Spiritual and Religious Education: 5 (Education, Culture, and Values, V. 5)

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Contents

  1. Religious education - Wikipedia
  2. Religious education and moral development
  3. Purposes of Religious Education
  4. Religious education

However, there is a danger that such opportunities will be lost if just a normative approach to values is taken in order to ensure pupils are compliant in both their thinking and behaviour. Moral development goes beyond the demands of the study of ethics as an intellectual discipline because it involves personal engagement, reflexivity and a recognition of oneself as part of a community.

Given this it is important that, within the classroom, children are presented with situations that pertain to their own lives and those of others in a concrete fashion. All these journals are available electronically at http: What your handbook covers The QCDA has also revised its description of moral development, as follows, and reads a little differently: Children who are developing morally are likely to be: Successful learners , who: References References Erricker, C. A Study in Moral Theory , London: Creativity, Culture and Education , London: Books Books Alexander, H.

Most proposals for moral education are alike in employing vocabularies sterilized of religious language. The net effect, yet again, is the marginalization of religion. The implicit message is that religion is irrelevant to the development of virtue, moral judgment, and the search for moral truth. But if students are to be liberally educated and not just trained or socialized, if schools are not to disenfranchise religious subcultures, and if they are to be neutral in matters of religion, then we must include religious voices in the discussion.

The character education movement is grounded in the conviction that there are consensus virtues and values. The consensus must be local, but it may also be broader; indeed, its advocates sometimes claim rightly that virtues such as honesty and integrity are universal and are found in all the world's religions. Nonetheless, because religion can't be practiced in public schools and because it is often controversial, the character education movement avoids it. Clearly the moral ethos of public schools must be secular rather than religious; character education cannot use religious exercises to nurture the development of character.

But character education cannot implicitly convey the idea that religion is irrelevant to morality. We have noted that character education employs literature and history to convey moral messages. Some of those stories and some of that history should make clear that people's moral convictions are often grounded in religious traditions.

When teachers and students in the higher grades discuss controversial moral issues—abortion, sexuality, and social justice, for example—they must include religious perspectives on them in the discussion. For constitutional reasons those religious interpretations cannot be disparaged or advocated. As we've noted many times, one reason we disagree in our moral judgments is that we are committed to strikingly different worldviews. Some of us ground our moral judgments in Scripture, others in cost-benefit analyses, yet others in conscience and there are many other alternatives.

Even when we agree—about honesty, for example—we may disagree about why we should be honest. Long-term self-interest and love of humanity may both prescribe honesty as the best policy—though one's attitude and motivation, the kind of person one is, may be quite different; and, of course, there will be occasions when the requirements of love and even long-term self-interest will diverge.

Just as in math, it is not enough that we agree about the right answer but we must get it in the right way , so in any domain of the curriculum a good education requires more than a shallow agreement about conclusions. To be educated requires an understanding of the deep reasons for belief and values. Historically, religions have provided the categories, the narratives, the worldviews, that provided the deep justifications for morality. From within almost any religious worldview, conservative or liberal, people must set themselves right with God, reconciling themselves to the basic moral structure of reality.

They are to act in love and justice and community, being mindful of those less fortunate than themselves. The conventional wisdom now, however, is that we can teach morality without reference to religion. Indeed, the deep justifications have changed and often become more shallow in the process. Health and home economics texts often ground their account of values in Abraham Maslow's humanistic psychology, whereas the economics standards and texts appeal to neoclassical economic theory and modern social science.

Modern science at least implicitly teaches students there is no moral structure to nature. Our whole moral vocabulary has changed: Indeed, students may learn that there are no right or wrong answers when moral judgments are the issue. The problem is not just that educators ignore religious accounts of morality; it is that the secular worldview that pervades modern education renders religion suspect. How do we make sense of religious accounts of morality?

Religious education - Wikipedia

A yearlong course in religious studies will help more. We also find merit in the idea of a senior capstone course in ethics in which students would study various secular and religious ways of understanding morality and several of the most pressing moral problems of our time. Conservative religious parents sometimes ask that Bible courses be offered in public schools as a way of addressing the moral development of children.

As we have seen, the courts have made it clear that public schools cannot teach students that the Bible is true, or that children should act in accord with Biblical morality. Nonetheless, there is a constitutional way in which study of the Bible is relevant to moral education. By studying the Bible or any religious text , students will encounter a vocabulary and framework for thinking about morality and the human condition that will quite properly provide them with critical distance on the secular ideas and ideals they acquire from elsewhere in the curriculum—and from popular culture.

Morality is at the heart of all religion, and, as we've argued, one important reason for studying religion is to acquire some sense of the answers that have been given to the fundamental existential questions of life. Teachers and texts can't endorse religious answers to those questions, but they can and should expose students to them fairly as part of a good liberal—and moral—education.

Students may find those answers compelling even if their teachers and texts don't require them to. It may be helpful to sketch the relevance of religion to one particularly troublesome part of the curriculum: It is important for students at some age to understand the biology of sexuality; but, of course, the purpose of sex education has always been something more than simple science education. Its primary purpose has been to guide students' behavior, addressing major social problems such as unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases STDs.

One way to address these problems is to teach students sexual abstinence. Another is to provide them with a little technological know-how regarding birth control and condoms. Whichever position we take requires that we give students reasons for using condoms or foregoing the pleasures of sexuality.

Three kinds of answers are common. First, it can be argued that either approach is in one's long-term self-interest, and much sex education focuses on the unhappy consequences of unplanned pregnancies and STDs. Some students will recognize the risks and alter their behavior accordingly—though adolescents are not typically strong on long-term self-interest and deferred gratification.

Perhaps more important, if it is to be truly educational , sex education must make students aware of the fact that sexual behavior is universally held to be subject to moral as well as prudential judgments. To be ignorant of this is to be uneducated. So, how do we introduce morality into sex education? A second approach—that taken in each of the four high school health texts we reviewed—is a variation on values clarification.

Students should act responsibly: Each of the health texts concludes that responsible individuals will practice abstinence. The problem, of course, is that this conclusion requires a considerable act of faith, for what students value most is up to them. The books offer no grounds for assessing the values of students as morally right or wrong; values are ultimately personal. Health, home economics, and sex education texts and materials often use the language of values rather than that of morality. But, of course, this is an extraordinarily narrow view of morality.

We suspect that the deeper problem is that much ocial science can't make sense of morality and so must translate it into talk of choices and personal values. Virtually all the health and home economics texts we reviewed start from the position of humanistic psychology. But if the authors can't cast their conceptual nets wider than this, it is not surprising that they don't catch morality in them. One irony in all of this is that virtually everyone still believes that some actions are morally right and other actions are morally wrong. Pedophilia is morally wrong.

Not telling the person with whom one proposes to have sex that he or she has an STD is morally wrong. Honesty isn't just a matter of cost-benefit analysis and personal values; it is morally binding. If people don't understand this, they are ignorant, and if we don't teach students this, we are irresponsible.

As we have argued, the character education movement has been a widely accepted and much needed antidote to the relativistic tendencies of values clarification, and it offers another approach to sex education. Sexual relationships, like all relationships, should be characterized by honesty, loyalty, and respect for the feelings, privacy, and well-being of others—and broad consensus supports this. Prudence, self-control, and a willingness to defer gratification are virtues of unquestionable importance in all aspects of life, but particularly in matters of sexuality.

Whereas the values clarification approach typically highlights dilemmas and choices, character education emphasizes habit; self-control can't just be the result of decisions made as we go along. We agree that it is wrong for children to have sexual relationships. We might even agree that sexual modesty in dress and demeanor is an important virtue, at least for children. The moral consensus on sexuality is, no doubt, limited and fragile.

Still, because there is a consensus, schools should constantly emphasize these moral virtues and principles by means of their ethos, dress codes, stories told and read, and, of course, in health, home economics, and sex education courses. Sex education must also be moral education. We have argued that character education cannot implicitly give the impression that religion is irrelevant to morality. Children's stories about love and romance and marriage and the family should include religious literature.

Religious education and moral development

Character education builds on moral consensus, but obviously there is also a good deal of often strong disagreement on matters relating to sexuality—abstinence and birth control, abortion and homosexuality, for example. Not surprisingly, we also disagree about what to teach students about these things; indeed, we often disagree about whether to teach about such things.

Our claim is this: Given the importance of religion in our culture, to remain ignorant of religious ways of thinking about sexuality is to remain uneducated. Older students should learn about religious as well as secular arguments for abstinence, and they should learn how different religious traditions regard birth control.

Although all of the health books we reviewed discussed condoms, none mentioned that Roman Catholic teaching forbids artificial birth control. Indeed, they should learn something about the relevant Scriptural sources in different traditions for sexual morality, marriage, and the family. They should understand the policy positions on controversial sexual issues taken by contemporary religious organizations and theologians.

For many religious people, abortion is the most important moral issue of our time; for them, it is the most important consequence of unwanted pregnancies and sexual promiscuity. Yet most sex education ignores abortion. Of the health texts we reviewed only one mentioned it—devoting a single paragraph to explaining that it is a medically safe alternative to adoption. We suggest that to be an educated human being in the United States at the end of the 20th century one must understand the abortion controversy; indeed, its relevance to sex education is immediate and tremendously important.

So what does it mean to be educated about abortion? Certainly students should understand the point of view of the Roman Catholic Church and those religious conservatives who believe that abortion is murder. They should also understand the point of view of those religious liberals from various traditions who are pro-choice.

Purposes of Religious Education

They should understand feminist positions on abortion. They should learn about the key Supreme Court rulings and different ways of interpreting the implications of political liberty for the abortion debate. Students should read primary source documents written from within each of these traditions. And, of course, teachers and texts should not take positions on where truth lies when we are so deeply divided. The health texts we reviewed each mentioned that some people are heterosexual and others are homosexual though not everyone would agree with this way of putting it and that we don't quite know what accounts for the difference.

Like abortion, however, the issue of homosexuality and gay rights is one that is tremendously important for students to understand if they are to be informed citizens and educated about sexuality. One approach is for educators to decide what is right when we disagree and then teach their views to children. New York City's Children of the Rainbow multicultural curriculum is a rather notorious example; it would have taught elementary school children the acceptability of homosexuality and nontraditional families had not a coalition of religious conservatives rebelled, ultimately forcing the departure of the system's chancellor.


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Our objection to this curriculum is not its position on homosexuality; it is that it takes a position at all. It is proper and important to teach children to respect the rights of others; name calling and gay bashing are not permissible—and there is broad consensus about this. But we disagree deeply about homosexuality on moral and religious grounds. Given our civic framework, it is not permissible for a public school to institutionalize a moral or religious position on a divisive issue and teach it to children uncritically.

Given our educational framework, students must learn about the alternative positions when we disagree; all the major voices must be included in the discussion. Of course, the New York City case was particularly troubling because the children were so young.

What then would an adequate sex education curriculum look like? It must, of course, be age appropriate.

Religious education

Lessons and courses for young children should adopt the character education model, and we must take great care to ensure that we don't encourage premature sexual behavior; character education continues to be appropriate for high school students—so long as it deals with matters about which we agree. Indeed, we are inclined to think that adolescents need moral guidance in matters of sexual morality rather more than they need freedom. They must learn to think about sexuality in moral terms. We have also argued, however, that we need to educate mature students regarding some matters of great importance about which we disagree deeply.

When we do this, however, we must educate them liberally, including all of the major voices—religious as well as secular—in the discussion. We have already noted that one disagreement is over whether to teach abstinence only. Unhappily, our differences here appear to be irreconcilable. We do believe that some of the controversy would dissipate if sex education were truly liberal. If it would take seriously moral and religious ways of thinking about sexuality, then discussion of condoms would be less likely to be understood as legitimizing promiscuity.

Still, if schools require such courses, they should include opt-out or opt-in provisions. We suspect that if parents were convinced that educators took their moral and religious views seriously, fewer would have their children opt out. We recognize that adequate materials are lacking and most teachers are not prepared to include religious perspectives on sexuality in their classes.

It is no easy task to make sense of the soul when discussing abortion in a health class, sacramental understandings of marriage in a home economics class, or the sinfulness of promiscuity in a sex education class. Sex education teachers usually have backgrounds in health education, psychology, and the social sciences rather than the humanities or religious studies, and they may have no background in religious studies to help them make sense of religious perspectives on sex education. This is, once again, reason for a required course in religious studies or a moral capstone course that provides a sufficiently deep understanding of religion to enable students to make sense of religious interpretations of morality and sexuality.


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  5. Still, for both civic and educational reasons, some attention to religion in sex education courses is absolutely essential. Finally, we note that other teachers will sometimes find themselves drawn into both sex education and moral education. Much fiction, for example, deals with sexuality—dating, love, marriage, integrity, adultery, homosexuality, and the family. As we argued in Chapter 6, the study of literature is important for the insight and perspective it provides on the inescapable existential questions of life—a good number of which bear on sexuality.

    Moreover, it is tremendously important that teachers in a variety of courses provide students the moral resources for thinking critically about the portrayal of sexuality in popular culture. Finally, a few reminders. In Chapter 2 we noted that one of the most difficult tasks for teachers is to convey to students the difference between pluralism and relativism. The civic ground rules of our democracy and the ideal of liberal education require that we respect the pluralistic nature of our society and take seriously the various participants in our cultural conversation about what is morally required of us.

    But teachers must not take this to mean that all moral positions are equally good or true. For the most part, moral disagreements are about what the truth is, what justice truly requires. It is true, of course, that within some important intellectual traditions the idea of moral truth makes no sense, and older students should be introduced to such traditions too—though even here there is often a pragmatic moral consensus about some important basic virtues and values. The fact that we disagree about the nature of morality doesn't mean there are not better and worse ways of thinking about it.

    People sometimes claim that because religious accounts of morality are absolutist , religion, by its nature, cannot tolerate dissent. This has, of course, been a common religious position; it has also been a common secular position in the 20th century among Nazis and communists, for example. Some religious traditions have placed considerable emphasis on free conscience, however, and if some religions have claimed to know God's law with considerable certainty, others have emphasized humility.

    Just as scientists can believe in objective truth and yet favor an open society in which we debate what that truth is, so religious folk can believe in moral truth and yet favor an open society in which we pursue it openly, with humility. If there are shared moral values that cut across religions, we also need to remember that there are also differences among religions, and it won't do to say that they all agree about morality. As we've just suggested, some traditions favor religious establishments and are intolerant of dissent, while others value freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state; some religions have required nonviolence, others have called for holy wars; some have emphasized love and mercy, and others justice and retribution; some have required chastity and poverty, yet others have sanctified marriage and wealth.

    Some religions have understood morality in terms of God's law, others in terms of love, or grace, or tradition, or liberating the oppressed. Religious conservatives have often grounded morality in Scripture, whereas religious liberals have often held that through continuing moral and religious experience, reason and reflection, we can progressively acquire deeper insight into morality and reform our traditions. Some conservatives believe that people are so sinful that only the threat of hell or the experience of divine grace can move them. Liberals often have a somewhat more optimistic view of human nature in which we have at least a significant potential for doing good apart from supernatural intervention.

    Teachers must be aware of the complexity of their subject. We often think of morality in terms of personal virtues such as honesty, responsibility, and integrity—in part, perhaps, because such virtues are relatively uncontroversial, in part because they are congenial to an individualistic society. But there are dangers in uncritically conceiving of morality as a matter primarily of personal virtue. Historically, morality has been intimately tied to visions of justice, social institutions, and ways of thinking about human suffering and flourishing.

    Indeed, given the ubiquity of suffering and injustice, it is hard to think of a more important task for schools than moral education broadly conceived. Of course, much that students study in history and literature classes does address the nature of suffering, injustice, and the human condition. One purpose of moral education is to help make children virtuous—honest, responsible, and compassionate.

    Another is to make mature students informed and reflective about important and controversial moral issues. Both purposes are embedded in a yet larger project—making sense of life. On most accounts, morality isn't intellectually free-floating, a matter of personal choices and subjective values.