Draft document is offensive

16th January 2009 at 00:00

I share the concerns expressed by Marj Adams (TESS, December 5) about the process involved in the Curriculum for Excellence draft experiences and outcomes for religious and moral education. The lack of consultation among the faith organisations is staggering and, even with the information from the Freedom of Information request, one is unable to identify the key people who were responsible for this document.

Last time around, I wrote on behalf of the Scottish Association of Jewish Teachers to the respective advisers about our concerns in relation to the draft 5-14 document. They not only arranged to meet us but subsequently made some important revisions to the respective document which addressed our concerns. Similarly, when rewriting Higher Still, Judaism was being considered (2003), the SQA adviser initiated consultation with our association.

The only religion that is given specific detail to aid its teaching in the CfE document (although some may argue that it requires further detail) is Christianity. It has a simplistic content that lacks the necessary details about teaching "Other World Religions". It is not only short in developing this area of the curriculum in a meaningful way, but is offensive to other faiths by its consistent naming of one religion - Christianity - and its consistent assumption that moral values, such as "sharing, caring, fairness, equality and love", are exclusively Christian or borrowed from Christianity.

The document's "overarching experiences" include those of prejudice and discrimination, which continue to impact in our society. They are, however, not explicitly included in any of the grids in this document and so, despite the controversial nature of teaching sectarianism or Islamophobia, they are given minimal consideration. While inclusion of non-religious perspectives is justifiable and relevant to our society, it too is not accompanied by information to assist its teaching across the levels.

It seems that as we live in a more multi-ethnic, multi-faith and diverse Scotland, we have a document which conveys less understanding of Scottish diversity and of the issues in teaching RME in Scotland today than we had before. This document conveys a feeling that diversity is something which is only seen by looking outside the school windows when, in fact, it is in the very core of our classrooms, school corridors and playgrounds. That is why this current draft document requires to be revised urgently.

Yes, Ms Adams is correct in her thinking that these draft experiences and outcomes will cause more problems. I only hope that she is wrong about its future alterations being "cosmetic". Maybe we should all start praying for a miracle.

Paula Cowan is a senior lecturer in the school of education at the University of the West of Scotland.

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