The national curriculum stipulates that all children should learn that the world was created through evolution. So what are kids doing being taught about creationism in our non-religious state schools? Apparently, it’s up to schools to work with Christian education providers to work out what should be taught.
But I think many parents would be surprised to find that creationism is on the agenda.
In 70 per cent of state primary schools, the Special Religious Instruction (SRI) classes take the form of Christian Religious Education (CRE) classes run by ACCESS Ministries. Although schools are allowed to have a range of multi-faith programs in SRI, it only actually happens in a handful of schools. So the dominant religious education is CRE from ACCESS, which is a body formed by representatives from 12 different churches.
This includes the Anglican church, but also a large number of evangelical churches which some would consider to be on the fringes of mainstream religion. Indeed, ACCESS’ mission talks about “transforming” students, which had alarm bells ringing for me.
Most parents allow their kids to do these classes, which are mostly run by very lovely, well-meaning volunteers. But many parents would have no idea what the kids are actually learning.
One mother contacted the Herald Sun after discovering that her school’s Christmas Concert was in fact packed with creationist anthems rather than Christmas carols. Many such concerts are held at schools around the state. I attended one last week and there was a range of creationist songs being sung (with lines like “I just thank you father for making me me”), and only a few verses of carols.
The pastor was a very nice, magnetic man, but some of the things he said alarmed me somewhat: that the “best book to read is the bible” and that “bullying is something that can be overcome by believing in you” (ie God). The concert was attended by parents who seemed a little disgruntled by the lack of Christmas carols, but happy to see their kids on stage singing anyway.
The only thing these groups are not allowed to do in CRE classes or concerts is proselytize, or try and convert kids. The rest is up to the individual school community to organise. Regardless of where you stand on this one, I’d advise parents to take an interest in what their kids might be learning in CRE lessons. You might be surprised.