Reconstruction, Critical Accommodation or Business as Usual? Challenges of Criticisms of the World Religions Paradigm to the Design of Teaching Programmes in the Study of Religions

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

Abstract

This article discusses the challenge of criticisms of the world religions paradigm to the design of teaching programmes in the academic Study of Religions, in general and with a particular focus on didactics-related courses as part of teacher training programmes. It uses the design of a particular Bachelor programme at a German university as an example for the general challenge of teaching about religion in an emancipatory framework that critically reflects its own presuppositions, both at university and school levels. Taking seriously recent criticisms of the world religions paradigm, it is argued, involves a shift of focus from the communication of supposedly given knowledge about religions to the communication of critical competences in analysing different types of discourse about religion, religions or “world religions.”

Abstract

This article discusses the challenge of criticisms of the world religions paradigm to the design of teaching programmes in the academic Study of Religions, in general and with a particular focus on didactics-related courses as part of teacher training programmes. It uses the design of a particular Bachelor programme at a German university as an example for the general challenge of teaching about religion in an emancipatory framework that critically reflects its own presuppositions, both at university and school levels. Taking seriously recent criticisms of the world religions paradigm, it is argued, involves a shift of focus from the communication of supposedly given knowledge about religions to the communication of critical competences in analysing different types of discourse about religion, religions or “world religions.”

I Introduction

In recent debates about theory and methodology in the Study of Religions1 the possible consequences of the criticism of the world religions paradigm (wrp) are a controversial issue. The criticism of the wrp may even be regarded as one of the most serious challenges to the current Study of Religions, as it questions the very content and structure of the discipline. Possible consequences relate, furthermore, to both the academic Study of Religions at university and a study-of-religions way of teaching about religion in school, in contexts where the Study of Religions has responsibility for teacher training.

In this article, I will take up the challenges that trying to take seriously the criticisms of the wrp present for the design of teaching programmes in the Study of Religions. My own experiences at the University of Hanover with introductory courses in the Bachelor programme in the Study of Religions will be the starting point. I will, furthermore, focus on teacher training and didactics-related courses in the Study of Religions, relating my experiences at Leibniz Universität Hannover to the work of the easr Working Group on Religion in Public Education. My main argument is that, in a critical-emancipatory educational framework, the intended learning outcomes for students of the academic Study of Religions and pupils in related school subjects respectively will need to be reconsidered in order to enable a critical perspective on the wrp and its implications from an etic perspective. This involves a shift of focus from communicating knowledge about what has been considered important world religions to communicating critical competences in analysing different types of discourse about religion, religions or “world religions”, and the presuppositions and perspectives underlying these discourses in different contexts.

II Criticisms of the World Religions Paradigm as a Challenge

The title of the edited volume After World Religions: Reconstructing Religious Studies (Cotter and Robertson 2016a) perhaps expresses a wish rather than a description of the status quo: the wish to overcome the wrp and to reconstruct the discipline of the Study of Religions accordingly. At present, by contrast, the wrp is as influential as it can be, as the editors themselves admit in the introduction. It is a construction “which has gained the hegemonic status of ahistorical, universal ‘common sense’ ” (2016b: 10). It needs to be deconstructed, as the “continued uncritical use of the wrp fosters a breeding ground for relativistic navel-gazing which has no place in the contemporary research university” (2016b: 10). At the conceptual level, scholars such as Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Talal Asad, Jonathan Z. Smith, Timothy Fitzgerald and Tomoko Masuzawa have taken steps in that direction, in relation to both the categories “religion,” “world religion” and the constructions of individual “religions.” The possible consequences of their work are still discussed controversially in the current Study of Religions.2 Beyond introducing the general problems at a theoretical level and discussing the problem of defining terms and concepts, in pedagogical contexts, however, the wrp has hardly consistently been challenged (cf. Owen 2011). The chapters in After World Religions are a response to that desideratum: referring to different geographical and institutional contexts, the authors discuss “subversive,” “alternative” and “innovative” pedagogies building on the criticism of the wrp and trying to avoid its problematic implications. It becomes clear, however, that this is, at best, the beginning of a very long effort, if a reconstruction of the discipline of the Study of Religions and the way it is being taught is envisaged.

Apart from controversies within the discipline, expectations from the outside make this reconstruction very difficult and limit its possibilities. In different contexts, there are various political and institutional constraints narrowing the framework for a possible reconstruction. This challenge may, however, be met with “strategically or subversively employing the wrp in classroom situations,” as it “is, after all, a culturally constructed symbol, metaphor, or tool, that functions to simplify, for ‘good’ or ‘ill’, areas of human behaviour that have been deemed ‘religious’…” (Cotter and Robertson 2016a: 13). This may, just to give two examples from the book, involve teaching the wrp as data (Ramey 2016) or showing how “basics” of traditions are being used, reused and recycled in different historical and geographical contexts, highlighting the intentions of this usage (Martin 2016).

Referring to the challenges and issues presented in After World Religions, I would now like to address two contexts in which I think taking up the criticism of the wrp is particularly important, if the academic Study of Religions wants to live up to its claim to present a secular and impartial approach to religion: the design of teaching programmes in the Study of Religions at universities, taking my home department at Leibniz Universität Hannover as an example (Part iii) of the general challenge this implies (Part iv), and the training of teachers from a study-of-religions perspective (Part v).

III The Challenge at the University Level (Example Hanover)

When I took the chair for the Study of Religions at Leibniz Universität Hannover in 2013, I became responsible for a Bachelor programme (with the Study of Religions as major or minor subject) and a Master programme called “Religion in cultural context”, the latter a common project with sociology and theology. I will focus on the Bachelor programme in order to show in which way the wrp figures in its structure. It contains the following core modules in the Study of Religions, each module consisting of two or three courses:3

  • General history of religions (2 modules: introduction and specialisation)
  • History and theories of the Study of Religions (2 modules: introduction and specialisation
  • Introduction to the methods of empirical social research (offered by the department of Sociology)
  • Qualitative research methods
  • History of religions in Europe
  • Subject-related didactics
  • Interdisciplinary approaches to the Study of Religions
  • Religion in local contexts

The introductory module General History of Religions is one of the two introductory modules that the students used to begin their studies with. If they choose the Study of Religions as their minor subject, it even used to be the one and only module that they begin with, before the introductory module about the History and Theory in the Study of Religions. The module General History of Religions consisted of three parts, one lecture and two seminars, each taught two hours per week over a period of 14 weeks. The lecture on the general history of religions (Allgemeine Religionsgeschichte) was intended to give an overview of the history of religions from its beginnings to the present day. It was based on Peter Antes’ Grundriss der Religionsgeschichte. Von der Prähistorie bis zur Gegenwart (2006).4 The seminars were intended to communicate “basic data, facts and terms”5 about Judaism and Christianity (seminar one), and Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism (seminar two). The expected learning outcomes were described, for example, as “to get to know religious ideas in their breadth and different conceptions,” and “to build up a basis for comparison in order to perceive the characteristics of religious thought in Europe in contrastive perspective” (luh 2008: 13).

The rationale behind the structure of the introductory courses has been the following: The students should acquire basic knowledge about the history of religions and the most important religions. This kind of knowledge was regarded as a basis for comparison and further theoretical considerations in the Study of Religions that will be taken up in the other introductory module History and Theory in the Study of Religions.6 That the wrp has been the conceptual framework in this module becomes particularly obvious in the way the seminars were taught. Given the time-frame for the course on Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, there were about four two-hour sessions for the communication of the “basic data, facts and terms” for each of those religions. According to a course plan, the Buddhism-related part, for example, included the following four sessions: life and teachings of the Buddha, rebirth and salvation in Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, Buddhism in the West. The part on Islam also consisted of four sessions: Muhammad and the Qur’an, main topics of Islamic theology, Islamic law and Islamic daily life, different schools and developments in Islam until the Ottoman Empire. The literature to be read by the students were “very short introduction”-style works on the individual religions, from which the “basic data, facts and terms” were taken.

I have discussed the programme with my predecessor and with my colleagues in the department. I can certainly see the point of the intention behind the introduction: an attempt to give a broad outline of the general history of religions from its very beginnings to the present day worldwide as well as to accommodate the needs of the students to acquire basic knowledge about important religious traditions. However, bearing in mind that this is intended as a scholarly introduction to an academic subject, the following questions may be asked: What is the value of the brief overview of the 5 religions that is communicated to the students? Who decides, and on which grounds, what the “basic data, facts and terms” are? Without any prior orientation in theory and methodology in the academic Study of Religions, what image of what a “religion” is, is communicated to the students, given the selection of religions and the idea of very condensed basic data and facts?

IV The Greater Challenge and My Preliminary Solution in Hanover

At a more general level, the challenge could be formulated as follows: how to introduce beginners to the data of the history of religions from a critical perspective? This is not possible without a reflection about this perspective, including the selection of the data themselves. What are “basic data, facts and terms” for which greater body of knowledge? And from whose perspective are those data presented? How do we, through the selection of particular data, create “traditions,” and which notion of religion lies at heart of talking about “the basics” of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc., in that way?

I doubt that this kind of reflection can be given due consideration in the above-mentioned course design. I also doubt that it is a solution to first present such kinds of constructions as if those were “given” with the excuse of saying that this can be deconstructed and reconstructed later. The idea of a common body of knowledge about “world religions” will reside once it has been established in a whole introductory module like that, particularly in a societal context where the wrp is an unquestioned framework for talking about religion.

On the other hand, can a student of the Study of Religions do without this kind of knowledge? Is not basic knowledge about various religions traditions the starting point for any further reflection? There is certainly no easy way out.

Given the complexity of the issue and the fact that, even if I wanted to, I could not simply over night change the programme according to my own understanding and preferences,7 I took a the third learning outcome mentioned in the catalogue of modules, which I have not quoted so far, as starting point: “the students shall be provided with a conceptual framework that allows them to process and integrate new information” (luh 2008: 13). This opens for the integration of theoretical and methodological reflection also in a module that has above all been intended to introduce the empirical data, thereby acknowledging the fact that these kinds of data are not simply “given”, but that the selection and arrangement of the data always reflect particular intentions. This is, furthermore, the necessary link to the theory-oriented module, showing that the data and methodological and theoretical issues cannot be treated as independent from each other. Each presentation of empirical data grounds in theoretical and methodological presuppositions, be they made explicit or not.

A general understanding of the processes of and decisions behind generating, selecting and arranging this kind of data may give a broader orientation in the Study of Religions than a rather unreflective acquisition of as much data as possible. Thus, the question of perspective is put into the focus of interest: whose selection and arrangement of data are we dealing with, and from which perspective and with which intention are the data presented? What kinds of representation of “Islam,” for example, can be found and how do they differ from each other? Which kind of data would oneself build on, from which perspective and with which intention, in order to present a topic from a study-of-religions point of view? And what would be alternative ways of selecting, framing and presenting data? Dealing with these questions in detail, with reference to different constructions of individual religions, I think one can achieve both an understanding of different intentions behind constructing individual religions as “traditions” (and how this type of discourse permeates most rhetoric about “religion/s,” i.e., an understanding of importance of the wrp in various types of discourse (academic and other)), and, at the same time, the provision of a critical and analytical framework that allows educators to structure the data in a scholarly sound way. If communicated within this framework, the data, which the students can learn to about the same degree of detail as in a less critical model, acquire a completely different kind of character. They are not any longer the “basic data, facts and terms” of a given tradition that need to be remembered and reproduced, but they are examples for processes of structuring and thus constructing and reconstructing reality. Their scholarly value, as well as the educational value of knowing them, is intrinsically tied to the framework in which they are presented. If the framework is to be scholarly, it needs to start from a scholarly notion of religion that takes into account the criticism of this notion. Pre-academic understandings of religion in general and individual “religions” in particular are important objects of study, particularly given their hegemonic status in the general discourse about religion. However, they cannot form the starting point and framework for the academic Study of Religions, neither in research nor in teaching.

I changed the module in two steps. The first step was to change the contents of the lecture in order to integrate theoretical and methodological issues, starting with a reflection of what the “history of religions” (Religionsgeschichte) may mean and what kinds of concepts of it are being used. Furthermore, it takes up the question of perspective and relates topics from the history of religions comparatively from different theoretical angles, taking up important concepts, relating them to the analytical description of dynamics and developments in different times. The selection of religions to be studied in the seminars was retained in that step, with a different distribution over the two seminars (Judaism, Christianity and Islam in one seminar and Hinduism and Buddhism in the other). However, the question of perspective was taken as the starting point for the study of these “religions”, meaning, for example, that different introductions to the same religion were now analysed and compared to each other in order to show the different ways of constructing a religious tradition.

The second step involved a somewhat more controversial decision, weighing up different desiderata against each other: breadth and depth. In order to have time to study individual religions within the critical-analytical framework that I have tried to sketch above, involving some degree of detail, the number of religions to be studied was reduced. The idea is that the students are shown in three courses how the Study of Religions approaches these topics, critically introducing one religion respectively. This leaves space for raising the question of perspective in different contexts, comparing different representations of a religion and showing what different kinds of constructions of that religion (or world view), its past and present, are. It also shows that with respect to different religions, different issues arise, regarding both academic and non-academic discourse about them. Those issues differ considerably, for example, with respect to the representation of Buddhism and Islam. Considered in the context of the study programme, this new structure of the module is, however, a greater intellectual challenge for the students. Rather than having a selection taken for them, they have to reflect on the selection of the data themselves. Furthermore, they are expected to understand the process of critical analysis in order to transfer this kind of knowledge themselves to the study of other traditions that they are not studying in this module any more, when the occasion arises. This requires that they learn to find and critically evaluate different types of sources in order to approach a topic in an analytical way themselves. Even though they now technically deal with “basic data, facts and terms” of fewer traditions, I think the educational and emancipatory value of learning themselves how to analyse religions and other worldviews in a study-of-religions way, outweighs this “loss.”8

In this model the wrp is still visible, but it does not any longer provide the conceptual framework for approaching the history of religions. It is acknowledged as an important pre-academic concept that students in the Study of Religions need to be able to relate to. However, not by acquiring as many “basic data and facts” about the “most important world religions” as possible, but by being able to identify subtleties, dynamics and different positions of the discourse about individual religions, “world religions” and religion in general. The wrp has thus been transferred from being the conceptual framework at the academic meta-level to being an important aspect of the object-level to be studied. It is regarded as an emic, not an etic concept. I am myself sceptical if this is enough in order to take the criticism of the wrp seriously. Perhaps not. It shows, however, where we stand just now and what kind of steps have been taken within the given circumstances at the time.

V The Challenge to Teacher Training in the Study of Religions

What Owen (2011) points out with reference to the British context, namely that the wrp is adopted widely unquestioned in religious education (re) in schools, is surely true also for many other countries. In the European context, the world religions paradigm may even be said to be the framework for the representation of religions in school, be it in separative (different versions of confessional re and so-called “alternative subjects”) or integrative (one subject for all pupils together) contexts.9 The more or less explicit Christian bias of the model is even more visible in school contexts. Most of the integrative models even build on a frame of reference that explicitly puts Christianity in a special position. An opposition between “Christianity” vs. “the other world religions” is a common motive; Christianity is often treated differently, in much more detail and serves as a concept provider also for the study of other religions.10 Public debates about re show the rationale behind this type of re quite clearly, for example, when it becomes a political issue how much of the available time should be spent on teaching which religion, or rather: how much time should be preserved for the study of Christianity? The latter is recurrently, sometimes together with Humanism (for example, in Norway and Sweden), sometimes together with Judaism (for example, in Germany), created as “cultural heritage”.11

Even though the academic Study of Religions has, in many contexts, responsibility of the training of teachers of re, the school subjects that the teachers are being trained for are often far from what one may imagine as reasonable school subject related to the Study of Religions. This is a serious challenge for what may be called didactics of the Study of Religions and led me to distinguish between didactics of the Study of Religions as it should be from an academic point of view and didactics of the Study of Religions as it can be in particular social and political context (Alberts 2008: 315f). I fully agree with Owen (2011: 266) that the combination of religious education and moral education is a major problem: the idea that religions are to be studied in order to foster a particular set of values. This is also the case with the subject Werte und Normen (values and norms), the alternative subject to confessional re in Niedersachsen, whose teacher training programme at Leibniz University Hannover is, at the Bachelor level, under the responsibility of the Study of Religions.

A Teacher Training in the Study of Religions at Leibniz Universität Hannover

Without trying to go into the details of the complicated and locally varied German model of re, I will focus on the challenges that teacher training for the subject Werte und Normen poses for the Study of Religions. Werte und Normen is the subject that pupils, from year 5 onwards, need to take if they do not take part in confessional religious education.12 It is mainly oriented towards the study of philosophical issues and questions, but includes some study of religions, however, in a perspective and framework that is far from a study-of-religions way of representing religions. Examples for that are par. 2 of the Education Act of Lower Saxony in which Christianity is mentioned as the only religious tradition (together with European Humanism and the ideas of the liberal, democratic and social liberation movements) as the basis for building up the pupils’ personalities (NSchG 2015). Within a general phenomenological framework that has been criticised widely in the academic Study of Religions, religion—and Christianity, which servers as norm and model in particular—is regarded mainly as a source of ethics and an offer for orientation. The wrp figures prominently in the curriculum, however, with a recurrent polarisation of Christianity and “non-Christian religions,” where Christianity in a normative theological rather than analytical perspective is constructed as cultural heritage and everything else, including secular views, are regarded as “other.” Still, the unity of Christianity, Humanism and human rights is presupposed, for example in a teaching unit on “living in a culture shaped by Christianity” (nkm 2009: 27).13

Having questioned the prominence of the wrp in the general teaching programme in the Study of Religions, what does this context actually mean for didactics-related courses? Should they take the paradigms of the curriculum as starting point? If one tried to do that, one could easily come up with a programme that includes some general reflection about “world religions,” then proceeds to study in detail the one religion which is regarded as an important element of the cultural heritage of German or European society, Christianity, while also providing basic information on “the other” world religions as to their conceptions of “the holy,” a central category in the curriculum (see nkm 2009: 27), and perhaps also secular worldviews, including some comparison and contrast, with a particular focus on ethical issues.

This full operation in the wrp, the classical phenomenological paradigm and their approaches to religion/s, combined with an implicitly and sometimes even explicitly theological approach to Christianity runs counter to the insights of recent theory and methodology in the study of religions. Furthermore, the particular combination of this approach with moral education, including a simplistic and uncritical view of the concept of cultural heritage make it also highly problematic from a critical and emancipatory notion of education.14 This is not something that current didactics of the Study of Religions can build on.

Therefore, the didactics related courses aim at contextualising the Werte und Normen curriculum both in the German and European context of teaching about religion and worldviews, in order to help the students understand the rationale of the subject in its historical and social context. Furthermore, they analyse the subject and its underlying assumptions (including various aspects, such as guidelines, the core curriculum, textbooks, etc.) and compare them to study-of-religions representations of religion/s and the general principles of didactics of the Study of Religions.15 The programme thus deconstructs various notions and presuppositions of the curriculum and its social context and reconstructs them with the help of recent debates in theory and methodology of the Study of Religions as well as related educational debates. It also includes, however, a discussion of examples of how to deal with the current curriculum creatively and how to relate it to the study of religions and its didactics with alternative pedagogical strategies.

Following the classification of strategies in Cotter and Robertson (2016a), this may be called a subversive pedagogy, indebted to a critical-emancipatory educational approach building on recent debates in theory and methodology in the Study of Religions rather than trying to accommodate a pre-academic ideological framework that in many ways contradicts both basic principles in the Study of Religions and a critical-emancipatory approach to education. The module, furthermore, includes reflection about the contradiction that this involves. At first glance, the students may be disappointed by not getting the expected support for learning how to “teach the syllabus.” It is hoped, however, that they appreciate the value of being taken seriously as responsible and knowledgeable pedagogues (rather than mere transmitters of a fixed curriculum) who will surely meet various different kinds of curricula during their lives as teachers. Thus, a contextualisation and critical analysis of the current model communicates particular competences, enabling them to deal also with changes that are to be expected in the future—in a subject that is permanently being renegotiated between different stakeholders and in a context of a landscape of re that has changed considerably over the past decades.

B The European Context: Focuses of the easr Working Group on Religion in Public Education

Taking up the challenge to promote a consistently study-of-religions approach to issues regarding re, the European Association for the Study of Religions (easr) in 2008 launched a Working Group on Religion in Public Education. The reorganisation of re in most European countries has been accompanied by both a political and academic debate in which the study-of-religions perspective, in most context, has played a rather marginal role. While the models in various European countries, in one or another way (for a recent evaluation of those models see Franken 2017) included a response to increased religious diversity, the discourse about re has been widely shaped by the traditional “specialists for re” (i.e., above all, theologians or so-called “representatives” of different religious traditions) who rarely have a background in the Study of Religions, even though there are some exceptions to the rule. At any rate, a clear distinction between explicitly or implicitly religious and secular agendas for re has widely been lacking. The easr working group is intended to fill this gap by both analysing the discourse about re and various models critically and contributing from a clearly secular study-of-religions position to the development of critical pedagogies for education about religion, both at school and university levels, “independent from any kind of promotion of religion or support of religious institutions or communities” (easr 2016).16

I think, in the messy and composite field of re discourse, where various positions on religion and the representation of religions/s, often religiously or politically motivated, are articulated, it is important to clearly distinguish between different approaches, backgrounds and interests. In the current political context, the fact that a purely academic and not religiously or anti-religiously motivated scholarly organisation like the easr provides a forum for scholars with a clear orientation in the Study of Religions is of high value. With its outspoken secular scholarly approach it has a clearly different profile from the other re-related forums and networks in Europe. The importance of this kind of distinction and solely scholarly motivated institutions became all the more clear when the European Academy of Religion was founded in late 2016, a forum where just this distinction between the different approaches is not made and scholars with different religious, interreligious and other agendas are invited to participate.

On its workshop at the Arctic University Tromsø in December 2016 the easr working group put the challenge of the wrp on its agenda. The challenges that I have described for the teaching programme in the Study of Religions at Leibniz Universität Hannover are very similar in other departments for the Study of Religions in Europe. While the traditional programmes in the Study of Religions may, in many contexts, accommodate the criticism of the wrp with creative and innovative alternative pedagogies, teacher training programmes related to school subjects that depend heavily on the wrp as well as other problematic presuppositions (such as the essentialism of the classical phenomenology of religion) may have no other choice than either being subversive or giving up important principles of the Study of Religions and critical educational theory. As long as one may speak of the freedom of research and teaching in public institutions, I think, however, it is a matter of academic integrity to challenge programmes that rest on problematic assumptions, hopefully helping to improve them, by taking a critical secular scholarly perspective seriously, both in relation to religion, education, and education about religion. What that ultimately implies with respect to the wrp is yet to be discussed, without any doubt controversially.

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  • udir (2015). Læreplan i kristendom, religion, livssyn og etikk (KRLE). Oslo: Utdanningsdirektoratet. http://www.udir.no/kl06/rle1-02/ (accessed January 17, 2017).

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  • Undervisningsministeriet (2016). Fælles Mål for faget kristendomskundskab. København http://www.emu.dk/sites/default/files/Kristendomskundskab%20-%20januar%202016.pdf (accessed January 17, 2017).

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1I use “Study of Religions” as a term for the secular study of religions at universities, otherwise also called the History of Religions, Religious Studies, or, in German, Religionswissenschaft.
2As but one example for that broad and on-going discussion see Joy 2016.
3All titles are my translations from the German. There are more modules, including courses from related subjects and profession-oriented activities that the students may elect.
4The German title may be translated as Outline of the History of Religions. From Prehistory until Today.
5This is a quote from the unpublished catalogue of modules in its version of 2008 (luh 2008: 13).
6The latter was, in an earlier version of the study programme, called the Systematic Study of Religions (Systematische Religionswissenschaft).
7Major changes in the design of the programme have to be approved by different committees in the university administration and may require a new accreditation of the whole programme.
8Another change I introduced in this revision was a different sequence of modules for the students who study the Study of Religions as their minor subject and cannot study both its introductory modules at the same time. They start now with the introduction to the history and theories of the Study of Religions and then proceed to the introduction to the study of religions and worldviews.
9For my distinction between integrative and separative re, cf. Alberts 2007.
10Owen has referred to that issue in relation to the English model (2011: 263). For other countries see, for example, the current syllabi for re in Norway (udir 2015), Sweden (Skolverket 2016) and the Danish lower secondary school (Undervisningsministeriet 2016). For a critical analysis of this issue in relation to the Norwegian core curriculum see Andreassen 2014.
11This has, for example, been obvious in the latest reform of re in Norway where the only changes where the change of name from Religion, livssyn og etikk (rle, “religion, views of life and ethics”) to Kristendom, religion, livssyn og etikk (krle, “Christianity, religion, views of life and ethics”) and the obligation to spend “about half of the time” (udir 2015) with teaching about Christianity. Nothing else was changed; the expected learning outcomes remained exactly the same. But the political and public signal was considered important.
12For which “confessions” re is offered varies to a great extent. Officially it is possible to offer Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Islamic and Alevitic re (nkm 2016), but often, in practice, the choice is limited to about two of these options.
13To my knowledge, the current core curriculum for Werte und Normen has not yet been analysed critically from a study-of-religions perspective, so I am referring to my own unpublished analysis, which I have presented at the easr conference in Helsinki 2016.
14As, for example, put forward by Klafki 2007.
15As formulated, for example, in Alberts 2007, 2008, Andreassen 2016, Frank 2010 and Jensen 2008, 2016.
16In panels at easr conferences and small workshops in between those conferences the group has discussed various re related issues from a study-of-religions perspective. The work of its members includes overviews and analyses of different models of re (e.g. Alberts 2007, 2011, Berglund 2009, 2015, Frank 2010, Jensen 2013), textbooks and teacher training (Andreassen 2008, 2014), and general outlines of a study-of-religions approach to teaching about religion in schools (Alberts 2007, 2008, Andreassen 2016, Jensen 2008, 2016), and related special issues in nvmen. International Review for the History of Religions (55/2-3, 2008), Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni (smsr 75/2, 2009), din—Tidsskrift for Religion og Kultur (1, 2009) and temenos. Nordic Journal of Comparative Religion (49/2, 2013) just to give a few examples.

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  • Alberts, Wanda (2007). Integrative Religious Education in Europe: A Study-of-Religions Approach. Berlin / New York: De Gruyter.

  • Alberts, Wanda (2008). Didactics of the Study of Religions. Numen 55 (2-3), pp. 300-334.

  • Alberts, Wanda (2011). Religious Education in Norway. In: Leni Franken & Patrick Loobuyck, eds., Religious Education in a Plural, Secularised Society: A Paradigm Shift, Münster: Waxmann, pp. 99-114.

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  • Andreassen, Bengt-Ove (2008). “Et ordinært fag i særklasse”—En analyse av fagdidaktiske perspektiver i innføringsbøker i religionsdidaktikk, PhD thesis, Institutt for religionsvitenskap, Universitetet i Tromsø.

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  • Andreassen, Bengt-Ove (2014). Christianity as Culture and Religions as Religions. British Journal of Religious Education 36 (3), pp. 265-281.

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  • Andreassen, Bengt-Ove (20162(20121)). Religionsdidaktikk: En innføring. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

  • Antes, Peter (2006). Grundriss der Religionsgeschichte: Von der Prähistorie bis zur Gegenwart. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.

  • Berglund, Jenny (2009). Teaching Islam: Islamic Religious Education at Three Muslim Schools in Sweden. Uppsala: Universitetstryckeriet.

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  • Berglund, Jenny (2015). Publicly Funded Islamic Religious Education in Europe and the United States. Washington: The Brookings Institution.

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  • Cotter, Christopher R., and Robertson, David G., eds. (2016a). After World Religions: Reconstructing Religious Studies. London: Routledge.

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  • Cotter, Christopher R., and Robertson, David G. (2016b). The World Religions Paradigm in Contemporary Religious Studies. In: Christopher R. Cotter & David G. Robertson, eds., After World Religions: Reconstructing Religious Studies, London: Routledge, pp. 1-20.

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  • easr (2016). EASR Working Group “Religion in Public Education”. http://easr.org/index.php?id=1470 (accessed January 17, 2017).

  • Frank, Katharina (2010). Schulischer Religionsunterricht: Eine religionswissenschaftlich-soziologische Untersuchung. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.

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  • Franken, Leni (2017). Coping with Diversity in Religious Education: An Overview. Journal of Beliefs and Values (online), pp. 1-16.

  • Jensen, Tim (2008). rs Based re in Public Schools: A Must for a Secular State. Numen 55 (2-3), pp. 123-150.

  • Jensen, Tim (2013). A Battlefield in the Culture Wars: Religious Education in Danish Elementary School 1989-2011. In: Ansgar Jödicke, ed., Religious Education Politics, the State, and Society, Würzburg: Ergon, pp. 25-48.

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  • Jensen, Tim (2016). asr and re. The Journal of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions 3, pp. 59-83.

  • Joy, Morny (2016). Revisiting Comparative Religion in the Light of Contemporary Criticism: In Celebration of Tim Jensen’s 65th Birthday. In: Peter Antes, Armin W. Geertz, & Mikael Rothstein, eds., Contemporary Views on Comparative Religion, Sheffield: Equinox, pp. 17-32.

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  • Klafki, Wolfgang (20076). Neue Studien zur Bildungstheorie und Didaktik: Zeitgemäße Allgemeinbildung und kritisch-konstruktive Didaktik. Weinheim: Beltz.

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  • luh (Leibniz Universität Hannover), Seminar für Religionswissenschaft (2008). Modulhandbuch, Studienfach Religionswissenschaft / Werte und Normen im fächerübergreifenden Bachelorstudiengang (unpublished).

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  • Martin, Craig (2016). Religion as Ideology: Recycled Culture vs. World Religions. In: Christopher R. Cotter & David G. Robertson, eds., After World Religions: Reconstructing Religious Studies, London: Routledge, pp. 63-74.

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  • nkm (Niedersächsisches Kultusministerium) (2009). Kerncurriculum für das Gymnasium, Schuljahrgänge 5-10: Werte und Normen. Hannover: Land Niedersachsen. http://www.schure.de/22410/33,82105.htm (accessed January 17, 2017).

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  • nkm (Niedersächsisches Kultusministerium) (2016). Religionsunterricht. Hannover: Land Niedersachsen. http://www.mk.niedersachsen.de/schule/schuelerinnen_und_schueler_eltern/religionsunterricht/religionsunterricht-90778.html (accessed January 17, 2017).

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  • NSchG, Land Niedersachsen (2015). Niedersächsisches Schulgesetz. Hannover.

  • Owen, Suzanne (2011). The World Religions Paradigm: Time for a Change. Arts & Humanities in Higher Education 10 (3), pp. 253-268.

  • Ramey, Steven W. (2016). The Critical Embrace: Teaching the World Religions Paradigm as Data. In: Christopher R. Cotter & David G. Robertson, eds., After World Religions: Reconstructing Religious Studies, London: Routledge, pp. 48-60.

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  • Skolverket (2016). Läroplan för grundskolan, förskoleklassen och fritidshemmet 2011 (reviderad 2016). Stockholm: Skolverket.

  • udir (2015). Læreplan i kristendom, religion, livssyn og etikk (KRLE). Oslo: Utdanningsdirektoratet. http://www.udir.no/kl06/rle1-02/ (accessed January 17, 2017).

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  • Undervisningsministeriet (2016). Fælles Mål for faget kristendomskundskab. København http://www.emu.dk/sites/default/files/Kristendomskundskab%20-%20januar%202016.pdf (accessed January 17, 2017).

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