The increasing availability and reach of news and information has further reinforced the struggle for influence over what we read and what we hear. The current indignation from some newspapers, about having their right to destroy people’s lives curtailed, is interesting. Yes, we need a balance to ensure that their ability to expose corruption and injustice is not impeded. However, we also need to have an open debate and the fact of the matter is that the media, by and large, enage in forms of social and political ‘propaganda’ that further undermines their case for any form of exemption.
I notice that many radio stations and wireless internet providers are SKY News based. SKY news is ‘right’ leaning and does not give the same balance of reporting as the BBC, who are required to put both sides.
All of this makes the role of education critical. We can begin, from an early age, discussing how important it is to explain things fairly. We also need to explain that people who want to tell you things will have a motive for doing so. What is that motive?
The best way is always to find out the range of views that people have before deciding on your own. It is basically a scientific method. Gather all the facts and different poits of view before trying to make sense of it. Another argument for placing philosophy and the search for truth at the heart of the curriculum.
Religious Education appears to be heading further towards the margins as a consequence of measures such as E-Bac and the short supply of teachers qualified and willing to engage. There seems to be a substantial coalition happy to see this trend continue – those who do not value the subject’s contribution to the curriculum in terms of a relevance to the needs of the economy (interesting that RE has grown in popularity as a GCSE and A level in recent years) and those who feel that it is better to leave it to the home and to the faith organisations. Both views flying in the face of traditional notions about the proper scope of a liberal education but hey, I’m out of step! Needless to say the problem is less acute in the schools that provide for the elites, but that’s another suitcase.
One defence of the subject clearly relates to the need to provide the young with opportunities to reflect on their own attitudes and beliefs (and so protect themselves from indoctrination) and the need to support and inform a tolerant, multi cultural society. One could add notions of helpful knowledge in relation to understanding our own history and culture to this mix. The new technologies can be readily used by a subject that perhaps more than any other, needs to reach out beyond the classroom. Allowing RE to lapse back to the grim days of Religious Instruction makes schools continuously vulnerable to the accusation that they are failing society. Whilst acknowledging that there is a process of evolution in relation to religion and society, how sure are we that we no longer need to deliver the subject’s entitlements, when at best there will be fewer children who learn about religion at home or in society and at worst, when what they do hear might be similar to the process of a vacuum being filled with poisonous gas.