Tag Archives: Thinking

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.

Getting too comfortable

Al Gore thinks the internet can save us. I think he may be right, but only if we are at least somewhat proactive about searching out contrary views.

There’s an interesting article in New Scientist about Gore’s latest book, The Assault on Reason (Chris Mooney, “Critical times need critical minds”, New Scientist 195: 2613, 21 July 2007, pp. 46 – 47). It’s here but you need to be a subscriber to access it.

Chris Mooney, the writer of the article, describes how Gore argues that we need a “well-informed citizenry”. We can and should do far better in becoming informed, so that we can genuinely debate complex issues. According to Mooney, Gore’s hope is that the internet can save us. But…

The internet is much like television in that it overwhelms audiences with choices and leads to an inevitable kind of self-selection. Many web surfers opt out of serious information entirely, or choose groups of like-minded individuals who rarely encounter contrary perspectives. This concern – voiced in Cass Sunstein’s book Republic.com – is never grappled with by Gore. The blogosphere, for all its virtues, too often mirrors Sunstein’s image of large groups of people engaging in mutual intellectual back-scratching, rather than challenging their own convictons. “Reason”, if it means anything, must include sustained engagement with opposing viewpoints.

Good point. And one which was made, prophetically, way back in 1990 by David Brin, in his novel Earth. …

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