Why I am leaving ‘Save RE’

Save RE is not a productive forum for discussion. Save RE is a battleground. I have only actually ventured onto it a few times because I find the majority of things that go on there are not actually helpful or relevant to the kind of RE that I am striving to teach (academically rigorous, NO FLUFF!).

However, on the occasions that I have shown my face and made a comment or two, I have kept it in my usual blunt style and don’t tip-toe around what I am trying to say. Obviously this annoys people, but what I always seem to get is comments like “well you’re obviously a rubbish teacher then…”

Save RE should not be a ‘my horse is bigger than your horse’ forum. It is there to be a positive support to those teachers who are maybe the only one in their department (like myself) and who want support or even just a nod that they are doing the right thing. It is there to discuss the political drama surrounding RE law and the new specs and a place for people to muddle through and make sense of all the government nonsense.

But it is not. It is a place where people attack each other based on their teaching? I am no angel in this scenario, I do make very clear my opinions on matters and I express them in a way which may make others feel daft for having other opinions. Having had a taste of my own medicine, I would probably reconsider how I speak on there now because it’s not nice when you’re panicking about notifications from Facebook because you’re embroiled in an argument with someone. That is not how Save RE should make us feel.

I want to show you some examples of what I mean. Naming and shaming, without the naming.

Yesterday there was a thread about the new specs being ‘too traditional’. Personally, I welcome this as I have always hated the kind of RE that the exam boards have previously had us teach. So I commented. The reply is below:

FB 1 - edit

I don’t understand where my teaching came into that. “Sorry you have not been [teaching academic RE] Rebecca.” How would this person know what I teach? I am possibly the world’s biggest advocate for an academic RE. So why did this person make such a snide comment?

Besides the point, whether I am being academically rigorous or not, the Edexcel spec had organ transplants and Bruce Almighty on it. So why did the person responding feel the need to put me down in that moment? I am the only RE teacher in my school and if I wasn’t so cocky and sure that what I am doing is good RE, I may have gone away from that with my tail between my legs thinking ‘OMG I’m a failure’.

The person could simply have said something like “there is room in the GCSE specs to add academia, here is an example of what I have been doing…” I, maybe, (probably not) would have gone wow, please share, I would love to use some of your fantastic tools to help add some rigour into my classes. But instead they chose to put me down, even though they have never seen me teach.

I did give said person a piece of my mind though (obviously!). I just couldn’t stop myself…

FB 2

May I suggest that we don’t put each other down? This happens enough in schools from power mad managers who have nothing better to do. Everyone will teach differently, everyone will have different time constraints and different pressures. What is important is that we are unified in making RE better for the future. Save RE should be a safe environment, just like our classrooms.

I will be exiting Save RE today and will be glad that my Facebook will be rid of this nastiness…

(This is just one example, this is not the first time someone has made the ‘well you must be a rubbish teacher then…’ comment on there)







RE, Islam and Terrorism 

This is such a huge topic and any RE teacher who is currently teaching Islam will no doubt be feeling nervous about the potential discussions that could arise in the classroom.

We have been taught and trained to handle these situations and “create the right environment” for our students to discuss Islam and it’s theology. However, the Islam that the GCSE would have us teach never actually deals with contentious issues. It papers over them in an attempt to perform the function of “community cohesion”. 

So we find ourselves being told to teach about Islam only ever as a peaceful religion and teach Jihad as directly linked to the greater Jihad (personal struggle) rather than the lesser.

I have a problem with this. I believe it perpetuates the stereotypes even more because we are not giving our students an honest, open space to discuss the theology in Islam which is causing so much disruption in our world.

More increasingly than ever I see people quoting parts of the Qur’an on sites like Facebook, highlighting that there are parts that need discussion. This usually then leads to comments which are inappropriate and misguided. 

When we discuss the Bible, we don’t shy away from its tough parts such as the book of Job or its strict laws on homosexuality. We break it down, we contextualise it, we talk about cultural relativism and whether or not these texts still have a place in society today. So why do we not do this with the Qur’an?

Are we afraid as teachers due to a lack of confidence with this particular holy book? Or are we scared of the controversy surrounding it?

We are doing a great injustice by ignoring the contentious issues in the Qur’an. Our students know it contains verses actively used by terrorists. It is the elephant in the room. We try to steer them away from this discussion with talks of peace and the inner struggle for Allah.

I would argue that the whole of society would gain a greater understanding of the ISIS demands and thought processes if they took the time to conduct the same exegesis on the Qur’an as we do on the Bible. So therefore, I think it is only necessary that we do deal with these texts with our students.

The aim would not be to take away the parts of peace and love from the religion, but to also acknowledge the parts which cause issues for us today.

ISIS are inherently Muslim. To the letter almost. Their practices and beliefs are tied up in the Qur’an literally. They believe that they are emulating the Prophet Muhammad’s actions during the early wars in Islam. The idea of the Caliphate is a Muslim idea. To shy away from this fact means that we are papering over the cracks and not giving our students all of the details they need to make a rational, informed decision themselves.

I don’t like to do injustice to any religion and especially one that is being discussed at great lengths by the whole of society, yet with very few who seem to actually have knowledge about it.