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Exploring Religious Pluralism in the Classroom: How to use religious education in schools to combat extremism

David Conway, May 2024

Today, tolerance between people of different faiths is often encouraged under the heading of “British values”. This is arguably misguided, as it could be taken to imply that religious tolerance is a uniquely British value, not one found in other cultures. The insinuation, therefore, is that to encourage religious tolerance in schoolchildren in Britain today is to encourage those children who were born elsewhere, or whose parents were, to adopt a value that is foreign to them.

In fact, there is a long tradition across many religions and cultures of encouraging religious tolerance. Instead of promoting tolerance as a “British value”, schools should draw upon these traditions to show pupils that many religions, including perhaps their own, promote tolerance for other faiths as a virtue.

In this essay, author David Conway explores how this could be done in the classroom, drawing upon the “fable of the three rings” as told in the play Nathan the Wise, written by the 18th century German playwright and man of letters, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.

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