Now that pupils have an alternative to scripture classes, half of of them are choosing the alternative.
Some schools in New South Wales are part of a trial in which students who opt out of Special Religious Education can elect to attend ethics classes instead. The ethics classes are taught using a curriculum put together by the St James Ethics Centre, which despite its name, is a secular institution, and the ethics curriculum is secular too.
Oh noes, say the Anglicans. How tewwible.
Instead of drawing the obvious inference, that people are not interested in compulsory Christianity, the various Anglican bishops in New South Wales would prefer to have a captive audience for their beliefs. Far better to make children who opt out of scripture classes sit twiddling their thumbs, being bored senseless because they have nothing to do, than to offer them an interesting alternative.
Think about it this way, Archbishop Peter Jenson. Do you really want children to choose Christianity out of boredom?
Then there’s the claim that, ”If we lose religious education, we risk losing true, fundamental ‘ethics’ that have underpinned Australia’s moral framework for hundreds of years.” That’s the line being touted by Special Religious Education on Trial. Hundreds of years? I suppose if you work from the date of the First Fleet’s arrival in Australia, January 26 1788, then you could make the “hundreds of years” claim work – it is, after all, two hundred and twenty two years, and about four months. But it’s hardly a tradition stretching back to time immemorial, and in any case, nothing says that tradition is sacred.
Here are the scripts that are playing on the Special Religious Education on Trial site.
Scripture is the only chance some kids have to hear about the love of Jesus.
Scripture is something that I love going to and I look forward to it every week. When I come to scripture I feel like I’m special and I’m loved more and more every day.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount remains the most succinct and positive ethical lesson yet delivered; and so I am deeply saddened that people can’t see the merit in teaching Bible based ethics.
Scripture is so important! It’s life-changing and effects eternity! One child coming to Christ in Scripture class can affect others for generations to come for God’s Kingdom.
Children are so easily influenced and we want to influence them for good! We need to protect the space of SRE in state schools so that children can know God. Please don’t deprive our next generation of much needed scripture.
Shorter Special Religious Education on Trial: The only way we can convince people to join our cult is to get them while they’re young.
Apparently, teaching children to think, teaching them to examine their beliefs, to work out what is right and what is wrong, without reference to fairy stories, undercuts religious belief.
At its core, the curriculum is founded on the works of secular humanist philosophers. While not overtly expressed as ‘secular humanism’, it is the basis of what is taught: a teaching built on the specific philosophy that is anti-God and therefore anti-Jesus Christ.
Well… yes! Of course it undermines belief in some almighty law-giver. Standard ethics courses get people to think for themselves, to work through what claims are plausible and what are not, to test claims against evidence and reason. There is no space in ethical thinking for relying on some external lawgiver to pronounce from on high.
Of course, this is why teaching ethics in schools is so dangerous. It encourages children to think for themselves. And clearly, the Anglican bishops and Special Religious Education on Trial think that this is a bad thing.
I’m very happy for children to be taught about religion in schools. I really don’t even mind if at times, schools create space so that children who have particular religious beliefs can have instruction in those beliefs. But I mind very much indeed if some group claims that it has the right to impose its beliefs on children. And that it is precisely what the bishops and their cohorts are trying to do.
Update: Mim has some inside information about the ethics classes – A few words from an Ethics trial class student.