B H Eh? Humanism and GCSE RS

I am a humanist*

However, I am very disillusioned with the decision at the high court today which appears to indicate humanism must be studied within the RS GCSE (although it may not be quite that simple). It strikes me as quite odd that a ‘non-religious worldview’ would seek to be part of an academic subject which promotes the study of, ahem, religion. Why would they want to be included alongside the ‘big 6’ which are studied (or can be studied) on the GCSE specs? For me, this is more about scoring a political point than any real concern for the education of young people. *If* it was still RI, they would have a valid point. It isn’t, so they don’t.

There are also a few questions which this ruling raises, and my worry is that it could muddle and complicate the introduction of the new GCSE, which should be ready for teaching in September 2016.

  • What do the BHA want to be included in the new GCSE? The new specs include things like ‘beliefs and teachings’ and ‘practices’. What are the teachings of humanism? Who will agree on them? And the practices? To include humanism properly, it needs to sit alongside the other worldviews. I am not sure how it can (and I don’t think the BHA are either)
  • What is to stop other ‘worldviews’ now challenging the ruling? Rastafarians? Jains? Jedi? Scientologists? Atheists? (are they humanists?) I don’t see how humanism can represent all other world views, or why it is more valid than others for inclusion.
  • Who is going to decide what the humanists think about the issues in the ethical side of the course? It is hard enough to decide which religious attitudes to include on (say) abortion – but at some point there is scripture to base these attitudes on. Where are the humanist teachings? Or will candidates just have to write ‘humanists tend to have a range of opinions on this issue which probably revolve around being nice to each other’
  • Will the BHA be supporting having homeopathy taught in science or Bridge taught in GCSE PE….

I think the new GCSE specs did provide RS an opportunity to move away from a moral/ethical fudge and to become a proper, academic subject which would sit alongside history and geography. There could even have been a proper case for it being in the EBacc. I worry with this decision that there could be a backward step now and I hope the DfE stick to their guns and do not order (further) changes to the new specs.


*Probably – it is hard to pin down exactly what one is. I try to be nice to everyone and respect their right to an opinion. I dislike violence and don’t think religion should be part of the state. That isn’t really much to base a GCSE on though.



(thanks to http://www.xkcd.com)


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