Understanding Humanism by Keith Denby
Teaching Humanism to young people, either in the context of RE or in other parts of the curriculum is rewarding for both pupils and teachers. Humanists make their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals, they trust the scientific method when it comes to understanding how the universe works and reject the idea of the supernatural. They are therefore atheists or agnostics.
Nowadays many people hold this worldview, indeed they may be in a substantial majority in modern Britain, but most are not aware of the long history of such ideas and attitudes nor the significant contributions to modern life that Humanists have made. Few realise that there is a formal Humanist philosophy and an international community that supports and explores the Humanist worldview.
The BHA have produced free resources to help teachers to learn about Humanism, help them teach the subject and support pupil learning with encounters with Humanist visitors and humanist ceremonies. These resources can be found at www.understandinghumanism.org.uk. The teaching resources are grouped into themes and age groups. There are lesson plans, classroom activities, Humanist perspectives, presentations and videos. You can dip in and use any part of the themes to help your pupils to understand the Humanist worldview. For example the theme of ‘Knowledge and Belief’ offers a lesson plan on ‘What makes us special’ and pupils will discover why Humanists value human beings’ ability to ask questions and find answers.
Pupils explore how our questions and the desire to answer them can help us understand ourselves and the world and transform the world for the better. There are supporting activities and a video on why questions are important to Humanists.
Pupils enjoy questioning and discussing things with visitors, and although there has long been an informal network of Humanists who visit schools, the BHA has organised training and accreditation for school speaker volunteers. A school visit can add a personal dimension to a young person’s study of Humanism that goes beyond the textbook. BHA visitors can take part in Q&A sessions, debates and multi-faith panel dialogues and can help support teachers by providing specialist knowledge and perspectives on contemporary issues. You can book a BHA speaker through the website. A further ‘live’ activity can be a Humanist ceremony carried out by a Humanist celebrant and you can find out about your nearest celebrant by contacting the BHA or talking to a school speaker.
The BHA also now offer training sessions for teachers either through teacher conferences or local authority training sessions. However bespoke training can be arranged through inset days and twilight sessions or at local teacher conferences. Links to this provision are on the website.
The development of resources for teaching Humanism is a dynamic process and more resources and ideas are set to flow onto the website. The BHA very much welcomes feedback to help improve what is provided and to sustain a proactive dialogue with teachers ‘in the field’.
So there are plenty of ways to learn about and engage with Humanism. A further guide to resources can also be found at www.devonhumanists.org.uk/index.php/schools