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What is religious education all about? A hermeneutic reappraisal

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There has been limited engagement with Gadamer in the pedagogy of English religious education (RE) to date. Currently there remains confusion about the subject matter of RE and the application of the National Framework attainment targets, learning about and learning from. Instrumental justifications of RE are in tension with the desire to defend the specifically religious subject matter of this curriculum area. An application of Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics identifies religions as the texts rather than the subject matter of RE and offers an opportunity to interpret 'learning from' as an ontological condition for any learning in RE, but this can only occur when the subject matter is allowed to be constituted in the hermeneutic event. The desire to defend RE against perceived threats from other curriculum areas is recognised; however it is argued that addressing this by fixing a particular aspect or stratum of reality as the distinctive object of study in RE constrains the possibility of understanding.
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Keywords: Gadamer; attainment targets; hermeneutics; intentionality; religious education; subject matter

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Westminster Institute of Education, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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