Letters extra: argument and conviction in RE

20th July 2001 at 01:00

Julian Baggini makes some interesting points about religious education (July 13). However one should be aware that leading humanists such as Richard Dawkins are quite happy with RE as long as conflicting religions are presented in the classroom with equal authority.

The effect of this is to question the validity of all of them and implicitly therefore favours a secularist viewpoint. It is right to give due weight to other beliefs, just as it is right that children should be enabled to make their religious commitments without undue pressure from adults.

But such aims are not incompatible with exploring Christianity on the basis that it is true. Indeed it is because Christian truths are believed to be such that due weight must be given to views that challenge this position. Children will make up their own minds but they need to know what the issues are and in this they need committed teaching by those who can offer answers and have thought about the matter.

The danger is that in order to smooth over the fact that there are different convictions about what is true, we attempt to remove conviction and reasoned argument from the classroom altogether. It is possible to have committed teaching which remains open to criticism and respects the deeply held views of others. The alternative runs the risk of neutering the teacher and the teaching.

Penny Thompson

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