A-level RE and philosophy

24th September 2004 at 01:00
John Waters is a star of AS and A-level teaching, whose RE department at Parkstone Grammar School is full of students following the subject post-16.

His co-editorship of the ASA2 RS journal Dialogue has long established him as a national contributor to this field.

His Ethical Theory CD-Rom is based on years of teaching. This interactive resource uses cartoon sketches, quotes and clear definitions, which can be used by students in groups or individually.

The centrepiece is the Moral Philosophers' Periodic Table, a smart adaptation of the periodic table of elements. More than 100 philosophers are featured under the themes of natural law, ethics, Kant, utilitarianism, virtue, proportionalism and meta-ethics. Clicking on any philosopher's head leads to more information and cartoons of the key players.

This is not showbiz RE, simply transferring textbook stuff on to the glitzy PC screen. It is a sophisticated teaching device, full of terse summaries and information, with diagrams and links between thinkers and highlighting of key words and pointers. It goes beyond what a textbook could have done and yet remains user-friendly. It's a welcome change from the textbook or hand-out approach that can be so deadening.

With Philosophy of Religion Peter Cole, another veteran of AS and A-level, revises an established book, including new material on the nature of God - who remains male - faith, belief and miracles. The new material is tightly written, clear and exam-focused.

Spirituality and Ethics in Education is a collection of essays by theologians and "critical theorists" intended for the academic world. It claims to offer an international, interfaith and multicultural forum on spiritual education in a changing world. The collection stems from a conference in Haifa. Despite opening with the generalisation that until recently schools had "abandoned their spiritual connection" (who says they have?), the editorial is right to say that interest in spirituality is increasing, both at scholarly as well as popular levels. Faith schools in all countries would argue they have maintained their spiritual connections, as would some non-religious foundation schools.

The book provides papers examining philosophical perspectives on spirituality, then theological and religion-based positions, and current cultural and critical points of view which seek to link children's spirituality with overt and covert forms of power. This is not an easy read, nor entirely adapted to its wider audience, but it does offer a range of views from current academic discourse, reflecting the politics within this field, as well as a wide-ranging debate.

Spirituality and spiritual development can be such a fudge that efforts to clarify and continue the debate are welcomed.

Terence Copley is professor of REat the University of Exeter

Ethical Theory

By John Waters

CD-Rom, school site licence pound;55, additional single user licence Pounds 12.50

Socratic Ideas, PO Box 5422, Bournemouth BH8 9XP

Tel: (Kate Perkins) 07956 321209 www.socraticideas.com

Philosophy of Religion (second edition)

By Peter Cole

Hodder Education pound;7.99

Spirituality and Ethics in Education

Edited by Hanan Alexander

Sussex Academic Press, pound;49.95 (hardback), pound;16.95 (paperback) www.sussex-academic.co.uk


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