Losing faith as RME is crucified

17th April 2009 at 01:00

So, who finds the final outcomes and experiences for religious and moral education an improvement on the draft documents?

Religious and moral education is regressing relentlessly. I know it is regarded as negative to say so and I will be vilified by the patriarchs out there, but we must flay the culprits in print. Whoever these policymakers are - and note how the documents are all anonymous - they are throwing RME teachers into sinking sands.

Think back to the meetings hosted by Learning and Teaching Scotland last year in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Repeatedly, at all three gatherings, criticisms were expressed regarding the star billing given to Christianity. How does Christianity justify its position as set apart from all other faiths? Why was the 5-14 terminology of "other world religions" retained? Why was the word "thinking" absent from the whole document? What about irritatingly facile outcome statements such as: "Through researching a range of Christian traditions, practices and customs, I can explain their significance across a range of Christian traditions."

Despite the assurances that this was a genuine consultation exercise, any changes to the outcomes are cosmetic. The architects listened, nodded their heads, told us it was the opportunity to be radical and then disappeared for several months to produce more of the same thoroughly disappointing drivel.

What is especially disturbing is that these clumsily-worded outcomes aid and abet the ticking-the-box-mentality, which is already as infectious as an airborne virus in Scottish schools. I have to say that the outcomes are a straitjacket too far and I urge my colleagues in the profession to rebel. If we want successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors, we must dispense with these stultifying outcomes. We want to inspire our pupils, not paralyse them with boredom.

I am pleased to say that some attention has been paid to the plea for thinking skills to be included. Strangely, they don't appear in the outcomes but only in the cover paper which has acquired the title Principles and Practice. One thing's for sure: the pupils will need thinking skills to understand why "other world religions" has metamorphosed into "world religions selected for study."

Christianity continues to be in a category of its own - bizarrely, I have to say, because surely Christianity is a world religion; if not, then what is it? The underlying tone of the writer suggests that Christianity is superior to other belief systems, a supreme hero who doffs his cap to any faith which passes through the classroom in the full knowledge that there is only one road to heaven. This demarcation diminishes Christianity.

As for the appendix with its 13 explanations, it is full of disturbingly paradoxical statements. Teachers, for example, are exhorted to take care to explore ultimate questions from an inclusive standpoint. Admirable, but the document's tenor is exclusive in that Christianity is promoted with a missionary zeal best reserved for the pulpit.

The whole document is a dead end to trap teachers and their pupils.

Marj Adams teaches religious studies, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy.

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