Unearthing Religious pluralism in RE

By using Statement Archaeology to explore the formation, transformation, and correlation of one specific statement that appears in WP36, we have seen that the adoption of the study of world religions in English RE was not a sudden revolution initiated by the publication ofWP36 in 1971. Rather, Statement Archaeology has unearthed a complex web of concurrent changes arising from the debates and discussions over what RE might be and what it should grow into. These arise out of events which significantly change what RE had become since the 1944 Education Act, with key constraints on thinking within the educational discourse being lifted by developments in theological discourses. It is at this nexus that the study of world religions emerges, gains acceptance and, eventually, becomes a widespread—even dominant—approach.

The means by which the practice became possible was not a straightforward process of change; instead, it was an ongoing, evolutionary process.136

There does not appear to be any single authoritative means by which the practice became normalized, but rather, multiple routes driven by multiple motivations that lie behind the practice becoming possible. The discursive reconstruction within Christianity of the non-Christian from ‘enemy’ to ‘ally’ informs our understanding of how the practice became legitimate in the mid-1960s. For as long as the non-Christian was constructed as ‘enemy’, study was restricted to missionary enterprise. Once the non-Christian was constructed more positively—as ally—previous limitations were lifted.

The sources examined here suggest that the adoption of the study of world religions was firmly rooted in teacher and practitioner activity. To some extent at least, once legitimized, the practice was developed by teachers in their classrooms with discussion and sharing of practice communicated through the pages of professional journals. As the practice became more established, other groups, such as the BBC offered resources, and scholarly discussions were initiated with research being undertaken, published, and acted on. These processes all contributed to the normalization and wider establishment of the practice, with WP36 being a part of this process. The circulation of HMI Memo 3/75 was the apex of this, being the first national policy document to officially recognize the study of world religions.


  • 1 Havens, ‘World Religions’, 27.
  • 2 Ibid., 28.
  • 3 Schools Council, Working Paper 36, 19.
  • 4 Foucault and Nazzaro, ‘History’, 245.
  • 5 For example: Barnes, ‘Ninian Smart’; ‘Developing’; ‘Alternative reading’; O’Grady, ‘Professor Ninian Smart’; Tecce, ‘Too many competing imperatives’; Parker and Freathy, ‘Context, complexity and contestation’; ‘Ethnic Diversity.
  • 6 Barnes, ‘Working Paper 36’, 62.
  • 7 Copley, Teaching Religion, 102.
  • 8 Barnes, ‘Working Paper 36’, 61.
  • 9 Harold Wilson, '■Labour’s Plan for Science’, Speech given at Labour Party Conference, Scarborough, 1 Oct 1963.
  • 10 Ibid., 3.
  • 11 In April 1964, the Conservative administration amalgamated the Ministries of Education and of Science to form the Department of Education and Science. On the expansion of Comprchcnsivization, see McCulloch, ‘Secondary Education’. On the plethora of reports, see: Ministry of Education, The Crowther Report (1959); The Newsom Report (1963); The Beloe Report (1960).
  • 12 Manzer, ‘Political Origins’; Fisher, ‘Curriculum Control’.
  • 13 Gordon, ‘The Schools Council’, 53-4; Manzer, ‘Political Origins’, 49; See also Doney, ‘That Would Be An Ecumenical Matter’.
  • 14 Manzer, ‘Political Origins’, 48. See also Gordon, ‘The Schools Council’ Gordon, ‘Curriculum’, 199.
  • 15 Gordon, ‘Curriculum’.
  • 16 The size and complexity is attested to by Manzer, ‘Political Origins’, also Alves, ‘Role and Work’; Stewart, ‘Growth of the Schools Council’.
  • 17 EJ 1/210, Minutes of 12th meeting of Religious Education Committee. 6 Nov 1968. Smart, ‘A New Look’.

EJ 1/210, Minutes of 12th meeting of Religious Education Committee. 6 Nov 1968, Subcommittees B (Sixth form Courses and Examinations) and D (Religious Education in the Primary School) were set up by the Second Meeting of the Religious Education Committee, 6 Dec 1965.

HC Deb (5 Dec 1968) vol 774, col. 1827.

SCC-318-440-117, Paper SC 69/62, Proposal for a project in Religious Education for Secondary Schools.

EJ 1/210, Minutes of Thirteenth Meeting of Religious Education Committee, 4 Feb 1969.

SCC-318-440-117, various papers.

Ibid., Minutes of inaugural meeting of the Consultation Committee, 21 Jan 1970.

Ibid., Minutes of Second Meeting of Consultation Committee, 3 June 1970. Emphasis added.

Doney, ‘British Council of Churches’; Freathy and Parker, ‘Secularists, Humanists’.

Freathy and Parker, ‘Prospects and Problems’.

ED 207/29, D.H. Lcadbetter to Miss Grinham and Mr. Gale, 30 Nov 1966.

HL Deb, (15 Nov 1967) vol. 286, col. 687-838.

ED 207/29, Miss Grinham to Miss Clark, 13 Oct 1967.

ED 207/29, Dorothy Clark to Miss Grinham, 12 Oct 1967.

‘The Essence of Democracy’ A Speech given by The Right Honourable Edward Short, M.P. at the Annual Dinner ofThc College of Preceptors, 9 March, 1966. (BCC/ED/7/1/49).

ED 183/5, Speech given by the Secretary of State for Education and Science at the Opening of Alnwick C.E. Junior School, 4 pm Friday 10lh January 1969. This speech has been interpreted as the announcement of the intended Act; there is no mention of such an Education Act included in Cabinet discussions in the 12 months prior to this announcement.

Manzcr, ‘Political Origins’, 50.

Stewart, ‘Growth of the Schools Council’, 51-3.

Gordon, ‘The Schools Council’, 56-7; 68.

Schools Council, Working Paper 36, 5.

For example, Schools Council, Working Paper 44. Gordon cites Schools Council Working Paper 33 as being ‘not conclusive in its recommendations’ yet favouring a particular approach and Working Paper 53 (The Whole Curriculum) which ‘included no final recommendations, but many controversial ideas’ (Gordon, ‘The Schools Council’, 58; 60).

Schools Council, Working Paper 36, 5. This point is emphasized by Donald Holder in his review (Horder, ‘Religious Education in Secondary Schools’). For example, Barnes, Ninian Smart; Working Paper 36.

SCC-318-440-117; EJ 1/210, Minutes of Eighteenth Meeting of RE Committee, 28 Oct 1970; Schools Council, Working Paper 36, 65. The subcommittee comprised Mrs Beeching, Professor Smart, Miss Clayton, Miss Field, Mr Horder and Mr Halsey (ex officio).

For more information on Colin Alves, see Chapter 3.

EJ 1/210, Minutes of Eighteenth Meeting of RE Committee, 28th October 1970.

Doney, British Council of Churches.

Schools Council, Working Paper 36, 19.

Ramsey, the fourth R.

Ibid., §216. Emphasis added.

NS/7/8/1/14, Press Release: ‘New Commission on Religious Education in Schools. Bishop of Durham to be Chairman’, undated (but prior to 4 Oct 1967), papers 61-63.

Ibid.; Ramsey, the fourth R, 287.

Questionnaire design was undertaken with the help of J.G.M Allcock, (previously been Chief Inspector of Schools for DES); Ramsey, the fourth R, 287. Ibid., 288. Also NS/7/8/1/14, questionnaire.

NS/7/8/1/14, Response from County Councils Association, paper 16; NS/7/8/1/15: Evidence from GPDST, paper 15.

NS/7/8/1/15, paper 142, response to Q6, Christian Education Movement.

NS/7/8/1/14, papers 36, 16, and 60.

For example, NS/7/8/1/14, papers 15 and 29.

NS/7/8/1 /18, National Society proposed evidence to Commission on Religious Education.

NS/7/8/1/17, Church of England Board of Education, Schools Council meeting minutes, 27 Sept 1968. Note, Schools Council in this context means Church of England Board of Education Schools Council.

Ramsey, the fourth R, 288.

Doney, British Council of Churches’.

NS/7/8/1/7, ‘Draft for Discussion—Chapter 4 ‘Religious Education in County Schools’, 9. The draft was prepared by Rev. A.G. Wcdderspoon who was both Secretary to the Durham Commission, and to the Education subcommittee which prepared Chapter 4 for inclusion in the report

For example, §193-5; 198; 200; 205-210; 212-14; 217 from the fourth R are all present in the same form (although a different order) in NS/7/8/1/7, ‘Draft for Discussion—Chapter 4.

Ramsey, the fourth R, xv-xvii.

NS/7/8/14/1, Paper 16: Report of Special Committee appointed by the Education Department of the British Council of Churches to consider the state and needs of religious education in secondary schools.

Alves, Religion and the Secondary School, 15.

Foucault and Nazzaro, ‘History’, 245.

Schools Council, Working Paper 36, 65.

Nostra Actate, Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions. Proclaimed by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on 28 Oct 1965, Part 2, cited in Schools Council, Working Paper 36, 65-66.

Ibid., III.

Ibid., III.

For a detailed explanation, see Doney, ‘That would be an ecumenical matter’, 226-230.

For a more detailed analysis of Christian supremacy, see ibid., 231-234. The notion is epitomized in Farquhar, Crown of Hinduism.

Alves, Religion and the Secondary School, 15.

Kendall and Wickham, ‘Foucaultian Framework’, 133.

Schools Council, Working Paper 36, 16.

Ibid., 16ff.

Ibid., 61.

Ibid., 63; 65.

Ibid., 64ff.

Ibid., 65.

Newbigin, ‘Roots of Pluralism’.

See Dunn, Unity and Diversity, also Barton and Stavrakopoulou, Religious Diversit)'.

Newbigin, ‘Roots of Pluralism’, 14.

McGrath, ‘Christianity’, 521.

Schools Council, Working Paper 36, 64.

Ibid., 46ff.

Ibid., 62-3. A report on the survey was later published as: Hinnells, ‘Comparative Study’. Note that CSR is defined here as: ‘the study of the history, literature and beliefs of the major non-Christian religions’ (34). However, no such element of comparison is actually included.

Schools Council, Working Paper 36, 62.

Hinnells, Comparative Religion, IX.

Schools Council, Working Paper 36, 62, citing ibid., 35; 63, Citing ibid., 35,48 and 49. Hinnells reported that there was a strong sense that CSR should be included in national examinations.

See Doney, ‘That would be an Ecumenical Matter’, 166. For a detailed analysis of the positioning of Learning for Living as a professional journal, see Parker et al., ‘Professionalization’. For examples of the classroom practice, see: Hogbin, ‘Pluralism’; Stafford-Clark, ‘Racial prejudice’; May, ‘Why comparative religion’; Nash, ‘Teaching RE’; Butler, ‘Young teenagers’.

For example, Blackham, ‘Humanist View’; ‘Religious and Moral Education’; ‘The Christian—Humanist Memorandum’.

Thompson, Whatever Happened, 14; 15-16. The publication of Honest To God was the subject of many articles in Learning For Living, including a whole edition devoted to discussion of the matter (Learning for Living 3, no.4, (May 1964)).

Thompson, Whatever Happened, 13.

The ‘open’ approach was discussed in Learning for Living 5, no.2 (Nov 1965): 6-10, based on a paper, Religious and Moral Education in County Schools, produced by a group of Humanists and Christians who were in dialogue about the nature and purpose of RE; Cox, Changing Aims. On the ‘nco-confessional’ approach, sec Schools Council, Working Paper 36, chapter 3.

‘Open Letter to LEA’; ‘Another Open Letter to LEA.

Hull, Editorial, 2; Parker et al., ‘Professionalization’; Thompson, Whatever Happened, 47. Hull’s argument appears to be that Religious Education as religious nurture and socialization was no longer appropriate in state-funded schools without a religious affiliation.

Smart, ‘Christian and other religions’, 21.

Advertisement for Edinburgh House Press, Learning for Living 1, no.3, (Jan 1962): 19.

‘Christians in Vietnam’; ‘Buddhists in Vietnam’.

‘Muslims in Britain’.

Ibid., centre spread.

Ayerst, ‘Editorial’, 5.

Learning for Living 5, no.3, (Jan 1966): 32.

‘World Religions Notebook’ first appeared in Learning for Living 13, no.4, (March 1974). Other articles included: Margaret Nash, ‘Teaching RE’; Wilson, ‘Multi-Racial Infant School’. Learning for Living Vol. 11, no.3 (Jan 1972) was a special edition devoted to Islam, and included: Taylor, ‘Islam in Britain’ (11-14); ‘Muhammed’; Parrinder, ‘Islamic Doctrine’; Davies, ‘Islam in the Secondary School’ (30-36) and Wilson, ‘Islam in the Primary School’. Although not presented as a special edition, a group of articles about Sikhism were included in vol. 12, no.5 (May 1973), including, Cole, ‘The Sikh Religion; Butler, ‘Teaching about Sikhs’; the issue is also mentioned in John Hull’s ‘Editorial’ (1973). Also Davies, ‘Teaching about Parsis-Zoroastrianism’; Minney, ‘The Multi-Faith Situation.

Hull, ‘Editorial’ (1973), 2.

Gates, Transforming Religious Education, 11; Sharpe, ‘The One and The Many’, 192. ’

Gates, ‘Varieties of Religious Education’, 5-10.

Ibid., 11.

Partially catalogued examination paper series held at Newsam Library, IOE, London. ED 147/656 and ED 147/773.

Butler, ‘Young teenagers’.

For example, Jack, Problems.

Cox, Changing Aims, 16-18 (assumptions of 1944 Act), 28ff (Theology); 38ff (Goldman’s research) and 61ff (RE as conversion).

Ibid., 68. Citied in summary in Schools Council, Working Paper 36, 38.

Mathews, Revolution-, Smart and Horder, New Movements.

Bates, Nature and Place-, ‘Christianity, Culture and Other Religions (Part 1)’; ‘Christianity, Culture and Other Religions (Part 2); Hilliard, ‘Ninian Smart’. Bates, ‘Christianity, Culture and Other Religions (Part 1)’, 9.

Ibid., 10-11.

Copley, ‘Rediscovering the Past’, 80-9.

Copley, ‘Rediscovering the Past’, 83. See also Phillips, ‘The study of other religions’.

Mayhew, ‘The Comparative Study of Religions’.

See for example: Thompson, ‘Whose Confession’. See also Alves, ‘Booknews’.

Horder, ‘Religious Education in Secondary Schools’.

King and Hyde, ‘Review Article, 32.

For example: Iqbal, ‘Education and Islam’; Marvell, ‘Formation of Religious Belief'’; ‘Phenomenology’.

For example: Parrinder, ‘Teaching about Indian Religions’; ‘The Place of Christianity'’ (Earl discusses the changes in RE, in relation to expansion of the study ofWorld Religions, SHAP and the Durham Report are mentioned (pl 34), but not Working Paper 36); Sharpe, ‘Phenomenology of religion’; Hardy, ‘Implications of Pluralism’.

For example, there is a ‘symposium’ on the Birmingham Agreed Syllabus, 1975 {Learningfor Living 14, no.4 (March 1975) and a group of papers published in response to the Durham Report (Learning for Living 10, no.l, (Sept 1970), but no such obvious response to the publication of Working Paper 36, beyond those already mentioned.

Hull,‘Editorial (1974), 2.

Gordon, The Schools Council, 60.

Stewart, The Growth of the Schools Council, 52. Alves, Role and Work, 84-5 Iqbal, Education and Islam, 199.

Barnes, Working Paper 36, 62.

Ibid., 61, (citing Coplev); 75.

Ibid., 62.

DES, Education For (The Swann Report), §2.11,474-5, citing Working Paper 36,43. Also, Swann Report §2.7,470 and §2.9,472 cites Working Paper 36,21 and 15, respectively.

ED 135/35, Memo 3/75. Note, this advice is contrary to legal advice received earlier by Birmingham LEA.

Schools Council, ‘-Journeys into Religion. These handbooks include a restatement of the four reasons for Religious Education in Schools, the discussion of the tour approaches to RE, as well as Smart’s six dimensions of religion found in Working Paper 36.

Aside from a rather scathing review, there is virtually no reference to these materials in Learning for Living (Geoffrey Robson, ‘Review: Journeys into Religion’, Learning for Living, 17, no.l, (Autumn 1977): 40-1).

Parker and Frcathy, ‘Context, complexity and contestation’.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >