Religious Education and the Public Sphere: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Religious Education and the Public Sphere

1st Edition

By Patricia Hannam


158 pages

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Paperback: 9780367896539
pub: 2019-12-15
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Hardback: 9780815354659
pub: 2018-08-03
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pub: 2018-08-06
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Religious Education and the Public Sphere reveals, through an analysis of theory and practice, that religious education is resting on historic and persistent assumptions about both religion and education. Drawing on work from Arendt and Weil, new ideas emerge regarding religious education's constituent elements: education and religion. It offers a new and timely proposal for religious education and argues for a broader understanding of religion, bringing a fresh contribution to current discussions regarding the relationship between religion and education in the public sphere.

Some practical considerations emerging from theory developing through the earlier parts of the book are presented in the final section, including the teacher's role and what should guide religious education curriculum. At a time when there is raised interest in the role of religion in the public sphere internationally, this book aims to contribute something new, both theoretically and practically, to discussions regarding the role of religion in education is and relevant to educational contexts worldwide.

This book will be vital reading for academics and researchers in the fields of religion and religious studies, education, philosophy of education and religious education, and will also be of great interest to teachers and policy makers working in the field of religious education in the public sphere.


"This important book makes a significant contribution to the debates about the place of religious education in contemporary society. Hannam presents an eloquent and well-informed argument, drawing together a range of thinkers that have shaped debates about the place of religious education in public life over recent decades as well as theorists hitherto unexplored in mainstream discussions of religious education, notably that of Hannah Arendt. The book reveals the pernicious influence of some of the key assumptions underpinning RE theory and practice, namely a conception of religion as propositional and a notion of education as limited to the development of reason and knowledge. Hannam’s fine book will be of great interest to educationalists examining the place of religion and religious education in contemporary society. Student teachers will find a trove of insight and inspiration within these pages."

Dr David Lewin,Lecturer in Philosophy of Education, University of Strathclyde.

"Patricia Hannam offers new perspectives on the history of religious education (RE) in England. She employs the work of Hannah Arendt to outline a fresh understanding of the point and purpose of education, draws upon Simone Weil to champion an existential understanding of living a religious life, and outlines her own suggestions for a renewal of RE in the public sphere. It is good to examine assumptions that may lurk behind what we are saying about RE. It is good to hear female voices that challenge the knowledge transfer model of education, stress the importance of experience, and empower the individual pupil while valuing collaboration. I appreciated the critique of an instrumentalist education deadened by predetermined outcomes, and the importance of the creative teacher who does far more than ‘deliver’ curriculum or facilitate the development of skills. There was much food for thought here and a welcome re-examination of our complex but fascinating field. I would recommend scholars, teacher trainers, teachers, student teachers and anyone interested in the interface of religion and education to engage with the challenges provided by Hannam’s analysis."

Denise Cush, Professor of Religion and Education, Bath Spa University.

Table of Contents



Part 1 - An historical analysis of religious education in the public sphere

1. The root of the problem

2. Three influential theoretical positions

3. Some contemporary responses to old problems

Part 2 - Addressing assumptions

4. Reconceptualising education

5. What does it mean to be religious?

Part 3 - New possibilities for religious education?


6. What should religious education aim to achieve in the public sphere?

7. Practical considerations: what might this mean for the teacher?

8. Epilogue and some practical considerations: what might this mean for a religious education curriculum?



About the Author

Patricia Hannam is County Inspector/Adviser for Religious Education, History and Philosophy, Hampshire County Council, and active in educational research.

About the Series

Theorizing Education

Theorizing Education brings together innovative work from a wide range of contexts and traditions which explicitly focuses on the roles of theory in educational research and educational practice. The series includes contextual and socio-historical analyses of existing traditions of theory and theorizing, exemplary use of theory, and empirical work where theory has been used in innovative ways. The distinctive focus for the series is the engagement with educational questions, articulating what explicitly educational function the work of particular forms of theorizing supports.

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