What are they really teaching in those scripture classes?

There’s an on-going stoush in New South Wales about scripture classes in public schools, which I written about before: Irony. Some Christians are argued that scripture classes are very, very, very important because children learn ethics from scripture. Which is tosh, of course – see Mindy’s excellent post about this claim: Values are not exclusively Christian.

But what is actually being taught in those scripture classes? The Macquarie Centre for Research on Social Inclusion has taken a look, and the results are… revealing.

Creationism creeps into NSW schools

STUDENTS at one NSW school were told by an untrained scripture teacher they would “burn in hell” if they didn’t believe in Jesus

And, elsewhere in the state, children at other schools were given creationism showbags. A survey by Sydney’s Macquarie University also found 70 per cent of scripture teachers think children should be taught the Bible as historical fact and 80 per cent believe students should not be exposed to non-Christian beliefs.


Scripture teachers generally discouraged questioning, emphasised submission to authority and excluded different beliefs.

Isn’t that great! Just what you want in the public education system: children being taught to not question, to defer to authority, to become rigid thinkers. An excellent strategy for the complex and diverse world of the 21st century.

An alternative ethics program has been developed for students who opt out of scripture classes, and is being trialled in schools. Here’s what one student she was learning in ethics classes.

A few words from an Ethics trial class student

The teacher gives us situations like whether we think something is fair or not, and then we discuss the topic and give our own opinions. It’s important because it gives us an opportunity to see other people’s point of view and perspectives on things without anyone being right or wrong. That means we feel like we won’t be judged on our answers and gives us a chance to justify what our perspectives are.

I know which I would prefer for my daughters.


4 responses to “What are they really teaching in those scripture classes?

  1. “children being taught to not question, to defer to authority, to become rigid, thinkers. An excellent strategy for the complex and diverse world of the 21st century.”

    Isn’t this the same attitude that macro evolution is taught with? Nowadays, only evolutionary scientists are given top university positions. Children are told to trust in these authorities. They are also taught that to believe in anything other than evolution is to abandon reason.

    If evolution was given its proper place it would have to stand beside all other ideas equally. I don’t see Taoism, Buddhism, Theism, and Islamic studies taught with the same fervor and equal ground as evolution.

  2. I think evolution is amenable to enquiry. Evolutionary scientists can point to verifiable claims, and identify areas where evidence is absent or incomplete. Sometimes, the relevant evidence is subsequently found, and confirms the theory. You can have a discussion about evolution and get sensible answers. It explains and predicts things, and can be observed in lab experiments.

  3. bible in schools is taught for 30 minutes a week at our school and then only at year 4 and above. We have interesting discussions at our house about god etc, K goes to Girls brigade which is christian based and we go to church sometimes, miss K recently informed her dad that he was the only one in our house who doesnt believe in god, its interesting what they pick up….

    we are teaching them both stories… and that creationism is a story too… and we prefer evolution or the Maori creation story better….

    bible in schools is dwindling though because of a lack of people willing to go into schools and teach it.

  4. >I think evolution is amenable to enquiry.
    Exactly, Vibenna. The biologist JBS Haldane was once asked what it would take to disprove evolutionary theory and he growled (famously):
    “Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian”.