Religion and Education

The Forgotten Dimensions of Religious Education?

As diversity increases across the world, there is renewed interest in the place of religion in the public sphere. Is religion a private matter or of concern to everyone – even if they are not religious? What should religious education look like in the public sphere? Is religious education something for everyone, in all schools? What is educational about religious education? What is the justification for religious education? How do we make sense of religion itself, bearing in mind the wide variety of views and traditions?

The chapters in Religion and Education: The Forgotten Dimensions of Religious Education? deal with these questions, focusing particularly on the two constituting elements of religious education: religion and education. Rather than discussing curriculum, pedagogy and assessment, the authors delve into more fundamental questions and concerns. Through this they provide a range of different responses to the question of whether religion and education may have become the ‘forgotten dimensions’ of contemporary religious education.

Covering different educational views and traditions, and exploring a range of different religious ideas, traditions, and practices, whilst connecting this all to the challenge of religious education in the public sphere, this book seeks to make a contribution to the ongoing conversation about the importance of religious education for all.

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Gert Biesta is Professor of Public Education at Maynooth University, Ireland, and Professorial Fellow in Educational Theory and Pedagogy at the University of Edinburgh, UK. He writes about educational theory and policy, including Obstinate Education: Reconnecting School and Society (Brill | Sense, 2019).
Patricia Hannam is County Inspector/Adviser for Religious Education, History and Philosophy in Hampshire, UK. Her research and writing interests include religious education, history education and educational theory, including Religious Education in the Public Sphere (Routledge, 2018).
“Following the publication of the Commission on Religious Education (CoRE) Final report there has been a mood change in the theoretical discussions about the nature and purpose of RE. The true game-changing significance of the Commission's introduction of the language of worldview is beginning to dawn. This fine collection of essays from a variety of talented thinkers represents some green shoots heralding the paradigm shift that might be to come. The authors are a mixture of well-known old hands, including three who served as commissioners on the CoRE team, and some mid-career rising stars whose ideas will no doubt become increasingly influential. Their interests are wide-ranging across, amongst others, the representation of Islam, the nature of religion and of education, the place of theology in Catholic schools, GCSE question setting , pedagogy and hermeneutics. But the common theme is the offer of an alternative to a lazy approach to notions like knowledge, understanding and academic rigour that forget that our pupils are developing human beings and not just consumers of knowledge organisers. This book is a must-read for anyone wanting to grapple with the future direction of a Religious Education that takes seriously both religion and education.” – Trevor Cooling, Professor, National Institute for Christian Education Research, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK
“This compilation is a valuable contribution to all people interested in religion and worldviews in public education. It can be seen as a call for focus on the fundamentals of religion in education. The volume comprises of several independent scholarly essays on what is the very ‘soul’ of religion in public education: religion and education. Each internationally recognized author draws from his or her scholarly background in their contribution so that the reader will find the issues brought up to resonate with and be relevant to several disciplines. While the individual works are diverse in their approach, topics and execution, the editorship and authors have managed to produce a contribution with coherence and high-quality. We simply need this kind of critical scholarship to lay the foundation against which more peripheral, but also important, issues can be analysed and solved, but also, when necessary, kept in the periphery of what is called good research, curriculum or practice concerning religion and worldviews in education. To me this book represents an urgent call for focus. Policy-makers, scholars, teachers and students alike will find this compilation a versatile, timely and high-quality research-based contribution to the discussion on religion in public education.” – Martin Ubani, Professor of Religious Education, University of Eastern Finland
“Religious education is more important now than ever before as children and young people grow up in an increasingly diverse and complex world. This text nourishes – educare – and leads us – educere – into a broader and more ambitious understanding of religious education. The emphasis on the relational nature of the subject and a clarion call for a reframing and recontextualization of the subject rooted in both education theory and new understandings of ‘religion’ will no doubt bring the reader to attention and action. In their different ways, the authors challenge and disrupt some of the current understandings of religious education presenting their wisdom with depth, discernment and insight. This is an exciting contribution in current debates about the subject.” – Kathryn Wright, CEO, Culham St Gabriel’s Trust
Notes on Contributors

Introducing: The Forgotten Dimensions of Religious Education
Gert Biesta and Patricia Hannam

1 Education, Education, Education: Reflections on a Missing Dimension
Gert Biesta
2 Education as Social Practice
Ruth Heilbronn
3 Education and Belonging to a Subject Matter
David Aldridge
4 Religion, Reductionism and Pedagogical Reduction
David Lewin
5 ‘Buddhism Is Not a Religion, But Paganism Is’: The Applicability of the Concept of ‘Religion’ to Dharmic and Nature-Based Traditions, and the Implications for Religious Education
Denise Cush and Catherine Robinson
6 Teaching about Islam: From Essentialism to Hermeneutics: An Interview with Farid Panjwani and Lynn Revell, by Gert Biesta
Gert Biesta, Farid Panjwani and Lynn Revell
7 On the Precarious Role of Theology in Religious Education
Sean Whittle
8 Implicit Knowledge Structures in English Religious Studies Public Exam Questions: How Exam Questions Frame Knowledge, the Experience of Learning, and Pedagogy
Robert A. Bowie
9 What Should Religious Education Seek to Achieve in the Public Sphere?
Patricia Hannam
10 Reflections on the Seminar on Religion and Education: The Forgotten Dimensions of Religious Education
Joyce Miller

Afterword: Reflecting on the Forgotten Dimensions of Religious Education: Conclusions and Ways Forward
Patricia Hannam and Gert Biesta
This book is for everyone interested in the future of religious education, including school teachers, teacher educators, policy makers, higher education lecturers, curriculum developers and academic researchers.