Over the years Relgious Education has evolved from being the detailed study of one or more religions to branch out into the study of morality and ethics.
RE, as it stands in its current form still focuses around a select number of religion and within them specific religious viewpoints. Therefore when studying the ethics of abortion it is presented mainly from a religious perspective placing any other non-religious positions as secondry counter arguments. This is negative for two reasons: select religious frameworks are presented as primary positions with other religious or non-religious ethical frameworks as secondry disagreements with the primary positions. This is a distortion created by the fact that religion is the primary concern within the curriculum.
This is an unfair and prejudiced manner of presenting certain ethical frameworks over others in a manner which creates the illusion of discord between many ethical positions.
To progress the natural evolution of RE into ethics the curriculum should be changed to remove the traidtional theologicaly based detailed study of religions. This way the ethics can be placed as the primary subject of study. A more diverse range of ethical frameworks can then be studied and discussed alongside each other on equal footings.
Here are a couple of examples: currently the study on the ethics of abortion would be first presented from the perspective of religious teachings (primarily Abrahamic teachings: Christian, Muslim and Jewish). Any other ethical frameworks (e.g. humanism) are presented as being in disagreement and as an aside, not as a primary framework.
In ethics the subject matter of abortion would first be presented. Then the position of different ethical frameworks would be explored: a liberal religious person (Christian, Muslim etc.), a humanist, or conservative religions and athiest (who would both argue from the perspective of family values).
Consider something that encompasses a wider range of perspecitves. Food ethics would be currently presented as the differences between Christian, Muslim and Jewish. In Ethics it would explore those ethical frameworks but also Vegetarianism (in both secular and religious) exploring the comonality, plus the Enviromental frameworks or even those proposing GM as a solution to food ethics (starvation etc.)
As you can see from the few examples Moral and Ethical Education is the only way we can teach children in a way that acknowledges the wide range and diversity of moral frameworks in a secular and multi-cultural society while exploring their similarities and differences in a fair and equal platform.
Why does this idea matter?
It is nessasary to a fair and tolerant society. Ethics are an important part of education but teaching ethics within religion places unfair empasis on certain ethical frameworks and distorts ethical positions by removing the diversity and cross-over within difficual ethical frameworks.
Currently the study of ethics is prejudiced for a limited number of ethical frameworks and implicititly ranks them as primary and secondry and highlights differences and conflict over similarities and agreements. This is prejudiced and unfair to those who hold different ethical frameworks.
By completing the progression of RE away from traditional Theological study and into the study of ethics and morality we will create a more tolerant, understanding and better informed future generations.