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Rethinking Religious Education and Plurality: Issues in Diversity and Pedagogy (2004)


Professor Robert Jackson

Published by

RoutledgeFalmer, London

ISBN 0-415-30272-2 paperback (£29.99)

ISBN 0-415-30271-4 hardback (£94.00)

As western society becomes increasingly plural in character, both in terms of conventional multiculturalism and the intellectual plurality of late modernity, schools must reassess the provision of religious education and look at how they might adapt in order to accommodate students’ diverse experiences of plurality. This book offers a critical view of approaches to the treatment of different religions in contemporary education, in order to devise approaches to teaching and learning and to formulate policies and procedures that are fair and just to all.

Beginning with a contextual overview of the religious, social and cultural changes of the past fifty years, the book goes on to illuminate and assess six different responses to the challenges posed by religious plurality in schools. Conclusions are drawn from the various positions explored, identifying what the character of religious education should be, how it should be taught and addressing the issues raised in policy, practice and research.

Drawing on a wealth of international research, including the author’s own work at Warwick, Rethinking Religious Education and Plurality argues for a plural approach to education and will be a valuable resource for students and researchers studying courses in religious education as well as teachers, education advisers and policy makers.

Robert Jackson is Professor of Education and Director of Graduate Studies at the Institute of Education at the University of Warwick where he is also Director of the Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit. He is Editor of the British Journal of Religious Education

What do leading international researchers say about Rethinking Religious Education and Plurality?

Professor John Hull says:

‘In recent years, the University of Warwick has become a leading centre of religious education research and training. This new book, by Professor Robert Jackson, Professor of Education at Warwick, is an exciting development. Jackson describes the various options for education, values, and identity presented in Britain today by the various interpretations of plurality. The book is a powerful argument for a modern religious education as a vital contribution to citizenship and to the formation of a free but diverse society. The international outlook and the careful analysis of the situation in the UK and elsewhere in Europe make this an important book for those responsible for the formation of policy and legislation in these areas, and for leaders of religions and for head teachers and religious education specialists.’

Professor John Hull, University of Birmingham; Convener, International Seminar on Religious Education and Values, Editor of the British Journal of Religious Education 1971-1996.

A review of this book by Professor Hull appeared in the 2006 British Educational Research Journal 32 (1) pp151-152.

Professor Gloria Durka writes:

‘This volume is a gem. Under one cover the reader is able to explore different reactions to plurality as these affect changing trends in religious, moral and civic education. The author succinctly presents the key characteristics of each response and offers his own cogent critique of them. Professor Jackson's analyses are frequently characterized by creative insights and splendid recommendations for those who teach religious education. His familiarity with theorists who have written on the selected topics indicates that he has grounded this work in a broad and deep appreciation for recent scholarship in the field. Anyone charged with teaching courses in religious education or with conducting research in the field will find this volume to be required reading. Professor Jackson has provided us with a gift.’

Professor Gloria Durka, Fordham University, New York, USA

Professor Hans-Günter Heimbrock writes:

‘Based on empirical research and theoretical knowledge about pluralism and diversity the ten chapters provide a comprehensive review of competing models dealing with religious plurality in public education. Jackson provides a profound evaluation of the discussion in his own country as well as major trends in other European states. Jackson argues for a model of religious education that takes religion seriously, and that contributes nevertheless to intercultural, citizenship and values education within the “inclusive school” for all.

This illuminating and readable book shows its author as an outstanding expert in both empirical and theoretical research on religious education. It will be indispensable to students and researchers in religious education internationally, and should be read by anyone wishing to find their way through the current debates about religious education and intercultural education. The high quality of the discussion will certainly promote England’s advanced position in the European academic debate about religious education.’

Professor Hans-Günter Heimbrock, Goethe-University, Frankfurt/Main, Germany

Professor Friedrich Schweitzer writes in the British Journal of Religious Education:

This powerful book clearly fulfils the promise of its title. It offers a highly interesting, succinct and well-written analysis of the question how religious education should respond to the challenges of social, cultural, and religious plurality—in the UK but also, to some degree, in other countries. The author perceives the transition from traditional societies which are based on social, cultural, and religious homogeneity, to the more and more plural types of the present as one of the most decisive challenges to be tackled by contemporary religious education praxis as well as theory. Moreover, in order to indicate the full extension of this challenge today, he distinguishes between ‘traditional’ plurality which has been with us since, among others, migration has had its impact on western countries, on the one hand and ‘modern’ or ‘postmodern’ plurality which is aggravated by the influence of global media and global flows of information, on the other. Clearly it is this most radical type of plurality which religious educators must face up to in the present if they want to do justice to the challenges faced by contemporary society as well as by religious education itself...

...This book comes at the right time. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001 as well as of March 11, 2004, many are worried by how religious plurality will affect the future of western democracies. Jackson’s plea for a non-defensive response to the challenges of plurality and for the positive value of pluralism as a democratic basis for living together in societies which are multicultural and multireligious, offers important encouragement for all those who are not willing to give up the idea of a future which is not just secularist. Neither secularism nor relativism can lead to helpful responses to the challenges of our time. Jackson’s analysis offers convincing support for religious educators working towards peaceful and tolerant relationships between people and communities that, while adhering to different traditions and convictions and while maintaining different identities, can come to appreciate and to value diversity.

Professor Friedrich Schweitzer, University of Tubingen

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