LETTER:Literary works offer moral interest

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The Independent Online
From Mr Tony Dunn

Sir: You quote the Archbishop of York's view that religious education (RE) should combat "irrationalism", and that because of the decline of RE we may produce a "morally bewildered generation" ("RE decline `threatens moral confusion' ", 9 March). I would have thought that the young could be forgiven for questioning the rationality of believing in an omniscient, omnipotent Creator who loves us as individuals - but that is an old debate that has been well aired in these columns.

More importantly, may I attempt to allay the archbishop's anxiety by assuring him that, in my experience at least, the young are not "morally bewildered". It is in their English lessons, and particularly in the study of literature, that they discuss moral issues and develop their own moral beliefs.

They may not (or not all of them) at age 16 have formulated a securely based, consistent set of general moral principles but, stimulated by their reading of novels, plays and poems, they have clear and considered views about a whole range of particular issues - from racism, vegetarianism and sexism, to Antony's rejection of Roman values and the Christians' treatment of Shylock.

No amount of teaching can guarantee that the young will never be seduced by false gods. Only indoctrination can do that.

Yours faithfully,


English Teacher

Sir John Deane's

Sixth Form College



9 March