Talking about Conflicts in Pursuit of the Common Good, or how to Handle Sensible Topics while Learning about Religions: The Approach of Ethics and Religious Culture Textbooks in Quebec
Sivane Hirsch [+]
University of Québec at Trois–Rivières
The “Ethics and religious culture” (ERC) program tries to achieve two primary objectives: the recognition of others and the pursuit of the common good, while placing an emphasis on “the search for common values, the promotion of projects that foster community life and respect for democratic principles and ideals specific to Quebec society” (MELS, 2008). Each of the three competencies that the student should develop throughout this program – i.e., to learn to reflect on ethical questions, to demonstrate an understanding of the phenomena of religion and to engage in a dialogue – participate differently in this large mandate. However, they all have the intention of making a place for diversity in the classroom. Speaking of conflict, and even more so of religious conflict, is therefore not an easy task: how should a teacher bring up conflicts between religions or even within a religion without offending some of his/her students or even worse, bring this conflict into his/her classroom? The program broaches this theme in a historical perspective by discussing “Peace and conflict: religious conquests, ecumenism, dialogue between religions, etc.” as a part of the theme “religions down through time.” But how do ERC textbooks discuss this subject, if they even bring it up? This chapter offers to examine the treatment of religious conflicts in the ERC textbooks. We wish not only to build a general portrait of this treatment but also to reflect on its strengths and weaknesses through an analysis that considers recommended approaches for teaching sensible topics that appear in established literature. Thus we demonstrate not only the difficulties of discussing this subject in a secular society like Quebec, but also the importance of doing so.