A Christian Education

Compass … this time we focus on Christian schools. How do Roman Catholic and other Christian schools teach values and religion? How do ‘Christian’ values inform teaching across the curricula? A fascinating look at what goes on in a variety of Christian schools in this country today.

What makes them Christian, and are they all the same? To find out, Compass visited four independent schools across three states.

First up they visit Community Christian Academy, Launceston Tasmania. I’ll be honest and brutal here, the first part of this show had me in both fits of laughter and utter disbelief (at the outright, in my opinion, craziness). From the opening line by Alan Greenwood, the principal:

So the bible is the manual and the ultimate truth, wisdom, guide for the staff and for the students and that’s where we get our absolutes from.

This guy should have a real good read of the bible if he thinks it’s the ultimate truth. I know some apologetics are going to visit here and say the bible is the “ultimate truth and wisdom”, but rather than try and explain here I recommend they read these sites:

Next they visit Chairo Christian School (CCA),  Drouin Victoria which is not quite as fervently religious as the first one. I thought Rob Bray‘s statement

People choose Chairo Christian School because of their perceptions about a value system that they’re looking for.

was interesting, particularly in the use of the word “perception”. Though I’m not sure how he plans to do this:

… the bible needs to be able to be demonstrated to be relevant to where people are at today …

Relevant? Let’s pick a verse at random, how about Exodus 35:2

Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.

Someone’s going to be damn busy putting to death the millions of people who work on the ‘sabbath’ these days. I could pick a whole lot more from both the old and new testaments, but lets see how many my readers can find.

Next Compass visits St Aloysius College (Catholic), Sydney NSW, a much larger and older Christian school, with much higher fees. I must say the attitude of this school was a lot more enlightened than the previous two (more on this later), as shown in this statement by Chris Middleton:

Essentially I think we encourage our students to question, and we don’t see questioning of faith as a bad thing.

A quick cut to to introduce the next school  St Andrews Cathedral  School (Anglican), also in Sydney NSW. Originally opened in 1885 to educate choir boys. Tim Bowden‘s opening statements were typical religious rhetoric, but statements later on were not quite so typical.

Christian education has to do with understanding this world as being god’s world, understanding people it’s created in the image of god and tragically fallen.

As far as I’m concerned the world is the world, humans weren’t ‘created’, and I may have done a few bad things in my past but I’ve never “tragically fallen”

St Andrews has a fairly ‘open door’ policy on who it enrolls, they estimate only about a third are actually Anglicans. Unlike St Aloysius which has about 95% Catholics and the students have to pass a test of Catholicism.

Like the Muslim schools, discussed in last weeks post, most of the Christian schools also have some sort of religious devotions as part of school life.

Chairo holds parent prayer groups, staff devotions each morning in which they sing and pray, followed by student devotions. All the staff at Chairo and CCA are Christians and many are “called” to teach at those schools.

As with many exemptions for the religious (why religions should get special attention and be allowed to have exemptions for anything is beyond me, but that’s another matter) the Narrator pointed out:

Laws in Australia allow independent schools to take religion into account when choosing staff. Even so, some, like Sydney’s St Aloysius don’t insist that teachers share their faith.

As the narration pointed out, no matter what other things a school teaches it still has to teach to the state curricula. However, all these schools have some form of religious teachings, some more so than others. Tim Bowden’s statement:

… to challenge the ideas that we’re putting out there and to learn how they will respond when it comes to issues of ethics and lifestyle and matters of value and purpose.

Sounds very noble, but to me it just sounded like “we are teaching them how to be good apologetics”. All these schools made an emphasis on how all the teachings had a religious point of view (much like the Muslim school did). As Tim Bowden said:

There’s a sense in which the Christian worldview is not compartmentalised as a discreet stand-alone component of our education. It’s rather something that permeates everything we do.

Which then goes on to permeate the rest of society. hmmph

The CCA teaches using a method they call Accelerated Christian Education (ACE).

*** Warning to all atheists *** This section of the show contains the words science and creationism in the one sentence.  😆

The ACE system has a bible verse at the start of each subject, and in science it teaches creationism.

“Hold on, Hold on” “WTF” “Guffaw Guffaw” where the exclamations coming out of my mouth at this part of the show. There is no scientific basis for creationism, how can it be part of a science class??? But wait there’s more absurdity:

Alan Greenwood
In the Academy we don’t waver from what the bible says. We believe that there is plenty of scientific evidence which backs up creation. So we don’t see the bible as being just a bunch of myths and fables. We in fact see it as being a scientific text book.
I believe that if you were to say to a six year old, do you believe that we originated from a soup somewhere deep out there in the jungle, or do you believe that an almighty god created us, to me the second suggestion is far more logical than the first.

OK Alan, and anyone else up to the challenge, show me one piece of evidence that backs up creation…. I’m waiting…..

A scientific text book? Going to be tricky to do some of that math with Pi = 3 instead of 3.14159265 etc. The Bible also claims that rabbits chew the cud, that the pattern of goats’ coats can be changed by what their parents look at while copulating. There are many more inaccuracies, I’m not going to go into them all here. Some people will find some things in the bible that are reasonably scientific, hardly surprising, even some Sci-Fi novels have some level of scientific accuracy. However if you really want to teach science you use a recognised science book, not a Sci-Fi novel of a book of myths like the bible.

I’m not going to repeat Bronwyn’s (a teacher at CCA) words here, but if you can handle the sheer absurdity of it then check the link below and look for the section that starts: “Bronwyn Eastley The scientists have worked out… ” you have been warned. At least she finishes her statement correctly “That’s my view”, that’s about the only true thing she says.

At least the two large Christian schools have got it mostly right.

Evolution is taught as science. Creationist ideas are saved for religion classes.

Though this must surely cause some conflict for the students?

Both Chris and Tim have in some ways quite secular views which is encouraging. As Chris says:

… we have no problems with teaching evolution as the accepted general theory for explaining how we got here.

and Tim has similar views about science:

… the bible is our final authority on all matters of faith and practice. It is not the final authority on matters to do with geology, matters to do with maths, matters to do with economics.

Though as you can see both temper their views, and therefore the teachings within the schools as having an overall biblical backing and viewpoint.

The program then discussed the morals and values taught within these schools. Abstinence and ‘institute of marriage’ play a fairly large role, I just hope they also teach all the other aspects of sexual education. I agree that teaching children to respect each other and form healthy relationships is a good thing. I also think teaching children not to jump into bed with every Tom, Dick and Harry, is a good thing. But teaching abstinence only hardly ever works, children also need to be taught safe sex practices.

The schools also promote evangelising, even though they didn’t exactly call it that. Peer pressure at schools is very dominant and I’d have to be very skeptical about any evangelising at schools, even religious schools.

Finally I’ll leave you with Chris’s final quote, where he is saying that for some students the school is their only exposure to religion:

School is their most fundamental experience of church. And while that’s not perfect it’s better to my mind than simply losing a generation.

How very telling, the bottom line is that it’s all about getting and keeping more followers, more sheepple.

As seen on Compass Sunday 14 Sep 08 (repeated on ABC 2, Friday 6pm). The transcript of A Christian Education is available online.

update:

Just noticed Sean has also blogged about this, but focussed on the two schools which, as he says:

frankly scared the hell out of me

He has some good information and critique, particularly on CCA and their ACE program.

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4 Comments

Filed under christian, Compass, religion, religious school

4 responses to “A Christian Education

  1. AV

    As with many exemptions for the religious (why religions should get special attention and be allowed to have exemptions for anything is beyond me, but that’s another matter) the Narrator pointed out:

    Laws in Australia allow independent schools to take religion into account when choosing staff. Even so, some, like Sydney’s St Aloysius don’t insist that teachers share their faith.

    There is no difference in principle between taking religion into account when choosing staff, and taking ethnicity into account when choosing staff. There is only a difference in realpolitik: governments and lawmakers still feel they need to bend over backwards to pander to religious bigotry, whereas they no longer feel so obligated with regard to racial bigotry.

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  3. J

    “I believe that if you were to say to a six year old, do you believe that we originated from a soup somewhere deep out there in the jungle, or do you believe that an almighty god created us, to me the second suggestion is far more logical than the first.”

    Now, this has got to be the best example of god’s existence I’ve ever read. If a six year old child believes it, it must be true!… What a sick and belittling use of the word ‘logical’, it disgusts me that a so called educator could say that.

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