Faithless and Fractured

  (22 January 08)
  by Greg Spearritt

Here in Queensland (bless its heart), Education Minister Rod Welford has raised some hackles by suggesting teachers may be asked to take on some ‘parenting’ roles:
The minister said… the new initiative… would include five core areas: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making and relationship skills.
 
Mr Welford said change was needed because "under-15-year-olds in Australia are the most under-parented generation in our history".
 
"This is not necessarily a criticism of parents, but a function of the changing society," he said.
I don’t know of too many people – certainly not too many teachers! – who would disagree that our society is more socially fractured than it once was.
 
Does secularism contribute to this? One of the traditional roles of religion, after all, was to bind groups together and help people meet their need for identity.

6 comments

I don't think secularism has a lot to do with it. When I grew up in the 1960s few of my friends had any religious background and we certainly didn't get it at school.

I think two things have contributed to this change. The first is that people expect the government (etc) should be responsible for almost everything. It's not my problem.

The second reson I think is more practical. As a teacher of 24 years I have noticed that parents spend less and less time with their children. Mainly it seems a side effect of the large number of hours people work, also our 7 day a week shopping needs.

Posted by Wayne Crich

Where, though, do we get our need for 'community' met? The Church at one time filled this role for many people, including families. It provided moral direction, identity, meaning - albeit sometimes (often?) in a xenophobic, exclusive, tribal manner quite foreign to the thrust of Jesus's teaching.

It seems making a god of the economy, where earning money and shopping are the name of the game, does little to satisfy our need for identity, social engagement and family cohesion.

The footy club might do the job for some, but it doesn't have the reach/coverage that religion used to have.

Posted by Greg Spearritt

There is no institution in our society now that addresses in a systematic and comprehensive manner the moral and spiritual development of our youth.

The church did that until about a century or two ago, and has gradually declined in significance over that time until now it has very little.

Where else but schools can we look for this role? What other institution? The family? Most unlikely on past experience.

Posted by Scott McKenzie

Empire, Scott and Greg, Empire. You are forgetting the British Empire. And the role of Australia within it. And the sense of identification and belonging that it gave. My school days were filled with it. Perhaps you two are too young.
Empire was another support, besides supernatural religion, for the social sanctioning which underpinned the general moral standards.
In more recent times, I suspect that the powers-that-be had hoped that the Coalition-of-the-Willing would re-invoke such attitudes. But it did not work. Perhaps modern youth have become too cynical to accept such a gloss on imperialism.
It had a somewhat opposite effect. I remember all the complaints about the sudden increase in bullying road-rage that immediately followed the invasion of Iraq. There were looks of sudden delighted realisation on the faces of the complainants when I pointed out the connection between the two. I used to comment, "They think they're charging along the road to Baghdad."

Posted by David Miller

More cause for concern, from the Melbourne Age article ‘God on the nose with the 'Me' generation’:

New research has shown that “those who put into practice their spiritual and religious beliefs were likely to donate more money, participate more in their communities and be more concerned about their society than their non-religious counterparts."

Another study showed “individualism was the common thread in the shift away from traditional religious thoughts to non-religious spirituality."


Posted by Greg Spearritt

Greg, your readers will be grateful for the disclosures of the final two paragraphs.They are both positive and helpful.
The social mores of the twentieth century are being framed through the anger rising from the social breakdown in society. Out politicians have failed us.There is corruption from the
highest to the lowest levels in governments, in our churches, in our universities and schools and social institutions that were meant to act as safety nets for the marginalised. We have failed those who need their institutions . Why wouldnt there be mass disillusionment and a lot of anger?
Take a look at modern art and you feel depressed. Listen to modern lyrics and metal rock and its offshoots, look at the faces of pop artists as they perform and you see this anger and since it is genuine it is enjoyed by the suffering masses. Music is now clearly revolutionary expression of rebellion.Drug-taking is anti-social and out of control.I can go on and on.
But, you know, greg, there are still sequesterd islands of sanity and decency where goodness and positive and clean values still linger as vulnerable pockets of hope but for how much longer will they continue to survive? How will our children and grand-children fare in the awful mix of mores?

Robert of Perth

Posted by robert halsey

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