Human Rights: A Core Element or Big Idea for RE?


  • Robert Jackson University of Warwick


human rights, religious education, religions, worldviews, interpretive approach, council of Europe, dialogical liberalism


In this article, I refer to the changing political context in the West, noting the need for collaborative action in addressing issues of living together, despite differences of religion and worldview. Such collaborations need to operate within and beyond schools. Next, I affirm the value of ‘big ideas’ in offering principles for selecting curriculum material for RE, but noting that ‘human rights’ is not itself a ‘big idea’ (in the sense used by Barbara Wintersgill). I go on to review some arguments for studying religious and worldview diversity in public schools, noting the relevance of human rights and responsibilities to these. I relate the emergence of the interpretive approach to religious education and our research at Warwick to the discussion, noting human rights especially in relation to arguments for ‘inclusive’ RE based on an analysis of world society and with living in plural societies. I introduce the work of the Council of Europe focusing on the religious dimension of intercultural education, and trace the establishment of the European Wergeland Centre, summarising a project on religions and education which involved the publication of the book Signposts. The work of the Signposts International Research Network, in applying human rights principles in educational contexts, is discussed. In conclusion, I emphasise the need for researchers to collaborate with teachers in school-based research as important to promoting human rights. Such collaboration parallels group cohesion and improvisation in the performance of jazz music.