Committee’s ignorance of the nature of RE

by
04 June 2008

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From the Revd Sylvia Bareham
Sir, — Religious education in the state school is, and has been for the past 40 years at least, concerned with pupils’ learning about religion, and not with teaching them how to be religious. No particular faith or any on the part of the pupil is presumed or required, and there-fore RE is entirely “consistent with respect for a child’s right to freedom of thought, conscience, and belief”.

It is disturbing when members of the public in general and secularists in particular, like the cross-party committee on human rights (News, 23 May), either fail or refuse to recognise this, and so continue to attack the presence of the subject in the school curriculum.

Education should equip the child with the knowledge and skills needed to live in the world — a world in which religion has been and is a cultural, inspiring, and motivating element. To keep children ignorant of that would be a denial of their human rights, and any child who chose to withdraw from religious education and so preferred to remain ignorant would not have “sufficient maturity, understanding, and intelligence”.
SYLVIA BAREHAM
(formerly Head of Religious Education, The Bartholomew School, Eynsham, Oxford)
Davaar, Old Hall Lane
Fornham St Martin
Bury St Edmunds
Suffolk IP31 1SS

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