Dialogue has been central to religious and educational traditions for thousands of years, yet many people associate religion with authoritative monologue (such as in stereotypes of endless sermonising), so the importance of dialogue needs stressing – as in Stern 2006, chapter 3 (with Stern based at York St John University).
Types of dialogue
Socrates philosophised through dialogue or argument. In religion, many write – or, better still, talk – about the Buddha’s dialogues or Jesus’ arguments, or about the many dialogic forms in Hindu traditions, notably the Bhagavad Gita. Religious dialogues include dialogue between religions, as well as within religions.
Early Christian dialogue crossed Jewish and non-Jewish boundaries, Sikh dialogue worked across Hindu and Muslim traditions (both within and beyond both, as Hindu and Muslim writers are recognised in the Guru Granth Sahib, whilst Sikhism asserts itself as a quite distinct religion), and the Sufi Muslim poet Rumi wrote of the state of heightened awareness through dhikr (‘remembrance’ or ‘listening’) when ‘I belong to the beloved’ and am ‘not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu, / Buddhist, sufi, or zen’ (Rumi 1995, p 32).
The Bahá’í tradition recognises the teachings of Zoroaster, the Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad, as well as Baha’u’llah. In these and countless other ways, talking and listening within and across religions have been central to how people have lived.
Interfaith dialogue, and dialogue beyond religions, is now built in to the Non-Statutory_National_Framework_for_RE_0410.pdf (QCA 2004), which says that pupils should ‘reflect on … the significance of interfaith dialogue’, which should in turn help in ‘promoting racial and interfaith harmony and respect for all, combating prejudice and discrimination, contributing positively to community cohesion and promoting awareness of how interfaith cooperation can support the pursuit of the common good’.
Research on dialogue
Research on dialogue is distinctive in that the research itself may directly help improve RE, and yet it also complements a wide range of other research in RE such as Wright’s work on religious literacy (Wright 1993, 1997 and much else since, with Wright based at King’s College, London) or Baumfield on thinking skills (e.g. in Baumfield 2002, 2003, with Baumfield based at the University of Glasgow). Ipgrave (Ipgrave 2001, 2003, 2004, 2009, at the University of Warwick) makes an important contribution to dialogue by discussing conditions for dialogue, and describing school-based dialogue through building e-bridges (Ipgrave 2003), with email exchanges on the dialogue of life (getting to know each other, building friendship), the dialogue of experience (finding out about each other’s practices), the dialogue of action (debating moral issues, exploring issues of justice and social concern), and questions of faith (reflecting on ‘big’ questions and comparing different viewpoints).
Teachers can research within their own classrooms, setting up dialogues within classes, between classes, and between schools. They can link to other groups, using email, such as the families of pupils, local and wider religious communities, and expert groups.
- Baumfield, V (2002) Thinking Through Religious Education; Cambridge: Chris Kington.
- Baumfield, V (2003) ‘Democratic RE: Preparing Young People for Citizenship’, BJRE 25:3, Summer 2003.
- Ipgrave, J (2001) Pupil-To-Pupil Dialogue in the Classroom as a Tool for Religious Education: Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit Occasional Papers II; Coventry: WRERU.
- Ipgrave, J (2003) Building e-Bridges: Inter-Faith Dialogue by E-Mail; Birmingham: REToday Services.
- Ipgrave, J (2004) ‘Including pupils’ faith background in primary religious education’, Support for Learning, 19:3, August 2004, pp 114-118.
- Ipgrave, J (2009) ‘The Language of Frienship and Identity: Children’s Communication Choices in an Interfaith Exchange’, British Journal of Religious Education, 31:3, pp 213-225, September 2009.
- Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) (2004) Religious Education: The Non-Statutory National Framework; London: QCA.
- Rumi (1995) The Essential Rumi: Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A J Arberry and Reynold Nicholson; Harmondsworth: Penguin.
- Stern, L J (2006) Teaching Religious Education: Researchers in the Classroom; London: Continuum.
- Wright, A (1993) Religious Education in the Secondary School: Prospects for Religious Literacy; London: David Fulton.
- Wright, A (1997) ‘Mishmash, Religionism and Theological Literacy: an Appreciation and Critique of Trevor Cooling’s Hermeneutical Programme’ in British Journal of Religious Education 19:2, 143-156.