The criteria of correlation of Statement Three

Correlation between Statement Three and its own domain of discourse

Exploration of the wider educational discourse, in line with the principles of Statement Archaeology set out in Chapter 1, reveals a wealth of material which supports the argument that the study of world religions was being practised prior to the Schools Council project. WP36 demonstrates frequent

Unearthing religious pluralism in RE 87 and detailed references to existing practice with the authors drawing on examples of the study of world religions. For example, in Chapter V (Content and Method), the illustrations used arc drawn from a variety of faith traditions including Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.83 Further, WP36 provides evidence that the practice is already underway by drawing extensively on a survey (undertaken by John Hinnells) of The Comparative Study of Religion in West Riding Schools.™ WP36 positions this survey, together with other papers offered at a 1968 Conference (and subsequently published as Comparative Religion in Schools, 1970), as representative of ‘many other parallel developments [which] are taking place throughout the country’.85 The discussion within the pages of Hinnells’ book is predicated on the fact that the study of world religions was already happening; the book begins with the declaration: ‘From a number of different quarters the suggestion is being made that the comparative study of religion, or teaching of World Religions, should play a greater part in the educational system than it does at present’.86

Other statements repeated in WP36 focus on the extent to which ‘[t]hc subject is widely taught in schools in the West Riding, probably more than is generally realised’; the desire of those involved in its teaching to ‘see the subject incorporated into the examination system’ and the way in which the approach could ‘increase tolerance and understanding, the widening of the pupil’s horizons, as well as deepening his understanding of man and the world.’87

Correlation between Statement Three and other domains of discourse

Evidence for the study of non-Christian religions and belief systems can be found in certain agreed syllabus documents around this time (including West Riding, 1966; Lancashire, 1968; and Inner London Education Authority, 1968). Additionally, there were a number of articles in the professional journal Learning for Living demonstrating that this approach was being adopted as a day-to-day reality in many schools.88 From as early as 1962 there arc a number of submissions to the Journal which centre on challenges to RE from the Humanist movement, with others suggesting that the dominance of Christianity was being questioned.89 Penny Thompson, for example, suggests that the publication of Honest to God (1963) led to the view that the ‘Christian Faith was in trouble’; that Ronald Goldman’s research led to the view that the Bible was not considered suitable for primary children; that Harold Loukes’ research suggested that RE was tailing; that society in general was secular; and that some suggested that Religion had no place in the curriculum of maintained schools on the basis that it was ‘not a form of knowledge’.90

Certainly, a series of identifiable changes can be traced across the editions of Learning for Living, such that by the mid-1960s it is reasonable to conclude, as Thompson does, that ‘a major rethink of RE was underway’.91

There were open discussions about different approaches, including an ‘open’ approach and an approach, discussed by Edwin Cox in Changing Aims in Religious Education (1966), which later became labelled as a ‘neo-confessional’ approach.92 There were also two ‘Open Letters to LEA Religious Education Advisory Committees’, written by different groups with different viewpoints but which in combination epitomize the extent of the contested nature of the discussion.93

However, the suggestion by Thompson that John Hull’s editorship of Learning for Living (starting March 1971) was in stark contrast to his predecessors, being marked by a rejection of ‘the idea that RE should continue to be the positive teaching of Christianity’, is problematic, failing to reflect material included in earlier editions, where there was clearly some editorial sympathy for the teaching of non-Christian positions.94 The third edition of Learning for Living (1962), for example, included an article by Smart on the relationship between Christianity and other religions, offering a taxonomy of religions to an audience where ‘neither Christians nor others can ... afford to go on living in a culturally isolated world, ... we arc well aware that Eastern ideas are having an effect on the West’.95 It also included an advertisement for materials on ‘The Christian Approach to....The Hindu, The Jew, The Buddhist, The Communist, The Muslim’ and ‘ The Animist’; the list was preceded by the claim that ‘Each book gives a summary of the beliefs and faith under discussion and then outlines what the Christian has to say to a member of that faith’.96

Here, then, the teaching of other worldviews is seen in comparison to Christianity, but there was, over time, a gradual change of emphasis within the materials. In 1965 the Journal included a section on ‘Christians in Vietnam’, which presented some very basic information, framed against a discussion of ‘Buddhists in Vietnam’.97 A few editions later, a section was devoted to the issue of ‘Muslims in Britain’.9* This took a similar form to the material on Christians in Vietnam, but focused very much on the educational issues, and in particular issues of RE, posing the question in regard to separated teaching for different faiths: ‘What is the right solution—for Christians and for Muslims?’.99 Ignorance regarding non-Christian traditions is evident; the editors were forced to issue an apology in the following edition of the Journal regarding a photograph used to illustrate the article:

unfortunately the children in the picture were Sikhs and not Muslims. We are sorry for the mis-information we gave—this correction draws attention to yet another difficulty in the way of finding the right thing to do when there arc non-Christian minorities to be made at home.100

Thus, despite the errors, there is an apparent expansion of material deemed suitable for inclusion in Learning for Living, something which is also evident in the expansion of the Book Reviews section of the Journal, which in January 1966 included, for the first time, a separate section on Religions of the World.101 This expansion extends over the following years, with numerous

Unearthing religious pluralism in RE 89 articles being included in Learning for Living. This normalization of the teaching of world religions is shown through the inclusion of ‘World Religions Notebook’ (which mirrored the longer running ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ notebooks) and articles on religions of the world, including Parsi Zoroastrianism, Islam, and Sikhism, together with others that discussed the teaching of non-Christian traditions in the primary school and secondary school.102 In addition, there is an assertion that this is editorial policy by the early 1970s: Tn the last two or three years a major emphasis in religious education in Britain has been placed on teaching world religions. This Journal has supported this emphasis’.103

Developments of the period meant that, according to Brian Gates, ‘prospects for this World Religions variety of RE have taken a tremendous leap forward’, with similar claims being made by Sharpe and Hull.104 These leaps forward meant that, by the mid- to late-1970s, such an approach had been widely accepted, with Gates, for example, writing in the early 1970s about six varieties of Religious Education, listing the study of world religions alongside Catechetical, topic-based, vacuum-type, ethics-type and Christian-type (the latter of which is concerned with ‘initiation into the cumulative religious tradition that has brought the Churches to where they are today’).105 Gates also claimed that the extent to which the approach was accepted was apparent in the extension of examination syllabuses to include non-Christian religions.106 However, an assessment of relevant GCE (O and A level) examination papers from 1960-1972 for Joint Matriculation Board and Oxbridge Boards suggests that Religious Education/Scriptural Knowledge papers for GCE did not reflect a move towards world religious content during this period, although discussion of examination content in Learning for Living suggests that CSE boards made the move more quickly.107

Beyond the pages of Learning for Living, it is clear that the study of non-Christian religions was being considered, reflected upon, and practised in this period. There is an indication of active support of the study of world religions from the BBC, for example, who produced a scries of ‘Radiovision programmes’ on world religions, including ‘Encounter with Hinduism’ and a similar broadcast on Buddhism.108 There is also evidence that such practices were the subject of academic research and debate.109 Edwin Cox, writing in Changing Aims in Religious Education (1966), questioned the assumptions that he claimed lay behind the RE clauses of the 1944 Education Act, suggesting that developments in Theology and research (such as that carried out by Goldman) and the questioning of RE’s purpose as proselytizational, combine to demonstrate that the subject was reconsidering its nature and purpose.110 He suggested the inclusion in classroom teaching of ‘ultimate expressions of existence given by other world religions, and of philosophies such as Humanism and Marxism’.111 Other publications of the time, including H.F. Mathews’ Revolution in Religious Education (1966) and the later published ‘New Movements in Religious Education’(1975), made very similar claims.112

Denis Bates positioned the beginning of the teaching of non-Christian religions much earlier than the 1960s, demonstrating that the inclusion ofteaching about faiths other than Christianity can be traced back at least as far as the Nineteenth Century.113 His survey of inter-war agreed syllabuses revealed that some included materials on non-Christian worldviews but this tended to be within the broad heading of ‘missionary study’ with the material appearing as ‘The Message of Christianity to...’, ‘Primitive Peoples’, ‘Muslims’, ‘Buddhism’ and so on.114 This positioning resonates with the assumption that Christianity was considered as the supreme religion. Bates noted that such material is most obvious in syllabuses from the early 1920s and that, as the 1930s progress, references to such matters become fewer, with ‘most syllabuses of the 1930s [being] almost wholly biblical in content [with] no reference to the study of other faiths.’115 Terence Copley suggested that such material was available during the immediate pre-war period. In an analysis of Religion in Education from 1934 to 1939, he found that from a total of 126 articles, four (3%) were about ‘teaching world religions’.116 Copley discussed the extent to which these articles discuss the comparative study of religions, suggesting that there was an attempt to present a balanced perspective: ‘[Phillips] did not wish teaching of different religions to be ‘competitive’, and argued that a point in favour of the ‘other religion’ is not a point subtracted from Christianity’.117 Within his account, there are examples of each religion being treated discretely.118

These developments exemplify the processes of normalization, whereby particular practices become legitimate, adopted, and considered ‘normal’— and thus taken for granted in everyday life. They demonstrate the extent to which WP36 is part of a process through which the study of world religions became accepted. Here, normalization is not achieved through the exercize of policy through legislation; there is no new law that enforces it and no national directive that insists that the idea is taken up. Rather, there is a complex network of social structures at play. For example, there is an apparent ‘willing replication’ of the practice; the editors of the professional journals and the producers/commissioning editors of the TV programmes mentioned above arc complicit in the process of normalizing the study of world religions, yet the extent to which this is undertaken knowingly is hard to assess.119

 
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