Thursday, May 5, 2011

Religion in State Schools

I Would Like to Offer a One-Sided View of Religion to your Vulnerable Children Please

Some bureaucratic cock wearing snazzy trousers with a sharp crease down the leg in the Victorian Education Department recently decided, with legal advice*, in the case of religious instruction in Victorian primary schools, that the word 'may', where it appears in the relevant legislation, actually means, wait for it, 'must'. Wow.

No it doesn't. Never has.

In short, the department has decided that if a religious group (as long as it's the Christian religious education provider Access Ministries) approaches a state primary school with the offer of religious instruction, it 'must' be take up by the school.

This is regardless of whether the principal, the teachers, the parents or, indeed, the students, want it or not. Irrespective of whether there are kids of other cultures, religions and backgrounds at the school which, you would have to think, would be the case 100% of the time. Christianity may well be the dominant religion in this country, but it hardly represents a cross section of society. At least those members of society that I hang with.

There's no compulsion to teach kids about any other religions, let alone teach them anything about the lack of scientific basis for the existence of supernatural beings. At least not until these kids have a dedicated science class. Even then, I doubt the average science teacher would be as passionate about atheism, assuming he/she is an atheist, as a fundamentalist Christian nerd is about Christianity.

Religious Instruction under these circumstances is to be taken in the main classroom for half an hour per week, as a normal part of the curriculum. Children do have the right to 'opt out'. But where does this leave the very few children** who do opt out? Another class is generally not provided for them. Often, I understand, they're made to sharpen pencils, run errands or sit reading books by themselves. They're made to feel like outsiders while the majority of the class remains under the formal learning umbrella.

Imagine how difficult that decision is for the parent who wants to opt their child out. The child wouldn't want to opt out. Especially at the age of 5 or 6 where all they care about is sitting next to their best friends.

This is a totally unacceptable situation. That children are given a biased view of religion. That they're being indoctrinated into Christianity regardless of background. That the parents who feel strongly enough to avoid their children undergoing indoctrination by Christians (whether it's because they're Athieists, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus or for any other rational reason) are made to feel like second class citizens.

So much for our secular society and the division of church and state.

My son attends a primary school where religious instruction has apparently never been offered and, according to the principal, who is very much against the idea, is extremely unlikely ever to be. This is most likely due to the demographic of the student population***.

So for now my son is safe from such gross misrepresentation of reality and generally unfair beans. And if it does ever happen I plan to sit in on the session and ask hard questions****.

* Possibly Dennis Denuto
** History suggests that most children don't opt out
***Migrants, weirdos and smarmy artists
**** Such as "Please explain Epicurus' Paradox"


Melba said...

SO which one are you Bob, migrant, weirdo or smarmy artist?

Also this religionism in government schools makes me so fucking mad.


Anonymous said...

I was talking to this one rellie who was raised and married within the confines of the Catholic church and now says she couldn't leave if she wanted to. I believe her thoughts were along the lines of:

"You've got to remember that churches are also businesses, and there's always that fear of a diminishing customer base. Look, most people in this country who say they're Christians, just like the idea of going to heaven when they die. They don't give a shit about God or religion and they certainly aren't interested in the church. But religious bodies see the success that sporting codes have had by going into schools. Get them hooked while they're young, build that brand loyalty, and you'll reap the rewards when they're older. It's the same with trying to get intelligent design into science classes. Personally, I'd like to see the church just phase out God and spirituality and become a not-for-profit charity organisation focused on community work and preaching the rewards of helping others."

This little bit is from the ACCESS Ministries website: "Our vision is to reach every student in Victoria with the Gospel. Join the vision and help us transform this nation for God."

You'd think they'd at least try to not sound so fucking creepy on their public facing literature, wouldn't you.

Melba said...

"Personally, I'd like to see the church just phase out God and spirituality and become a not-for-profit charity organisation focused on community work and preaching the rewards of helping others."

Me too, this would be good.

And Alex that last bit, they don't see it as creepy at all. They think it's fab and it's the clarion call for the masses.

patchouligirl said...

I'm going to try and take it softly with my son, who starts school in NSW next year. If I try to eliminate all religion, it will be all the more interesting so I'm going to let him learn about it but want to control the method of delivery. In essence I want the Bible presented as cultural history NOT fact. If the school can't comply I'll pull him out of class and teach him at home. I will also make an effort to teach him a bit of the history of other religions and cultures wherever I see a gap in the school curriculum.

There is some publicity going on to get people to put 'no religion' on their 2011 census if they are no longer practicing. This would seem the best way to convince Government of the real percentage of Christians in our society.

squib said...

I hope that's not happening in WA. School chaplaincy makes me pretty fucking mad. That money would be better spent on qualified psychs... as for half an hour of wasted instruction time, that would be better spent elucidating the wonders of our universe. 5 is an excellent age to talk about Galileo and Einstein

Also, I hate school banking. We have the Commonwealth Bank coming to our school assemblies with a stupid mascot, encouraging kiddies to use their bank by giving them prizes and rewards

RandomGit said...

Ummm... "Hell Yeah". That's all I got.

Melba said...

School banking squib? Is it still the '70s over there? I don't think I've seen a bank mascot since, well the '70s.

Agreed about school chaplains and counsellors or psychs. A colleague at work had her daughter come home from school after religion class to say the teacher said that God had caused the earthquakes in Japan and NZ.

She was fucking cunting mad as well!

squib said...

Melba, it must be the 70s. I was rollerskating last weekend so that just proves it

Perseus said...

I did Religious Instruction at school. Interestingly, even as an impressionable 8 year old, I didn't distinguish the story of Jesus to be anything inherently more or less meaningful than the stories of, say, Perseus, or Luke Skywalker. It never once occurred to me that the stories were true, but I loved the stories. Still do.

Perseus said...

But I forgot to say.... I agree anyway. Religion should be illegal in schools. Yes, illegal.

patchouligirl said...

Yeah now that you mention it Perseus, my Sunday school ended when I was about 5 and asked why, if only Noah's family survived the flood, do we have different races of people? The question was never satisfactorily answered and my parents stopped taking me. Dad told me later the Chinese hid out on the hilltops.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Keep an eye on that John Kerr, Squibsie.

I've a feeling he's up to no good.

Perseus said...

I like your Dad's theory Patch, and it makes even more sense than the one the Bible gives.

The story I most vividly recall is about the martyrs of Sevaste (which we had to colour in). It's roughly this: Roman troops are ordered to make a sacrifice to the Emperor - 40 soldiers refuse because Jesus wouldn't like it - the boss reminds them that the Emperor outranks Jesus - they still refuse, so they are told to strip naked and freeze to death on the ice - they do so, except one, who comes in from the cold, but he is replaced by one of the soldiers who admires the martyrs, so 40 of them freeze to death. End of story.

I was about 10 years old. I thought 'martyr' meant 'stupid idiot'.

Lewd Bob said...

which one are you Bob, migrant, weirdo or smarmy artist?

I don't believe in self-labelling.

squib said...

Will do, Ramon

eat my shorts said...

There's no compulsion to teach kids about any other religions, let alone teach them anything about the lack of scientific basis for the existence of supernatural beings.

Sheesh. Even we do that (the scientific basis stuff). But we're an independent Catholic school, so maybe that's why we get away with it - we aren't subjected to the same restraints as your average Govt school (or your average Catholic school).

Our students from Years 7-12 are taught about all religions from all cultures as well. Obviously, it's a Catholic school, so we're all expected to "support the Catholic ethos", but the students are instructed about other religions. I taught Year 9s about Hinduism a while back.

As far as I'm aware, at my school, all that Bible stuff is referred to as stories, metaphors, fables. The Bible is seen as just like any other text which can be critically analysed, but (again), that might be just my school.

I think if I had kids and I wanted them to be taught about religion (with a little r) I'd like them to be taught the way it's done where I work.

Anonymous said...

Squib, do the commies still have those bloody "Dollarmite" things? Something about them makes me want to reach for a heavy piece of timber.

Melba said...

And squib steer clear of footwear called treads but buy up big on Colonial v-knee jeans. Preferably lime green. You'll thank me later.

squib said...

Alex, I dunno. I mentally put them on mute when they talk at our assemblies

Colonial v-knee jeans

I have no idea what that is

Melba said...

See what I mean squib? If you had have bought them up everyone would know what they are. They would be the jean of today instead of the jean for a small window of 8 months during 1971.