You know how sometimes you read an article and get to the end and feel like …
Here is the offending article, ‘Secular’: an aspiration or a dirty word in Australian education? First of all the article itself is confusing as fuck, which is a bit ironic since it’s writer, Audrey Statham, appears to be attempting to clarify the definition / use of the word “secular” and discuss it’s relationship to the issue of religious education in schools.
Let’s see if I can clear this up.
Secular means not connected with religious or spititual matters.
Statham takes exception with Donnelly’s apparent view that “secular” means opposed to – and even hostile towards – religion. She goes on to say that there is “a clear need for an Australian curriculum that is secular in providing opportunities for non-religious and religious students in state and religious schools to develop an understanding and appreciation of those with very different worldviews from their own.”
Which could be true, but isn’t really terribly relevant for the purpose of the discussion the teaching of religion in Australian schools.
Donnelly isn’t arguing for the inclusion of religious education (ie. a religious studies class which explores the history of religion, and looks at the diversity of religions) to promote inclusivity or diversity. What Donnelly is advocating for is for Christianity to be taught and included in our education system, and indeed in our political system.
Secular means not connected with religious or spititual matters.
I would argue as a parent, that it’s not terribly important for my kids to be studying religious diversity and inclusion in school, except as part of a larger and broader discussion of ALL forms of diversity. That is to say, if you want to add a class about anti-oppressive thinking I’m ALL for that. If as a part of that class you want to teach children that it’s not okay to marginalize, demean, diminish, attack or discriminate against other people because they have a different religion than you do – that would be cool. Let me add however, this does not mean that it is not okay to employ the use of rational thought, to question, or to otherwise explore those differences. And that is what education should really be about. Otherwise we start to look an awfully lot like …
If Donnelly and his sort were really concerned about adding religion to the education system to promote diversity and inclusion, we’d actually be starting the school day and our parliamentary proceedings with a prayer or a reading from a different church/religion/spiritual belief every day. We wouldn’t be seeing the push to make clear “the significance of Judeo-Christian values to our [Australian] institutions and way of life” as suggested by Education minister Christopher Pyne. You can read more about all that HERE
Secular means not connected with religious or spiritual matters. Secular highlights that the POINT of school and the POINT of our parliament is NOT to debate, include, and certainly NOT to promote Judeo-Christian values. It means our children’s education and our political government should not be connected, not in any way, shape or form with religion.
Teach religion at home (if you must), teach it at church (if you go). Start little nifty relgious education programs that can be attended after school, or on the weekends if you are so inspired to drag your poor children to them, but do NOT teach this crap in our schools and get it the hell OUT of our politics.
Secular. No religious or spiritual matters allowed.
This is good news, BUT the land of education (at least here in Australia) seems to be on a rapid backward slide. You’ll recall from my post last week, Sunday Thought: Belated But …How About You Keep Religion And Politics OUT of Our Children’s Schools that we’ve had a review of the Australian curriculum commissioned and there’s a few problems with the people who were chosen to undertake the review. Kevin Donnelly notes that “A market-driven model of education – one represented by autonomy, diversity and choice – provides the best opportunity of raising student standards.” and from the other side of his face says “religion does not have enough of a presence in Australia’s “very secular curriculum”, and that it needs to be taught “more effectively”. Donnelley also says, “When you look at Parliaments around Australia – they all begin with the Lord’s prayer. If you look at our constitution, the preamble is about God.”
I’m happy to report that in response to that statement, Greens senator Richard di Natale has said that The Lord’s Prayer in Federal Parliament is an anachronism and has announced that when Parliament returns in February, he will move to end the reading of prayers at the start of each sitting day. You can read more about that HERE
Although I far prefer Di Natale’s view, and would heartily support it – I remain concerned that what this is all really about is the politicization and religious-ification of our education system. None of this will improve the Australian quality of education or make any of us any smarter but is a great move to continue Australia’s long relationship with tall poppy syndrome and mediocrity..
Ahhh I spent my Sunday out and about but had read an article, Critic Wants MORE Religion To Be Taught In Schools and had no intention of letting it pass without comment. In short, here in Australia “former teacher and ex-Liberal Party staffer Kevin Donnelly says Australian education has become too secular, and the federation’s Judeo-Christian heritage should be better reflected in the curriculum”. I will start this post by saying I appreciate the effort to “locate” Mr Donnelly’s background and views relative to his task of curriculum review. The bit of personal information that I thought would be helpful here, that was conspicuously absent was Donnelly’s religious status.
I don’t for a single moment believe that a secular or unbiased, thinking reviewer would have come up with this nonsense.
In addition, I am deeply concered that this curriculum review has been commissioned by the Coalition as part of their election promise:
The Coalition made a curriculum review one of its election promises, saying the school teaching material had become too politicised under Labor. It argued at the time that the curriculum required students to learn about the day-to-day activities of the trade union movement, while making no explicit references to conservative achievements in politics.
… and that the individuals selected to undertake the review were well known to be “strident critics of present curriculum”. Nothing independent about this review my friends.
As far as I am concerned this is a dangerous collision of the politicization and religious-ification of our education system. As a thinking person and parent I can only say, I don’t want people’s political agenda or their religious agenda determining what my children are taught. This issue is a double whammy. I’ll leave you with …