Education and Arts

2011 Abstracts

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Abstracts from Journal of Religious Education, Volume 59(4) 2011

School patronage, religion and education in the Irish Republic.
Primary schooling in Ireland is undergoing a considerable period of transition in response to educational, cultural, demographic, legal, theological and constitutional change. As a result of increasing plurality, evolving management structures, patterns of religiosity and non-religiosity among parents, children and teachers, the Department of Education and Skills, under the remit of the Irish Government, recognises the need for more diverse forms of school patronage than currently pertains. With respect to religious affiliation, the Nation's Central Statistics Office (CSO, 2007) figures show that 86.8% of the population is Catholic and its Constitution is not a secular one where Article 6 acknowledges God as the source of its authority (Irish Government Publications, 2004). This article considers the way in which the Irish Education state system, denominationally and multi-denominationally funded, is attempting to take account of the country's increasingly diverse political, social, philosophical religious and non-religious perspectives particularly at primary school level. The key areas in the debate considered below include, (i) Respecting parental choice in a multi-cultural, multi-faith society (ii) Religion as part of an integrated curriculum (Short Term/Medium Term) (iii) Religion as part of an integrated curriculum (Longer Term) (iv) Religious Education and Religious Practice in Schools and (v) Implications for Enrolment Policies.

Why Pamphilus matters: Religious education in Hume's 'Dialogues concerning natural religion.
David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion is still remarkably relevant more than 225 years after its first publication. In the classroom, the Dialogues' treatments of the design argument and the problem of evil continue to be viewed as classic articulations. In the professional journals, scholars continue to explore its epistemological and literary significance. Yet, an interpretation of the text in terms of religious education is curiously lacking. I shall argue that through the seemingly minor character of Pamphilus, the text may be read with an emphasis on issues of religious education and the fiduciary responsibilities religious educators incur. I assess the intersections between critical thinking, religious education, and youth, and give the performance of Pamphilus's "adoptive father" Cleanthes mixed reviews.

Faith-based schools and common schools in America: Reflections on the charge that faith-based schools are a threat to social cohesion.
Throughout America's history, schools have been seen as a means of creating a more cohesive population. After the American Revolution, many writers on education sought to have schools create a unique American identity for the citizens of the colonies. In 1786 Benjamin Rush wrote that creating an unbending love of country and fellow countrymen ought to be the focus of American schools, and he went so far as to argue that an estimable education would "convert men into republican machines" (Rush, 1965). Again and again in the history of American schooling, schools have been expected to help unite America's population – to create cohesion amongst a population comprised of various kinds of differences. When waves of European immigrants arrived in the early twentieth century with different languages, cultures, and religions, schools were asked to give them a common language and to assimilate them into a common American culture (e.g. Graham, 2005, pp. 7-50). In the Civil Rights era, integrated schools were expected to help overcome racial tension.

Religious leaders lead... or do they? An examination of the leadership role of the REC in Australian Catholic Schools.
Leadership makes a difference to schools. Religious leadership in schools is exercised on different levels and through a variety of roles; however this paper argues that the Religious Education Coordinator (REC) has a key role in the delivery of quality Religious Education (RE) and consequently should have a significant educational leadership role in Catholic primary schools. This paper seeks to explore the changing perceptions around the leadership role of the REC. Drawing on contemporary literature and recent RE research, the author contends that the knowledge, skills and enactment of school leadership are fundamental for the effective implementation of the RECs responsibilities as a leader in RE. It identifies the supports necessary and challenges of the leadership dimension of the role. Finally it provides stimulus for Catholic primary school communities to critique their own leadership practices in order to raise the status and better support the dimensions of leadership required for the REC to succeed in their role.

The construction of 'child' and 'childhood' in official church educational documents Part 2: Implications for early childhood religious educators.
This paper following on from the paper "How Shall we Know Them? Part 1 - The Construction of 'Child' and 'Childhood' in Official Church Educational Documents" (Grajczonek, 2010), considers the implications that such constructions have for religious educators. It argues that at the heart of these implications are religious educators' own views of 'child' and 'childhood'. It is important that all educators purposefully consider the question, "Who is the child?" for themselves, and then how that sits with the construction of "Who is the child?" in these documents. Within the intricate and complex web that includes the Church documents' image of the child, the contemporary early childhood image of child and the local cultural context of the image of child, religious educators must identify and articulate an image of "Who is the child?" that is aligned with their personal views, the local cultural context views, as well as with early childhood and Church views. Given the ambiguity that exists among these, the task of early childhood institutions and schools articulating their image of child is not without its challenges. However, it is essential that religious educators at the staff level come to shared understandings of the image of the child that is informed by all key elements, as without this articulation, the child will not be at the centre of all teaching and learning in the early childhood religion setting/classroom.

Transformative catholic pedagogy – A teacher inservice and evaluation program in the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes (Part Two)
This is the second in a two-part article that seeks to outline and provide selected working examples of one approach by a far-western NSW diocese to map the total life of a Catholic school. This approach is entitled 'Transformative Catholic Pedagogy' (hereafter TCP or 'Six Circles'). As its titles suggest, it refers to a process of mapping six spheres or circles of involvement across the total curriculum or life of a school, ranging from Grace-, God-, Jesus-, and Reign of God-images, through the foundational characteristics of a Catholic school, and onward through the spheres of spirituality, pedagogy, teaching strategies and professional development. This TCP framework has been employed between 2008 and 2010 across eighteen primary schools (some one hundred and forty-five teachers, with staff gatherings ranging from four to twenty-two teachers) in the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes, as well as in primary and secondary schools, and Catholic Education Offices, in other dioceses.

Part One provided an introduction to TCP and outlined the components of Circle One – God's Grace, God as Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, and the Reign or Kingdom of God. Part Two addresses TCP Circles Two to Six, maps key themes across the Six Circles, and summarises teacher evaluations on the process. Finally, as for Part One, this article's contents and insights are counterpointed throughout with quotes on personal, spiritual and social transformation from a range of authors cited throughout the program. These include the Franciscan Richard Rohr, in this author's view one of the most significant Christian commentators today on these and other topics.

Reflections on pride
As teachers we often find that two or more first-order moral principles clash with each other. For example, we desire our students to have proper self-esteem, but fear that they, and we ourselves, are often too proud and esteem ourselves too highly. The following reflections may provide suitable material for students confused about the rival claims of self-esteem and humility.



Abstracts from Journal of Religious Education, Volume 59(3) 2011


Empowering children in religious education: Rethinking power dynamics
by Annemie Dillen

An analysis of the nurturing of children’s spirituality in the Christian tradition in terms of power reveals the complex interplay of various forms of power dynamics within the pedagogic relationship. Nurturing children’s spirituality is aimed at empowering children and thus at stimulating the ‘power within’ children. Various reflections on nurturing children’s spirituality use methods where power is shared between adults and children (‘power with’). Nevertheless, forms of ‘power over’ interact with forms of power with. When the content of the tradition is perceived as being unalterable, there is a greater probability that one will use a teaching style where ‘power over’ is more central. This does not mean that ‘content’ is not important in ‘nurturing children’s spirituality in the Christian tradition’. The author explains various aspects of a ‘theology of theologizing’ that forms the basis for an open way of dealing with the balances of power in the pedagogical relationship and in relating to the content of the theological tradition.

Early childhood religious education and Attention Deficit Disorder
by Joyce Ann Mercer

This article addresses how early childhood religious educators may better understand and work with young children who display features of attention deficit disorders. Attention deficit problems increasingly manifest themselves in preschool and elementary aged children. These children often are hungry to learn and participate in religious education. At the same time, however, their behaviours can be particularly disruptive in religious education contexts where teachers may not possess special training to know how to address their needs. The article begins with a brief sketch of ADD/ADHD aimed at understanding the often-problematic behaviours of children with attention deficit issues, recognizing it as a disorder situated in the part of the brain related to a person’s “executive functions”. It then offers practical suggestions for how religious educators might be more welcoming of children with attention deficit issues. Using Gospel narratives of Jesus’ engagement with some “difficult children”, the article concludes with an inquiry of what children with attention deficit issues might offer to the church.

Belonging, being & becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia: Opportunities and challenges for early years religious education
by Jan Grajczonek

This paper examines Australia’s first statement on the education of young children between birth and five years of age, Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (Australian Government Department of Employment Education and Workplace Relations, 2009) and considers its particular implications for religious education in religiously-affiliated early childhood centres and settings. The recent publication of this landmark document has elevated and emphasised the position and place of early childhood education in contemporary Australia. This document seeks to guide and shape curriculum across the entire early childhood sector including religiously-affiliated centres and settings. In addition to its significance in being the first national statement regarding early childhood education, this document is also significant in terms of its several explicit references to children’s spirituality and educators’ called responses to that. What is the nature of such references and what do they imply for early childhood religious education within religiously-affiliated early childhood centres and settings in the Christian tradition, including those attached to schools and/or parishes?

Belonging, being and becoming: The importance of understanding beliefs and practices in the teaching of religious education in the early years
by Catherine Meehan

With the backdrop of the recent introduction of Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, this paper presents some of the findings from doctoral research which investigated Australian early childhood teachers’ beliefs and practices within classrooms teaching four to six year old children in Catholic schools. It will explore the literature related to this study, with particular reference to beliefs and practice and the relationship that exists between them; examination of the barriers which impact on teachers’ teaching in accordance to their beliefs, and an exploration about what constitutes ‘good’ learning and teaching in the early years with regard to religious education. Examples from four case studies will be used to exemplify key findings from this study.

Children negotiating their own beliefs: The religious education of young children in families in the Republic of Ireland
by Patricia Kieran

In Ireland the traditional family, encompassing two heterosexual married parents with biological children, has undergone dramatic reconfiguration in recent decades. Indeed one might legitimately describe the changing structure and social and religious position of the family as having undergone momentous revolution. This article profiles the changing nature of the Irish family, its legal basis as well as the complex social changes which have affected it. Furthermore the article examines studies and legislation pertaining to young children in families in Ireland. There is a dearth of research and data on the topic of the religious education of young children in Irish families. There is no national organisation, programme or systematic structure to support the religious education of young children in families. The scarcity of research or national data makes any attempt at a comprehensive and accurate profile and analysis of the religious education of young children in families difficult, if not impossible. Findings from existing research suggest that religious education in families in Ireland is multi-directional. Children often initiate and negotiate their own religious education and identity in the family. Transmissive models of religious education are incapable of describing the complex dynamic which characterizes religious education within Irish families. Furthermore in two parent/guardian families one cannot assume a synchronicity of beliefs or attitudes to religious education among adults. Children are cognizant that both adults and children are engaged in an ongoing process of negotiating belief within the family.

Starting from how young children learn: A rationale from psychology for religious educators in the early years
by Tony Eaude

This article seeks to provide a rationale, drawing mainly on theory from psychology about how young children learn, for how religious educators should work in the early years, recognising key challenges, especially those related to the varying purposes of religious education in different contexts and the influence which adults can exert. The importance of children's agency and engagement of both conscious and unconscious processes are emphasised. To sustain and develop the necessary attributes and dispositions for learning, young children need a predominantly experiential approach, with opportunities to represent activities and experiences in different and developmentally-appropriate ways. This involves encouraging the search for meaning and connectedness, in an environment which offers 'hospitable space', where adults invite and guide rather than prescribe. This is exemplified by considering the role of play and story. Possible implications both in schools and elsewhere and for faith-based contexts are discussed.


Abstracts from Journal of Religious Education, Volume 59(2) 2011

‘God heals holes in souls’ – Four key themes linked to suffering and vulnerability in the writings of Richard Rohr
by Peter Mudge

Franciscan lecturer and author Richard Rohr (b.1943) is considered by many to be one of the most challenging and popular Catholic voices commenting on Christian spirituality in today’s world. This article seeks to explore a specific section of his writings on suffering and vulnerability under four key themes – God heals holes in souls; the human soul needs images of God; Jesus as the first non-dual thinker in the West; and Jesus shows us ‘the Way’: paradox, suffering and the Cross. The article also argues that Rohr’s voice and language on spirituality and religion are unique compared to the writings of many other contemporary authors and theologians.

The article draws on a range of Rohr’s writings on the above topics and links them with insights and writings from other authors such as Francis Thompson, Dolores Leckey, Catherine of Genoa, Thomas Aquinas, and Jean-Pierre de Caussade. The article concludes that Rohr provides a rich vocabulary and array of penetrating insights on suffering and vulnerability and at the same time invites his readers to enter into deep reflection on topics such as Jesus as the Divine Physician, the brokenness of human existence, non-dual thinking, and the role of kenosis (self-emptying), paradox and the Cross, all within the context of Christian discipleship.

Richard Rohr’s ‘Everything belongs’ and enhancing catholic school identity: Holding on and letting go
by Alice Priest

Since the turn of the third millennium the changing cultural and educational context in Australia, and beyond, has raised anew the question of Catholic identity – “the nature and distinctive characteristics of a school which would present itself as Catholic” (CCE, 1997, n.4). Catholic schools are preoccupied with the challenge of identifying and then enhancing those traits. More often than not, the starting point has been to see the Catholic Church, and its schools, as losing ground to an ungodly secularisation. In an attempt to enhance Catholic Identity there is an inclination to hold on ever more tightly to what we think we are and what we think we need to be, over and against the secular. The Franciscan Richard Rohr, one of the world’s most sought-after teachers of spirituality and spiritual direction, presents an alternative view and an alternative way. He draws on the lens of grace to show that “everything belongs”, revealing that the changing socio-cultural context is as much imbued with the divine now as it has ever been and ever will be. Rohr points a way for Catholic Schools that is about “letting go” in order to “abide inside of a different identity” (1999). This paper examines the implications of Rohr’s theory for Catholic schools in Australia.

Inspiring values, skills, confidence and communities – a case study of a social, relational approach to religious education and spirituality in the early years
by Cathy Ota & Mary Pat Vollick

This article presents a case study from an early years setting in Canada. Exploring our experiences of implementing a project across a whole setting for all staff and children from 6 months upwards, over the last 3 years, our article is presented from the two different perspectives of the two authors; Mary Pat as the Executive Director of the setting and Cathy as the trainer and co-founder of the Working With Others program. Considering our journey together of the project’s implementation and its impact on both children and staff, we offer some practical conclusions for understanding, engaging with and extending religious education and spirituality across early years settings in a way that is meaningful, inclusive and enriching for young children.

Steering a path along a treacherous course: Children’s voices, colonization and religious education
by Brendan Hyde

There is a growing body of literature in relation to the need to reconceptualise knowledge, policy, theory and action about childhood and education. However, such notions have infrequently been given serious consideration in religious education in Catholic schools. This paper views religious education in the early years’ context of the Catholic school through a decolonizing lens, noting the way in which religious education has often privileged constructed categories of truth (in the form of doctrine), the power of which effectively silences the spiritual voices of children. In drawing upon the notion of shared vantage points, it suggests some decolonial possibilities for religious education in terms of utilizing a dispositional framework and by grounding religious education in the creative process centred on play.

…one must steer carefully between two ancient and deceptive rocks that guard the narrow passage into the open sea that lies beyond ordinary experience. The sharp rocks of blasphemy (thinking that one is God and can know what every individual child needs…) are on one side. On the other side are the dangerous rocks of idolatry (teaching religious language as an end in itself as if it were to be worshipped instead of God).
(Berryman, 1985, p. 127)

Succession planning for school and church
by John Sullivan

In the first part of this article I explain why succession planning is a key feature of effective leadership and why it is needed for the healthy flourishing of Catholic parishes and schools. In the second part I outline twelve elements that, when combined, would help to create the conditions in which succession planning has a chance to take root. In this way parishes and schools would move closer to being the kind of learning communities required by the Gospel and thus live out their mission more appropriately.


Abstracts from Journal of Religious Education, Volume 59(1) 2011

Charism: Promise and possibility – Part II
by Sharon Brien and Joanne Hack

Catholic education in Australia has been enriched by the charisms on which Catholic schools are founded. Charisms are God’s way of letting educators know that there are many ways of seeing, understanding and coming to know God who gifts us with both graced promise and endless possibilities.  Charism invites educational leaders to address the many demands confronting them. The paper explores why charism in the context of twenty-first century Catholic education allows those responsible for leadership to build on the tradition of the Church and develop enduring understandings for the future. Part I of this paper (2010) established the theoretical underpinnings charism can draw upon in the Catholic educational setting.

This is Part II of this paper and this section explores some of the practical concerns of Catholic education in practice. It explores how the area of charism can be fundamental in creating authentic educational communities which enable members to embrace the Church in the twenty-first century. It is our position that practical concerns can be most appropriately addressed by deepening our understanding of the vision of God that charism invites and demands.

Teaching the Catholic view of justice
by Sean Salai

For the purpose of teaching Catholic social thought in the context of religious education, the Catholic understanding of justice forms a central idea that must be explicated before all others. But what is justice? This essay synthesizes the traditional catechetical view of justice as the cardinal virtue by which human beings are able to give God and neighbor what is due to them. Insofar as justice is a virtue, the Catholic catechetical tradition implies that it must be habituated to be effective, following the example of Jesus. The author contends that justice should be the central idea that contextualizes the presentation of other key concepts of Catholic social thought like the common good and human solidarity. In this view, the Catholic understanding of justice implies that Christian efforts at social justice will by their nature strive toward right relationship with God and neighbor as their proper end.

Memory in the religious education classroom (Part 2: The arts and the testing effect)
by Michael Chambers

This is the second part (of a two-part paper) about memory, its place in the religious education classroom and the way it might inform the practice of religious education. The argument is put forward that memory and rote learning are under-utilised in the religious education classroom. Engagement with memory may offer ways to improve student knowledge of foundational content in religious education. Part two offers the arts, namely music performance, as a source of inspiration to religious educators for embracing memory. In piano performance and in other disciplines that utilise motor skills, memory is applauded and approved. Memory should be similarly approved in the religious education classroom. Finally, drawing on cognitive and educational psychology, consideration is given to the testing effect as evidence that memorisation may be under-utilised in the religious education classroom.

Great is the power of memory, an awe-inspiring mystery, my God, a power of profound and infinite multiplicity. And this is mind, this is myself. (Augustine of Hippo, 1991, Book X, xvii (26), originally written circa 400CE)

This is the second of two papers about memory, its place in the religious education classroom and the way it might inform the practice of religious education. The first paper (Chambers, 2010, pp. 58-64) considered the historical context of memory and rote learning in religious education and their application in constructivist educational models. It argued that engagement with memory may offer ways to improve student knowledge of foundational content in religious education. This second paper offers the arts, namely music performance, as a source of inspiration to religious educators for embracing memory. In piano performance and in other disciplines that utilise motor skills, memory is applauded and approved. Memory should be met with similar approval in the religious education classroom. Finally, consideration is given to the testing effect as evidence that memorisation may be under-utilised in the religious education classroom. The testing effect is a phenomenon well known in psychology but it has not yet been embraced in classroom religious education. Regular testing not only improves student memory, it also improves student learning.

What influences the formation of a child’s spirituality? An initial study of the preparation of children for admission into the Catholic sacraments of initiation
by Gerard Stoyles, Peter Caputi, Geoffrey Lyons & Bryan Jones

This paper reports on the first stage of a wider research project investigating the influences on the spiritual development of children within a Catholic parish context, as perceived by Catholic parish personnel who have assumed this responsibility. Eight participants who held religious leadership positions within a parish environment met as a focus group and derived six domains considered to be key influences on a child’s spiritual formation. A subsequent focus group comprising 37 adult participants who held a direct spiritual educative/formative role with children discussed these six key areas of influence, and then individually ranked and weighted them in terms of considered importance. Findings indicated variation among the clusters of domains describing the influences of family, peers and school, relationship with God, and one’s use of time. The influence of information technology was found to be distinct from all other domains. Further research based on these findings is warranted.

Promoting inter-spiritual education in the classroom: exploring a concept at the heart of the perennial philosophy as a useful strategy to encourage freedom of religious practice and belief
by Marian de Souza

The beginning of the twenty-first century has witnessed the emergence, globally, of multi-faith, multi-cultural and multi-linguistic societies which, in some ways, have ‘grown’ more inclusive and interactive communities with increased tolerance levels. Nonetheless, recent global events in the political, cultural and religious spheres have resulted in division, discrimination and distrust, often between different religious groups.

This paper argues that what is needed is an inter-spiritual education for all students, one that promotes dialogue and engagement and which reflects the perennial philosophy, as discussed by Huxley (1945) where two thought patterns prevail in all the main religions: the esoteric and the exoteric. The first subscribes to the metaphysic of a divine Reality at the core of being; it is the spiritual, almost secretive face of religion and is practised by only a few adherents. The second is the exoteric form which is the public form by which the religion is usually identified, that is, through its rituals, practices, architecture and so on. Arguably, it is this form in today’s world that tends to exclusivity; it provides a boundary around its followers which promotes a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Thus, the exoteric form encourages divisiveness but the essence of esoteric thinking is connectedness. Education programs that address these two dimensions may lead to a change in consciousness where respect for and acceptance of the Other is paramount and, therefore, such programs may be more appropriate for the contemporary world. However, there is, first, a brief discussion of the context that seems to call for a program in interspiritual learning.

Transformative Catholic pedagogy – a teacher inservice and evaluation program in the diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes (Part One)
by Peter Mudge

This two-part article aims to outline and provide selected working examples of one trialled approach to mapping the total life of a Catholic school. This approach is entitled ‘Transformative Catholic Pedagogy’ (hereafter TCP or ‘Six Circles’). As its various titles suggest, it refers to a process of mapping six spheres or circles of involvement across the total curriculum or life of a school, ranging from Grace-, God-, Jesus Christ-, and Reign of God-images, through the foundational characteristics of a Catholic school, and onward through the spheres of spirituality, pedagogy, teaching strategies and professional development/formation.

This TCP framework has been employed between 2008 and 2010 to map eighteen primary schools in the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes, as well as to map the six dimensions in primary and secondary schools, and Catholic Education Offices, in other dioceses.

This article (Part One) provides an introduction to TCP and outlines the components of Circle One. The ensuing article, Part Two, addresses TCP Circles Two to Six, maps key themes across the Six Circles, and summarises teacher evaluations on the process. Finally, this article’s contents and insights are counterpointed throughout with quotes on personal, spiritual and social transformation from Franciscan Richard Rohr, in this author’s view one of the most significant Christian commentators today on these and other topics.

Characteristics of religious identity among Druze adolescents & how it is designed
by Souad Abu Rukon

Religious identity is perceived as religious belief, values and mitzvot (Fisherman, 1992) when religion is at the base formulation for its construction. It is important to distinguish between religious identity, and "religious belief." ‘Religious identity’ stems from the individual's identification with the personal value system. ‘Achievement oriented identity’ is acquired as a result of identification of individuals with a personal value system that draws the forces of religious values (Oron, 1998; Gutman and, 1977; Bar - Lev, 1977; Bar - Lev & Kedem,1996). On the other hand, "religious belief" has the same associations and social tag (Hallahmi, 1989), as nationality, gender, social class, which most people are born into. The current study examined the nature of the Druze religious identity amongst adolescents and in which identity may be shaped. The study interviewed 52 adolescents (28 girls, 24 boys) from three Druze communities in Israel. The data of the study pointed out that religious identity amongst adolescents is characterized by identity associations, a social tag into which they were born, that is, the social identity of the Druze father and mother. The arguments about the shaping of such an identity among them were linked to the changes that have occurred in the communal social structure of community where separation prevails between the secular camp and the religious camp.