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Need for religious studies

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Religion can be a loaded topic in public debate and schools. Non-denominational teaching may raise critical questions about what kind of religion moves the mind from a distance, without proximity to an inside view. A lecture at Campus Pedagogen made this clear.

In his non-specialist lunchtime lecture in the One Hour at Campus Pedagogen series, Olof Franck, Associate Professor of Religious Philosophy at the Department of Pedagogical, Curricular and Professional Studies, clarified the purpose of school religious studies.

Burning issues

In his view, there are many important themes to which teaching of religious studies can make significant contributions.

‘It can, for example, alleviate fear of contact with religion, counteract religious blindness and curb religious phobia. It can also help in problematising notions of religion and faith, prompting existential reflection and fostering intercultural skills,’ Franck says.

His work has included both editing and co-authoring the recently published book Interkulturell religionsdidaktik (‘Intercultural Religious Didactics’), which is the first of its kind in Sweden. It contains, for example, advice and strategies that guide religious teachers in dealing with a situation in which steering documents and teacher training have failed to keep up with the realities of multiculturalism in classrooms.

Critical analyses

Schools must offer teaching that is non-denominational in the sense of not supporting any religious or non-religious tradition’s version of the truth, or relative plausibility.

‘However, this doesn’t mean the teaching must omit critical analyses of religious and non-religious views of life, such as moral beliefs or claims to truth or knowledge.’

The non-specialist One Hour at Campus Pedagogen series took place at lunchtime on four occasions in October. All the lectures were webcast and the Faculty of Education and Folkuniversitetet (‘The People’s University’) were the joint organisers.