Teaching religion, illiberals and self-development

Teaching Religion and Self-Development

Sir, – Ivor Shorts questions religious education (Letters, 3 August) which he misunderstands as being no different to teaching fairy tales – which actually do have a value! While I wouldn’t wait for school to teach my child to “respect and act fairly,” a more authoritative voice does value religious education.

The 2009 UK study “Risky Behaviour and Social Activities: Research Report to religion schools religious educationDepartment for Children, Schools and Families” by Andreas Cebulla and Wojtek Tomaszewski (National Centre for Social Research) found, what they termed, “self-development activities” such as attending religious classes had a protective factor against risk-taking, antisocial behaviour and delinquency in adolescence. (Similar activities included community work, playing a musical instrument and reading for pleasure – perhaps not emphasised enough either by our centralised curriculum).¹

– Yours, etc,

Illiberal Liberals on Religious Education

Another respondent was quick to point out the illiberal liberal blind spot: while Shorts complains about teaching children religion is “conditioning them.. abuse…” Shorts is quick to tell us “… [religious education] replaced instead by teaching them how we should… ” Or as Dr Maitiu Ó Faolain says:

The inconvenience of parents wanting religious education in the schools they choose for their children is surely one of the greatest irritants to those illiberals who espouse freedom of choice but not if it clashes with their ideologies.

Pat Breen points out the irony that teaching religion in Ireland has actually led to less people practising it!

Sir, – I did not know whether to laugh or cry when reading Ivor Shorts’ comments (Letters, August 3rd). Laugh? The ridiculous over-the-top language – “conditioned”, “so-called education”, “institutional abuse”?

In countries like the USA where religion is not on the syllabus as in Ireland and the UK, religious fundamentalism seems to be a strong feature. Perhaps that’s one notable benefit to faith schools..?

1. The 2009 study above was quoted by Emeritus Professor Peter K. Smith in his recent publication Adolescence: A Very Short Introduction.

Further Reading
See my post Rites of passage an answer for disaffected youth

On Education, by Harry Brighouse examines many of the pros and cons of religious education and faith schools. He argues against the government introducing secular only schools as in the U.S.

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