Letters extra: value of RE

13th July 2001 at 01:00

It is good to know that young people are so positive about RE (Lat Blaylock, Curriculum Special) although one notes that five of the six quoted in The TES last week had a faith already and so were well disposed, one assumes, to religion. But there would seem to be cause for concern. It seems they have fully imbibed the lessons RE has been designed to teach them; they believe in giving respect to everyone, in seeing both sides of arguments and discussing their beliefs with others.

They are convinced that ignorance causes lots of problems and that RE will save them from falling into such errors. They have, in short, been taught to think in certain ways. So the claim that RE will not tell them what to think is a hollow claim. It is time we gave up all such talk so that we can discuss what really matters; what should RE teach them to think?

We could begin by asking whether the lessons that these young people are learning are true. Is it really true that ignorance causes grave problems? If so then we should be very worried indeed since it will never be possible to know about all the religions one is likely to come across. Should we respect everyone? There are surely some people one should not respect (persistent liars, cheats, muggers and blasphemers etc). Is discussing other people's beliefs when they are at total variance with one's own worthwhile? Might it not be better to discuss football or collect for a charity? Seeing both sides of an argument is important but only of value if one has learned to come to a decision. Such a decision will need to be informed, in religious education, by a grasp of a particular religion.

Could it be that RE has become a vehicle of political correctness rather than a tool for radical thinking?

Penny Thompson
Liverpool L23

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