Humanism in the National Framework for Religious Education

This is a resource for SACREs, RE advisers, teachers and others involved in syllabus development, showing how Humanism fits into the non-statutory National Framework for RE published by QCA in 2004. Using the concepts and ideas in the framework, we suggest information, questions, and resources that could be used at each Key Stage. This will be a constantly developing section of our website and we welcome further suggestions from those involved in RE – please email your ideas to BHA education department.

Words in italics inside quotation marks are taken from the National Framework (QCA, 2004).

“Many pupils come from religious backgrounds but others have no attachment to religious beliefs and practices. Therefore, to ensure that all pupils’ voices are heard and that the RE curriculum is broad and balanced, it is recommended that there should be opportunities for all pupils to study … secular philosophies such as humanism.”
(From “About religious education in the curriculum”, p12, Religious education, the non-statutory National Framework, QCA 2004)

“Humanism is the belief that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. Humanists make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values. We seek to make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves. We take responsibility for our actions and work with others for the common good.”
(British Humanist Association)

See
Humanism  for more information on Humanism
What is Humanism? – a brief introduction for students (Humanism for Schools website)

At each Key Stage, the language and concepts in the introductions in the margins, and in the “knowledge, skills and understanding” sections, offer plenty of opportunities for the inclusion of Humanism. “A secular world view, where appropriate” is included under “Religions and beliefs” in each“Breadth of study” section, and there are references throughout to “beliefs” as well as to religions.

Humanism has a contribution to make and is obviously “appropriate” to many themes and topics in this framework and/or local syllabuses. For some topics at some levels, simply introducing the words “humanist” or “Humanism”, with brief and impartial explanations of the relevant humanist ideas, is enough to demonstrate that alternative perspectives and worldviews exist and to familiarise pupils with the words that describe them. Of course, there are secular perspectives on many typical RE topics – water, sacred and special places, the significance of books, symbols and metaphors – which may be introduced, time and context permitting, but here, initially at least, we concentrate on the topics of greatest importance to humanists which justify more depth.

Humanist ideas have been expressed by philosophers throughout the ages, and where there are references to “philosophical concepts”, “philosophical beliefs” or “philosophical reasons” these will often coincide with secular humanist thinking. The suggestions below focus mainly on the themes where Humanism has most to contribute. It is left to local SACREs and Agreed Syllabus working groups to see how Humanism can fit into and contribute to the themes and topics in their own syllabuses.

Some examples of local RE syllabuses that already include Humanism: Ealing agreed syllabus; Suffolk syllabus; Brent syllabus; Islington syllabus; Hounslow syllabus “Widening Horizons”

The Key Stages

Foundation Stage

Pupils “may use their senses in exploring religions and beliefs…They reflect on their own feelings and experiences”. [margin, p21]

The important things at this stage is that children feel that their families, experiences and beliefs, whether religious or not, have value, and that children learn that non-religious people exist and have moral values and good reasons for them.

“Using a story as a stimulus, children reflect on the words and actions of characters and decide what they would have done in a similar situation.” [p22]

“Stories” are important to people of all faiths and none, including humanists. Many stories that teach us about ourselves and how to live good lives are not religious.

Suggestion
Aesop’s Fables, e g, “The Wind and the Sun” and “The boy who cried ‘Wolf’”

“Using role play as a stimulus, children talk about some of the ways that people show love and concern for others and why this is important. Children think about issues of right and wrong and how humans help one another”. [p22]

A humanist “belief” is that we ought to be kind to each other because helping others to be happy is the way to be happy yourself, and because we all feel better when people are pleasant and helpful. Humanists think we could all work this out for ourselves – our “own feelings and experiences” can teach us this.

Suggestion
Children can experiment by smiling, making nice remarks to each other, being helpful and kind – and seeing how it works, what the response is. Is the school environment nicer if children look after it and each other?

Children should have “Opportunities to respond creatively, imaginatively and meaningfully to memorable experiences” [p 22]; “Children share their own experiences and feelings and those of others, and are supported in reflecting on them.” [p23]

These can include many ordinary secular experiences, for example outings, contact with nature and animals, achievements. For many children, experiences of “celebration” will be entirely secular – birthdays and family events, firework parties, the more secular aspects of Christmas and Easter – and these should be included as worthwhile examples of the human need to share and celebrate.

Suggestion
Little Owl’s Book of Thinking: An Introduction to Thinking Skills (Crown House Publishing)

Background and resources for teachers
Understanding Humanism for teachers’ toolkits and downloadable resources
Celebrations and Ceremonies (Humanism for Schools website)
What is Humanism? – a brief introduction for students (Humanism for Schools website)
The Golden Rule (Humanism for Schools website)
Using stories to teach children values (BHA) [link?] Pre-school and nursery issues and how to deal with them (BHA)  [link?] Three primary assemblies (BHA)  [link?] Marilyn Mason “Take religion out of morality” (Nursery World, 1998)  [link?] Promoting and evaluating pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (Ofsted, 2004)

Key Stage 1

“Throughout key stage 1 pupils… learn about different beliefs about God and the world around them. They encounter and respond to a range of stories… They learn to recognise that beliefs are expressed in a variety of ways…They begin to understand the importance and value of religion and belief, especially for other children and their families…” [margin, p24]

“Knowledge, skills and understanding” relevant to Humanism [p24]. Pupils should be taught to: “reflect on and consider religious and spiritual feelings, experiences and concepts such as worship, wonder, praise, thanks, concern, joy and sadness… ask and respond imaginatively to puzzling questions…”

What do humanists wonder at? When do they feel concern, joy or sadness? Who do they think should be thanked, for example at meal times or harvest or the birth of a baby? Humanist answers are based on experience, observation, evidence; some questions are best answered through thinking for oneself, empathy with others or dialogue. Activities which promote these include the Philosophy for Children approach, “circle time”, drama, and talking about stories. “Puzzling questions” might include: How did the Universe and life begin? Who made me? Children should learn that there are people (including probably people they know) who do not believe in God, the afterlife or the power of prayer, or that the Universe was created – and why they hold these beliefs.

Suggestions
How the Earth began (for absolute beginners, with notes for teachers) (Humanism for Schools website)
What questions do you have in your head? (short video-clip and transcript)
Why are questions important for humanists? (short video-clip and transcript)

Pupils should have opportunities to “identify what matters to them and others… [and] reflect on how spiritual and moral values relate to their own behaviour”.

If God matters most to some religious believers, what matters most to me? Do other people matter as much as me? Why? Why should I tell the truth or help other people? What do humanists, who believe that good lives and behaviour can be based on reason and experience, think?

Suggestions
“What Makes Us Special?” (teachers’ toolkit at Humanism for Schools website)
The Golden Rule (Humanism for Schools website)

“Breadth of Study” [p25] “Religions and beliefs” include “a secular world view, where appropriate”.

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “believing: what people believe about God, humanity and the natural world”. Humanist beliefs are naturalistic ones, based on evidence and experience. They do not believe in God or that God created the natural world.

Suggestion
How the Earth began (for absolute beginners, with notes for teachers) (Humanism for Schools website)

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “celebrations: how and why celebrations are important in religion”. Celebrations and ritual are important to everyone, which is why humanists have ceremonies too. Most people celebrate birthdays and new years and anniversaries of various kinds. Many religious festivals evolved from natural and seasonal celebrations. Humanist baby-naming ceremonies might be particularly appropriate at this age when there are often new babies around.

Background and resources for teachers
Celebrations and Ceremonies (Humanism for Schools website)
Religious Festivals and Ceremonies (Humanism for Schools website)
How humanists celebrate a new life (short video-clip and transcript)
How humanists celebrate weddings (short video-clip and transcript)

There are humanist perspectives on “story”, “symbols”, “leaders and teachers” too, which will be appropriate when pupils share “their own beliefs, ideas and values… feelings and experiences” or explore those of others.

Suggestion
The Happy Human symbol (Humanism for Schools website)

Further suggestions and resources for KS1 teachers
Understanding Humanism for teachers’ toolkits and downloadable resources
Little Owl’s Book of Thinking: An Introduction to Thinking Skills (Crown House Publishing)
Robert Fisher Stories for Thinking, Poems for Thinking etc (Nash Pollock Publishing)
Recommended resources (BHA)
Books for bereaved children (BHA)
Humanist Perspectives 1 (BHA, 2005) – booklet containing everything primary teachers need to help include their non-religious pupils and get started on teaching about Humanism, with some photocopiable lessons
What is Humanism? – a brief introduction for students (Humanism for Schools website)
Death and other big questions (Humanism for Schools website)
Thinking about ethics (Humanism for Schools website)
The Humanist Tradition (BHA)
Humanists working for a better world (Humanism for Schools website)
Barbara Smoker Humanism 
Promoting and evaluating pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (Ofsted)
Three primary assemblies (BHA) [link?]

Key Stage 2

“Pupils recognise the challenges involved in distinguishing between ideas of right and wrong, and valuing what is good and true… They consider their own beliefs and values and those of others…” [margin, p26]

“Knowledge, skills and understanding” relevant to Humanism [p26]: Pupils should be taught to: “respond to the challenges of commitment … in their own lives”

What does it mean to be a humanist? What are humanists committed to?

Suggestions
Extract from The Great Human Detective Story (BHA video)
The importance of human nature (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
How do humanists decide right from wrong? (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php

Pupils should have opportunities to “discuss their own and others’ views of religious truth and belief…”

Humanists do not think there is a special “religious” kind of truth, and prefer the term “faith” for beliefs for which there is no evidence. Humanists vary in their responses to religious beliefs, and the value they put on them, depending on how beliefs are manifested in action, and judgments on how much good or harm the beliefs lead to.

Pupils should have opportunities to “reflect on ideas of right and wrong and their own and others’ responses to them…”

Where do our ideas of right and wrong come from? How much do people with very different beliefs agree on what is right or wrong? Why might they agree or disagree? Can we all agree on the “Golden Rule”? Or the school or class rules? Or the values expressed in the National Curriculum?

Suggestions
The importance of human nature (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
What do we mean by behaving well? (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
How do humanists decide right from wrong? (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
Humanists and the Golden Rule (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php at
How Should We Treat Other People and Why? (teachers’ toolkit at Humanism for Schools website)
The Golden Rule (Humanism for Schools website)

Further suggestions and resources for teachers
Thinking about ethics (Humanism for Schools website)
Death and other big questions (Humanism for Schools website)

Pupils should have opportunities to “reflect on sources of inspiration in their own and others’ lives”

What sources of inspiration are there for non-religious people? What inspires humanists to live good lives? What inspires you to get out of bed in the morning? What are your hopes for the future?

“Breadth of Study” [p27]: “Religions and beliefs” includes “a secular world view, where appropriate”.

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “beliefs and questions: how people’s beliefs about God, the world and others impact on their lives”. How does not believing in God impact on humanist lives? How does having a naturalistic world view affect people’s lives and actions?

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “teachings and authority”. Humanists prefer to think for themselves – how does this affect their lives and attitudes?

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “the journey of life and death… what people think about life after death.”  Humanists believe that we should celebrate the important moments of life appropriately, and that they will live on only in people’s memories and the contributions they made to life – how does this affect their lives? Does it make life pointless if it comes to an end? Learning about humanist ceremonies, including funerals, would be appropriate here.

Suggestions
What Do We Celebrate and Why? (teachers’ toolkit at Humanism for Schools website)
Celebrations and Ceremonies (Humanism for Schools website)
How humanists celebrate a new life (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
How humanists celebrate weddings (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
Extracts from “The Great Human Detective Story” (BHA video)

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “inspirational people”, including some humanist figures in history.

Suggestions (mainly for teachers)
The Humanist Tradition (BHA)
Humanists working for a better world (Humanism for Schools website)
Extracts from “Living without God” (I-Seek CD-ROM)

Humanism would be appropriate when thinking about: “what is expected of a person in following a religion or belief?” What is expected of a humanist? Or what do people like humanists, who do not have an authority or tradition that makes demands on them, demand of themselves? Can humanists do whatever they like? Why not?

Suggestions (mainly for teachers)
The Golden Rule (Humanism for Schools website)
Thinking about ethics (Humanism for Schools website)

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “beliefs in action in the world: how religions and beliefs respond to global issues of human rights, fairness, social justice and the importance of the environment”. Why should a humanist care about human rights, fairness, justice, and the environment?

Suggestions (mainly for teachers)
The Golden Rule (Humanism for Schools website)
Thinking about ethics (Humanism for Schools)
Human rights (Humanism for Schools website)
Environmental issues (Humanism for Schools website)

Humanism would be appropriate when: “discussing religious and philosophical questions, giving reasons for their own beliefs and those of others”. Humanist have perspectives on these questions that depend heavily on reasons and reasoning, particularly in the moral sphere.

Suggestions (mainly for teachers)
The Golden Rule (Humanism for Schools website)
Thinking about ethics (Humanism for Schools)
Human rights (Humanism for Schools website)
Environmental issues (Humanism for Schools website)
Death and other big questions (Humanism for Schools website)
“Why Atheism?” (DVD / Video, Team Video, www.team-video.co.uk) – atheists of all ages and from many cultures talk about their beliefs. /shop/34

Humanism would be appropriate when: “considering a range of human experiences and feelings” and when: “reflecting on their own and others’ insights into life and its origin, purpose and meaning”. Humanist insights will occur either as pupils’ own insights or those of others.

Suggestions
Extracts from “The Great Detective Story” (BHA video)
How the Earth began (for absolute beginners, with notes for teachers) (Humanism for Schools website)

Further suggestions and resources for KS2 teachers
Robert Fisher Stories for Thinking, Poems for Thinking, etc (Nash Pollock Publishing)
Philosophy for Children resources from SAPERE
The “Happy Human” symbol (Humanism for Schools)
What Do We Celebrate and Why? (toolkit at Humanism for Schools website) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/teachingtoolkits/index.php
Humanist Perspectives 1 (BHA, 2005) – booklet containing everything primary teachers need to help include their non-religious pupils and get started on teaching about Humanism, with some photocopiable lessons
What is Humanism? – a brief introduction for students (Humanism for Schools website)
Death and other big questions (Humanism for Schools website)
Thinking about ethics (Humanism for Schools website)
Three primary assemblies (BHA) [link?] Recommended resources (BHA)
Books for bereaved children (BHA)
The Humanist Tradition (BHA)
Barbara Smoker Humanism
Promoting and evaluating pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (Ofsted)

Key Stage 3

“Pupils… apply their understanding of religious and philosophical beliefs… to a range of ultimate questions and ethical issues… They reflect on the impact of religion and belief in the world, considering both the importance of interfaith dialogue and the tensions that exist within and between religions and beliefs… [They consider] their own and others’ responses to religious, philosophical and spiritual issues.” [margin, p28]

“Knowledge, skills and understanding” [p28] relevant to Humanism: pupils have opportunities to: “reflect on the relationship between beliefs, teachings and ultimate questions…”

Do humanists have “teachings”? How do their beliefs, e g about the nature of things, affect their beliefs about ultimate questions? What are pupils’ own views?

Suggestions
Death and other big questions (Humanism for Schools website)
“Why Atheism?” (DVD / Video, Team Video, www.team-video.co.uk ) – atheists of all ages and from many cultures talk about their beliefs
What is Humanism? – a brief introduction for students (Humanism for Schools website)
What’s It All For? (teachers’ toolkit at Humanism for Schools website)
Philip Pullman discusses the Bible, Koran and other works (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php

Pupils should have opportunities to: “evaluate the challenges and tensions of belonging to a religion” – or to any ethically committed world view. What would a humanist be committed to? How difficult is it to live a good life without religious beliefs? If “God is dead” is everything permitted?

Suggestions
Thinking about ethics (Humanism for Schools website)
Extracts from “Living without God” (I-Seek CD-ROM)
“Why Atheism?” (DVD / Video, Team Video, www.team-video.co.uk) – atheists of all ages and from many cultures talk about their beliefs.
How Do You Tell Right From Wrong? (teachers’ toolkit at Humanism for Schools website)
The importance of empathy to humanists (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
Right or wrong – how do humanists decide? (short video-clip and transcript) at http://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php

Pupils should have opportunities to: “express insights into the significance and value of religion and other world views on human relationships personally, locally and globally”: an opportunity to consider humanist views of friendship, love, family, sexuality and marriage, and to learn about humanist weddings and gay ceremonies and what they express. Humanist perspectives on birth control and abortion could be appropriate here, both personally and in relationship to global issues such as the environment and world poverty.

Suggestions
If my friend grazes his knee he will feel pain – do you agree? (short video-clip and transcript) at http://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
Abortion (Humanism for Schools website)
Family matters, including sex and fertility issues (Humanism for Schools website) Celebrations and Ceremonies (Humanism for Schools website)
Marking important times in life. (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
World poverty (Humanism for Schools website)
“Why Atheism?” (DVD / Video, Team Video, www.team-video.co.uk ) – atheists of all ages and from many cultures talk about their beliefs.

Pupils should have opportunities to: “reflect and evaluate their own and others’ beliefs about world issues such as peace and conflict, wealth and poverty and the importance of the environment…” Humanist perspectives should be part of the spectrum of views considered.

Suggestions
War (Humanism for Schools website)
War – is it ever right to use violence? (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
World poverty (Humanism for Schools website)
Environmental issues (Humanism for Schools website)
“Why Atheism?” (DVD / Video, Team Video, www.team-video.co.uk ) – atheists of all ages and from many cultures talk about their beliefs.

Pupils should have opportunities to: “discuss their own and others’ views of religious truth and belief, expressing their own ideas”. What are humanist perspectives on truth and “religious truth”? How committed are humanists to a scientific view of the world? Why?  What range of ideas do humanists have about religious beliefs and practices? What are the overlaps and differences between atheist, agnostic and humanist?

Suggestion
Non-religious beliefs (BHA) for some definitions and distinctions
How Do You Know It’s True? (KS3 teachers’ toolkit) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/teachingtoolkits/index.php

Breadth of Study [p29]: “Religions and beliefs” includes “a secular world view, where appropriate”.

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “beliefs and concepts: the key ideas and questions of meaning in religions and beliefs, including issues related to God, truth, the world, human life and life after death”.

Suggestions
Is there a God? (short video-clip and transcript) at http://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
Does God exist? (Humanism for Schools website)
Death and other big questions (Humanism for Schools website)
What’s It All For? (KS3 teachers’ toolkit) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/teachingtoolkits/index.php

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “authority: different sources of authority and how they inform believers’ lives”. Humanists do not have sacred texts, traditions, dogma, prophets, or any source of authority other than human experience and their consciences. How are their lives informed and guided? Humanists look for evidence before they believe things and like to think for themselves.

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “religion and science: issues of truth, explanation, meaning and purpose”. Humanists rely on science to explain how the world works, and on ourselves to find meaning and purpose in life.

Suggestions
Is there a God? (short video-clip and transcript) at http://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
How Do You Know It’s True? (KS3 teachers’ toolkit) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/teachingtoolkits/index.php
Philip Pullman discusses the Bible, Koran and other works (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “expressions of spirituality: how and why human self understanding and experiences are expressed in a variety of forms”. What does “spiritual” mean to a non-religious person? Are we all “spiritual” just because we are human?

Suggestions
Death and other big questions (Humanism for Schools website)
What’s It All For? (KS3 teachers’ toolkit) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/teachingtoolkits/index.php

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “ethics and relationships: questions and influences that inform ethical and moral choices, including forgiveness and issues of good and evil”.  

Suggestions
Evil and suffering (Humanism for Schools website)
Extracts from “The Great Detective Story” (BHA video)
Right or wrong – how do humanists decide? (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
How Do You Tell Right From Wrong? (KS3 teachers’ toolkit) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/teachingtoolkits/index.php
The importance of empathy to humanists (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “rights and responsibilities: what religions and beliefs say about human rights, social justice and citizenship”.

Suggestions
Thinking about ethics (Humanism for Schools website)
Human rights (Humanism for Schools website)
Immigration and asylum (Humanism for Schools website)
Discrimination and prejudice (Humanism for Schools website)

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “global issues: what religions and beliefs say about health, wealth, war, animal rights and the environment”.

Suggestions
World poverty (Humanism for Schools website)
War (Humanism for Schools website)
War – is it ever right to use violence? (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
Animal welfare (Humanism for Schools website)
Animal rights – should we use animals for medical research? (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
Environmental issues (Humanism for Schools website)

Humanism would be appropriate when learning about: “interfaith dialogue: a study of relationships, conflicts and collaboration within and between religions and beliefs”. Can interfaith groups and dialogue include those of no religious faith? Why should they? How could they? What do the religious and the non-religious have in common? What do humanists think about the role of religion in politics, society and the world? What issues do humanists differ on and why?

Suggestions
Non-religious beliefs (BHA) for some definitions and distinctions

Humanism would be appropriate when: “encountering people from different religious, cultural and philosophical groups, who can express a range of convictions on religious and ethical issues” (including humanists).

Suggestions
“Why Atheism?” (DVD / Video, Team Video, www.team-video.co.uk ) – offers “encounters” with atheists of all ages and from many cultures
Who are humanists? (short video-clip and transcript) at http://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php

Humanism would be appropriate when “discussing, questioning and evaluating important issues in religion and philosophy, including ultimate questions and ethical issues” and “reflecting on and carefully evaluating their own beliefs and values and those of others… using reasoned, balanced arguments”.

Suggestions
Death and other big questions (Humanism for Schools website)
Is this the only life we have? (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php
Where do humanists find meaning and purpose in life? (short video-clip and transcript) athttp://www.humanismforschools.org.uk/library-videos.php

Further suggestions and resources for KS3 teachers
www.humanismforschools.org.uk for teachers’ toolkits, ideas for assemblies, humanist discussions of a range of topics studied in school, with discussion questions, and other free downloadable resources
Humanist Perspectives 2 (BHA, 2005) – information and guidance on teaching about Humanism for secondary teachers, with concise photocopiable versions of BHA’s most popular ethical and philosophical briefings for students.
What is Humanism? – a brief introduction for students (Humanism for Schools)  Death and other big questions (Humanism for Schools website)
Spiritual development in schools (BHA) [link?] Marilyn Mason Spirituality – What on earth is it?  [link?] Read an extract from the Humanist Philosophers’ Group pamphlet What is Humanism? (BHA) [link?] Richard Norman On Humanism (Routledge)
Ben Rogers (ed) Is Nothing Sacred? (Routledge)
Barbara Smoker Humanism
Promoting and evaluating pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (Ofsted, 2004)
“Living Without God” (I-Seek CD-Rom)

Ages 14 -19

“Throughout this phase, students analyse and interpret a wide range of religious, philosophical and ethical concepts in increasing depth. They investigate issues of diversity within and between religions, and the ways in which religion and spirituality are expressed in philosophy, ethics, science and the arts… They understand the importance of dialogue between and among different religions and beliefs. They gain a greater understanding of how religion and belief contribute to community cohesion, recognising the various perceptions people have regarding the roles of religion in the world.” [p 30, margin]

What would a non-religious “spirituality” be like? The roles of science, nature and art in humanist thinking and feeling. Is Humanism just another word for philosophy? What’s the difference? What are the differences between “agnostic”, “atheist”, “freethinker”, “humanist”, “rationalist”, “sceptic”, “secularist”, “non-religious” or “nothing”? What issues do humanists differ on and why?

Suggestion
Non-religious beliefs (BHA) for some definitions and distinctions.

“Dialogue between and among different religions and beliefs” – can this include those of no faith? Why should it? How can it? What do the religious and the non-religious have in common? What do humanists think about the role of religion in politics, society and the world?

“Knowledge, skills and understanding” [p 30]:  Students should be taught to:
“investigate, study and interpret significant religious, philosophical and ethical issues…”; “think rigorously and present coherent, widely informed and detailed arguments about beliefs, ethics, values and issues…”; “reflect on, express and justify their own opinions in light of … their study of religious, philosophical, moral and religious questions”.

Religious / philosophical questions where humanists and religious people will normally have very different views: Do we have souls or minds? Can the soul / mind survive without the brain? Where do moral values come from?

Suggestions
Death and other big questions (Humanism for Schools website)
Thinking about ethics (Humanism for Schools website)
“Why Atheism?” (DVD / Video, Team Video, www.team-video.co.uk )- atheists of all ages and from many cultures talk about their beliefs

Ethical questions where humanists and religious people will often have very different views: sex and relationships; life and death issues – sanctity of life or quality of life?

Suggestions
Abortion (Humanism for Schools website)
Family matters, including sex and fertility issues (Humanism for Schools website) Embryo research(Humanism for Schools website)
Suicide (Humanism for Schools website)
Euthanasia (Humanism for Schools website)

Ethical questions where humanists and religious people will often have similar views but possibly for different reasons: Should we care about the environment and future generations? Should we care about world poverty? Why? What should be done about violence and conflict?

Suggestions
Environmental issues (Humanism for Schools website)
World poverty (Humanism for Schools website)
War (Humanism for Schools website)
Crime and punishment (Humanism for Schools website)

Pupils should have opportunities to: “…evaluate critically both the power and limitations of religious language”. How much is religious language metaphorical and how much is it intended to be taken literally? Can humanists value religious metaphors?

Pupils should have opportunities to: “develop their own values and attitudes in order to recognise their rights and responsibilities…”  Relevant humanist perspectives include: Where do human rights come from? Are they universal? What about when the clash with religious and cultural traditions? What are our responsibilities for each other? How far do they extend? Should they include responsibility and care for other animals?

Suggestions
Thinking about ethics (Humanism for Schools website)
Human rights (Humanism for Schools website)
Immigration and asylum (Humanism for Schools website)
Animal welfare (Humanism for Schools website)

Pupils should have opportunities to: “…relate their learning … to the wider world, gaining a sense of personal autonomy…” What do students think, what are their values? Why? How does what they think and believe relate to their lives: choice of career, what they do with their earnings; their hopes for the future?

Pupils should have opportunities to: “develop… skills of critical enquiry, creative problem-solving…” and for “first hand experiences”  – which should include opportunities to meet and question people with a range of beliefs, including humanists. Students should have the opportunity to participate in solving school and local problems, through school councils, volunteering, letter writing, petitions… The humanist perspective would arise in the reasoning behind such activities.

Suggestion
“Why Atheism?” (DVD / Video, Team Video, www.team-video.co.uk) – if you can’t find a live humanist, the participants in these films would be good substitutes.

Further suggestions and resources for teachers and students
http://www.humanismforschools.org.uk
Humanist Perspectives 2 (BHA, 2005) – information and guidance on teaching about Humanism for secondary teachers, with concise photocopiable versions of BHA’s most popular ethical and philosophical briefings for students.
What is Humanism? – a brief introduction for students (Humanism for Schools website)
The Humanist Tradition (BHA)
Non-religious beliefs (BHA) for some definitions and distinctions
Spiritual development in schools (BHA) [link?] Marilyn Mason Spirituality – What on earth is it?  [link?] Read an extract from the Humanist Philosophers’ Group pamphlet What is Humanism? (BHA) [link?] Julian Baggini A Very Short Introduction to Atheism (Oxford)
Simon Blackburn Being Good (Oxford)
Hayward, Jones & Mason Exploring Ethics (John Murray)
Richard Norman On Humanism (Routledge)
Ben Rogers (ed) Is Nothing Sacred? (Routledge)
Barbara Smoker Humanism
Promoting and evaluating pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (Ofsted)
“Why Atheism?” (DVD / Video, Team Video, www.team-video.co.uk ) – atheists of all ages and from many cultures talk about their beliefs + 3 humanist ceremonies, with comment from the families and officiants involved.