Jacqui Tomlins has done some great research into Special Religious Education in Victorian public schools. As a teacher, and a ‘rainbow family’ parent, Jacqui adds a very important perspective to the issue of religion in public schools. I highly recommend her blog post.
A couple of weeks ago my kids came home from school (a local state primary) with a letter asking whether I would like them to undertake Special Religious Instruction (SRI). No, I wouldn’t, I told the school – three times in heavily circled biro. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this question and every time it really, really annoys me.
So this year I thought I would undertake a little research of my own about SRI; about what goes on in other schools and about how other parents have dealt with this issue. To start with I looked at the legislation that governs this area, the Education and Training Reform Act (2006); section 2.2.10 Education in Government schools to be secular states that:
(1) Except as provided in section 2.2.11, education in Government schools must be secular and not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect.
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Excellent blog by Jacqui. Thanks for Passing it on Chrys. Individual action by informed parents who care is a good start.
Our Founding Fathers proposed the secular state because they knew the evils of sectarianism. Indeed, if I recall it accurately, the Colonial Victorian school system in the mid-19th Century was designated “Free, secular and compulsory”. The measure that survived the Constitutional Conventions is weak in the hands of conservative judges in the High Court. The anecdotal evidence suggests that religious instruction [note the word – it doesn’t mean education] is designed as a proselytising agent principally for the more extreme views of the evangelicals. It’s probably time to give up on “secular” Government schools and join the mainstream by setting private secular schools. I wrote this on my facebook page:
I think it is probably time to start setting up independent secular schools to provide children with real education based on knowledge rather than belief: “Scientia ante Fidem”. There might be six pillars for the curriculum – ethics, science and mathematics, literature, social science, the creative arts, and exercise. The school mission would be to graduate children who are tolerant, articulate, enquiring, confident and engaged individuals committed to basic human rights and equity and who are prepared for a lifetime of learning. Parents would be assured that the school encourages freedom of religion but that religious instruction will not be included in any school activities. On the sporting field, goal-scoring will be unaccompanied by religious ritual; rather the talent and skill of the player acknowledged. Staff will be carefully selected on the basis of their qualifications, training, skills and commitment to the secular ideals of the institution and the achievement of its highest academic standards.
Apart from home teaching of Religion – there is always Sunday School & attendance at Church. Well done Jacqui Tomlins – get the message out there to parents who do not understand what is happening in their schools.
The word secular was removed from the Qld Education Act in 1910 thanks to lobbying by bible thumpers. It is still absent. There’s a campaign to put it back, not that it makes much difference given how oervasive it is in the other states.
Sorry Chrys won’t hbehome until 24th in Manila trying toreduce the pile of emails Cherily Glen ________________________________________