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Paradigm shift in religious education? A reply to Gearon, or when is a paradigm not a paradigm?

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This article responds to Liam Gearon’s reply to my article Misrepresenting Religious Education’s Past and Present in Looking Forward: Gearon Using Kuhn’s Concepts of Paradigm, Paradigm Shift and Incommensurability. In maintaining my critique of Gearon’s use of Kuhn’s terminology, I question his claim that ‘incommensurability’ does not necessarily imply ‘incompatibility’, and challenge his view that ‘faith-based’ approaches to religious education and ‘inclusive’ approaches are incommensurable and deeply incompatible. I also question Gearon’s placement of particular scholars within his constructed paradigms, noting that those identified by Gearon with specific paradigms do not necessarily share the same views concerning the nature of religious education and its pedagogy, and that various scholars, associated by Gearon with particular paradigms, draw on a variety of disciplines in their work. I argue that Gearon’s construction of paradigms is a device he uses for ‘separation’, leading to his misrepresentation of the work of researchers. I argue for the benefits of collaboration, in research, teaching and policy development. Finally, I give reasons for writing the article, which do not result from any engagement in ‘paradigm wars’, and I draw attention to pressing issues relating to the future of ‘inclusive’ religious education which are not addressed by Gearon.
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Keywords: Religious education; incommensurability; paradigm; paradigm shift

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Education Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Publication date: July 3, 2018

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