Sinxay: A story worth teaching?

Sinxay: A story worth teaching?

I’m a big fan of Naomi Appleton, Senior Lecturer in Asian Religions at Edinburgh College in Scotland, who has also written some outstanding books, our favorite being   Jataka Tales in Theravada Buddhism. She also has a blog here, where she reflects on Buddhist studies, South Asian narrative and related matters.

The title of her latest post is Stories for School Teaching. In the first paragraph she writes,

“In the last few weeks I have been working particularly hard on a project with school teachers. A colleague – Alison Jack, a specialist in Christian parables – and I have been creating resources for school teachers that are based on narratives. The idea is that stories are a wonderful way into thinking about religions, as not only have stories been used as religious teachings for thousands of years, but they invite open discussion, interpretation, empathy, and the ability to see multiple points of view.”

It is so interesting to see what is happening in secondary schools in other countries. Just imagine, they teach RME (Religious and Moral Education) in Scotland. Wow! This led me to google RME and Scotland and I came up with this site, On the home page they define RME as

Religious and moral education includes learning about Christianity, Islam and other world religions, and supports the development of beliefs and values.

And on a following secondary page it’s written:

Scotland is a diverse nation whose people hold a wide range of beliefs. Religious and moral education enables children and young people to explore the world’s major religions and to develop their own beliefs and values.

So, if Scotland imagines that it is diverse, just think about the United States! Yet, yet, how often are courses like this represented in secondary schools? I know there are none at my high school and I would bet that less than 1% of secondary schools in the states would have any similar courses. And if they did, our book on Sinxay would be a natural fit for exploring beliefs and values through this Buddhist story. It makes perfect sense, and the fact is we actually thought about how Sinxay might be looked at from an educator’s perspective while writing Sinxay, and include a Reader’s Guide at the end of our book with questions that could be utilized in a curriculum like RME.

The pairing of Christianity with another major religion like Buddhism or Islam provides a balance that we think make a course like this more acceptable to those who might think this just marks an attempt to teach religion for religious sake. At the senior phase of RME they write:

There are two important aspects of potential in this respect:

  • Learners can engage with a topic area they may well have studied previously through a more complex approach using Higher Order Thinking Skills. This will enable learners to more fully develop skills of critical analysis and reflection in the context of a world religion.

  • Learners will be able to consider more fully the links between beliefs, values and actions – and be able to explore how these beliefs and values can be put into practice in positive ways.

We will explore RME in further posts and how Sinxay could fit within such a curriculum. It’s amazing how forward thinking “small” countries like Scotland and Finland can be. Finland is already an accepted model for progressive education here in the states, but maybe we need to closely look at aspects of Scotland’s curriculum too, like RME.

 

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