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Study of Religion and the Relevance of Phenomenology in the Post-Modern Age
Post-modern shifts in educational methodology suggest that multiliterate approaches may be culturally more relevant in delivering a Study of Religion curriculum than phenomenological methodologies This research explores the relationship between the two variables: phenomenological methodologies and the potential for student meaning-making in the post-compulsory subject, Study of Religion at a Catholic Co-educational College in Brisbane, Australia. An examination of some current teaching methodologies in Study of Religion is conducted and provides a framework for evaluating the effectiveness of these teaching methodologies in post-modern context. This paper proposes that multiliterate approaches may be culturally more relevant to students than phenomenological approaches thereby enabling greater potential for meaning-making. An empirical study, the following research has emerged out of an extensive review of current literature and was part of a Master of Education research degree awarded in 2006.
Religious Education in times of change: recollections of RE Teachers Working in Catholic Secondary Schools 1976-1985
Religious education and Catholic schooling, in general, experienced a period of profound change in the time after the Second Vatican Council. This paper seeks to gain a sense of this transition by examining the experiences of RE teachers who worked in Australian Catholic schools from 1976 until 1985. The narratives that emerge from this study suggest a number of challenges for classroom teachers as religious education moved toward a more experiential paradigm. This brought with it changes in the way RE was taught and also what content it covered. These changes were reflective of wider theological debates within Catholicism. The paper argues that a new narrative of Catholic education is needed that is reflective of this transitional era.
Religious Education with Generation Y Children of Eastern Catholic Migrants
Given that religion and spirituality influence identity and behaviour, it becomes apparent that Religious Education has the task to foster those aspects that are most associated with positive identity and behavioural outcomes in students. Furthermore, with evidence of significant variations in the way Generation Y children of Eastern Catholic migrants express and understand their religion and spirituality in contrast to Generation Y Anglo Australians, this study highlights the multidimensionality of Religious Education in Catholic schools. Religious Education of tomorrow must be open to different avenues for Generation Y students both Catholic and Eastern Catholic to be engaged in. This includes particular focus on spirituality, cultural identity, belonging, community building and faith convictions. Recommendations are offered to cater for these students.
Integrating Children’s Literature into the Classroom Religion Program
With its capacity to captivate and ignite the imagination, story is often central to the classroom religion program offering students opportunities to engage with and develop spiritual, moral and religious concepts and the language to express such concepts. Children’s literature may provide doorways into the life-worlds of others. It offers glimpses of how others interact with life and all life has to offer. Children both relate to and identify with characters, events and issues and in the process can learn a little more about themselves and their own life-worlds. This article explores a number of children’s literature titles and specifically outlines how each can introduce religious concepts and language to students. Introducing students to such language and concepts using contemporary picture books immediately captures their imaginations, as they are able to relate to the characters, events and ideas conveyed in the books. It also affords students opportunities to explore sensitive and personal issues from a safe distance, as they do not have to declare their own involvement.
Ezekiel, Bizarre Prophet To The Exiles: A Case Study In Interpreting Scripture
Our Sacred Scriptures—both Old and New Testaments—contain some difficult texts that can be used (and have been) to sanction violence and to condone immoral actions (e.g., slavery). It is vital that those for whom the Scriptures are sacred interpret them judiciously. The book of the prophet Ezekiel provides an excellent case in point; it has become a key text for those championing the Rapture, and thus a dangerous text in our world. This article explores other interpretations of Ezekiel and concludes with some general principles for interpreting Scripture.
A Reflection for the Catholic Secondary School on the Parable of the Father and his Two Sons
Catholic education and Catholic schools articulate a mission that is based on explicit gospel values (Christian Education, 1965, # 8, The Catholic School, 1977, # 9, The Religious Dimension of the Catholic School, 1988, # 25). This can be readily discerned in the mission statements of Catholic schools. These statements provide a useful Christian rationale for the Catholic school – public statements for internal and external purposes. Typically, the statement is displayed on school walls, websites and in school handbooks. These statements usually claim that the Catholic school is a Christian community, or aims to be a Christian community (Lay Catholics in schools, 1982, # 41). Mission statements, however, in practice, can be so general that they often fail to capture the diverse nature and challenges of the daily operation of this aspiring Christian community.1 It can be difficult for a mission statement to articulate the complexity of the population of the Catholic school. First, there is often a wide range of faith commitment demonstrated by those staff and pupils who are Catholic or nominally Catholic (The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, 1998, # 6, McKinney, 2008). Second, there is a serious challenge for many contemporary Catholic schools to include children of other Christian denominations, other faiths and children of no faith, in an effective way (The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, 1998, # 11, Ryan, 2008). This raises the issue of the ways in which the Catholic Christian school community, in all its complexity, can practically and inclusively engage with the gospel values on a daily basis.
Holocaust Education And Religious Education In Australian Catholic Schools
The Nazi Holocaust is the back-drop to every conversation between Christians and Jews. Religious educators working in Christian contexts must be aware of this reality. This article examines educational responses for educating Christian students about the Nazi Holocaust. The Catholic Church has made a number of faltering steps towards responding to the holocaust. A brief overview of these attempts provides a context for this discussion.
Critical Issues for the Future of Senior Class Retreats in Australian Catholic Schools: Part 1 - Major Theoretical and Educational Issues
This first of two articles reviews some of critical issues for the future of retreats in Catholic secondary schools that emerged from a doctoral research study of teachers’ understandings of the nature, purposes and conduct of live-in retreats. It follows up an earlier publication that reported some of the research findings (Tullio, 2006). The scope of the research project is outlined briefly in endnote 1. The article draws on the conclusions reached in the final chapter of the research thesis (Tullio, 2009). It tries to develop a ‘big picture’ interpretation of the significance of the live-in retreat as one of the most important ‘grass roots’ innovations in Australian Catholic religious education. The follow up article will discuss some of the key issues for the theory and practice of retreats.
For a number of reasons, the place of retreats in Catholic secondary schools is not as secure as perhaps it was formerly. Hence there is a need for Catholic education authorities to review the conduct of retreats so that their valuable contribution to religious education can be confirmed, while at the same time addressing the problems that could impede their future development. This article seeks to further this agenda by reporting research based insights that can promote reflection and discussion.
Religion and Social Harmony: The Case of Religious Education in Hong Kong - China
This paper is an attempt to expound the ideological conception of social harmony in the Chinese cultural contexts and to explore the possible roles religious educators can have in today's secular and plural society such as the one found in Hong Kong. The concept of "seeking harmony without uniformity" is found to be a vital feature in Chinese culture. The present study attempts to explore its relevance to the creation of a harmonious society, especially in the context of a religiously pluralistic society. The author will proceed to illustrate the contribution made by one higher institution in Hong Kong, namely Chung Chi College of the Chinese university of Hong Kong.
Religious education and interreligious education: Their context in social capital and social cohesion in Australia
Whilst religious educators operate in the metaphysical, mystical, sacramental and other-worldly aspects of religious education, increasingly they also operate in a this-worldly context. The related concepts of social capital and social cohesion are most useful in exploring and highlighting what authentic religion adds to the successful functioning of a nation and how interreligious education is becoming necessary in the creation of social cohesion in multifaith societies.
As well as describing the two concepts, this paper, based on a 2004 study for the Australian immigration department in the wake of 9/11 and the Bali bombings shows how the contribution of local and national faith communities to national social capital is substantial. The notion of social cohesion is built around five domains, and the paper concludes by relating them to the role and work of the religious educator who needs to oppose religious extremism. It also includes details of Australia’s National Action Plan, especially in relation to Australia’s Muslim communities.
Multifaith Education and Social Inclusion in Australia
The rise of religious diversity as part of the lived experience of most people calls for the inclusion of multifaith education in school curricula. This paper provides a summary of findings and recommendations regarding religious and multifaith education from Australian studies and conference proceedings between 2004 and 2007. We review some of the demands for education about religions, some of the approaches to delivering such education and make recommendations for the implementation of programs designed to prepare students to work in and contribute to a world characterised by religious diversity and revitalisation. We argue that as religions are playing an increasingly prominent role in the public sphere, there is a growing need for education about religions for all Australian school children in order to counter ignorance and advance a greater level of interreligious awareness, respect and understanding. Finally we argue that for Australia to continue to be a harmonious culturally and religiously diverse society, it is in our national interest to invest in multifaith education as a strategy to promote social inclusion and advance common security.
Public school religion education and the ‘hot potato’ of religious diversity
Religiously marked intercultural conflict is on the rise in Australia (HREOC, 2007; Dreher, 2006). In addition, intolerant and religiously discriminating sentiment has re-emerged in Australia’s debate on migration (Schech & Haggis, 2001; Cratchley, 2007). However, inter-religious education as a remedy is not a high priority. Independent and governmental reviews recommend intercultural and interfaith education to address ignorance and intolerance (Erebus, 2006; HREOC, 2004). Australia appears more focused on the development of values and citizenship courses which assume shared heritage and promote uniformity (Halafoff, 2006). In public education, religious diversity is a ‘hot potato’ – no one wants to touch it.
In stark contrast, some European and British approaches see multi-beliefs education as a potential tool for social cohesion (de Souza et al, 2006; Weisse, 2007). This article explores the social benefit claims of multi-faith world religion and beliefs studies and Australia’s reticence to examine their potential.
Religious Education’s contribution to social cohesion: General perspectives and the need for research
This paper starts out with the difficult legacy of religious education from the past concerning power and nationalism. The author argues that only a critical approach to social order can be in line with Christian perspectives on education. At the same time, recent discussions are taken up that point to the need for a democratic or liberating understanding of social cohesion. Moreover, the author discusses the question to what degree religion and religious education can have divisive effects for society. In this context, a number of research questions and projects are reviewed, concerning values education, ecumenical and interreligious education, social interaction, and the acquisition of abilities to communicate about (different) religious convictions and worldviews in a situation that is characterized by the experience of difference.
In my understanding, religion and religious education can contribute to social cohesion in many ways. Yet I am quite aware that this understanding is not to be taken for granted. In contemporary multicultural societies, the contrary assumption—that religion and religious education are divisive—is gaining more and more support. Moreover, concerning the past, many critical analysts point to the legitimizing role that religious education has played in relationship to social order and, more specifically, to non-democratic forms of government. From these perspectives, religious education’s contribution to social cohesion must be questionable from the beginning.
In this article, I want to focus on the relationship between religious education and social cohesion from a number of different vantage points. I will start with some historical remarks concerning what many contemporary educators consider religious education’s difficult legacy from the past, especially the legacy of nineteenth and twentieth century nationalism and its relationship to religious education. While nationalism still continues to be a challenge in many parts of the world, in central Europe where I work and write, other aspects of social cohesion have become equally important, especially in relationship to religious education. This is why I will focus on values education, ecumenical and interreligious education, on social interaction, and the acquisition of abilities to communicate about (different) religious convictions and worldviews in a situation that is characterized by the experience of difference. At the same time, these topics also play a role in the ongoing research of my research team at the University of Tübingen and I will present some of the respective research perspectives by introducing readers to our work. In this way it can become visible that religious education’s role in terms of social cohesion must be scrutinized empirically. It is not enough to theoretically claim this role but it must also be examined critically, theoretically no less than empirically.
School festivals, collective remembering and social cohesion: A case study of changes in Norwegian school culture
How does a particular Norwegian primary school community interact while preparing and carrying through the festivals of Advent/Christmas, Easter and the National Day at the end of the first decade of the 21st century? Particularly, what is the relationship between the Principal and involved staff members regarding the school’s festival culture? How may possible changes in the school’s festival culture be interpreted and tentatively explained? A number of collective assemblies as well as lessons of religion and life view education were observed over a period of two years, and staff members were interviewed. Observations of festival assemblies over a period of nearly twenty years are included as a comparative context. The school’s collective festival periods are analysed by references to theories of collective memory. Contrasting and shared interests of school and ‘church’, of leaders, staff and cultural majorities and minorities are discussed. As for the school of the case study, the keeping up of the identity of its cultural majority group was concretized through ‘weak’ commemorative ceremonies. The festival periods were handled through current negotiations between actively involved members of both school and faith organisations. A final comment to the results of the study deals with the continued, though weakened, hegemonic character of the case school’s festival culture and its possible interactions with social cohesion processes.
Social Cohesion and Religious Education in the Context of a Europeanisation of Education
Social cohesion is one of the values and aims of European integration. It is also a strategic objective in education policy on the European as well as on the national level. In this article the discussion about social cohesion and religious education is embedded in the context of a Europeanisation of education. This term is used for investigating the ramifications of European integration for education and religious education on the domestic level. The discourse takes account of developments and initiatives of the European Union and the Council of Europe. Special emphasis is given to the place of religion in selected political documents and current activities of the Council of Europe.
Religious Education in Israel: The Contribution to Societal Values and Cohesion
The normative values accepted by Israeli society are those perceived as promoting a common basis for consensus and social cohesion within Israeli society. The major values earmarked by Israeli society as an imperative basis for religious and civics education in a Jewish and democratic society are social cohesion, humanistic values, and inter-sector dialogue and understanding. In addition values that are universal and accepted in most democratic countries are also an integral facet of the Israeli religious and values education curriculum.
The importance of the values emphasized in the Israeli educational system as permeating Israeli society is that they allow the heterogeneous and somewhat fragmented society to weave a values fabric that is consensually accepted by all, despite ethnic, ideological, national, and religious differences that characterize the various sectors in Israeli society. Thus, despite the heterogeneity and sectoriality inherent in Israeli society, religious and civics education school curriculum are designed to promote cohesion in a values oriented society and to form a solid basis for inter-sector understanding based on commonly accepted values.
The educational authorities are deeply aware that the most suitable platforms for the promotion of social cohesion and values education are the religious and civics education curricula and have mandatorily included these subjects in the lately implemented core curriculum. The educational authorities are sensitive to the dynamic changes that are deemed necessary in light of the development of new and modified values in countries viewed as a positive reference group for the Israeli educational system and these are incorporated into the Israeli religious and civics education curricula from time to time.
Learn Together: Religious Education as a unifying factor in a new Ireland
The Irish Primary education system has primarily been influenced by the efforts of the British Government to develop a system of multidenominational education in the early part of the nineteenth century. It was envisaged that Catholics and Protestants would receive a combined literary but a separate religious education. Almost two centuries later, the emergence of a more pluralist Ireland highlighted the need to develop a religious education curriculum that would support diversity and acknowledge the changing aspect of Ireland’s cultural and religious profile. This article describes the Learn Together Ethical Education programme which is an RE programme developed for one sector of Irish Primary education and raises the issue of whether some elements of this programme could be relevant to Europe and beyond. Primarily, the paper raises awareness of the need to focus on the development of research on the role of religion in education in supporting the formation of the 21st citizen.
Challenging anti-Semitism in Passion Portrayals
This article highlights the need for religious educators to be well informed of the roots of Christian anti-Semitism, especially as it is expressed in Passion portrayals. It is vital that religious education teachers in all settings make themselves aware of current scholarship regarding representations of the Passion. There is a wealth of materials and many opportunities for interesting and engaging learning encounters. Teachers have a responsibility to be well informed about Christian anti-Semitism and ensure that their students are made aware of the history of Christian-Jewish relations. Such an issue has important implications for the relationships Christians have, not only with Jews and Judaism but also with other faiths.
Searching for connectedness: the role of RE and spirituality in supporting children’s questions about death
Most children ask questions about what happens after death in their quest to understand and make meaning of the world, and such thoughts are not restricted to RE lessons but can occur at any point in the school day. In a society where death is almost a taboo subject, teachers can be unprepared to deal with such questions. This paper explores the role that Religious Education and spiritual development in the UK may have in supporting teachers and children in discussing death in the classroom. It argues that children’s questions about death reflect their spiritual search for meaning and connectedness, which is illustrated through a case study of an 8 year old girl. The paper concludes that teachers, through understanding children's search for connectedness in their questions about death, and by developing an empathic approach, can support children more effectively when responding to the questions.
Two-fold and four-fold learning models – an analysis with implications for religious education and for stretching ways of knowing (Part 1 of 2)
Many ways of knowing and spirituality are routinely neglected in the primary, secondary and tertiary environments, not only in religious education, but also in many other subject areas and disciplines. Drawing mainly on the Christian, Orthodox and Jewish traditions, this paper explores a more expansive framework for ‘ways of knowing’ within the context of religious education.
It approaches the topic by examining some commonly used two-fold models of knowing (Part One, this paper) and four-fold complementary models of knowing (Part Two, next issue). It then supplements these traditional models with insights about ways of knowing from Christian and other traditions of spirituality. In addition, the paper argues that inclusion of this wider variety of ways of knowing is essential for the integrated and grounded teaching or religious education.
An exploration of youth spirituality amongst senior students in three Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney
The theory and practice of Catholic schooling, particularly with respect to religious education, have the purpose of promoting the spiritual and moral development of young people. This includes a special emphasis on acquainting them with the religious traditions and spirituality of the Catholic Church. Because Catholic schooling has always endeavoured to meet the religious and personal needs of students, there has been an ongoing interest in monitoring the spirituality of youth to inform an effective religious education program. While for many young people spirituality is primarily religious; there is a growing differentiation between the 'spiritual' and the 'religious'. In some cases, particular versions of spirituality have been described as 'non-religious' or even 'secular. This paper reports on an investigation of this issue by exploring the spirituality of year 12 students in three Catholic schools located in the Sydney Archdiocese. A number of interesting results emerged from the study that assists in articulating what contributes to a student’s spirituality, and the effect the Catholic school has on their faith, image of God, and attitude to the Church.
Dangerous Games: Play and pseudoplay in religious education
In Godly Play, an invitation is given for play with the language of God and God’s people: sacred stories, parables, liturgical actions and silence. Through this evocative language, through wondering, and through the community of players gathered, the deepest of invitations is issued – the invitation to come and play with God (Berryman, 2002). But what happens when, albeit with the best of intentions, play is substituted with activities emanating from a directive based on power, as opposed to an invitation, which are more concerned with the attainment of predetermined outcomes than with genuine play for its own intrinsic worth? Such occurrences often result in pseudoplay, which is understood to be the opposite of play. This paper argues that when pseudoplay occurs in the early years’ religious education classroom, dangerous games are instigated which can stifle both the spirituality of children and their learning in religious education.
“Play is much more important to religious education than either science or theology have led us to believe” (Berryman, 2002, p. 47).
Psychological health and attitude toward Christianity: A study among pupils attending Catholic Schools in the Netherlands
This study examines the wider relevance of recent research conducted in England, Northern Ireland and Hong Kong concerning the association between religion and psychological health among young people, by administering translations of the same measures to a sample of 980 pupils attending Catholic secondary schools in the Netherlands. These pupils completed the short-form Revised Eysenck Personality Questionnaire together with the Francis Scale of Attitude toward Christianity. The data confirmed the key finding from previous research that a more positive attitude toward Christianity is associated with lower scores recorded on the psychoticism scale. The implications of these findings are discussed for religious educators.
Transformational, Experiential, and Non-formal Learning: Foundations for Adult Christian Education
The paper explores the landscape of adult education theories and their relationship to adult Christian education. Specific attention is given to experiential learning theories of John Dewey, David Kolb and James Loder, transformational learning theories of James Mezirow and Paulo Freire, and non-formal learning theories of Phillip Coombs and Ted Ward. The paper also focuses on how these theories apply to adult educational ministry in the local church.
What is the Catholic Church saying about the role and the mission of the Christian family?
Current theological insight into the Christian family is contained within the understanding, which emerged in the early Church, that the family is a domestic Church. The documents of the Second Vatican Council and post conciliar documents speak of the Christian family as a true expression of Church. The task of the Christian family in the nurturing of faith cannot be ignored if it is to manifest the presence of Christ to the world. Through the ministry of catechesis within the home, parents invite the family to recognise within daily life signs which manifest the presence of God and to understand them with the eyes of faith. Catechesis becomes the means through which families can come to the understanding that faith is integrated with life experiences.
What is the best and most special about teaching Religious Education?
If you have taught Religious Education in a Catholic secondary school, then you may have you sat down at the end of the class or the school day and just wondered why you bothered. Before reading this article further, give yourself a few moments to reflect on this question: “What for you is the best and most special about teaching Religious Education?” How did you answer the question? Was your response negative or positive? Did you reach for the instant cynical remark, “When I finished teaching the class!” Or, did you imagine yourself taking great pride in accomplishing deeper understandings among your students? Maybe your response was one of mixed feelings. These responses are important because the disposition of a teacher towards his or her RE teaching is a key factor in the quality of Religious Education provided to secondary students in Catholic schools. This article outlines the findings of the second phase of a study about the teaching experiences of recently assigned RE teachers and the resultant changes in their outlook about RE teaching.
The impact of environment on spiritual wellbeing in school
Spiritual well-being can be revealed by the quality of relationships that people have in up to four domains of spiritual health, namely with self, with others, with the environment and/or with God. Many papers have been presented on the quality of relationships people have with self, others and God. This study concentrates on the views expressed by nearly 100 educators in a range of Victorian secondary schools about the impact of the environment on aspects of spiritual well-being in schools.
It provides insights into Environmentalists, those people who see connection with the environment as the key component of spiritual well-being. Case studies and reports on variations between educators and school types are provided as well as suggestions about ways of developing spiritual well-being in schools.
The South African National Policy on Religion and Education (2003): Its potential to create Social Capital
The authors investigate ways in which the South African National Policy on Religion and Education (2003)actually embodies some of the social capital required for restoring the moral fibre of South African society. They do this by firstly discussing a number of definitions of social capital to serve as a conceptual framework for their search for social capital potential in the Policy. They then analyse international trends with respect to religion and education, with emphasis on the problem of social capital building. Finally, they report on their analysis of the Policy itself with emphasis on its potential to create social capital by means of which the moral degeneration in South Africa can be combated. They find that, although this Policy is conducive to the creation of social capital, it has been framed in such a way that the problem of social decay can not be addressed in its entirety.
Some Years 10-12 students’ perceptions and experiences of their religious education programs: Implications for curriculum development and planning
The nature and purpose of Religious Education in Catholic schools has continued to be the subject of much interest and discussion. Contributors to the field operate out of varied contexts and concerns which reflect different understandings of the nature and purpose of the subject. This has been influenced, as much, by the cultural, political and technological changes in society as by reforms that were introduced at the wider school curriculum level which have been a response to new knowledge about the learning process and a focus on the individual student’s growth and development.
This paper reports on a study, which was funded by a Bishop’s Research Grant in the Victorian dioceses, aimed to replicate and extend part of the earlier study. It surveyed Years 10-12 students in Catholic schools, across the four Victorian dioceses, in the third term of 2007 to discover their perceptions and experiences of current practices in religious education to determine if their perceived religious and spiritual needs were being catered for.
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