Nonfiction 14

Morality and Citizenship in English Schools: Secular by Susannah Wright

By Susannah Wright

This booklet sheds new gentle on early twentieth-century secularism via analyzing campaigns to problem dominant Christian methods to the instructing of morality and citizenship in English colleges, and to provide stronger choices. It brings jointly, for the 1st time, the actions of other educators and strain teams, working in the community, nationally and across the world, over a interval of forty seven years. Who have been those activists? What ideological and organisational assets did they draw on? What proposals did they make? and the way did others reply to their perspectives? Secularist activists represented a minority, yet provided a recurrent problem to majority perspectives and formed ongoing academic debates. They accomplished a few, albeit constrained, impression on coverage and perform. They have been divided between themselves and through 1944 had did not supplant majority perspectives. yet, with where of spiritual and secular beliefs in faculties ultimate a topic of discussion, this research has resonance at the present time.

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More recent research, however, has pointed to the institutional strength and cultural significance of Christianity right up to the 1960s and, for some scholars, to a longerterm resilience of Christian narratives and experiences even beyond this date. Secondly, attention will be devoted to a parallel and interrelated history of the secular. This could take the form of individual doubt, or of the various secularist organisations that were established as alternatives to organised Christianity from the second half of the nineteenth century onwards.

The Religion of Humanity, for H. Gordon Jones, was grounded in a living, human, community, whereas the Ethical Ideal lacked such grounding and was, instead, ‘cosmic’, ethereal and abstract. However, for Professor J. H. Muirhead, one of the idealist philosophers of London Ethical Society, it was Positivists who were missing out. 56 No transcendent or sacred category of communal experience was necessary. Secularists, however, differed on how far they would cooperate with or seek common ground with Christians in order to achieve particular goals.

27 Beyond these examples of individual non-believers, a plethora of organisations, collectively known as ‘organised freethought’,28 sought to offer non-Christians an alternative associational, intellectual and, in some cases, spiritual life to that offered by the Christian churches. They were united by 24 S. WRIGHT the negative assumption that supernatural religion was erroneous, and by the positive belief in the power of men to shape their world and determine their futures. 29 These groups sparked a strong public reaction, often negative, out of proportion to their size, and had an impact on public and intellectual debate outside the small circle of members.

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