Ethics Trial debate is becoming a farce.
* SRE – Special Religious Education – Single faith instruction, usually by a ‘chaplain’ of that faith.
** GRE – General Religious Education – Comparative religious instruction on many faiths.
Last night on television here in Australia a show called Insight had a somewhat varied group discussing their opinion on the Ethics Classes that the Education Department hope to introduce on a fulltime basis. As you have probably seen from previous articles I have written on the subject, the religious community have gotten in on the act and are trying every tactic they can think of to stop these classes going ahead. We have heard arguments that:
- it isn’t necessary because they already have religious classes
- it has no moral basis
- ethics lacks substance
- the term ‘ethics’ is problematic
- it’s not fair and just to the religious children
- it’s hostile to religion
- it just shouldn’t happen because they have an agreement with the government
- you can’t teach ethics outside a religious framework
- the children’s minds can’t critically analyse ethics
- philosophy discussion ‘problematic’ at that age (10 to 12)
- the work of the Greek and Roman philosophers is irrelevant to ethics
- afraid more children will opt out of SRE*
- wasn’t implemented in a way they approve of
They gave some of the children a chance to give their opinion and describe the classes they are involved in. I was amazed at the explanations of the ethics given by the children and how it was being taught, but the religious in the group could not come up with one reason that countered the children’s wish to continue.
It was explained by the person who originally put the syllabus together that scenarios are tailored for the age groups they are given to so that the children can not only comprehend the problem put to them, but analyse it and come up with different ways of dealing with them and then discussing those ideas amongst themselves with the objective of finding better solutions to ethical problems in their lives.
The Anglican Minister confused me with his objections. I can only think that he has no idea how atheism is defined. He said,
“If there was an atheistic teaching system we would be happy with that at the same time. Teaching all faiths is better than ethics with no faith component”
and something about
“Atheistic religion it’s a religion of some sort.”
I don’t know what he is thinking because I’m not sure he knows himself. None of his objections made sense and he was less than helpful in the discussion. Whilever we include clueless people in these discussions, an outcome is impossible.
The children who were removed from the SRE* classes told the audience that they were allowed to:
- watch movies
- read books in library or in the back of SRE* Classes
- played on computer
This is the part that really upsets the Non Religious parents. Why, when the ‘religious’ children are being taught something their parents and the ‘chaplains’ are happy with, are our children being made to go without? Blaming us for not wanting our children in those classes is no more than a smokescreen to reflect the responsibility back on us. The trouble most of us have with that is that they wan to have their cake and eat it too. I’ll explain what I mean by that.
We take our children out of the SRE* classes, and they say it’s our fault. Fine, we take responsibility for our own children the same way they do for theirs. Our children sit doing nothing and they say that’s our fault as well. Sorry, but that’s not true. It was part of the agreement they had with the government. Why they would ever have made an agreement that the non SRE* children were not to be allowed to undertake educational activities is something they need to answer for as it is neither an ethical or moral stance. So we took appropriate action to give our children a positive educational influence during that time and then they want responsibility back and the authority to stop us teaching ethics to our children. We took them out of those classes and they didn’t care. Our children sat idle and they didn’t care. Why so much concern now?
They showed a clip of one Minister teaching 10 to 12yr olds with toy bears. THAT does not seem age appropriate to me. If you can’t do better than that, it will only reinforce the decision to keep our children out of SRE. While I certainly do not believe that all ‘chaplains’ would be that bad, I can only assume that they would have tried to show their best to the world. If that is so, it was a pretty pathetic ‘best’. They did themselves a great disservice and only managed to show how poor SRE* can be as an educational tool.
It was also a sad reflection on the Victorian State Government to hear that they wouldn’t allow Humanist/Secular Ethics classes in Victoria because the group proposing it weren’t religious. It really does show that the Christian Lobby in this country have quite a stranglehold on our Education Departments. This is inappropriate in this day and age. It needs to be looked at seriously and a resolution sought that will allow for our children to get better educations free of the restraints being imposed by a ‘special interest group’. It is their ‘interest’ and not that of the wider community.
Let’s get to some facts.
- They have the classes for their children that they want.
- We don’t have an existing alternative.
- Their children learn scripture according to their groups beliefs.
- Our children are banned from learning anything during that time.
- Some parents put their children into the SRE* classes because there is no alternative class.
- If there was an alternative, they would change their children over to that class as has already been shown during the trial.
- There has been up to 47% drop in SRE* attendance in some classes.
This whole debate is entirely unnecessary.
- They have their classes for their children, so why complain?
- They haven’t cared about our children going without before, so why are they so interested in what we ‘do’ teach our children now?
- Our children learning ethics is a good thing, so why complain?
- They have GRE**, SRE*, Church, Sunday School and home. What more do they need?
It really boils down to this: The children of religious parents have the right to have their children taught the belief system they choose. We, as either non-believers or parents whose children’s school does not have a chaplain for their ‘belief system’ would prefer to have our children taught ethics. Why when they get exactly what they want do they think they have the right to deny us the exact same thing?
Again, the explanation is simple. They have to ‘automatically respect’ the other religions so they don’t make a noise about children of other faiths being taught in SRE*. But we aren’t religious and are not given that respect. We are nothing to them and in their opinion we don’t have equivalent rights to teach our children ethics. It would not be in any of their interests for our children to be shown to be becoming more moral and ethical without their so-called religious beliefs. It would once and for all show to the world that their gods and prophets are not needed for us to be good people. They will continue to fight this even if we do get these classes approved. It is not in their interests for us to be good. How then do they claim that without God, there is no morals, no goodness, no compassion etc? What use will there be for religion if that happens?