What is it about?
This book sheds new light on early twentieth-century secularism by examining campaigns to challenge dominant Christian approaches to the teaching of morality and citizenship in English schools, and to offer superior alternatives. It brings together, for the first time, the activities of different educators and pressure groups, operating locally, nationally and internationally, over a period of 47 years. Who were these activists? What ideological and organisational resources did they draw on? What proposals did they make? And how did others respond to their views? Secularist activists represented a minority, but offered a recurrent challenge to majority views and shaped ongoing educational debates. They achieved some, albeit limited, influence on policy and practice. They were divided among themselves and by 1944 had failed to supplant majority views. But, with the place of religious and secular ideals in schools remaining a subject of debate, this analysis has resonance today.
Why is it important?
This book contributes to a history of secularism, and sheds new light on a relatively neglected facet of early twentieth century educational history too. Analysing minority as well as majority Christian views gives a rounded and textured picture of the complex debates, alliances and compromises made when contemporaries sought to define the ideological foundations of civic morality in the early twentieth century. This is also an important story to tell right now. At a time when surveys suggest that those professing no religion in the UK are now outnumbering those who profess a religious faith, it is instructive to examine attempts to cater for their predecessors in schools.
The following have contributed to this page: Dr Susannah Wright
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