The death of ‘RE is just opinion’!

Many thanks to @ShellTerrell, Critical Thinking Asylum and Zoe Weil for prompting this post.

‘Why do we have to do RE? It’s just your opinion anyway!’ This is a criticism which can easily be leveled at any RE teacher and one that I have had to consider. The worst possible response in the world is ‘because we have to!’ Increasingly the response has been to look at transferable skills, suggesting that all education, no matter what the subject, is merely preparation for a desk job which will make money for society.

Sorry I may have become cynical there.

6 Critical Questions from Critical Thinking Asylum

However, there is a lot of talk of transferable skills provided through academic subjects. It may be possible to reject this (and perhaps it should be) and instead claim that there are core skills which every child should be encouraged to develop at school. One of the corse skills that students should be developing throughout their school career is the development of critical thinking. This skill is core to the way students should study any subject, whether it be RE, History, Maths or Dance. Having a critical approach to learning allows the student to engage with learning in exactly the same way a university student does, or a teacher or a university professor. The 6 Critical Questions are essential for any student wishing to engage in authentic learning! The joy of these 6 questions is that they can be used at any level of education and they lead to development of learning. Whether it is a 11 year old questioning what religious groups say, or a university student considering the implications of historical events on religious thought or an academic text on the development of Cultural Reforms during the Reformation – they are all using Critical Thought and one of the 6 questions, in some form or other!

I am not calling for the introduction of an extra subject called ‘Critical Thinking’ for all – I am suggesting that subjects should/need be taught in a critical approach. Students should ask where their information comes from and the possible influences on that information. Are we really going to accept that it is right simply because the teacher said it? Should students not be looking beyond the teacher and engaging with the real data/text/information?

Thinking critically all of a sudden brings a new light on the question ‘Why do we have to do RE? It’s all opinion anyway!’ These 6 critical questions expose the opinion to new interrogation and all of a sudden new doors are opened to the student. Why does it matter when the opinion was made? What do you mean I need to look at how they said it? Why can’t I compare my ideas automatically with those of a 14th century Islamic scholar from Mecca? RE moves far beyond the realms of opinion. We need to ensure that students are provided with the correct tools in order to do this! These 6 questions provide a fantastic framework for ensuring that students are truly thinking about RE.

Next steps…

Working with a few people to look at how to properly define RE – if that is possible… Starting from the point of view that RE might learn something by going through the same process history did during the 1960s, but is able to jump a few steps ahead by taking on board modern ideas as well as the key ideas of defining the subject in order to go forward.

A lot stands in ML’s definition of RE being split into 3 strands: theological, philosophical and ethical.

Are they the meta-conceptual approach through which to access 2nd order concepts and substantive concepts? Access to actual RE is through a process of acknowledged/self-reflective refinement which brings the content into specific focus.

Meta-Concept : 2nd Order Concept : Religion : Lens : Content.

By lens I am referring to Erricker’s (2010) idea that you can view RE content through a range of lenses, each with their own specific tint. I.e. you can look at Christian theology through a Marxist lens or through a Feminist lens, historical lens etc….


Philosophy : Interpretation : Hindu : Social Sciences : Sin/Karma?

Theology : Change and Continuity : Christian : Historical : Salvation

Ethical : Self-Awareness : Islam : Feminist : Women

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