a great piece -
I agree with everything here.
Children should learn about all major faiths and have a genuine choice about what to believe.
Legal action is being brought by three parents of public primary school children alleging that the Education Department segregates children on religious grounds and discriminates against those whom parents opt out of religious instruction offered by accredited religious instructors.
Three points are highlighted by this action, which is in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The first is that schools are obliged to accept offers from outsiders to provide religious instruction. The second is that there have been no educational options for primary pupils whose parents don't want them to receive religious instruction. The third is that Access Ministries, the evangelical Christian group that provides 97 per cent of religious instruction in Victorian public schools and provides its own training and accrediting to volunteer instructors, is on record as wanting to convert children to Jesus.
Advertisement: Story continues below
Australia is a society that guarantees freedom of religion and separation of church and state. It is a liberal society in which everyone is entitled to the religious beliefs they hold and to follow their religious practices as long as they cause no harm. This means religion is a private matter. Public issues are those the government is charged to regulate and control because they touch on benefits or harms that affect members of society. Private matters are those that touch on the consciences or lifestyles of individuals which those individuals are entitled to pursue because they have no public impact.
A liberal society should protect children in public schools from indoctrination by well-meaning religious adherents while also protecting the private right of religious groups to set up their own schools. Schools set up by a liberal state and pursuing public good should not be intruded upon by the private convictions of any groups within society.
There are basically two conceptions of religious instruction at play in this debate. The first is called "special religious instruction" and the second "general religious education". Both are provided for in state government policy, but only the first is widely practised. Special religious instruction is the program Access Ministries, along with faith-based groups from other religious traditions, supplies. It involves 30 minutes of instruction a week during class time. General religious education is a classroom subject taught by regular teachers that imparts knowledge and understanding of all the major faiths in the world. It describes and compares the beliefs, practices, rituals and histories of world faiths through the disciplines of anthropology, philosophy and sociology.
Access Ministries and the other faith-based providers of special religious instruction oppose general religious education. But why? Could it be because if children were told not only that some people believe Jesus rose from the dead, but that others believe that the Prophet was carried bodily by angels from Mecca to Jerusalem, and that others believe that Moses parted the Red Sea, and that still others believe that Lord Shiva enjoys eternal youth, they will be left with a genuine choice as to what they themselves will believe?
There is a reduced risk of proselytising when these beliefs are presented side by side. Indeed, children may come to see that such beliefs are about as credible as their belief in Santa Claus, in Superman and in their imaginary friends.
While many young people grow out of such fantasy beliefs, they are less inclined to suspend belief in religious doctrines if they are taught in highly valued school time by persons whose generous motivations give them credibility. Children do not have the capacity to critically assess the ideas that are presented to them.
The dividing line between telling students about religion and inducting them into religion is very hard to draw. When does the sentence "Jesus loves you" move from being heard as a piece of information to being heard as an invocation to be responded to?
Accordingly, the phrase "many people believe that …" should be placed in front of any statement of belief. It is this phrase that presents the belief as a piece of information rather than as a conviction. It is the importance of this phrase which dictates that it should be properly qualified teachers that convey this information in the classroom.
Many believe that religious instruction is a necessary vehicle for moral education and that young people do not acquire ethical values and moral standards without it. This view is an insult to parents. It is parents who impart moral values, and most do so quite successfully through their example without invoking any religious foundations.
Others argue that children in a predominantly Christian culture should have some knowledge of the Christian tradition so they can appreciate the artistic heritage, the history, and the intellectual traditions of which they are a part. However, the intellectual and artistic heritage of ancient Greece - the poetry of Homer, the plays of Euripides, and the philosophy of Plato - are part of our tradition too, yet we do not have to believe in the gods of ancient Greece in order to appreciate these.
Young people should understand the religious traditions that influence world events and which are adhered to in our multicultural society. But this can be achieved in better ways than special religious instruction.
Excellent piece! ^
I personally do not believe that any religion classes or teachings should be provided by public schools - they are non denominational & therefore should not attempt to specialise or even generalise in any religious teachings.
It is the responsibility of parents not teachers to provide a background for religious beliefs. Unless the parents have specifically sent their children to a religious school in which case i can understand it being taught to compliment their own beliefs.
To teach children about numerous religions could confuse children who are particularly susceptible to influence - especially considering most religions contradict or are in opposition to other religions.
Schools should prepare young people for the workforce as well as some social adjustment (but not of the religious variety), unless they are in a specific religious school where all parties have agreed to have their children learn the basis of that particular religion.
Public schools should focus their energies on getting the curriculum right rather than throwing religion into the mix.
Last edited by Ulysses; 02-03-2012 at 09:18.
Pregnant for the first-time?
Not sure where to start? We can help!
Our Insider Programs for pregnancy first-timers will lead you step-by-step through the 14 Pregnancy Must Dos!