Along with the community of Child Evangelists who labour in the “Ripe Mission Fields” (which, funny enough, double as the Victoria’s Public Primary Schools), FIRIS has attracted the ire of people who agree with us – but want us to know that we are doomed to failure.
They want us to put down our principles, and our idealism, join them in their knowledge that we can never change this policy we’ve set out to change and above all – stop saying anything critical of the goings on in NSW where the seed of “Ethics” grows into a mighty oak.
If FIRIS had half a brain, we could see the self evident truth that the Ethics Rebels, led by a self sacrificing Jedi who cleverly turned off the proton sheild with his “complement to Scripture” mind tricks have made it possible for the first time to sneak up on the Empire … drop one down the ventilation shaft and blow up the Death Star!
FIRIS on the other hand is like a Wookie, unsophisticated & trapped in the garbage compactor.
Got all that?
The most recent of these critics, believe it or not, is a politician who seeks office on a platform of Church and State Separation, the so called “Secular Party”, Ian Bryce. The would be Senator is showing off his policy chops by letting us know how quickly he’s willing to drop the ideals and principles upon which he presents himself for office, because, he knows we’re going to loose, and he has 1% of the children in NSW schools seconded in “ethics” and safe from the predations of the child evangelists, and FIRIS, has a fistful of feathers.
Perhaps voters should take another look at this paragon of political aspiration because there is nothing like compromise to breed confidence and trust in a man …
I’ve called this refusal to stand on principle, variously “stockholm syndrome” or “church of the savvy” both of which I think are fair shorthand for what is going on here. For the record, I am not calling Simon Longstaff dishonest (or any bad names) – he honestly does not think that that the policy of SRE is “wrong” – nor does he believe it undermines the principle of church state separation, because the “opt out” (which is now called opt-in) clause goes around the problem of being coercive and that is where he draws the line on this issue. I believe that Longstaff has also been honest when he says, he does not wish to see SRE removed from the schools, which I’m not sure can be said for Bryce, who seems to see this as a strategic game to siphon off children from SRE, and get them into “ethics” cause that is better for them anyway.
FIRIS, respectfully disagrees with him on principle. We think that the wording in the law makes it clear that SRI is an exception to an important principle – and that the existence of the exception, removes any meaning from the principle itself – being “mostly secular” is kind of like being a little bit pregnant.
Other people have gone farther than my accusation that the NSW policy is “unworkable” and called it “a sham“, I wonder if she still gets invited to the right parties?
But the important thing is that the “aims of FIRIS” set out grounds upon which we hold SRI to be wrong. It is wrong for our schools to divide up children by their religions. It is also wrong to lie about what the content and purpose of these classes actually are. This was a wrong headed policy in 1880, it was wrong in 1950, its wrong now. You can’t have a secular system of public education and ALSO allocate 3% of the teaching time in the school to church run devotional instruction – just as you can’t spray Parathion on your carrots and call them “organic”. Religious instruction is either a duty of the Minister of Education to provide for the citizens, via authorizing them a “time slot” under his jurisdiction – or its not. NZ has gone so far as to create a system where the schools magically “close” to avoid this entanglement!
As for the question of whether FIRIS has been successful, or has anything to show – the answer is clearly, yes, anyone who thinks we haven’t put this issue on the radar, isn’t paying attention.
Lastly, I deplore the pessimism and low standards that people who hold there is no chance of accomplishing the aims of FIRIS. The rest of the free world can reform this kind of thing, but not here … oh, no. We are far too savvy for anything radical like Sweden, or Quebec. We’ll head east and hope that we end up west of here. It won’t work – not pursuing your objectives does not lead to accomplishing your objectives.
The thing that I find most infuriating, is that many of the “Ethics” advocates are clearly “for” ethics because it obviates the need to deal with the ethics of this issue … which really makes you wonder what kind of classes they are running – maybe Bishop Glen Davies is right these ethics supporters have no concept of “right and wrong”
Here is Bryce’s Chamberlain-esque advice for FIRIS:
There is another side to this debate. FIRIS in Vic and ASL in QLD want to abolish the RI timeslot altogether and reject all compromise, despite the fact that this would require major change and will not happen in the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, in NSW, the ethics classes within the RI timeslot have reached 5500 students and continue to grow. Although run by volunteers, the ethics program has little in common with RI. Most ethics teachers have some teaching background, the material has been approved by the Board of Studies, and content is closely adhered to – similar controls to the core curriculum.
I am planning a Panel on ethics education to coordinate such programs Australia-wide. But I have been very disappointed by stonewall opposition from some groups.
Ian Bryce, Humanist Society and Secular Party
In other words, you guys are never going to win this argument, I will take over from here and coordinate the policy that we’ve backed ourselves into for EVERYONE in Australia! Give up! You can NEVER win.
To which I replied:
The only reason that nothing “changes” is because no one makes a legitimate challenge on the issue. In NSW, all “ethics” has done has joined a bad system, and legitimized it. People in NSW think that if they promote ethics it will “weaken” SRE and make it go away – it won’t – it validates the practice.
These groups are using the schools as a “mission field” the sooner that respected people like Longstaff focus on that, and not the side effects like kids who are opted out doing nothing – the sooner there will be change.
Of course there should be ethics in schools – however what goes on in NSW is wrong – it was wrong in 1880 and its wrong now. PLUS in VIC we never had this crap till 1950 and all of the peak bodies have said it should be reverted to the original formulation – that being that secular, means “secular”.
You have Stockholm syndrome. Get help.
to which he replied:
you wrote about me “You have stockholm syndrome. Get help.”
Together with “Longstaff”, we see little but insults from FIRIS!
Is this just Scott, or FIRIS as a whole?
The fact is, NSW ethics classes have reached 5500 students, is growing every week, and has stolen thousands from RI classes – a big step towards FIRIS’s worthy goals.
Meanwhile FIRIS has achieved what?
If there are any decent, co-operative people in FIRIS, I would like to talk to you, about moving forward together. I am at firstname.lastname@example.org. Representing Humanists and Secular Party.
Lets see some discussion of this issue … should FIRIS just hand over the “Studenten” (sic) land – and compromise, join Ian Bryce’s effort to raise an army of volunteers to teach ethics in or schools because we will NEVER get rid of the likes of ACCESS Ministry?