A friend just wrote asking for ideas on how to argue for the benefits of RE at a P&C meeting that's coming up.
Here's how I responded. Anyone got other ideas?
I think you need to be really confident going in to the meeting that you are not doing anything wrong. Have a look here. Notice that we are actually allowed to teach kids for up to an hour a week! RE is not something that the P&C has anything to do with. We have a right to be in the school teaching. Parents are free to remove their children.
Also notice that the school can't run classes during RE time. The non RE kids need to be occupied with something, but they can't be doing any work that the RE kids would be disadvantaged by not doing.
[Principal's should] monitor school activities offered to students not attending religious instruction so students who attend religious instruction do not experience educational disadvantage
Of course, you shouldn't go in there all angry. Just be aware of the legislation and be confident that you can't be kicked out.
If I was to go and talk to the P&C about what we do, I'd say something like...
- I can't speak for the other religions who teach RE at x school. Just Christian RE.
- Christianity has been a significant shaping force in our culture. Our legal system is based on Christian values. Our literature is full of allusions to biblical stories. It makes sense that our kids have a basic biblical literacy. It will help them better understand our culture and, more specifically, it will help them as they study history and english in the coming years.
- In RE, we talk about some of the big issues in life - sometimes things that parents feel ill-equipped to discuss with their kids. In difficult times, parents often feel very thankful that their kids have talked about death and grief and guilt and forgiveness at RE.
- The way I teach is really just to tell stories. In a way, there's nothing particularly 'religious' about it - except that the stories are from the bible. Like in any study of literature, as we reflect on the characters (who are very real!) the kids learn about human nature - our strengths and our weaknesses. I tell the stories in the best way that I can - modelling good story telling techniques. I also put the stories in their historical contexts. The children often really enjoy the snippets of history and geography that they pick up.
- We're not looking to increase our church membership or anything through teaching RE. What we want is to give the kids enough knowledge so that when the time comes for them to chose a religion (or not) they'll know what christianity has to offer and they'll know the kind of questions they should ask of any other faiths that they're interested in.
- Most kids we teach find RE really fun. They work hard most of the day. RE is something that they look forward to.