotype folks and are prejudiced, as other religions have fundamentalists as well. I shall go through more cautiously now and consider and come to my own conclusions.” This is far from Giles Fraser’s “suffocation of curiosity”.

One more student added: “I’m not sure about religion and God but am not actually an atheist. I’m nevertheless kind of fumbling for a faith. It is been genuinely great to understand about people of other religions, simply because the unknown prospects to worry and when you know, you can relate. I’ve also realised how fundamentalists are in all religions. The American right has fundamentalists also. I was actually surprised to read through about their views on evolution.”

However yet another had “always considered of fundamentalists as undesirable but now I comprehend more why folks turn out to be fundamentalists … The Sufis are pretty and yet they are fundamentalists. This course has genuinely manufactured me see and think.”

Possibly it requires visitors from countries suffering daily religious strife to realise the inestimable value of multifaith religious training in our colleges.
Liz Byrne
Letchworth, Hertfordshire

The wonderful strength of the 1988 Educational Reform Act which introduced the nationwide curriculum was the emphasis on spiritual and moral development of pupils and of society. I chaired the National Curriculum Council in 1990-92 and regard religious schooling as a crucial part of the curriculum. The act set out that pupils need to be launched to Christianity and all the other key religions of the globe, and has been the foundation of British values which underpin our multifaith society.

I have not too long ago stepped down as chairman of a big secondary school in Tower Hamlets which has a Christian foundation with 85% Muslim pupils, none of whom opt out of the broadly Christian act of worship. As a consequence the pupils are educated in complete harmony, with exceptional results.

At a time when religious understanding has never been more critical, to call for the abolition of religious training is deeply disturbing.
David Pascall

London

Giles Fraser is correct about religious studies. I have taught the topic in public and state schools, and spent thirty many years with Christian Assist, in the course of which I typically visited schools to do as he says: “to aid children to think, to question, to argue”. A perceptive instructor as soon as asked me how I got away with that. The last issue our existing government wants is a generation that does its social evaluation and will not be informed who to detest and what to get.

Can we teach students to understand Jesus as a Jewish prophet who taught individuals not to dislike and how to dwell lightly on the Earth? Can we teach other faiths in the same light? If not, greater shut up shop.
Tony Graham
Crawley, Sussex

I do get pleasure from Giles Fraser’s columns, and his creating in common, but his suggestion that it’s time to ditch religious research in school is utter nonsense. The cause some (and I tension some) RS educating is so bad is simply because it has been marginalised in schools, and, as Giles factors out, ends up getting taught by non-professionals. Nevertheless in colleges the place the subject is valued, in which professionals are hired and have entry to regular coaching, it can be hugely fulfilling and encourages pupils to become engaged with, and query, complex and thought-provoking ideas, theories and morals.

I too am concerned about the adjustments being proposed to GCSE &amp A-degree, but scrapping the subject will not support any person. What’s necessary is company support for the topic from senior management in schools, and the promotion of, as Giles himself factors out, an opportunity for kids to believe, to question, to argue. I’m fortunate enough to educate in a college the place this is the case, and RS has rapidly expanded into one of the most well-liked alternatives at the two GCSE and A-level. And Giles will be pleased to hear that no colouring in is essential at all at key stage 4 and key stage five.
Richard Meyrick
Coleford, Somerset

And even though we’re about it, can we please abolish the absurd anachronism of “faith schools”? Religious scientific studies is a single point the notion that any 1 religion need to be solely accountable for all studies has “inevitable partiality” and “future conflict” embedded into its heart.
Fr Alec Mitchell
Manchester

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