Why we have changed RE (Religious Education) to RMPS (Religious, Moral & Philosophical Studies) and why the subject has never been more relevant:
Almost one year on from us deciding to change the name of our subject, I felt it necessary to write down some reflections on why we decided to make this change. It is clear that with the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement and protests and the coronavirus pandemic, that a subject which allows students to explore complex and sensitive issues has never been more relevant. At the very core of our subject are the following aims of enabling young people to:
• Understand people who are different to them.
• Respect people who are different to them.
• Learn to stand up for what they believe is right.
As a department, we are constantly asked questions such as “Why do I have to do RE? I’m not even religious.” and “When am I ever going to use this in life?”. Well this letter is the answer to these questions.
The teaching of ‘Religious Instruction’ was introduced after WW2 and the Holocaust, partly with the intention of making sure that such atrocities never happened again and that young people could grow up as tolerant and respectful adults. It has since evolved into an objective and impartial study of different belief systems and moral codes. We feel the name we have chosen for our department reflects truly the essence of the subject:
‘Religious’ - We study the major 6 world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism).
‘Moral’ - We explore morality in all sorts of forms, including different ethical theories such as utilitarianism and situation ethics and moral issues such as medical ethics, prejudice and discrimination, crime and punishment, wealth and poverty.
‘Philosophical’ - We explore big questions such as ‘Does God exist?’, ‘Is X morally acceptable?’, ‘Should X be legal?’ and ‘Is there life after death?’ etc.
‘Studies’ - All of the above are studied - they are learnt and explored with the intention of fulfilling the aims detailed above - ensuring that the future generation are respectful, tolerant and prepared to live in a diverse society.
The very fact that the number of atheists or non-religious people in society is growing, means that it is more important than ever to understand people who are different to you. The number of hate crimes being reported in Britain is on the rise which shows an unacceptable level of people are showing intolerance and hatred towards those who are different to them. Just because you are not religious, or in a minority group yourself does not mean you do not need to take the time to understand other people. In fact, understanding them will lead to greater respect and tolerance in society.
I personally will never forget witnessing a white, male bus driver being incredibly racist, islamophobic and xenophobic towards a young asian man in Sheffield as a philosophy undergraduate in 2009. Coming from the Isle of Man, this was the first time I had ever witnessed such horrific hate and discrimination in my life and I was absolutely horrified that someone could treat another human being in such a way. Nowadays, with social media and the internet being the way it is, it has become apparent that such things have been going on for a very long time and are still occurring every single day in the world. It was this experience that made me first seriously contemplate teaching RE - I wanted to do something to try and stop this from happening.
The horrific murder of George Floyd on the 25th May 2020 shocked the world, and has led to a global acknowledgement that something needs to change with regards to racism and discrimination. People across the world have vowed to educate themselves about the reality of racism in an attempt to try and find some kind of end to this injustice. In RMPS we have included discrimination, with a focus on racism as a topic in our Y9 schemes of work for years and years and I can honestly say, year on year, I am immensely proud of the maturity and tolerance more and more young people tackle this topic with. I hope that they will continue to spread the message of tolerance and acceptance for the generations to come. As a community we must commit to educating young people on these matters in order to create a fair and equal society.
The coronavirus pandemic that we have all had to live with has also highlighted the importance of humanity and the role we have to play in the world. We have seen some incredibly inspiring acts of charity on the island and further afield and it has made us discuss philosophical questions about medical ethics and the environment amongst many others. As a department we are committed to giving young people the tools to be able to engage in debate and discussions sensibly and respectfully, appreciating that we are all entitled to have our own opinions.
And so, to answer the two questions I mentioned above - the very fact that you might not be religious means it is of even greater importance that you learn about others, so that we can be respectful and prevent injustices of any kind occurring. And with regards to ‘when will I ever use this in real life?’ the answer is EVERY SINGLE DAY. You might not appreciate learning about the Five Pillars of Islam, or debating whether there is life after death right now, but one day you might meet/work with/employ/befriend/marry a person who is religious or has a different opinion to you. And then you will use what you learnt in RMPS. Every single day, I see a news article which I think ‘Oh, I could use that in one of my lessons’ - because the topics we learn are continuously reported on or debated. So, to understand and engage with current affairs, you will use what you learnt in RMPS.
I do apologise for going on and on and on (I could go on and on and on even further, but I won’t!). Hopefully you will now know what the new name of our department and subject stands for, understand why we chose this name, and most importantly, understand why we are so passionate about the importance of our subject.
Miss Kelly (Subject Leader of Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies).