God in the Class Room?

Updated 28 August 2014

 

This debate is still going on….TAbbott govt is run by far right wing Christian bigots who want to keep Australia in the dark ages, and has allocated almost half a billion dollars in total for School Chaplaincy Programme in State Schools against the wishes of most parents and school principals! 

A Melbourne law firm has begun a legal challenge against the way religion is taught in Victorian government schools.

My question is,  why does religious dogma have to be aired in public schools anyway?  If  families prefer their children to have their own particular religion imparted to them, they have the choice of sending  them to religion specific schools.  If this is not possible for some families, then they ought to teach their children at home, or at the family’s  place of worship.  It just makes more sense.

The claim has been lodged with the Equal Opportunity Commission against the state education department. Lawyer Andrea Tsalamandris says if parents decide they do not want their children to participate in the classes, their children are sometimes left unsupervised.  She says forcing children to opt out of the classes, is discriminatory. “These are young children. They are vulnerable,” she said.  “For them to identify themselves as non-believers and walk out of the classroom is distressing for them and these are the kind of stories we are hearing from the parents.”

Here is an interesting statistic:  While other religious groups – including Jewish, Islamic and Hare Krishna – are accredited to run classes, 96 per cent are taught by Christian education provider Access Ministries, made up of volunteers.

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The following article has been taken from the internet site ‘Fairness of Religion in Schools’ or FIRIS:

When questioned, most parents cite one, or both, of two main areas of concern:

  • Special Religious Instruction is instruction, not education. It amounts to the preaching of a particular form of Christianity to our youngest and most impressionable children regardless of the beliefs of their parents or the children’s ethnic or religious backgrounds. SRI is most certainly not, as many have been led to believe, the teaching of comparative religions or religious history.
  • The teaching of SRI is often felt by parents as being de facto compulsory. The opt-out provisions play to the politics of exclusion and conscientious objection, something that young children should not be forced to endure. It often appears as intolerant and rigid, quite contrary to most religious and ethical beliefs in the Australian community at large, with its belief in the “fair go”, tolerance and the enjoyment of diversity. All other activities offered at schools are offered to parents as opt in, except for this one. Many parents simply miss the check box to opt their child out, which results in their default attendance.

We regard any instruction of children in matters of faith as a deeply personal matter that families and religious communities should take very seriously. It is not for the Government school system (currently influenced too much by some) to determine what children should be taught to believe about these matters or how and when they are taught it. It is a matter solely for parents and their communities to decide on and administer.

It is simply not good enough, if you conscientiously object to this system by withdrawing your children from SRI, that your children must spend time actively engaged in pencil sharpening or playing computer games while being made to feel they are outsiders.

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Professor Gary Bouma, an Anglican priest at Saint John’s church in East Malvern and the UNESCO chairman in Interreligious and Intercultural Relations, has described the curriculum developed by Access Ministries as appalling. ”Now, unfortunately, most of the Christians out there trying to train the next generation are putting them off with the kind of crap they serve,” he said.

Once every hundred years Jesus of Nazareth meets Jesus of the Christian in the garden among the hills of Lebanon. And they talk long; and each time Jesus of Nazareth goes away saying to Jesus of the Christian, “My friend, I fear we shall never, never agree.”                                – Kahlil Gibran

This debate is especially relevent to Australia’s multi-culture, multi-religion, society.  As far as Christian religious instruction goes, many of us still carry within us the fear engendered by Christian dogma about  the devil, fires of hell etc, etc.  Obviously I can’t comment on the other religions, but they too are possibly frightening and perplexing to the uninitiated.

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Jewel Topsfield, Education Editor, says on her internet site 5/04/2011:  Proselytising is supposed to be forbidden in religious education classes, but the accounts of many students suggest it happens. One mother withdrew her children after her six-year-old daughter was taught that families who did not attend church would drown when the second flood came. ”She begged me to start going to church so we wouldn’t die. She was so frightened she had nightmares and her siblings felt the fear too,” the woman said.

Ms Topsfield continues: Unlike New South Wales, which offers ethics classes for students who opt out of scripture classes, Victorian students are not allowed to do other work. They are often forced to sit in the back of the classroom or in corridors or the library. The Victorian Education Department says core curriculum cannot be offered instead because the other students would miss out. In 1872, Victoria became one of the first places in the world to provide free, secular and compulsory education. Instead of upholding this proud tradition, we have allowed our schools to be infiltrated by evangelising volunteers.

I will follow this debate with interest.

See Religion vs Ethics in Schools

Access Ministries Want To Access Children’s Minds

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