New religious studies course will include lessons on atheism and gay marriage

New religious studies course will include lessons on atheism and gay marriage March 25, 2009

SCHOOLCHILDREN will be taught about the “rise of atheism” in a new religious studies GCSE, it has been announced.
According to the Telegraph, lessons will also focus on Druids and Rastafarianism as part of a syllabus designed to boost understanding of religious diversity around the world.
Attitudes by different faiths towards same sex marriages, human rights, gender equality and even GM crops will be among the topics covered.
What is bound to outrage Christian traditionalists is that the course:

Will largely snub traditional lessons on the Bible and other holy books.

It has already been criticised for “pandering to popularity”.

Prof Alan Smithers
Prof Alan Smithers
Alan Smithers, Professor of Education at Buckingham University, says the subject has been turned into a “pat qualification for political correctness”.
The course includes just two optional units focusing on more traditional material, entitled ‘worship and key beliefs’ and ‘religious philosophy’.
Other units cover ‘religion and relationships’, where students are taught about homosexuality, religious attitudes to contraception and the concept and role of parenting.
Prof Smithers, who is also Director of Buckingham University’s Centre for Education and Employment Training, describes the syllabus as an example of the “politicisation of education”.
Prof Smithers said:

This does not seems to be about religion and spirituality at all. There are just a lot of tenuous connections which teach the preferred attitudes and beliefs of the moment.
I think it comes from the desire of politicians to stamp their influence on everything. It looks as if they are turning RE in to a pat qualification for political correctness.
How is it to benefit the students? It is not going to be a basis for the further study of RE or spirituality to a higher level. All it can do is clock up league table points for the school and keep young people occupied. One has to ask, where is the religion?

And Anastasia de Waal, head of family and education at the think-tank Civitas, said:

We seem to be so desperate to make things relevant – to pander to popularity -that our kids aren’t being taught the underlying knowledge they need to succeed in the world. We are doing a huge disservice to our young people.

Anastasia de Waal
Anastasia de Waal

But examiners said the syllabus – by one of Britain’s biggest exam boards – will make the subject more “relevant” to students.
Religious studies is currently one of the fastest-growing GCSEs in the UK and in the last two years the number of entries has increased by 24,000 to 171,000.
Religion and Belief in Today’s World – one of the syllabuses – will:

Challenge students to think about the role of religion in modern Britain and in the worldwide community.

One topic will focus on how atheism has been marked in countries around the world. This includes the influence of the British Humanist Association, which recently backed an advertising campaign proclaiming “There’s probably no God”, and the work of best-selling author Philip Pullman in the UK.

Another topic asks students to study perspectives on relationships, including forced marriage, inter-faith marriage and same sex couples.
Liam Gearon, professor of lifelong learning at Plymouth University, who supports the new course, said:

This is an intellectually exciting new GCSE which will challenge students to think about the role of religion in modern Britain and in the worldwide community. Encouraging the use of historical reflection as well as thought-provoking analysis of contemporary events, it will engage students of all abilities with the many issues that surround religion in the modern world.

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