One of the nice things about moving jobs (apart from the promise of free tea at break time) is it gives me a natural break to think a bit more about my subject – about what I teach and why, and whether at some point I should change what I teach at my new school.
If you’re one of my students, you’ll know that we teach Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at AS and A2 to make up our Religious Studies course. These two options are by far the most popular choices for British schools teaching A level Religious Studies. Both of these are interesting topics in their own right, and they are popular with students: from my distant memories of my own younger days, I’d say your teenage years are the time when you start to work out your own answers to some of the big philosophical and ethical questions in life – does God exist, or is the death penalty right or wrong?
However, Philosophy and Ethics aren’t the be all and end all of Religious Studies: actually, to me they are both more like branches of Philosophy than Religious Studies. If you go on to study Religious Studies at degree level, you’ll learn to study religion from a variety of perspectives, and the topics that got me most interested at University – the New Testament, Church history, the sociology of religion – weren’t philosophical or ethical, so unfortunately I don’t get a chance to teach them at school.
It would be nice at some point to play around with what I teach and experiment with something new, but on the other hand, there’s no point in planning a whole course on the secularisation theory or the New Testament if that’s just not what appeals to 16 year olds and nobody ends up taking RS.
So this is your chance to give me a bit of feedback – what have you enjoyed studying, and what haven’t you found so interesting? Would you have been more or less likely to have signed up for an RS A level if we had done something other than Philosophy and Ethics? It’s not easy, but try to think in terms of whether a particular topic raised an interesting set of issues or questions for you rather than whether you think it was or wasn’t taught well: that’s what being bitchy on facebook is for!
And if you’re reading this and teach Religious Studies at University, what would you like to see in your first year undergraduates? Do they need to have a grounding in particular topics, do they need a particular set of skills, or is it more just a case of producing students who have an interest in the field of Religious Studies?