Views from the staffroom

22nd July 2005 at 01:00
In the first of a series of summer debates, a philosopher who thinks the principles we teach children should never be based on religious belief slugs it out with a church-school head. Below, TES readers give their views

Views from visitors to the TES online staffroom at The balance of comments reflects the views we received.

"Cassandra": One does not need to be religious to be charitable, kind, or moral. To leave out religion is not to narrow the minds of children, as Huw Thomas would imply, but to show how such values are and should be a matter of choice, not of received religious opinion.

"LadsNR": I have taught in many schools and firmly believe that schools that promote values such as respect, compassion and honest are the best.

Whilst these values are not specifically religious, they form the essential ethos of faith schools. In many non-faith schools where I have taught at no such values are promoted.

"Leviosa": Personally speaking, in a church school which has an intake of theists, atheists and agnostics, I see my role as nurturing those who have a faith, and answering any questions from enquirers. I do not ram it down the atheist children's throats.

Being a Christian is about a personal relationship with God - being forced to go to church does not constitute that. That said, in a church school one should expect to have the Christian faith discussed and taught from a Christian perspective.

The schools deliver what they say on the tin: if you don't like it you don't enter into it in the first place.

"Higgi 17": I've worked in schools where religion is explicitly taught (UK catholic schools) and not taught at all (US public schools). To avoid religious values in any discussion of the modern world is virtually impossible. From the war in Iraq to acts of violence every day in every part of the world, religion plays a part in trying to understand why these things happen.

If we remove religious values from our schools, we run the risk of removing tolerance, acceptance and appreciation of world cultures and raising a generation of children that can't look beyond what is happening in their own front yard.

Eva Smith: Of course religious values have a place in schools. If the events of 7705 have taught us anything, it is that education and tolerance of the ways of life, values and traditions of others is vital in order for different cultures to co-exist.

"Lilo": Religious values have a place in school as long as they are openly discussed and explored rather than "taught'. We should help children understand that the world is full of different opinions and choices that they will have to deal with. This is hopefully how all other subjects in the curriculum are taught and it should be no different for RE.

An open-minded approach with philosophical, structured discussion should be how religious values appear in our curriculum. This gives children the information that will help them make up their own minds about religion.

"New RE Teacher": As many have already said, religious values underpin society and without them we would be lost. I am not talking of the importance of one religion's set of values but of all religions.

If we incorporated the main values from each of the religions in our society we would have a framework of harmony, respect and peace. Equally we should not, unless in a faith school, advertise one religion over another - this is the choice of the individual. We should offer them the information to make their own choices.

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