This week there’s a right brouhaha over the introduction of a course in secular ethics in New South Wales state schools. Jim Wallace from the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is concerned that ethics classes will undermine scripture teaching in New South Wales schools.
Wallace fears that the introduction of ethics classes is part of a wider secularist agenda to push religious education out of schools. He’s wrong. I don’t know of any atheist or secularist who opposes the teaching of the cultural significance and literary history of the world’s religions to students – and that’s what religious education is.
What scripture classes offer, however, is not religious education but religious instruction. In other words, children are not being asked to study religion in an academically detached way, but are being instructed on how to be religious. These are two entirely different things.
As Hugh Wilson of the Australian Secular Lobby said in an interview on Brisbane’s 4BC radio this week, if you don’t understand the difference, consider whether you’d like your children to be given ‘sex instruction’ in place of ‘sex education’!
Poor old Jim Wallace. He is really not coping with the fact that religion is simply not relevant to today’s youth or their parents. He says:
“We are now hearing reports of volunteer Scripture teachers at one of the 10 trial schools losing up to 60 per cent of their classes to the government’s new program – something understandable if a new subject is being offered in competition with Scripture.”
And who is to blame for that? If parents supported the scripture classes, they wouldn’t be letting their children attend the alternative. All this shows is that, until now, parents have been letting their children take scripture classes because the only alternative was to have them sit around twiddling their thumbs for an hour a week.
And what about the kids? Why aren’t they clamouring to stay in their scripture classes? Because what is being taught is obviously irrelevant, boring and didactic.
Competition is good, Jim! Competition encourages higher achievement. It motivates all parties to lift their act, improve their ‘product’ and to make sure their message is relevant to their target market. If your product can’t compete, you either have to improve it, update it or accept that it’s obsolete. There’s no point bitching that you should have a monopoly on children’s minds – that just won’t wash any more. Worse, it’s an abject admission that you have an old, out of date product with a fatally tarnished reputation that you just can’t sell in an open market.
If your product’s a dud, Jim, don’t blame the competition.
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The Australian Book of Atheism by Warren Bonett, with a chapter by Chrys Stevenson and chapters on religion and education by Kylie Sturgess, Hugh Wilson, Professor Graham Oppy, and Graham Lindenmayer will be available Australia wide in all good bookstores from Monday, 22 November 2010.
Dr Leslie Cannold’s excellent article “Kids need protection from ads – and Bible bashers” – The Age 20/6/10
NSW MLC Penny Sharpe supports the ethics program. Let her know what you think – Jim’s crowd certainly have.
Penny’s Facebook Page
Gladly may be cross-eyed but he loves to read!
Gladly’s favourite book store for online purchases is Embiggen Books Australia’s specialists in philosophy books, education books and atheism books. If you liked this article, you might like to read these books (and, if you didn’t like it, maybe you should read them!):
The War for Children’s Minds by Stephen Law
Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach by Nel Noddings
Can We Be Good Without God? : Biology, Behaviour and the Need to Believe by Robert Buckman