Here is a questionnaire I would like put to all school children in all schools, at various ages. I’d be very interested in the results.
Answers: STRONGLY AGREE, AGREE, DISAGREE, STRONGLY DISAGREE.
(i) It’s a good thing for [child’s religion] children to be at school with children of other or no religion.
(ii) If you disagree with someone’s religion, it’s OK to say so.
(iii) I have to have a religion.
(iv) People without religion are more likely to be bad (follow up question – if they believe this, why? were they told it?)
(v) We get to ask lots of questions and discuss things in religion class.
(vi) My teacher tells me what I must believe about religion.
(vii) We pray at school.
(viii) My teacher makes it clear it’s up to us what we believe about religion.
(ix) I have heard people from other religions talk about what they believe.
(x) I have heard a humanist/atheist talk what they believe.
(xi) All religions are equally true.
(xii) There is only one true religion.
(xiii) There are no true religions.
(xiv) If I didn’t believe in [child’s religion], my teacher or my school would be angry with me.
(xv) I am free to choose my own religion.
(xvi) I know quite a lot about some other religions.
(xvii) I know quite a lot about what atheists and humanists believe.
(xviii) I shouldn’t question my teacher about whether [child’s religion] is true.
(xix) At school, we sometimes think and talk about whether [child’s religion] is really true.
(xx) It’s best to be friends only with people of the same religion as you.
I’d be particularly keen to put this questionnaire alongside a questionnaire for their teachers aimed at revealing the teacher’s own perception of what they are doing and see whether they match up. Would be interesting!
Also, to compare answer to question (v) with answers to (iii), (xiv), (xviii) and especially (xix) [my guess is this would reveal that though many RE teachers encourage “discussion” it’s of a very stage-managed and superficial sort.]
What kind of answers would you predict for various different kinds of school, and why?
What answers would constitute worrying or unacceptable answers?
few more questions:
(xxi) I might get in trouble at school if I said I didn’t believe in [child’s religion]
(xxii) My parents would be angry if at school we discussed whether [child’s religion] is really true.
(xxiii) My parents would be unhappy if I was friends with children of a different or no religion.
(xxiv) My parents would be angry if my school told me I can choose whether or not to believe in [child’s religion].
I think a lot of schools are concerned about (xxii), which is one reason why critical discussion of religion, while officially encouraged, tends in reality to be stage-managed and toothless.