Teaching World Views in RE; Humanism
As an RE teacher and someone who would describe themselves as religious, I like the feeling of being part of a community where you share the same belief… God; and that treating others with love and respect is an important part of life and living amongst other people from all walks of life, just as a revered person of a religion teaches, namely for me Jesus.
The main reason I became a teacher of RE, wasn’t because I was religious in any way, nor was it to encourage others to be religious (as that would be going against my role as a teacher of young minds!). The real reason was that I wanted young people to acknowledge and understand the different religions, we come into contact within our daily lives and the cultures that underpin them, of which so many we have embraced today in our modern society.
The one area I would never have thought to be so in awe of though would have been the world view of Humanism.
As a secondary school teacher, Humanism has now become part of the RE curriculum in recent times due to the Commission on Religious Education (CoRE) and also taught within GCSE specification, therefore I needed to teach myself about this world view and what exactly it all meant in order to relay this to my students.
Humanism, for those who are unfamiliar to it, describes itself as a world view with a focus on scientific explanations of how the world began. The focus is to ensure the happiness of all human beings and to treat others with empathy and respect. Humanism sounds a lot like religions that we have come to know, doesn’t it? But the main idea is that Humanists don’t believe in an eternal omnipotent being, but that they are unable to agree with the existence of God due to the lack of evidence.
After completing an online course a few years back, knowing that I would eventually have to teach this to my students I learnt that Humanists are just decent human beings who don’t need ‘God’ to give life meaning and purpose to their lives, and found it quite heart-warming to learn about.
My students quickly warmed to the ideas of Humanism, as we know so many of society today now describe themselves as either ‘non-religious’; ‘atheist’ or ‘lapsed’. So, for my students, they found Humanism a refreshing change without attaching themselves to an organised religion or those that were religious respected their practices based on their world view to be so similar to their own.
When teaching Humanism in the classroom I found the national charity Humanists UK provide great resources with teaching materials and connects you to Humanist celebrants in your area that were willing to deliver sessions to students. Hannah McKerchar was fabulous at delivering the different sessions to my GCSE students on how humanists celebrate life at a naming ceremony and funerals and the celebration of love with how marriages work for humanists. From her own personal stories as a humanist celebrant to allowing the students to create their own humanist ceremony. They have become memorable experiences that my students still remember to this day. Which to finish on is the best way we can teach RE and world views through experiential learning and be the memorable moments that our students keep long after their education to help them on their way in a world where religion and world views will always remain.
Key resources to support your teaching of Humanism:
Written by Suzanne Tomlinson, RE Teacher, Head of Faculty, ITT Co-ordinator and NATRE RE ambassador for the North East. Find out more about Suzanne on her Ambassador profile page.