From Gandhi to Geldof: The Menace of Thematic RE


A colleague once expressed to me his philosophy of teaching RE in the following way; ‘I don’t just teach the head, I teach the heart.’ His words reflect a prevalent belief in the RE community that RE should not be primarily concerned with intellectual advancement, but rather personal, spiritual or moral development. At Key Stage 3, this view manifests itself in the widespread practice of thematic curriculums where pupils explore a theme, concept or value, usually reflecting political vogue. Moulded around these themes, religion is not only marginalised, but also distorted and misrepresented, preventing pupils from gaining a systematic, coherent or accurate understanding of it.

Rather than developing a deep, rich understanding of Hinduism, a lesson on the different Hindu gods may become an opportunity to consider the importance of appreciating diversity. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is a chance to explore the different roles that make up pupils’…

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