Education

Why Schools Should Stick to the Facts When Teaching Religion

**Warning!! Opinionated post alert!**

The Boy came home from school absolutely buzzing about the Easter story, retold it to me in great detail and has continued to reference it since then. I have to admit to being quite impressed with the school for making it appeal to a group of five and six year olds and to produce such a reaction. After all, religious education is an important subject…….isn’t it?

Buzymum - Why schools should teach all religions but not practice any one religion during school hours

I myself, am an atheist and although I was christened and went to a church school, my parents weren’t particularly religious. I was given the choice to be confirmed in my teens but chose not to and have since respected others for their various religious beliefs, even though I do not share them. In return, I expect the same level of respect for my decision not to partake in religious thinking. Though a non-believer, I’m fascinated by religion, the varying origins, conflicts and practices. It astounds me that people can have such devout commitment to something intangible, so much so that they would put their beliefs before family or friends. I have huge respect for anyone with such loyalty to a cause, to put such faith into something you cannot see and may go a lifetime without reward for, some would say that is a sign of true strength.

The children’s school is not a church school but they do teach Christian religious stories as though they are true facts, which surprised me a little. When K came out of school raving on about the ‘Son of God’ around Christmas time, I actually felt a little bit like she had been brain washed, like my child had been told facts rather than an idea that she could form her own opinion around. After all that is what religion is, right? Ideas of the existence of a greater being, that us mere mortals should please in order to be rewarded, either in this life or the next? In their purest form, holy books share stories and passages that teach followers how to behave, how to treat others and if read in the right way, all religions promote peace, love and harmony. Of course I have no problem with my children being taught peace, love and harmony but personally, I would like them to be good people because they feel it is the right thing to do, not because of a promised reward somewhere down the line! K was actually quite shocked when I questioned the schools teachings because as far as she was concerned, her teacher’s word was gospel in all subjects! I explained why it was that I didn’t believe in a God but that many people did, in different ways and that she should learn all about it and make up her own mind.

Buzymum - Religious world peace image

The school do, however, teach about various religions and reference many different celebrations and religious occasions throughout the year. Next week, The Boy is off on a trip to a synagogue in relation to their current Judaism topic and in the past, the girls have visited mosques, temples and churches with the school. However, does the fact that schools teach about all religions, make it appropriate for them to actively practice one? To promote one above the others, therefore insinuating that said religion is the ‘true religion‘? In my opinion, it does not. I believe that schools should be impartial and only provide facts, giving our children the tools to form their own opinions and make their own decisions. Christian ‘brain washing’ aside (exaggerating I know) and to add some perspective, our school has ‘values’ that are not related to religion, but do promote all the attributes of a ‘good person’, as I’m sure many schools do. These values include respectfulness, responsibility, kindness, perseverance, honesty and appreciation. If these types of values are being taught in schools, I’m not sure what part religious practices have to play in schools anyway? A general culture of sharing equal values across the board should surely suffice.

With the UK being a hotchpotch of various religions, creeds and cultures, it is wrong for any school to practice any one religion over another or indeed, any. Schools are a place to learn facts, discuss ideas and challenge beliefs, not, in my opinion, to worship or pray. By allowing schools to practice religion, we are encouraging parents to send their children to a school based on their religious beliefs and therefore segregating them from other religions and in extreme cases, broader society. Surely, integration within society begins at an early age?

Leading on from that, with the current crisis in school funding, how can the government allow church schools to require a level of commitment to a religion in order for children to be considered admission? How can it be acceptable for any facility funded by all taxpayers, to be only available to a small section of a community with a particular religion or those with the time, patients and ability to commit to a religion that they don’t believe in? It hardly seems fair!

I think, by taking religious practice out of schools we will produce a more rounded, tolerant and integrated society of young people, equipped with the tools needed to make their own decisions regarding religion with relation to their families and personal beliefs.

Buzymum - Snappy goat image- enforcement_religion

Just to be clear, I am not opposed to religion or the practicing of it, though I have to admit to believing the world would be a better place without it! Children should be taught about all aspects of religion including historical and current conflicts, general and extremism. The world is becoming an ever-smaller place, there is no stopping that and our children are growing up in an ever increasingly diverse culture into which they will need to interact. Give them knowledge and the ability to use it wisely.

That’s why I think schools should stick to the facts when teaching religion but what are your thoughts? Do you think there is a place for religious practice in schools? Have you lost out on a school place at your catchment or nearest school due to your religion or lack of it? Have you attended regular worship in order to secure your child’s school place? I’d love to hear your experience or opinion.

10 thoughts on “Why Schools Should Stick to the Facts When Teaching Religion

  1. Is the school a christian based school? If so, then I don’t see the issue with one religion being taught. They’re factually telling what is stated in the bible. It’s fact that there was a man called Jesus, and various other bits, although obviously a lot is chinese whispers and heresay over the years. But if they’re teaching children what some people believe and what ultimately is the main focal religion of the school I don’t have an issue. Tbh, in CofE schools (which for our area is the norm for primaries), most people there aren’t religious so apart from Easter and Christmas stories and the once a term church visit, the lords prayer in assembly and hymns sung, there’s very little else religion in the curriculum. In normal classes they spend more time learning about other religions than Christianity during these times, and our church and school have a fairly close link – mostly about both supporting the village. Going to church isn’t mentioned on the applications for the school.

    With this level of learning I’m not sure most kids will get brainwashed in a CofE school with similar level of religious learning as most I’ve heard about – by the time they’re into KS2 they’ll be cynical/bored of RE/taken on board their parents’ views. With CofE schools though, they don’t make a big thing about being a religious faith school, it’s more historic and about links to the villages where churches were a big part in the past. I quite like that, even though I no longer go to church.

    Other faith schools which restrict non-faith followers and teach much more fundamental learning, then yes I’d say these probably need to be more all encompassing, or be independent rather than fully state funded. But then there’s a lot of people who aren’t catholic who want their children to go to those schools because they’re good schools (less so for islamic schools I would imagine).

    Personally I think if you don’t like the religious aspect, don’t choose the school, or just live with it, and if you feel that strongly pull your children out of any religious celebrations or classes. But the latter really annoys me, because in our school the christian children or atheists don’t get pulled out of classes, but muslims do and don’t take part in any of the religious aspects which I think is sad because they miss out on some of the fun stufff

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you make some good points and I don’t think our views are that far apart. I wouldn’t pull my children out of religious stuff at school but my children don’t go to a church school which is why I was surprised that they have some religious practices. I have friends who have had to start going to church to get their kids into their local primary school (catholic) because their admission policy places faith over catchment which I just think this is wrong when we all pay our taxes.
      I totally agree that it’s a shame parents choose to take their children out of certain religious activities at school and that in itself is perpetuating problems of integration in society. I just feel that if all children were taught the same, together, no matter their religion, we would encourage more tolerance toward each other’s religions. Thanks for your comment! Xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sonia, I think this is a really interesting article. Let me share with you our situation.

    We are Jews and my children attend a Jewish state school. Although it is state funded there is a considerable “voluntary” contribution which covers the Jewish religious education part of the curriculum. This is not covered by tax payers money at all. They follow the full national curriculum in addition to a thorough religious education curriculum.

    Being a religious Jew and following the laws of the Torah is something that governs every part of our lives and we want our children to have the educational background to continue living their lives according to these laws. I can’t imagine anyone who wasn’t Jewish, (or in fact even a Jew who does not keep the laws as strictly) wanting to come to the school because of the strong religious ethos, practice and expected conduct of families. Most Jewish schools are actually independent schools not state aided. But I am so grateful that my children are in a state aided school where we can still educate them in an environment which complements our way of life but has the resources to give them a decent secular education also. We are also tax payers even if we are a minority group and I really appreciate the religious freedoms which we are allowed in this country which are not the case for all countries and certainly haven’t been the case throughout history.

    This is obviously a different case to the Christian state schools but I thought it might be interesting when considering what is a faith school.

    I think that every parent chooses the school which best fits their ideology as best they can. When school and home don’t agree, the home environment, certainly in primary school will be the determining force of a child’s beliefs.

    That’s my two cents on the matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing that information as I have to admit, I wasn’t aware that parents contribute to the religious side of faith schools. I do feel strongly that everyone should be catered for equally, whether minority or majority and you have certainly given food for thought.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can’t speak for all faith schools, I only know what I know. And we definitely are sent a bill each term for our voluntary contribution. I imagine there’s a legal aspect that it can’t be called fees in a state school.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. With all the cuts to school funding, we have been paying voluntary contributions every month for the last two years but just to make up the shortfall of funding from the government! I suspect, as you say, they can’t ask for the money as an official fee because it is a state school.

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  3. Brilliant blog Sonia.

    I have various issues with the religeous education in this country from all religeons and cultures.

    I was brought up strict christian, from age 5 church was a must. I am still a christian today but I do not let it rule my life and I in no way EVER put my views or opinions onto anyone else. To me, religeon is just a book you choose to read and follow! Do you follow Gordon Ramsay’s cook book or Jamie Oliver?

    While I think that religion is a really important subject to learn about, I think it is a very dangerous subject as well because I personally feel that if EVERY religion could look at it for what it is, an opinion, there would be a lot less fighting, murder and barbaric culture in the world.

    The problems with relegion come in when children are taught more about one than another. Being a “christian” country, it is natural that children would be taught more about christianity. I happen to hate the fact that some muslims have protested to the nativity play being in schools. It is part of christmas and let us not forget what christmas stands for! “Christ-mas” but this is just a personal thing.

    My view is non racist. I have friends who are hindu, muslim, christian, atheist, buddist, jewish and catholic. I respect them all the same. I would personally love to see everyone being able to follow what ever religion they wish to follow, or not follow and be allowed to do it without fear or discrimination. If schools can teach this, and teach children to love EVERYBODY, because we all bleed red, then teaching religion is a great thing. But favouring one more than another is dangerous.

    Sorry for the essay 🙂

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    1. Hi Mimi! Thanks for your essay!! Sorry I didn’t respond earlier, you went to spam!! I think its a no brainer really, we are all the same and religion sometimes separates which in my opinion, isn’t a good thing! xx

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