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Believe that religion works

THE Rev Ewan Aitken's article (TESS, last week) is at best vague and at worst a worrying tool in the hands of those looking for any excuse to downgrade RME. I have no quarrel with the argument that schools need to examine their beliefs, but to argue that this is best achieved by the removal of religious and moral education from the curriculum beggars belief.

To state unequivocally that having RME in the curriculum allows other areas of school life to avoid thinking about such things is naive and mind-numbingly simplistic.

It would be a poor teacher indeed - in any subject - who avoided discussion of some important area of belief or morality because that was the domain of the RME department.

In my experience this simply does not happen. On the contrary, enlightened colleagues will take advantage of the fact that RME can focus specifically on the issues which they may only be able to touch upon.

Without a specific and focused subject department looking at precisely the issues which Mr Aitken seems to subscribe to, the reality is that these may well not surface at all through diffusion of responsibility.

Just what is so reprehensible about having a subject with a specialism in issues of belief and morality? In practice, without such directed interest, Mr Aitken may well find that schools give even less time and thought to beliefs and values.

Mr Aitken really hasn't defined what his distinction between "religion" and "belief" is, and I suspect that this is the crux of the fault in his argument.

If, as is likely, he means the difference between personal philosophies which sustain people in an ever-changing world and an intellectually barren trot round the histories and outward expressions of religiosity which he may suspect RME is guilty of, then so be it.

However, even a casual assessment of the vast majority of secondary RME departments in Scotland will show that their focus is exactly on the challenging issues facing people today which Mr Aitken is troubled by.

Isn't his preferred alternative of "beliefs and moral decision-making" what RME departments are? With a little help, they might even get better at it.

Joe Walker Principal teacher of RME Liberton High, Edinburgh

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