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Friday, 9 May 2008

Where's the Humanism?

The PTT has sent the following letter to the OCR (Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations) board's chief executive, Greg Watson, after it was announced recently that Humanism would be included in the British schools curriculum.

Dear Mr. Watson,

Philosophy and Ethics Course

I see from your web site that your new course claims to include Humanism, and this move has been widely welcomed. The PTT is a Humanist educational charity.

Looking at the draft specification on your web site, however, it seems doubtful that the OCR are clear about the nature of the Humanist ethical tradition.

The course is not described as a course on comparative religion, so I cannot understand why the questions vary little from those which do relate to religion. For example the question "Explain why some Humanists may fast"; or directions to discuss such matters as "Everyone should thank God for their food" and "Divorce is wrong". Where is specific consideration given to the Humanist core beliefs of freedom, happiness and virtue?

I wonder if the students will find it acceptable for the required answers to questions to have little connection to the actual questions as asked.

I ask therefore that you reconsider your approach to the study of Humanism and to consider how the subject is being approached in Scotland. Full information about Humanism can be found on the web site

I would add that I find it odd that a course on philosophy does not require students to have familiarity with the work of any named philosopher or specified text.

Please let me have your comments.

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