Does Bildung offer a singular purpose for Religion/Worldviews Education?

David Lewin, Strathclyde University

This paper develops work undertaken by the After Religious Education project. Inspired by the Commission on Religious Education 2018 report (CORE 2018), the After RE project seeks to reimagine Religious Education in schools for a context in which both religious and non-religious worldviews are taken seriously. One of the longstanding challenges for RE teachers in schools in England has been how to reconcile the broad range of aims and purposes it is supposed to support. Freighted with diverse and often competing aims, RE is in danger of being perceived as confused, inconsistent and consequently irrelevant. In these complex circumstances, could a singular purpose be defined to unite these diverse aims and interests, and does the concept of Bildung help in this regard? Through a discussion of the selected meanings and histories of the term, this paper considers whether Bildung could offer a way to rethink the educational purposes of RE. It explores how the varied and competing purposes of RE might be harmonized partly because this concept provides an educational direction without overspecification of the destination: it invites ‘unbidden’ aspects to enter educational processes.

Vestiges of Sublime Visuality: Colonial Pasts and Presence in Nature-Based Edutainment

Annie Schultz, Flagler College

That remnants of colonialism linger in our educational practices and interactions has been noted by many as a truism. A significant—and sometimes underrecognized—area of educational studies in which colonial practices linger are our human and nonhuman animal encounters in education. Of the embodied experiences with the nonhuman available to educational endeavors, venues such as zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and safaris — sometimes referred to as “nature-based edutainment” — are long-standing features of institutional education. This paper argues that a linear progression exists from the world’s fairs and exhibitions of the late nineteenth century, which functioned to—in Meg Armstrong’s words—“sublime the exotic” to present-day nature-based edutainment venues. In the world’s fair exhibitions of the late nineteenth century, global imperialist pursuits were put on display for spectators to glimpse the artifacts, nonhuman animals, and even human beings from exotic, far-off lands as a show of the human (re European male) dominance over nature, so fundamental to Enlightenment era philosophy. In ways that echo these imperialist sentiments, present-day nature-based edutainment venues position nonhuman animals as objects of a sublime exoticized gaze under the guise of education and conservation. 

I first engage some common social and ethical criticisms of zoological venues. I then discuss the imperialist aims of the nineteenth century world’s fairs, tracing the parallels to present-day nature-based edutainment. I then take up Meg Armstrong’s notion of subliming the exotic, rooting the concept in Immanuel Kant’s theory of the sublime. Finally, I defend against some potential criticisms of making connections between the treatment of nonhuman animals resulting from colonialist frameworks and the treatment of human people.