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What is a controversial issue? Implications for the treatment of religious beliefs in education

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An important debate in the literature on controversial issues concerns how to identify them. This matters for teachers because settled issues should be taught directively and controversial issues should be taught nondirectively. Teachers are professionally accountable for this decision. This article examines the contribution of Michael Hand to the debate with particular reference to religious beliefs. Hand criticises the behavioural and political criteria for their lack of attention to reason-giving and champions the epistemic criterion. Hand applies the epistemic criterion to reasoning in moral debate that relies on scriptural authority, which he argues is inadmissible because such reliance is unreasonable. The article argues that this reveals the weaknesses of the epistemic criterion because of over-reliance on the decisiveness of reason and failure to attend to the need for fairness. The diversity criterion is proposed as an alternative and the attitudes and dispositions that follow from it are described.
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Keywords: Michael Hand; controversial issues; epistemic criterion; fairness; faith; rationality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: National Institute for Christian Education Research, Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, UK

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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