RE classes help to free young minds

25th August 2006 at 01:00
I read your report about enforced RE for post-16 students with interest but also frustration at the arguments for allowing pupils to withdraw ('Forced religion is abuse", TES, August 11) .

What upsets me is the suggestion that studying RE abuses someone's right to have freedom of thought, conscience and religion. I would suggest that exactly the opposite is true.

Modern RE tackles many of the big ethical, philosophical and religious issues that enable people to think for themselves and not just accept conventional wisdoms.

Of course there are some pockets of bad practice in RE where the accusation of promoting a particular religious perspective could be made, but my experience tells me that this is only in a small number of schools.

Most of us make sure that we do not push religious views over other ones and include discussions about atheism and humanism in lessons.

It is also interesting to examine the beliefs of RE student teachers which cover the spectrum from atheist to committed believer. What they all have in common, however, is that they seek to promote understanding of religions, not acceptance of their personal beliefs.

The role of RE in a diverse society where terrorists attempt to appropriate religious and non-religious ideologies for their own ends, is crucial.

If we are going to debate the place of RE in schools could we at least base our arguments on accurate information about the nature of RE today?

Perhaps then we could look at whether any other subjects that offer the same approach to ethics, religion and philosophy and encourage personal responses in the way that we do.

Julian Selman

Marlwood school

South Gloucestershire

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