Dominic Knight, gets it:
What should be dropped is not ethics but scripture.
This is hardly a radical suggestion: in fact, in the US, it’s the law. Despite being a more devout nation, religion classes and even school prayer are banned because of the First Amendment. Our Constitution contains a similar guarantee, and why the mandated separation of church and state isn’t extended to our own public schools escapes me.
How did we come to accept the idea that people with no formal educational training should be allowed to take up precious school time for religious indoctrination? Why can’t parents who want their children to share their beliefs teach them at home, or hand them over to religious instructors on weekends, or enrol them in a religious school? Moreover, why did we for so long accept a situation where, so some kids could learn religion during school hours, other kids were required to sit around twiddling their thumbs?
Parents aren’t allowed to impose any of their other beliefs in the public school classroom. Science classes aren’t split down the middle according to whether mum and dad believe in evolution. Year 3 never divides according to their parents’ football team so some can study the history of the Sydney Swans while others learn the words to “Good Old Collingwood Forever”. And a good thing too – there are already too many Collingwood supporters.
What’s more, the scripture classes on offer can’t possibly cover the smorgasbord of beliefs in our multicultural society, wth the result that kids who belong to a religion with a lot of adherents are allowed school time for their beliefs, but those who subscribe to a creed with fewer members – including Buddhists and Muslims in my primary years – are obliged to go without. The effect of this is for state education to inequitably privilege certain religions over others. And if Christian kids can study the Bible, surely those kids whose parents who identify as Jedis should be allowed to watch Star Wars during scripture?
With compulsory ethics classes, some religious topics could still be covered in the classroom, and the learning process would benefit enormously from all the kids studying together. Those who believed could share their perspectives, which might inspire others to find out more about their religions. Wouldn’t that be a better preparation for living in a society where not everybody shares the same beliefs, and yet we have to work through complex moral issues together in order to co-exist harmoniously?