by Joe Walker
textbook for religious, moral and philosophical studiesIntermediate 1 and 2
The amount of information in each chapter of Nature of Belief is immediately striking. Care has been taken to ensure a variety of sources, from Plato to the 1986 film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home to the 2002 Bali bombing. Most pupils will relate well to this range of stimuli.
The practical activities sections offer a comprehensive range of ideas. Not all teachers will be comfortable with all the suggestions. I, for example, like the idea of a one-act play with God and the devil arguing about the cause of evil, but I wouldn't ask my pupils to write down what their ideal self would be and put it on display.
A strong feature of this textbook is its excellent revision and study guide. It is clearly set out and I rate highly the exemplar answers. Pupils always relate positively to any vehicle of learning which improves their exam techniques.
Yet I do have concerns. There is so much detail crammed in that some learners could simply switch off; I felt I was drowning in an excess of information. Maybe the inclusion of chapter summaries would have alleviated some of the problem.
An irritating aspect is the way the book lapses into almost stereotypical Scottish colloquialisms, such as "Aye right" to conclude a paragraph. And I'm not sure about the author's aim in writing the Genesis story in a form of west of Scotland dialect. It is puzzlingly exclusivist. What about pupils who speak Doric or Gaelic or who do not have an obvious dialect?
One more worry to flag. Religious education teachers are often perceived to be eccentric. This book, I regret to say, adds to the problem. On the very first page we encounter a new religious education teacher who has a tomato and a carrot balanced on his head. This is a very unfortunate example to illustrate belief.
I won't be ordering a class set of this textbook but as a source of ideas, it is very worthwhile.
Marj Adams teaches religious studies, psychology and philosophy at Forres Academy, Moray