A FIRIS PARENT RESPONDS:
Dear Editor of the Whitehorse Leader,
J.H. Burwood East (Religious Education Best Resolved by School, The Whitehorse Leader, 21 March 2012) shows a lack of understanding about the Fairness in Religion In Schools (FIRIS) campaign and about DEECD policy. A policy that FIRIS and I would like to see changed. Schools do not have a choice as to whether or not they offer CRE classes. Under the current Education and Training Reform Act 2006 a school must provide CRE classes if approached by an approved provider [i](e.g. Access Ministries). The schools and the parents have no say in whether a school offers CRE or not. This is what I find so wrong about the system.
Although I believe that our children need to learn about religions (not just the Christian faith). I do not believe that faith driven volunteers should be teaching our children religion in state schools. I strongly believe that any religion taught in state schools should be taught by trained educators who have nothing vested in the faith. As the editor of The Age states “The goal must not be to convert children but to ensure they have the general religious literacy they need to make sense of the past, present and future.” The Age, Opinion, 8 April 2012 I also believe, as Stan van Hooft has stated, that “ the phrase “many people believe that …” should be placed in front of any statement of belief. It is this phrase that presents the belief as a piece of information rather than as a conviction.” The Age ,Editorial, 2 March 2012. One look at the Access Ministries curriculum (http://www.accessministries.
I also disagree, with J.H. that the Access Ministries “programs are transparent”. Whilst my child’s school provides every parent a rundown of the general school curriculum, I had to ask the school to supply some statement about what CRE volunteers teach. This took some time as it was not something that was usually asked for. Unlike with the professional teachers, I cannot talk to the CRE volunteer directly. I can’t email them and I don’t know their name or how to contact them. Because of this, I can’t believe that many parents are aware of what is actually taught in the CRE classes. If you have to ask or look up a website to find out what is being taught to your impressionable 6 year old it, it is not being transparent.
On another point, is yes the VTAC case involves 3 parents, but these 3 represent many, many other parents, most of whom do not have the money, time, commitment or courage to take on the government to change the Education Act. I am grateful to these few and I wish them every success.