I have one very vivid memory of my religious education from school, and it is a less than happy one. There I was, an 11-year-old child with no artistic ability being forced to design the movie poster for the film version of The Good Samaritan. What a ridiculous waste of time for everyone involved.
This was the case simply because we had run out of things to talk about in the classroom. In that class we had heard the same stories so many times that it had become pointless to repeat them any more. Religious studies had become so saturated that between the ages of nine and fourteen, when I was finally allowed to drop it, we had covered the same material at least three times. My question is this. Would not this wasted time have been better served studying general philosophy rather than repeating religious parables?
This is a debate that has been taking place in Luxembourg recently, and one I believe should be taking place here. The primary value of religious studies in a multicultural society such as the one we live in is for general cultural and ethical education, so why limit ourselves to simply talking about the sacrosanct? Philosophy has shaped our society as much as anything in history, and is one of the reasons we debate and challenge truths that might otherwise be universally accepted.
Philosophy tends to have a shroud of ‘high academia’ around it, and that can be forbidding to learners who want a basic education in it. The Socratic mantra that the only true wisdom is to know you know nothing is not complex in and of itself, yet Socrates and Plato seem much more inapproachable than religious texts written around the same time. Furthermore, anyone that wants to study the Renaissance or the Enlightenment in any way, shape or form –as I did- requires at least a passable knowledge of philosophy, and this would eliminate the need for the difficult self-tutoring that is currently enforced.
This is why I would introduce ‘Ethics’ from a young age to encourage constructive thought and the development of a personal ethical philosophy based on informed choice, rather than spoon feeding religious parables that have no greater practical real world use than the other philosophies that might be taught. It is high time that as a society we put Plato, Aristotle, Paine and Spinoza on a par with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and school is the perfect place to do this. I would be fascinated to hear if other people have had similar experiences to mine, or if anyone else agrees that philosophy should be just as, if not more important, than a religious education.