Sunday, April 17, 2011

won't somebody please think of the children...!!!

I read this article this morning in The Age, which is Victoria's 'more respected of the two options' when it comes to Newspapers.
And something welled up in me that compelled me to write an entry here, for all the good it would do... but the ideas were (and hopefully still are) circling around in my brain, begging to get down into words. So here goes.

Incase you can't be bothered reading the article, it basically bemoans the fact that children aren't being taught bible stories any more. *gasp!*.
Before i go on, also, I know religion is a touchy subject. I'm not religious. I went to an Anglican Christian school, I'm technically Jewish (blood line, yada yada yada), and I don't believe in anything. That being said, everything I write here is obviously my opinion and hopefully I won't offend people- it's just the way see things.

Wouldn't this make a great children's story? {via}

Ok, so, children aren't being taught religious stories in school, and the article says that this is a damn shame because children miss out on learning some of the valuable lessons from the stories and go on to become immoral and corrupt citizens. That last part may be my inclusion but it may as well have said that.
Some guy is quoted as saying: "Without what the Greeks called mythos or story, we have no way of orienting ourselves in life, either as a people or as individuals".
Yes. Stories are good. Agreed. Massages are also good, agreed. In the 2001 census, 20% of people identified as Anglican, 20% as Catholic and 20% as 'other Christian', so the majority of the population runs as Christian.  Ok, so of that 60%, 23% of them 'participated in some religious activity' in the 3 months prior to the census. So, we're a lot of us Christian, and not  a lot of us 'practicing' it.
Which brings me, I suppose, to my unease, because I know what can happen with things like this, and it would be suddenly the job of teachers to teach the 'real meaning' of Easter. Because, in my class of impressionable little minds, I would feel a hypocrite teaching about the death and resurrection of Jesus. I learned about it in school myself. One of their selling points in this article is that children take from the Easter story a message of hope. That they can use the lessons learned in the Easter story as a way to find strength in difficult times. They say in the article that kids these days only care about chocolate brought by a bunny.
I learned the Easter story.
I sung Christian songs.
I said the Lords' prayer every Thursday in assembly...
And yet, Easter for me means chocolate and a long weekend.

So I feel that this article is a thinly veiled way to try and bring the 'dominant religion' in to children's lives (or they'll be damned, or something) and make it 'normal'. Make it 'the proper religion', and if you practice anything else, or believe in anything else, then you're abnormal and don't fit in with our culture in this country. They try and disguise this through the importance of 'the message' or the importance of 'the story', but I can tell you there are plenty of beautiful stories with beautiful messages floating around for children that don't involve a diety that they may or may not want to believe in.
I suppose this all links to a different article I read about religious education in government schools. Government schools have to be, by design, secular. Some of them have 'religious education' or RE. These RE classes are usually always run by a Christian group. Should a student's parent forget to 'opt out' (not in) to these classes, they learn the Christian way. They don't learn about a diverse range of religious which I think is really valuable and is something that kids should learn - we did, in year 7, and it was great... bur they learn about Christianity. If a child does opt out, there's a clause in a law somewhere saying that they're not allowed to go on with other work... so... they end up sitting in the back of the class (apparently) or out in the hall, or sharpening pencils.
So, I don't know enough about this to read between the lines and figure out how much of it is glorified or not, but it seems so strange to me that RE would be taught by volunteers from a Christian organization, where kids aren't allowed to go off and do some other learning while this is taking place. Again, doesn't this create such an 'us' and 'them' sort of mantra... as in: if you don't believe this way, you don't exist?

So, people, here's an idea. Let's teach about religions, not religion. Let's teach about tolerance. Let's teach about hope, and respect, and helping one another. Let's model these things, and encourage them within ourselves and within kids and students and others. Let's teach about Aboriginal stories, because they, too, have beautiful stories and myths, and are sort of technically 'the religion of Australia', even if not as many people believe those things. Let's teach about Buddhism and some of the mindfulness and stillness practices it brings. Let's teach about the strength of community, about loving one another and ourselves. Let's just not rely on one religion, Christian or otherwise, to impart the values or morals we wish children to develop.


  1. Fully, thousand percent agreed. Well said.

  2. Religious stories should be taught in whatever church you go to. I think schools should cover various religions as part of culture--respectfully, not like "we're right, they're heathens".

    Spot on.