Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

RE Paints 'Cartoonish' Picture of Christianity: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

RE Paints 'Cartoonish' Picture of Christianity: News

Article excerpt

Academic says his report shows teachers gloss over big questions.

Teachers offer pupils a "naive and cartoonish" image of Christians as worthy do-gooders while failing to tackle the faith's deeper theological roots and other issues, such as women bishops and gay marriage, RE experts have warned.

Dr Nigel Fancourt, from the University of Oxford, said that teachers presented Christianity with a "rosy glow" - for example, reducing the story of the feeding of the 5,000 to "a nice picnic". By learning a "stereotypical" image of Christianity, pupils miss out on the "full depth and breadth of Christian tradition", he said.

The comments follow a report published this week by Dr Fancourt and a fellow Oxford academic on the teaching of Christianity in RE lessons. Research for the project showed that teachers - especially Christians - can be afraid of examining the big questions because of fears that they will be seen as evangelising. This discomfort means they are more likely to go into depth when talking about other religions, such as Islam or Judaism, Dr Fancourt said.

A YouGov survey to accompany the research revealed that 44 per cent of English adults think more attention should be given to the teaching of Christianity in schools (see panel, right).

"There is this naive and cartoonish vision of how Christians are, as worthy people who hold church fetes, give money to charity, have nice festivals, have compassion for the world around them and help the elderly," Dr Fancourt told TES. "I'm not saying this is not happening, but if students come away with that as their only view it's a bit stereotypical and it means students are not being pushed intellectually.

"Teachers need to look at the depth and breadth of the Christian tradition, with all its subtlety and diversity. There needs to be more analysis of the key theological issues, such as the relationship between God and humans or the Bible and the church.

"Pupils need to look at world Christianity, too, such as Pentecostalism in Korea or Anglicanism in Africa. It's not just about the Vicar of Dibley image."

The research comes two years after Ofsted issued a critical report on RE, which found that schools often failed to deliver high-quality lessons. …

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