Kate Baker (“Teaching scripture is a serious undertaking” Herald 26/1) makes some disingenuous claims that require further investigation. First she points out that scripture classes have been in NSW schools since the 1860s, but so was corporal punishment, racial segregation, and a whole raft of other bad ideas that we have discarded as inappropriate.
I hadn’t heard the myth that anyone can walk in off the street and teach scripture, but she assures us that all volunteers must be authorized by their local minister/priest as though that’s supposed to allay my fears. Who, exactly, authorizes the minister/priest? God? Is it appropriate for some of the more infamous imams from Lakemba to be authorizing scripture teachers to go into public schools? According to her figures there are currently 10 850 of these volunteer proselytizers in our state schools.
I would also prefer to leave the history teaching to the history teachers. The ones that aren’t using the bible as a historical textbook. The Oxford academic she mentions as saying that children with no knowledge of the bible are at a disadvantage when studying arts and literature was in fact Richard Dawkins, who quite rightly argues that comparative religion should most certainly be taught to all children, but not as fact or dogma as in scripture classes.
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Karen Fogg (“Kids need info to make a decision” Letters 16/6) says she is “giving kids an opportunity to discover God”, but who’s version of God exactly? And why her version and not somebody elses? Do we really need to expose children to all the different versions of God before they come to the inevitable conclusion, that not all religions can be true, but that they could all be false?
She claims that many parents have chosen not to send their children to church or Sunday school where “some concept of God is given” without realising that these parents probably don’t want their children taught other people’s delusions as facts.
I know that most scripture teachers are genuine in their beliefs, but their beliefs are theirs alone. It is really no different than letting political parties into schools for an hour each week to evangelise the virtues of believing in the Labor or the Liberal Party.
And regarding the coordinated response to gay marriage from the Archbishops recently, it reminds me of that old saying, of how you can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.
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I see Kate Baker is again trying to convince us of the benefits of scripture classes in our secular public school system (Scripture brings schools secular benefits 7/6).
She begins her article with a straw-man argument by claiming that it is a common misconception that “anyone can walk in off the street and teach whatever they like”. I am quite sure that no-one believes any such thing, and whilst it might be reassuring to know that Scripture teachers are screened for suitability to work with children, their suitability as deemed by their local cleric is far less reassuring.
She claims that the curricula that are “authorized” by religious groups can be viewed online but so far I have been unsuccessful in finding any details apart from the mission statements of several local scripture providers. Telling impressionable children that Jesus loves them but they need repentance for their sins is unconscionable in my opinion.
In stark contrast to this method of indoctrination, ethics classes ask questions of students to inspire and promote critical thinking and tolerance of other beliefs. Few of the dilemmas we face in life have black and white answers and the sooner our children learn this, the better equipped they will be to handle the challenges they will face in the future.
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