Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ethics classes to be trialed as an alternative to "Scripture"

This is fantastic news. It's about time there was something better for the non-scripture kids to do than go to the library and twiddle their thumbs.

When my oldest first started school I hadn't quite given up on the church, I'd long since moved away from any belief in god but I still saw value in the ethical teaching and the community that a church fosters. So off he went to Scripture classes, as did most of his classmates. It wasn't long before I was rather regretting that decision as I found myself dealing with the some of the less-nuanced ideas that came home from the classes. I console myself with the thought that at least he'll be well equipped to understand any biblical allusions if he ever ends up reading various classic novels and poetry. My other 2 have also gone to Scripture classes and I freely admit it's because it was easier to go with the flow and let them be with their friends. Especially as the alternative was so unsatisfactory.

Every so often I offer my kids the option of not going to Scripture class, none of them have taken me up on it, they'd rather stay with their friends and sit through lessons about things they do not believe than be bored. If something like these proposed ethics classes were available at all schools, not only would I jump at it now, I'd have been thrilled to enroll the kids in them way back in Kindergarten.

From the SMH:
ETHICS classes will be introduced in NSW schools, offering an alternative to religious studies for the first time in 100 years, the Premier, Nathan Rees, will announce today.
The St James Ethics Centre has been working very hard for some time to get this project up and running. "Towards an ethics-based complement to scripture in NSW primary schools" gives an overview of the issues involved and of the proposals being considered.

I am so very pleased to see this trial getting the go-ahead and I will be presenting information about it to our next P&C meeting at school. I only wish there were to be more than 10 schools involved in the trial. Ah well, teaspoons. Hopefully it will be a huge success and we'll see further progress in the near future.

12 comments:

Deborah said...

That's fantastic!

I thought this comment in the article was a bit off.

(AAAGH - can't copy and paste!)

Very roughly, the vice-president of the Parents and Citizens Association from one of the schools where the program will be trialled said that it would be good for kids who don't go to scripture lessons an opportunity "to learn important life lessons on principles ... children who aren't allowed to be taught [religious education] are [presently] not allowed to extend those ideas."

Well excuse me! I like to think that my little godless daughters do very well on important life principles, and indeed rather better than many of the children who do go to religious classes at school.

Ariane said...

Ben did one year of scripture and then I asked him if he wanted out and he said yes. It's been good for him, actually, because they draw. For a boy with real problems with fine motor skills, I couldn't have asked for a better option - encouragement to draw for his own amusement!

Still, I hope this is the first step to a revolution. I just hope they can find enough people to teach the course when all the people who send their kids to scripture as a "path of least resistance" thing choose the better alternative, once it is available.

@Deborah - delightful sentiment that... Of course none of us are teaching any form of ethics to our children at home.

mimbles said...

Ah yes, this bit:

The vice-president of the Parents and Citizens Association of Baulkham Hills Public School, Sarah Flynn, welcomed the move yesterday. She said it would give students who were not taking religious studies an opportunity to learn important life lessons on principles.

''Children that are not allowed to be taught [religious education] are [presently] not allowed to extend those ideas,'' she said.


It does rather read as her saying kids who don't do scripture are not being taught "important life lessons on principles" at all. Though I rather suspect that she's just fallen foul of not being experienced in talking to the media and what she meant was just that they don't get to explore those ideas in the context of school.

Adam said...

Aaand here come the wingnuts

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,26399454-29277,00.html

Yes according to Bishop Davis allowing a secular organisation to deliver this program sets a dangerous precedent. Challenging the church monopoly on morality would be like challenging the church monopoly on knowledge.

Next thing they'll be saying is the world is older than 6 thousand years and my aunt Mildred is descended from apes!

mimbles said...

I want to know what "other groups" he imagines might want access to students.

All the groups I can think of that might want the opportunity to indoctrinate kids and which I wouldn't want to see in schools fall under the label of religions and presumably are allowed to offer optional SRE classes already.

Unless he thinks political groups might want to join the fun, can't really see parents signing their primary school kids up for a course in marxism or libertarianism though.

Mel said...

I am a Roman Catholic married to an atheist (yes we have interesting conversations in our home) and I think this is brilliant. In NZ kids do Religious Education programs in state schools and although they are optional very few people opt out. When I was on the school Board of Trustees I challenged this every year it came up. The RE 'teachers' are volunteers usually from a fundamentalist background and although it's not essentially harmful I would prefer to see kids learning ethics or about a wide variety of religions.

In our home we say that whatever your religion or non-religion we all chase the same god (emphasis on the small 'g') - in our home we chase love. That's what I believe ethics to be about. Doing the right thing. Learning to love your neighbour. Seeking love.

My two cents worth!

toni said...

Ahhh, since there is no Baulkham Hill Public School, I am assuming that the P&C quote came from Katie's school. Luckily Katie is participating in scripture so she is not missing out on any essential lessons on principles... Phew!
This quote is a shame, because the school actually encourages students to attend religous lessons in different denominations if they are interested in learning about other religions. You do not have to be of that faith (or any faith) to attend. Which I think is an interesting idea.
However, ethics is an excellent alternative to scripture.

Alix said...

Being a "Scripture Girl," I was really interested in this post and you wrote it well. What I love is that Scripture is just ethics with the addition of faith. And what's so wrong with that. But, for those who are non believers, it's good to know that ethical principles and behaviors can be achieved outside the Bible as well as in.

Louise said...

When I was in school we had Bible-lessons, taught from a protestant viewpoint. I didn't mind that much, and also, back then in my school I guess we were all protestants, except maybe less than a handful Roman Catholics. Nothing else. No jews, muslims, buddhists, hindus, etc. Just plain old Danish protestants - and we are quite an laid back bunch. The Church of Denmark is not a wild one at all. I am still a protestant, but non-practising. As is the rest of the family.

When I went to Gymnasium (not as in sports but as in education from when you are 15-18 years old) we had mandatory Religion-studies, but now it was called Religion, not Bible, so we learned about all kinds of faiths, also the more alternative ones. And from a scientific point of view, not a preaching one.

Just my little Danish story ;-D

TimT said...

It's about time there was something better for the non-scripture kids to do than go to the library and twiddle their thumbs.

Totally disagree. Some of my best times as a kid were spent in the library twiddling my thumbs. It's just appalling of the NSW Government to take that vital twiddling-thumbs-in-library away from kids!

Ali H said...

Yeah, I really loved the free time to sit around doing nothing during scripture time (in the library= double bonus for book-worm me as a child). I did not totally love the compulsory, god-infested Christmas-time outings we were forced to go on to churches, where we were preached at and given no context outside of the preaching (as a child who had never been inside of a church, this was incredibly confusing to me- if it had been presented as a "this is how some people do religion" comparitive experience outing, I probably would have loved it, but as a no-context, here-you-go-kids-here-is-the-meaning-of-Christmas excursion, it rankled me fiercely).

TimT said...

Must admit my parents made me go to the Bible studies class - not out of conviction, just because they evidently didn't like the idea of me twiddling my thumbs in the library either (I'll just add it to THE LIST...) Times spent twiddling my thumbs in the library were unrelated to religious studies.

It was a bit of a joke at my school anyway. We'd all go and sit down and open up our Bibles and the Minister JB would read some obscure passage out of the Old Testament, and occasionally stop and let us read out a word. Then he'd continue on. That was about it.

I still think kids should get a chance to sit around doing nothing. Doing nothing can be quite rewarding, you can really ... er, get something out of it.