My final word on the RS A Level consultation?

December 13, 2014 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

Lets be absolutely clear. I think the GCSE RS changes are admirable. I have nothing more to say about that.

I note that there are valiant efforts to engage with the teaching profession from both the DfE, organisations like Candle conferences and the social networks found on Save RE and the Consult blog, for example. This is all admirable.

The key is to devise an intelligently structured way of engaging philosophy, theology and religious studies. That should include some ethics, be it moral theology, philosophical ethics or religious ethics. I think the revised proposal from the teachers who met together recently at the event organised by Candle conferences is an excellent proposal. I urge you to look at it and then let the DfE know what you think, through the consultation mechanism.

My basic position has not been swayed. I think students should be able to undertake a sustained systematic study of religious ethics. I have suggested how the current proposal might be improved. The study of the good is simply too important to set aside and it would be unconscionable to rip it out of our studies and a self inflicted act of madness. It is a discipline with recognisable methods and rules for evaluation and an unending list of possible applications. Keep it decent and available, wherever form A Level takes. The current proposal, which hollows out ethics must be revised. I have no doubt that the members of the panel have their hearts in the right place but they need to do some more work.

There may be good reasons behind the choices students and teachers make about their options at A Level. Lots of wringing of hands that many of the 24000 students don’t do the right options gets us no where. The growth that has happened in RS over 15 years (from 6000) has been predominantly growth in PoR and Ethics. It would be good to increase the number of these engaging with religious content but this must be done in a way that doesn’t drive them to Sociology or Philosophy. I was surprised to discover that some senior influencers in the RS stakeholder group were unaware that schools can switch to AQA Philosophy (PoR and Ethics). There are also interesting options in A Level Sociology and Anthropology. Great subjects of course, but lets keep RS too.

I don’t want a smaller A Level cohort. I don’t want smaller RE departments, with less resources and fewer trainee teachers. If we get this wrong, we will suck resources out of our subject. Lets not cut off our nose to spite our face please.

Behind the proposal is an assumption that what currently happens is wrong and undesirable and that the professional and student population should be forced towards content thought more important. I am not convinced about this approach. Every recent Secretary of State for Education have commented we have the greatest group of teachers ever. So this group are making all the wrong choices in RE are they? I just don’t buy it. Maybe they can’t ‘sell’ religion to their students – Are we wise to order them to try harder? Maybe they doubt the benefit of studying religion at that level – if so perhaps we are appalled. But these are people who have studied RS and spend a lot of time thinking about religion and speaking about it to the public – we have a duty to listen to them carefully and not ignore them. I appeal to those who are charged with responding to the feedback to listen to these voices.

Then there is higher education. The consultation states that the university sector is not happy with the A Level. Well, not my university. We just had our biggest year 1 recruitment with more highly qualified students than ever, with our new Religion, Philosophy and Ethics degree. It is a big success for us at CCCU and we do take theology seriously as a university with an Anglican foundation. A lot of universities have successful religion, philosophy and ethics degrees – just google those words to see. I would be appalled if the new supply of undergraduates was cut off, particularly when it is very difficult to recruit enough RE trainees. Undesirable unintented consequences must be avoided.

Let us remember, A Levels are chosen by students. They don’t have to do it. Respect young people and their choices. They won’t always be right but they are our future.

Just a quick message

June 18, 2014 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

Welcome to all the newcomers who have registered in the last few days and weeks. For those not in the know, I work at Canterbury Christ Church University in the UK where I teach ethics, human rights, religion and religious education. I tweet a lot about religion, religious education, faith schools and stuff like that. You can follow me on Twitter @bobbowie. I have recently tweeted a lot about the Trojan Horse report in Birmingham, about the allegations of the danger of radicalisation in schools.

I also wrote a piece at the Faculty of Education Blog here Consider-ed

You can find out more about my academic writing at Academia here

The Killing of Osama Bin Laden

May 2, 2011 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

A friend of mine wrote this on her wall today,

‎”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are many who are celebrating in America today after the successful killing of Bin Laden, by US Navy special forces who found and killed him in a large mansion complex north of Islamabad, by order of President Obama. Who is right – King or Obama?

Education for Post Secular Society

October 7, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

Date: Saturday 29th January 2011, Time: 9.30am – 4.30pm

Location: Canterbury Christ Church University, North Holmes Road campus, Canterbury

Fee: £25 per delegate (only £5 for BERA SIG members, members of the Philosophy of Education society of Great Britain and students)

Come to this conference to explore the meaning, relevance and implications of a post secular society for education with people from a range of disciplines including education, philosophy, theology and religious studies.

The idea of a post secular society raises a number of challenges for all those engaged in understanding the relationship between the sacred and the secular, liberal notions of the secular and the nature of contemporary spirituality in the context of educational practice and theory.

Proposals for papers on the following themes are welcomed:

  • Post secular philosophies and theologies of education
  • Pedagogies and curricula for post secular society
  • Reframing/defending liberal education in a post secular context
  • The nature of objectivity and truth in education
  • The relationship between faith and a secular academy
  • The secularisation and re-sacralisation of knowledge and learning
  • Faith schools and universities in a post secular society
  • The interplay between post modernism and the post secular
  • The relevance of the post secular as a discourse in education


Abstract Proposals of (approx) 200 words 1st December 2010

Confirmation of abstract acceptance 15th December 2010

Conference booking deadline 5th January 2011

conference-flyer abstract-submission

Book your place online:

Telephone: 01227 782744


Profile of Karen Armstrong

October 4, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

The Guardian has a profile of Karen Armstrong and her work with the code for compassion by Vanessa Thorpe.

“Karen Armstrong: The compassionate face of religion
The former nun’s writing and theories about God and belief upset some, but she numbers the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu among her fans”

Dictionary of Philosophy by Flew

January 28, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comments Off on Dictionary of Philosophy by Flew 

Dictionary of Philosophy

Ed Anthoney Flew (PAN: London, 1979)

ISBN 0330283596

A very helpful paperback dictionary of philosophy with readable definitions, adequate for students and teachers who don’t want to splash out on the more expensive titles.