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History, Remembrance and Religious Education

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Edited By Stephen G. Parker, Rob Freathy and Leslie J. Francis

How should the Holocaust be taught in schools, and to what end? What role should religious education play in recounting and remembering this human catastrophe? How has the nature and purpose of religious education changed and developed over time? What contribution should religious education make to identity formation, particularly regarding the role of memory, heritage and tradition? The scholarly reflections in this volume, drawing upon historical, theoretical and empirical perspectives, provide insights into past, present and potential future developments in religious and values education in a range of national contexts, including Germany, Israel, Norway, Canada and South Africa. The chapters fall under three headings: fostering a culture of remembrance; historical perspectives on religious education; and history, tradition, memory and identity. Together they form a unique collection of international perspectives upon these interlocking themes.
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6 The Overlooked Ecumenical Background to the Development of English Religious Education

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During the 1960s and 1970s, a new chapter in the history of English Religious Education began. Christian Confessionalism, whereby children were nurtured in and encouraged to adopt the Christian faith, was swept aside (Barnes, 2006). It was replaced, according to the oversimplified narrative that has been allowed to develop, by a phenomenological (multi-faith) approach that enabled ‘students both to gain an authentic understanding of religion and develop the virtue of tolerance’ (Schools Council, 1971b). These developments have been widely promulgated and discussed. There is a wealth of historical analysis undertaken through the lenses of pedagogy, curriculum theory and policy (Bates, 1996; Barnes & Wright, 2006; Copley, 2008). However, among other methodological limitations of the current approach, a robust theological analysis is lacking (Copley, 2008; Teece, 2010; Freathy & Parker, 2010). The lack of critical evaluation has thus allowed the aforementioned oversimplified narrative to gain wide acceptance and to influence the development of Religious Education. To address this misconstruction, this paper uses primary and secondary historical sources to examine the current ‘ruling’ historiography of English Religious Education. It foregrounds the importance of international developments in ecumenical theology during the 1960s and 1970s, especially a resurgence in ecumenical interest in education and the development of dialogue between Christians and those of other world-views, both religious and non-religious, that was increasingly seen as a legitimate activity of the Christian Church, principally in the light of Nostra Aetate and the World Council of Churches (WCC, 1970). ← 139 | 140 →

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