by Greg Spearritt
By 1895 all Australian colonies had adopted a system of primary education that was 'free, compulsory and secular'. The clout of the Catholic Church ensured not only the continuance of church-based schooling in parallel with the state system, but also access by churches to the ‘secular’ schools for the purpose of religious instruction.
116 years later, religion in schools is still a live issue. Last week was no exception…
- Yarralinda School in Mooroolbark, Victoria, which uses Applied Scholastics teaching materials based on the works of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, is accused of using slabs of government funding to pay debt related to the Church of Scientology headquarters in Ascot Vale.
- Concern in Bass Hill, NSW, has arisen about a costly government land deal involving allegations of religious prejudice over thwarted plans for a private Islamic school.
- Government funding for private schools – including some wealthy church schools – is yet again in the national spotlight.
- And in Victoria a claim has been lodged with the Equal Opportunity Commission concerning religious instruction as a form of systemic discrimination in state schools… see here, here and here.
There’s now a Humanist Society website specifically on the issue of religion in schools.
A number of commentators have pointed out that given the small proportion of families at state schools who attend church weekly (around 8%), those parents with a desire to have their children instructed in religion should look to their local Sunday school rather than a secular state school.
As a former teacher of Humanities in a government secondary school in Northampton, England, I advocated the view that religion is a human phenomenon and, as such, should be taught on same basis as any other study of human phenomena, for example, sociology, psychology and economics (social sciences). Therefore, denominational bias, indoctrination and religious instruction and instructors are out - rationality, history, consequences, academically qualified teachers and critical appraisal are in.
Posted by Robert Culbard
We ABSOLUTELY should remove Special Religious Education from public schools. This will eventually happen because it is the right thing to do, the only question is when?
Posted by Glen