The inspirational professor of Theology andReligious Education,Thomas Groome, describesreligious education activity as ‘a deliberateattending to the transcendent dimension of lifeby which a conscious relationship to an ultimateground of being is promoted and enabled tocome to expression. Religious education focusesspecific attention on empowering people in their quest for the transcendent and ultimate groundof being.It leads people to consciousness of whatis found, relationship with it, and expression of that relationship.’
He explains that it is bothspecific in its own right,yet shares a commonality with all education – like all education, it is about the human person developing and reaching for transcendence.The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed thatwonder was the source of all human learning.Perhaps this is a worthy point of departure for all that constitutes Religious Education.Since our lastissue of‘Teaching Religious Education’(December 2008) life has certainly provided ampleexperiences at which to wonder,on various levels:globally, nationally, communally and personally.Recent months have seen events such as theinauguration of President Barack Obama in theUS, Ireland’s historic rugby Grand Slam victory, the untimely death of both Jade Goody andMichael Jackson,the horrors revealed through theRyan Report, the G8 summit in Italy and of course the harsh economic downturn which hasinflicted unemployment and hardship on so many.These are only some of the key events whichhave made headlines in recent times. Our youngpeople are exposed to an unprecedented seriesof events which reveal a narrative of (predominantly) struggle, interspersed withglimmers of joy and happiness. The challengebefore R.E.teachers at this time is immense.Yet itis a challenge that gets to the heart of allworthwhile Religious Education: that of awakening ever-increasing depths of humandevelopment among our students, andaccompanying them through the quest for meaning and transcendence in it all – the good, the bad and the ugly! Sources of wonder areplentiful, as events such as those mentionedabove indicate.Those of us who remember our lives as secondary school students in theunemployment and depression of the 1980s may be particularly well placed to remind students that economic recessions are survivable,and thatwe need to touch base with our innate sense of hope and purpose.I am confident that our Junior and LeavingCertificate Religious Education courses offer amagnificent educational framework in whichstudents are afforded the opportunity to really engage with the substance of life, and to realise that the religious and non-religious traditions haveprovided a rich means of attending to thatexistential longing,and the desire for relationship to an ultimate ground of being. Even a cursory glance at the findings of my recent questionnaire to some Leaving Certificate R.E.students suggests that there is genuine engagement and educationhappening at a rich and deep level in our R.E.classrooms.In all the challenges that lie ahead thisyear in our schools and beyond, let us not losesight of the importance of empowering peoplein their quest for transcendence.Let us continue to find opportunities that will spark wonder among our students, and teach students not justknowledge, but the understanding and wisdom that are born from engagement with life itself.Issue 4 contains a mix of academic articlesdesigned to support teachers and students of Leaving and Junior Certificate R.E., as well as acloser look at what is happening at grass-rootslevel in some of our R.E. classrooms. I’m hoping that further explorations of teachers’ classroomexperience, and students’ perceptions of how their learning is being shaped,will move us in thedirection of increasing collegial support in theenterprise of Religious Education.I welcome your feedback on any aspect of Issue 4 and alsowelcome your suggestions for Issue 5, which isplanned for Spring 2010. I look forward also tomeeting many of you at our upcomingprofessional development courses, which will besupported and facilitated for the most part by our new local facilitators.
National Support Officer Religious Education
TEACHING RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
TEACHING RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
Groome,T.H.‘Christian Religious Education, Sharing Our Story andVision’, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1980, p22.