Indoctrination, Ideology, and Instrumentalization in English RE

Introduction

This book began with an illustration of Statement Archaeology, drawing on the parallels with the archaeologist who carefully researches and studies the origins of, and relationships between, the various artefacts that they find during their excavations. It set out the sorts of questions they might ask: questions about circumstances of production; originality and novelty; repetition and non-repetition; changing technological limitations and innovations; and how the items they have found might influence and/or create the possibility of later items. That illustration ended with the phrase: ‘They then attempt to understand how these different items relate to each other and fit together to tell a story’. We might imagine a pottery specialist, for example, poring over the reports for various fragments of pottery found across a series of sites, discovered at different levels, seeking to make sense of the development of pottery styles, the relationships between the artefacts discovered, in order to construct a meaningful and well-substantiated narrative.

Each of the previous three chapters deploys Statement Archaeology in relation to one (two in the case of Chapter 5) specific statements. By focusing forensically on the circumstances of the production, the novelty and the repetition or non-repetition of specific statements, the approach has facilitated a forensic analysis of how certain practices and policies become possible through the cross-referencing of statements that appear in a range of sources, including extensive comparisons between different draft versions of official reports and documents. The analysis of these primary sources enables a detailed and granular understanding of policy development to be developed. This allows a more comprehensive picture to emerge which, amongst other things, exposes some of the underlying motivations behind certain policy choices about RE. Thus, each chapter tells a story around its own particular statcment(s), which in combination form what we might call a series of‘archaeological slices’.

The role of this chapter is threefold. Firstly it will attempt to understand how the findings presented in the preceding chapters relate to each other and fit together to tell a story about how the provision of RE became and remains compulsory in England. Secondly, it will respond to another question posed in Chapter 1 : To what extent is the history of English Religious

Education one of Indoctrination, Ideology and Instrumentalization? Thus, we will construct an understanding of how we got to where we are; a diagnosis of the present, as it were.1 This more comprehensive picture of the present then offers to inform ‘how we might live better in the present and the future’.2 (Many of the recent reports suggest that there is an evident need for improvement). This allows us to move to the third and final part of this chapter. Here, we return to the current debates in RE (set out in Chapter 1) and consider the ways in which our understanding of how we got to this point contribute to those debates and the possible routes forward.

How did the compulsory provision of RE become and remain possible?

As rehearsed in Chapter 1, the overarching question that this book has set out to explore is ‘How did the introduction and maintenance of the statutory provision of RE become possible?’ Chapters 2-5 contribute to the answering of this question by breaking it down in to a series of subordinate questions. These questions, and the responses unearthed by the use of Statement Archaeology, are summarized below.

The scrutiny of Statement One (Chapter 2) showed that the introduction of compulsory provision of religious teaching under the 1944 Education Act became possible through the combination of a lifting of restrictions on new educational legislation by the Prime Minister (Winston Churchill) and a relatively minor discursive shift in the discourse of the Board of Education. It was in February 1941 that the discussion of religious teaching moved from universal to statutory provision within the Board. Civil servants, especially Maurice Holmes (Permanent Secretary), played significant roles in the initiation of this shift, which seems to have been an attempt to ensure that the provision of religious teaching was of universally good quality. The shift, articulated in the Green Book of July 1941, was signed off by Herwald Ramsbotham (then President of the Board of Education) and thus inherited by Richard Austin Butler when he took up that office later in the same month. Butler was clearly in support of such mandatory provision and the notion appears to have been an uncontroversial suggestion being justified by the (assumed) universality of religious teaching. During the development of the 1943 White Paper Educational Reconstruction, the sequence of drafts shows that religious education took a more and more prominent role, being moved up from the very end of the final section to the first page. Ultimately proposing that the provision of RE should be legally mandated was seen as uncontentious. The argument rehearsed there was that there was public demand for such a move arising from groups beyond the Churches, but, aside from clear support from the Conservative and Unionist Party, and the Editor of The Tinies newspaper, little evidence was presented to support this claim.

Exploration of Statement Two (Chapter 3) exposed how certain groups, most notably the Institute for Christian Education (ICE) and the British Council of Churches’ Education Department (BCCED) used their influence

Indoctrination, Ideology, and Instrumentalization 129 to make it possible for ‘making little Christians’ to be a legitimate aim for RE in the period after the 1944 Education Act. A number of things, in combination, created the circumstances in which this became possible. A report on agreed syllabuses for RE, published by ICE in 1954, was received as authoritative; the organization had an increased influence in the period immediately prior to the war, being the only professional body for RE teachers at the very point that the 1944 Act needed to be operationalized. Moreover, the 1954 report was the first research-based assessment of the 1944 Act’s implementation. ICE arguably exploited their sponsorship from, and support of, the Ministry of Education. This, combined with the wide circulation of their publications (both the 1954 Report and a 1958 pamphlet, which was positioned as the authoritative guide on agreed syllabuses) allowed them to propagate a distinctive interpretation of the 1944 Act, which suited their particular (proselytizing) ideology. (The 1944 Act had lacked specificity over the aims of RE, leaving an opening for various groups to assert their own aim and claim legitimacy for it.) One specific name, Basil Yeaxlee, whose responsibilities crossed many networks and lines of influence, appears repeatedly in the source materials suggesting that he played a significant role in normalizing this particular aim for RE.

Chapter 3 also reports on how the tide changed in the 1960s, with the ‘making of little Christians’ becoming an illegitimate Mm for RE. The same groups that had attempted to legitimize proselytizational RE were, by this point, actively promoting a non-proselytizationalaim for RE. In response to a diminishing role in RE, groups like BCCED and Christian Education Movement (successor to ICE), who had been a major influence on the Ministry of Education, attempted to maintain influence by positioning themselves as the only legitimate body that could realistically sanction a move away from a proselytizational aim for RE.3 Building on work undertaken for the BCCED by Colin Alves (published as Religion and the Secondary School, 1968), which was repeated to and by various audiences (including the DES) these groups remained involved in the development of the compulsory provision of RE in new directions rather than calling for the provision to be ended.

The excavations relating to Statement Three (Chapter 4) considered how the study of non-Christian religions and belief systems became possible during the 1960s. Multiple routes of normalization, driven by multiple motivations, created circumstances in which this practice became possible (including the growing legitimacy of the non-proselytizational aim for RE discussed above). The discursive reconstruction within Christianity of the non-Christian from ‘enemy’ to ‘ally’ informs our understanding here. 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 and the study of non-Christian groupings by Christians became not just legitimate, but positively encouraged within the theological and ecclesiological discourses.4 Again, the work undertaken by Colin Alves on behalf of the BCCED, repeated in a number of influential publications (including, the fourth R,

and Schools Council Working Paper 36), was significant in terms of bridging these discourses to the discourse of RE and, thus, legitimizing the study of non-Christian faiths within English RE.5 Legitimacy developed further through the actions of other, more established, groups such as the BBC who offered resources, and the scholarly discussions played out through the pages of the professional journal {Learning for Living). The circulation of one of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI) memoranda (HMI Memo 3/75), sent to all Inspectors in January 1975, was the apex of this process. This was the first national policy document to legitimize the study of faith traditions other than Christianity in the sphere of RE, specifically permitting the ‘inclusion of non-Christian religions as objects of study in their own right’.6

Chapter 5 explored how it became possible for the very peculiar relationship between RE and the National Curriculum (Statement Four) to develop and for the prescription of the content of RE to be prescribed by law (Statement Five) under the Education Reform Act 1988. Firstly, the settlement whereby RE was retained as a compulsorily provided subject, but excluded from the National Curriculum of compulsory subjects, was made possible by Kenneth Baker’s (Secretary of State for Education) unequivocal reluctance to move away from the 1944 provisions for RE. Despite attempts to challenge this position, Baker was successfill in giving the smallest possible amount of ground. Notwithstanding the examples of systematic marginalization and exclusion (particularly of non-Christian religious groupings and the 1985 Swann Report), and the offering of pseudo-concessions which— in reality—conceded nothing, RE was not included in the National Curriculum and remained determined locally, according to the provisions and structures set out in the 1944 Act. Secondly, the arguments used to justify the statutory determination of the content of RE (with a dominant position for Christianity) appealed—ultimately—to Baker’s entrenched reluctance to move away from the 1944 settlement. Baroness Cox demonstrated {contra Baker) that the religious provisions of the 1944 Act had «or stood the test of time, asserting that this was predominantly because Christianity had not been specified there. By suggesting that the inclusion of Christianity was in line with what the 1944 Act had intended, Cox worked within the constraints that both Baker and the Lords more widely had imposed. This line of argument, compounded by the pressures of the parliamentary timeframe (especially the Government’s desire to get the Bill passes in time for a September 1988 implementation), curtailed further discussion; the wider agenda of educational reform was of greater importance.

Since the passing of the 1988 Act, the stipulations contained therein have continued to shape religious teaching in England’s state-maintained schools without a religious character. Although the 1988 Act did not initially require locally agreed syllabuses to conform to the new stipulations, this issue was resolved in the 1993 Education Act, which required immediate revision for any agreed syllabuses not reviewed since the 1988 Act came into force and required all syllabuses to be reviewed every 5 years.7 The verbatim repetition of the 1988 Act’s framework for RE through the Education Act 1996, the

School Standards and Framework Act 1998, and the Education Act 2002 suggest a reluctance of Government (of different persuasions) to revisit the framework.8

The most notable departure from this framework is the shift from the legal requirement to provide RE to the contractual obligation to provide it in Academies. The Academies Act 2010 effectively removes the legal requirement for Academics to provide RE because they are funded directly by the DEE and thus are not state-maintained schools.9 However, in model Funding Agreements for Academies without a religious character, RE must still be provided and must be given according to section 375(3) of the Education Act 1996.10

 
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