Public school religion education and the 'hot potato' of religious diversity
Byrne, C 2009, 'Public school religion education and the 'hot potato' of religious diversity', Journal of Religious Education, vol. 57, no. 3, pp. 26-37.
Religiously marked intercultural conflict is on the rise in Australia (HREOC, 2007; Dreher, 2006). In addition, intolerant and religiously discriminating sentiment has re-emerged in Australia's debate on migration (Schech & Haggis, 2001; Cratchley, 2007). However, inter-religious education as a remedy is not a high priority. Independent and governmental reviews recommend intercultural and interfaith education to address ignorance and intolerance (Erebus, 2006; HREOC, 2004). Australia appears more focused on the development of values and citizenship courses which assume shared heritage and promote uniformity ( Halafoff, 2006). In public education, religious diversity is a 'hot potato' — no one wants to touch it.
In stark contrast, some European and British approaches see multi-beliefs education as a potential tool for social cohesion (de Souza et al, 2006; Weisse, 2007). This article explores the social benefit claims of multifaith world religion and beliefs studies and Australia's reticence to examine their potential.