Category Archives: religious school

A Few Truths

Why do Christians lie so much? What is this “lying for Jesus” all about. A means to an end is not always the morally right thing to do.

There are several Christian lobby groups around these days with The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and Access Ministries being two very vocal, and apparently quite powerful, examples. The idea of a Christian lobby group should worry every right thinking person, religious or not. Why Christians need lobby groups is a thing to ponder, what ever happened to religious groups just doing what they do best – sings songs in churches and do a little charity work. When did they become so powerful? Are we seeing the march to a theocracy in this country?

ACL wrote this small article titled “A few truths of the religion in schools debate” supporting a Bishop who had written an article in Online Opinion (OO) complaining about The Age’s reporting of Christian Religious Education.

OzAz wrote the following comment in reply to the ACL:

Truth? You wouldn’t know the meaning of the word Truth.

If, as you’d like to portray, Christianity is the predominant religion in Australia (at last census about 60%, BUT only about 20% actual practitioners) then how can you cry “oppression”?

Australians, by and large, aren’t fearful of religion, most just don’t care either way. What we do fear is right wing fundamentalist religious organisations using tax payer funded money (for which they are totally unaccountable for!) to promote their narrow minded view of the world based on, what many believe, to be an out-dated book.

Even adherents of the various holy books do not adhere to everything written in them, so why should the rest of us adhere to anything written in them?

Some may suspect that the only reason your group, and other groups like yours, are so keen to use tax payers and parishioners money to lobby government to spend even more tax payer dollars on allowing CRE, Chaplains in schools and other forms of ensuring you get a foothold into schools and therefore young and impressionable minds is to procure more followers. The more followers the more money you can make. Pity this money isn’t always used for good charitable works.

PS I have copied this and will paste it to various other blogs and forums as I suspect you won’t have the dignity or adhere to freedom of speech and allow this comment to be posted to your site.

OzAz has forwarded this comment to me for inclusion in my blog, as he suspects the ACL will not moderate his comment as the ACL seem to have a habit of not allowing any comment which questions them in any way shape or form.

As usual Chrys Stevenson has written an excellent response to Nicholas Tuohy’s article in OO, I recommend you read it.

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Filed under atheism, beliefs, bible, censorship, christianity, church, politics, religion, religious school, secular

Ethics and Religious Education

The St James Centre has been trialling, successfully from what little I’ve heard, ethics classes in schools as an alternative to religious education (RE) classes. Why RE is being taught in PUBLIC schools is beyond me, but that’s not the main point. The point is the religious don’t want these ethics classes. Why? Heaven forbid (TIC) that children will be taught ethics, but that doesn’t seem to be the main problem the religious have with the program, as pointed out in this article on smh.com.au

THE Anglican Archbishop of Sydney has privately lobbied the Premier, Kristina Keneally, against the permanent introduction of secular ethics classes in public schools, saying they would jeopardise the future of religious education. (emphasis mine)

Or should that last word be indoctrination? 🙂

Why is the Archbishop worried? Probably because he knows that old adage “give me the child until he is seven and I’ll give you the man” and is worried he and his cronies won’t be able to continue to brainwash young children into specific religious dogmas.

I have no major problem with comparative religion being taught in schools in a social science type class. Where children are taught the histories and beliefs of all religions as concepts not as truths. Where they can be taught issues related to freedom of religion and freedom from religion, as well as the separation of church and state; among other religious issues that impact everyone on a secular nature.

from Jason via email:

The Christian rent-a-crowd have been busy inundating NSW MLC Penny Sharpe’s inbox, pleading with the government to kill the St James Centre NSW ethics classes so they won’t compete with scripture classes. (from Penny’s twitter timeline http://twitter.com/PennySharpemlc/status/12190784832 )

We need to let Penny know that there is support in the community for the ethics classes in NSW. Please consider sending her a personalised message of support on why you think this is an important initiative.

You can contact her by email: http://pennysharpe.com/contact

Or you can tweet her @PennySharpemlc (please use twitter hashtag #nswethics )

Or send her a message on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pennysharpemlc

Government at all levels needs to know that many people approve of the ethics classes being taught as an alternative to the RE classes. Senior clergy should not be allowed to sway the decision making process as they have a very obvious bias toward being allowed to indoctrinate young children into their specific religion. Please contact Penny and other parliamentarians (particularly your local MP) and let them know that you want alternatives to RE classes and that the ethics classes should be taught in all schools. Don’t let the religious rent-a-crowd hijack another excellent program, a program which can only be a good thing for children to learn,

Media coverage of the issue and related issues (thanks again to Jason and others)

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/find-these-kids-an-alternative-for-gods-sake-20100411-s0c7.html

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/keneally-allows-anglican-church-to-vet-content-of-ethics-lessons-20100412-s43m.html

http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/bishop-enters-battle-against-secular-ethics-classes-20100413-s7pp.html

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/you-cant-teach-ethics-without-referring-to-christianity-20100409-rxai.html

http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/media-releases/ethics-classes-not-attack-religion

http://www.smh.com.au/national/letters/churches-have-nothing-to-fear-from-clear-thinking-20100413-s7dj.html

http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2010/s2871823.htm

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/how-the-west-was-lost-a-lack-of-faith-in-civilisation-20100411-s0ow.html

http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-diary/top-cop-leads-god-squad-20100411-s0wp.html

http://twitter.com/PennySharpemlc (Penny’s twitter timeline)

There are some amazing, and a little scary, stories from parents particularly in the comments on the first link.

I don’t have, and never had, children in school but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to discuss this issue and help stop the religious having undue influence over young and impressionable minds.

update 26 July 2010

Here are a few more links for all things SRE, RI (RE), NSCP and Ethics Classes .

http://www.highcourtchallenge.com/index.html

http://www.stopthenscp.org/religioninpolitics.htm

http://www.backintheact.com/index.html

http://campaign.specialethicseducation.com.au/index.php

http://parents4ethics.org/

http://www.australiansecularlobby.com/

Note that Queensland has slightly different laws when it comes to Religious Instruction (RI) (sometime wrongly labelled as ‘Religious Education’ (RE)) compared to NSW and it’s Special Religious Education (SRE). From what I gather the National Schools Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) is above and beyond RI and SRE?

Religious Education – it should be taught by religious people in religious places (NOT public schools, or any other public or government institution) to people who want to learn it, not to people who have no choice (ie. children who are ‘forced’ to attend).

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Filed under Anglican Church, atheism, atheist, Catholic, ethics, religion, religious school, secular

Paganism to be taught in school?

Why not, every other religion is, at least pagans don’t believe in an authoritarian deity. The United Pagan Church of Australia (UPCoA) wants to teach paganism in government schools in New South Wales (NSW). As the UPCoA state on their website:

In New South Wales, government schools are required to provide religious education of two types:

  • General Religious Education (GRE); and
  • Special Religious Education (SRE).

The UPCoA believe that they should be allowed to have the option for their children to receive Pagan based SRE. The UPCoA are currently putting a submission to government “to initiate the process of obtaining Ministerial endorsement to provide SRE.”

One of the interesting things on the UPCoA Pagan SRE in schools page, was the link to the NSW DoEaT page: Groups approved to provide Special Religious Education in NSW Government Schools. Wow, that’s a lot of different religions!

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Filed under education, NSW, pagan, paganism, religion, religious school

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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A Muslim Education

What goes on in an Islamic school? Who are the students and teachers? How do their curricula differ from other private and state schools? How much focus is there on religious instruction? Compass explores the stories of two Muslim schools to find out.

In brief, the curricula differs in that they get taught religion, and the school day begins with a prayer from the Koran. There is also the afternoon prayer session, the compulsory wearing of the hajib, separate playgrounds (and prayer rooms) for the boys and girls. Hmm, completely like a state school… NOT.

Whilst Islamic studies, which is compulsory, is only taught one to two hours per week (out of 30 hours) they get this for the full 13 years they are at school. Plus all those prayer sessions and teachers focusing learning with an Islamic twist or theme (whatever that is?), that sure adds up to a lot of religious indoctrination instruction.

This quote made me go WTF!

It’s very important for the students to express their muslim identity because that’s who they are part of. They can’t escape who they are, … (emphasis mine)

Why can’t they escape being a Muslim? As someone else said, it’s like the old saying "Once a Catholic, always a Catholic". People, you have your own mind, you don’t have to follow old dogmas and traditions just because you were unlucky enough to be born and indoctrinated into them.

The Malek Fahd school is named after the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.
20 years ago, land for the school was bought with a one-off grant from the Saudi royal family.

They no longer receive any money from Saudi Arabia, but

state and Federal money makes up around 70% of the school’s budget….and that helps keep fees low.

How very generous of us taxpayers to fund religious indoctrination.

The show seemed somewhat contrived to me, like they were trying to show how wonderfully integrated into the Australian community the Muslims really are. But, there were no hard questions as to why they don’t really integrate by going to a secular public school. The bottom line is, these schools just foster the "muslim identity" and leave little room for the children to gain awareness of other religions or even the idea that having no religion is OK.

John from the Secular Party of Australia expressed it nicely:

No justification as to why encouraging sectarian religious identity and division is necessary, justified or socially beneficial.

This coming Sunday (14 Sep 08) Compass shows "A Christian Education". I guess this will be more of the same, this time Catholics instead of Muslims.

As seen on Compass Sunday 7 Sep 08 (repeated on ABC 2, Friday 6pm). The transcript of A Muslim Education is available online.

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Filed under Compass, islam, Muslim, religion, religious school