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Book: Hijacked

Chapter: 19. Good and Bad, Legitimate and Illegitimate Religion in Education

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.35436


This essay focuses on religion in the school classroom to reflect on “legitimate” and “illegitimate” religion as these concepts are discussed at different levels of educational systems in Europe. In most German federal states, religion is taught in what the author calls “separative contexts,” dividing pupils according to their religious affiliation. Such confessional models are not based on teaching knowledge about these religions but are designed to instruct the pupils on how to live a good life as a Christian, or Muslim, etc. Traditional ideas about the ‘world religions’ are therefore reproduced, leaving no space to consider why and how this particular set of religions has been normalized as legitimate (and therefore worthy of educational attention). As the author’s experience in Lower Saxony shows, the political processes involving the study of religions in the drafting of curricula for such school subjects as values and norms (the obligatory alternative for the ‘non-religious’) means having to navigate a complex hierarchy of existing understandings of the legitimacy and illegitimacy, as well as the good and bad nature, of particular religions.

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