The meaning of life

6th December 1996 at 00:00
Jack Priestley looks at three books that are aimed at GCSE short courses in RE

BELIEFS, VALUES AND TRADITIONS

By Ann Lovelace and Joy White

Heinemann Pounds 9.99

RELIGION AND LIFE

By Victor Watton

Hodder Stoughton Pounds 7.99 Pupil's Book and Teacher's Handbook

THINKING ABOUT GOD

(with Teacher's Book)

By Maureen Harrison and Sharon Kippax

Collins Pounds 7.95

Teacher's Book Pounds 9.25

These books are all intended for the same market - that of the GCSE short courses in RE. Religion and Life is particularly directed at pupils taking the London exam and Thinking about God follows the NEAB syllabus, but both claim suitability for other similar courses. All three cover much the same subject matter, but each divides the material up differently.

Beliefs, Values and Traditions is the most substantial of the three and covers the three major Western religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, in an attractive way. At first sight, the progression from the nature of God to morality to the sanctity of life to genetic engineering, embryo technology and abortion might appear arbitrary, but it is well thought out and achieves two things.

First, one realises that one is following a religion's teachings through the life cycle from conception to death while dealing with beliefs, ultimate questions, values and traditions on each issue. Second, we are straight into the major concerns of pupils in their mid-teens without having to argue about relevance and in an unpatronising way.

Each topic follows a similar pattern, an opening stimulus, basic facts, questions designed to recall, explain and evaluate the material, creative assignments and a final re-examination. The three religions are dealt with separately but cross-referencing is easy.

Victor Watton divides his Religion and Life into 58 factfiles under six chapter headings such as Marriage and Family Life, Believing in God, and Religion, Wealth and Poverty. Religions are treated separately on each topic so that we have, for example, a factfile on Christian teaching on marriage and divorce followed by sections on Muslim, Jewish and Hindu teaching on the same subject.

This book is also well illustrated with many colour photographs, although they are not as dynamic and stimulating as those in Lovelace and White's book - far more shots of groups and religious buildings and none of genetically engineered mice!

The accompanying Teacher's Book is a little like teaching by numbers, but that is not a criticism when one realises that many teach these courses because they are enthusiastic rather than experienced.

Thinking about God takes a more traditional approach than the other two books. It begins with ultimate questions and comes to proferred answers later on.

The book separates out Thinking about God and Thinking about Morality as two distinct sections and takes pupils through the traditional (Christian) arguments for the existence of God and Jewish, humanist (sic) and Hindu creation stories before coming to ways of making moral decisions, issues of life and death, relationships and global issues.

The Teacher's Book is more devoted to background material than Victor Watton's and less to tips for teachers.

This book is the most abstract of the three and, although it makes the claim that it is written with students of all abilities in mind and although the questions are graded, I would be inclined to think that, of the three, its form of treatment will have its greatest appeal in selective schools.

Dr Jack Priestley is principal of West Hill College of Higher Education, Selly Oak, Birmingham

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now