Unity in Diversity: Religion Education and Public Pedagogy in South Africa

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Abstract

On 12 September 2003, Minister of Education, Kader Asmal, presented to Parliament South Africa's new national policy on religion and education. Breaking with the confessional religious instruction of the past, the policy established a new educational agenda for teaching and learning about religion, religions, and religious diversity in South African schools. Although this policy was the focus of many years of educational debate and religious controversy, it was also part of broader post-apartheid efforts in nation building. The policy was based on an inclusive definition of citizenship; it enacted the state's commitment to constitutional values, respect for cultural diversity, and transformational promise of moving a divided society towards national unity. In this broader context, I want to link South Africa's national policy for religion and education with post-apartheid initiatives in cultural heritage. As public pedagogy, state-driven and market-driven heritage projects have created an expanding classroom for "celebrating diversity and building national unity." Heritage projects have been criticized for manufacturing uniformity and privileging the extraordinary. In working out a curriculum for religion education in schools, these criticisms also need to be addressed. This article proposes that fruitful exchanges in theory and pedagogical practice can emerge at the intersection of religion education, heritage studies, and the history of religions.

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International Review for the History of Religions

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