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When I was a child, my education ran the gamut from regular primary schools to a few years at a private school that was run along denominational lines. Later after graduating from university, I also spent a couple of years teaching in a denominational school. Like a few of my other reviews, I do not expect that all will agree with me but I appreciate all who are willing to consider my thoughts and leave any comments.
As those who have already read some of my reviews are aware, I am a minister in a church. Yet while I have strong beliefs in certain areas that I believe are biblically based, there are just as many areas that I believe boil down to personal preferences.
Whether denomination (religious) schools are a good thing or a bad thing is probably going to be debated til long after the cows come home and many very opinionated people will fall on both sides of the coin. Therefore, I only wish to give my experiences and my personal feelings on the matter.
1. One of the first things that I noticed in just about every religious or denominational school that I have visited or taught in is that they tend to be very exclusive. To me, this flies in the face of what religion is supposed to be about and that is reaching out to those who are around them in love. Exclusivity does NOT promote reaching out to those who are less fortunate and it is true that many religious or denominational schools are very expensive to attend or at least out of the range of the average family.
2. I have found that the average child who is put into such a school is normally fed only what that particular denomination wants them to know and often any free thinking is discouraged especially if the child does not come to the same conclusion as the teacher. This also flies in the face of what religion supposedly teaches to others. In most circles today, you hear that religions are supposed to be all inclusive and caring for others who do not necessarily agree, yet religious leaders do not always practice this when it comes to the teaching of the young people in their charge.
3. When the child comes into school he or she learns by example (if not by actual teaching) that they are the only ones who are right and that those who do not attend are not up to the appropriate standard. By implementing strict guidelines about who can or can't attend, I believe we restrict the issue of free speech.
4. I have also noticed that in speaking to some parents they choose to put their children in the religious schools because they will supposedly be taught better morals than what may be found in the mainstream state or government schools. Having been and taught in religious or denominational schools, I must admit that the moral values that were upheld by the average student in these schools was not vastly different from those found in other schools. Religion therefore had only become a name or a veneer (if you will) to cover the ills found throughout western civilization.
Let me give an example - Say a child attends a CofE school, the children are normally required or taught to say certain prayers, sing certain hymns, and generally follow the church year calendar. But what about those who would be of a different religion? Normally they are not catered for and because of guidelines that are implemented by often very parochial governors, children who are say Muslim or Hindu or Baptist or Presbyterian or Mormon or whatever will generally feel out of place? Yet, the teachers still expect those students to react and learn in real life situations. When those children finish with their religious education, how can we honestly say that they have learned a real worldview that encompasses all peoples as being part of the same human race??
On the other hand, the above could probably be said just as easily for Muslim or Hindu or Baptist or Presbyterian or Mormon or whatever religious schools. Each school has a certain agenda to achieve with the normal aim at some point to bring more adherents into a closer walk with the church, synagogue, mosque, etc. itself.
So now in the midst of all of this, the government wants to jump in with both feet and try to dictate what percentage of students must be non-faith in all faith schools. Is this really anything more than a pathetic attempt to show diversity simply for the sake of showing diversity? Does anybody believe that the rules would be completely followed across the board with ALL religious or denominational schools? Will there at some point be additional rules laid down that will ensure both "faith" and "non-faith" students are taught a proper perspective of other peoples not like themselves and a good world-view?
Personally, I doubt this will the case and I for one believe that this is merely another example of where the government has failed to draw the line that is needed between church and state. There may have been a time that religious schools were able to accomplish what they felt was necessary and may have even produced children that were different from their peers or colleagues. Sadly, I believe that for the most part religious schools only perpetuate the "I'm right and everybody else is wrong!" mentality that is prevalent amongst all of the world's major religions.
To conclude, I would not personally be willing to be involved in teaching in another religious school unless I was permitted to speak from my own conscience and not merely to toe the party or denominational lines. Freedom of speech must be acceptable to all or it is acceptable to no one. So - a good thing - not from what is being seen today! This is extremely sad because if religion is to teach others from correct perspectives, it must be done with the recognition that each child is to be accepted where they are no matter what they are and then seek to help to mold them into adults who will show less prejudices than has been found for far too many years, and I do not see denominational schools meeting this criteria any more than non-faith schools do.
Thanks for reading.
I do the ‘Philosophy and Ethics’ syllabus for RS and find most of it very interesting. I am not a religious person at all, so this course is certainly suitable for all sorts of people with all kinds of beliefs and outlooks on life. Since doing RS I have learnt to look at everything that happens in our world, from war, to abortion, to sex and relationships and so on, from a completely different perspective. I have been trained to put my presuppositions, emotions and attachments aside when deciding whether acts such as self-defence, capital punishment and so on are morally acceptable. I’ve also learnt how to formulate a good and powerful arguments to supports my beliefs – and have found myself winning a lots of quarrels since! The only boring parts of the course have been those studying interpretation of biblical stories but even then, this only takes up a tiny part of the course and studying such a topic has shown me that biblical stories should not just be taken at face value and blindly accepted as ‘ God’s Word’. RS must be the most interesting subject around that is relevant to life as we know it, and the more people who do it, the better and richer society will be as a result! (Sounds dramatic but is true!) Go on…it’s not as boring as you think it is!!
I’m not religious, I was raised as a Church of England Christian and attended church but now I am older I choose not to follow the Christian faith. In fact I am an atheist. When I tell people I take RE for A-level they all think that I want to be a nun when I grow up, but this is far from the truth. I am going to talk about the AS level RE which I am taking now. Since primary school I have studied RE (religious education) and have enjoyed it. From tales of the Bible to more unusual religions it has been really fascinating to me. For my GCSE’s I got an A. You had a choice at my school with RE. You can take it as one lesson a week and get ½ a GCSE or you can go to a lunchtime lesson a week and the other lesson and take it then as a whole GCSE. I took the lunchtime lesson. I didn’t really know if I wanted to study RE for A-levels. I was considering to college and taking philosophy, and a few other subjects. Laziness got me and I decided to see what my school offered. Philosophy was not on the list however when I read what was studied in RE I was amazed that about 1/3 of the first year is philosophy, so I took it. So what do I study? Well I have four lessons a week of which each is an hour. I have two teachers in this time and I study different topics with them. In total there are three topics. With one teacher we are doing philosophy and with the other we are looking at St John’s gospel in the Bible. Later on we will be doing coursework as well then it is the end of our AS. Philosophy This is the hardest thing I have ever done. We have been given loads of books by our teacher (which the school has paid for, although this differs from school to school I’m sure). I have four philosophy books, three of which are called philosophy of religion. So what do we study? THE ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT FOR THE EXSISTENCE OF GOD THE COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT FOR THE EXSISTANCE OF GOD This is
explaining how the universe has signs that God created it. Trying not to baffle you with long words or get you confused I’ll explain one of its theories. The cause theory is the idea that everything has a cause. This goes back through and through the universe from one cause to the next. This cant however go on for infinity so there must have been a first cause, one that started the chain. This is believed to be God creating the universe. THE DESIGN ARGUMENT FOR THE EXSISTANCE OF GOD This is idea that the world is designed. The universe has so many rules (in science, like gravity) that all this could not of happened by chance, and thus must have been designed by someone – God. EVIL AND SUFFERING This looks at why there is suffering in the world and if God were all good would he let this happen? RELIGION AND PSYCHOLOGY RELIGION AND SCIENCE RELIGION AND HUMANITY MIRACLES Miracle is a very over used word. We look at what a miracle is and if it can really happen. We then try and find examples of what is a miracle and what isn’t a miracle and justify them LIFE AFTER DEATH Most people view philosophy as a subject where any answer is right because nothing can be proved. This is wrong; I can’t walk into an exam hall and write my opinions. With each of these topics I learn I have to know what great thinkers such as Plato though and write about them. St John’s Gospel There are four gospels in the Bible; Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. Mathew, Mark and Luke are called the synoptic because they are so similar in fact there are over 300 verses word for word the same in them. John’s gospel is the exception being its own unique piece of work. We look at who wrote it, when and what they were trying to do. There are many parts we look at and examine. We look for authorship because it is believed that the early church rewrote some of the bi
ble to suit the times. Therefore we can criticise the writings in some places. So what do we look at? The ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus. In the Old Testament Moses found a burning bush. The bush spoke and turned out to be God. In this conversation Moses learned God’s really name which in translated English today is ‘I am’ or Jehovah (as in the annoying people who knock on your door). Jesus in John’s gospel says ‘I am’ a lot. This is a divine claim so we look at all the divine claims Jesus made and see what he is saying with them. We look for references to other stories as well. I.e. ‘I am the bread of life’ is also referring to Holy Communion where Christians eat bread. The Signs John never said the world Miracle instead he called them signs. We look at these signs and see why they were important and what they mean. An example of a sign is a story where Jesus turns water into wine. We worked out in class how much wine he made and got it down to 2000 bottles. I would of loved to have been at that party or set up a brewery with Jesus would you? Women We look at the role of women in Jesus time. We don’t know how women were viewed at the time of Jesus but from later evidence we can guess. They had no role in life and were just there. We look at how Jesus treated women with respect and how important this is. Coursework There are a lot of titles to choose from. You have class time to write on your topic and can get guidance to do this. You need to be good at writing though because essay style does become important in a-levels like RE. I have taken English Literature so I am all right although one of the girls in my class isn’t very good at English (she got a D at GCSE) and is struggling with her Essays. Conclusion If you want to learn about religions then I don’t recommend this A-level for you. This is nothing like what you have lea
rned in RE before its very new and different. Class sizes are small (my class started at 4 people but has since grown to 7 – average class sizes in my school for subjects go up to 16 pupils) which is good as it is easier to learn. I have enjoyed what I have learned so far and want to continue RE next year. If you can write essays well don’t mind learning interesting but hard topics then this could be good for you. You don’t have to have taken GCSE either as I am the only person in my class who did take it. Enjoy… Sara