READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE (28 February 2014 by Wendy Tuohy)
Once, I had no issue with it. My son was receiving Special Religious Instruction at school, just as I had in the ’70s. I believed it was innocuous enough – he would be learning about such things as being a good friend, being a good person and colouring in pictures of Jesus. No big deal. And it was only half an hour a week.
One day, at our usual conversation at the dinner table, my son exclaimed, ”Mrs Smith* said that there was no such thing as dinosaurs!” What? He went on to say that when he said that there must have been because there are dinosaur fossils all over the world, she responded, ”God put them there”. My son was confused. He had read countless books that told him dinosaurs roamed the earth millions of years ago, long before humans. While I did feel a little touch of pride that he had questioned her claim, her response was unpalatable and unacceptable to me.
It took a long, very complicated discussion after this bombshell to try to smooth things over and to explain in simplified terms the sometimes messy lines drawn between science and religion, our beliefs and the importance of being respectful of others’ beliefs.
The next day after a quiet word to an apologetic principal, I signed a form to say that I did not want my son to take part in the SRI classes at his school. The principal, though very supportive, said the school had little control over what was taught in those classes, as they were lay people volunteers. Of course, parents have an ”opt out” clause. I believe many more would if they knew more about what the students are taught and by whom.
Did God hide dinosaur fossils in the ground all over the world? Photo: REUTERS
So why do our public schools allow material to be taught that may contradict parts of their own syllabus? This is not to say that looking at opposing views of how we got here is not valuable, allowing children to question and understand that there are different theories and ideologies. What is offensive to me is Mrs Smith offered that view as historical truth.
Instead of SRI, my son can finish off work, or uses it as ”free time”. Knowing how much schools pack into the school day, I can’t help but think that that extra half hour would be welcomed back by teachers with open arms.
Principal Joe Kelly from Cranbourne South Primary School took a stand and I admire him for that. I hope that other state principals follow suit. The ”oversight” by Access Ministries that allowed inappropriate and offensive material to be distributed at Torquay College is hopefully the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I would have been outraged to find my child with reading material that instructed him to seek counselling if he had homosexual feelings, or that masturbation is sinful. Or that dinosaurs didn’t exist.
Religious instruction has no place in secular education. If parents do want their children to be taught religious values, there are any number of fine, non-secular schools that include structured, approved and appropriate religious and values education courses, taught by professional educators. If parents want their child to be educated in the public sector, but still want them to learn about God, there’s always church on Sundays.
*Name has been changed.
Dee Broughton is a teacher.