British Humanist Association has launched a new website of resources to support learning about Humanism at www.humanismforschools.org.uk, including videos featuring celebrated children’s author Philip Pullman. At the heart of the new site are six ‘toolkits’ of resources, each containing a slideshow of videos and other content, supported by teachers’ notes and student worksheets. In addition, downloadable PDFs contain revised versions of the BHA’s briefings on ethical and philosophical issues from a humanist perspective, previously hosted on the BHA’s main website and much used by teachers and students. Videos integrated into the toolkits (but also available to download from the site for use in other contexts) include humanists talking about their beliefs and values.
The new web site responds to needs identified in 2004, when the first ever National Framework for Religious Education, produced by the UK Government Department for Education and Science and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority recommended that Humanism be included as an example of a non-religious worldview at all key stages of RE in primary and secondary schools. A report commissioned in 2007 by the BHA showed that the lack of good resources for teachers about the humanist perspective was a real barrier to the implementation of the 2004 recommendation.
Launching the new website, BHA Director of Education and Public Affairs Andrew Copson said, ‘The national recommendation that schools include the humanist perspective in RE represented a great advance for the evolution of a more relevant syllabus for children in today’s society. We believe that the study of humanist beliefs and values will not only be of educational value to children and young people from non-religious backgrounds, but also help to increase understanding of the non-religious among children and young people from religious backgrounds. We are very pleased to be able to offer this new resource to the many teachers and parents who contact us searching for resources such as these. Together with our existing print resources, Humanist Perspectives 1 and Humanist Perspectives 2 they represent an essential set of materials for every school.’
The six ‘toolkits’ cover a number of the most popular themes in RE syllabuses:
Toolkit 1: What Makes Us Special?
For humanists, one of the most important attributes of humans is the ability which we have to ask questions about the world around us and investigate those questions. This attribute is important for humanists for two reasons: it means that we can find out about and understand the world around us, and it means we can use the answers to our questions to change the world around us. The aim of this toolkit is to introduce pupils aged 5 to 7 to these ideas and to stimulate them to explore their own responses to them.
Toolkit 2: What Do We Celebrate and Why?
The aim of this toolkit is to explore a humanist perspective on two key ideas with pupils aged 7 to 11. The first is that our relationships with others are important: humanists say that it is our human relationships, and the love, commitment, and responsibility in those relationships, which give us the support we need in life, and that there is no god or life after death. The second is the humanist idea that because this is the only life we have we should therefore try to live a full and happy life and help others to do the same.
Toolkit 3: How Should We Treat Other People and Why?
The aim of this toolkit is to explore with pupils aged 7 to 11 the ways in which humanists make moral decisions. It focuses on two key ideas: the ‘Golden Rule’ and the use of reason. It introduces the ideas that humanists say that our ability to reflect on issues of right and wrong comes from our own human nature and that the way to answer questions of what actions are right and wrong is to ask what the effects of those actions will be on people.
Toolkit 4: How Do You Know It’s True?
This toolkit explores with pupils aged 12 to 14 the ways in which humanists approach the question of what is true. Humanists use reason and evidence to work out what is or may be true. They look for evidence, weigh up the strength of evidence, look for ways to test the evidence, and look for the simplest explanations of it. The toolkit applies these arguments to the question of whether god exists and introduces more of the additional reasons that some humanists have for being atheists or agnostics.
Toolkit 5: How Do You Tell Right From Wrong?
In this toolkit, students aged 12 to 14 can explore the ways in which humanists make moral choices. They look at the ways in which these concepts can be applied to practical ethical decisions. They compare the humanist approach to ethics with their own ideas and with those of people from religious traditions they have studied.
Toolkit 6: What’s It All For?
The aim of this toolkit is for students aged 12 to 14 to explore humanist beliefs about what gives a sense of meaning and purpose in life and why. It focuses on three main points: humanists base their ideas about the world on reason and evidence, humanists therefore conclude that this is the only life we know we have and that there is no evidence for life after death, humanists say that there is no evidence of ultimate purpose or destiny in the universe and that therefore we have to make our own meaning and purpose. Humanists say we must look to our own human attributes to deal with the problems in the world and make our own destiny.