Welcome to this issue of REtoday. The theme is wisdom. Scriptures from many traditions can be seen as collections of wisdom passed down the centuries, and if RE has an offer to pupils beyond the merely academic, then it could be described as the exploration of human wisdom.
Welcome to this issue of REtoday. The theme is wisdom. Scriptures from many traditions can be seen as collections of wisdom passed down the centuries, and if RE has an offer to pupils beyond the merely academic, then it could be described as the exploration of human wisdom. The Jewish Bible, of course, has a whole section of books called ‘wisdom literature’: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs.
This wisdom includes songs, thanksgivings, laments collections of maxims and love poetry. The implication is that the scriptures can make you wise in the whole of life.
I always loved a different section of the scriptures. As a young man, I liked the Prophets better: visionary denunciations of the rich and hypocritical, apocalyptic fire and thunder, valleys of dry bones rattling mysteriously back into life. But Stephen Orchard, whom older readers will remember as a wise, illustrious and talented editor of this magazine through the 1990s, observed to me once that ‘wisdom is not cut and dried, never simplistic, it asks you to work on a problem for yourself, it carries paradox and contradiction well, and it makes you ponder complexity. Liberals ought
to like wisdom.’ Or something like that. His comment made me re-evaluate my preference for Prophecy. Maybe the
flexible, questing wisdom literature has more to offer? I guess this is one reason I’m pleased that the RE Council’s Curriculum Framework for RE places such an emphasis on the study of wisdom and the search for wisdom in different traditions, and this is what you will find explored in this term’s magazine. Dave Francis goes so far as to rename RE: call it ‘Sophology’, he argues in his intriguing opinion piece.
Young men see visions, old men dream dreams, said the prophet. I think that finding the value of the wisdom literature, or of the idea of wisdom in RE, makes it easy to be inclusive, so I don’t have to choose between wisdom and vision: I’ll have both, please. In the last term of this Coalition Government, which has scarcely ameliorated the damage it did to RE in
its first four years, teachers of RE have to be wise in defending the subject, flexible, working on big problems in small ways, carrying contradictions as we work. We need to be visionary too: the next year will bring changes in education we cannot yet see. Wise and visionary teachers will cope more easily. Best wishes!