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NSW principals concerned about scripture consent

Challenge: NSW Greens Justice spokesperson David Shoebridge said he will use the courts, if necessary, to compel the NSW Government to release a review of scripture in NSW schools.

Joanne McCarthy – http://www.theherald.com.au
2 Feb 2017, 5 a.m.

A NSW primary school principal removed a Catholic scripture teacher who took a brooch of two little feet into a class to show children “that was the size of an unborn baby’s feet”.

NSW Primary Principals Association president Phil Seymour said it was the only time he was compelled to act against a scripture teacher in 19 years as a principal, and the church responded.

But Mr Seymour and association treasurer Rob Walker expressed concern about whether parents had enough information to give informed consent to their children attending scripture in NSW public schools, and whether all principals knew scripture material was not approved or vetted by the Department of Education.

Mr Seymour said he had not been aware the education minister does not have the power to control scripture material under the Education Act, and the news came as a “surprise”.

Mr Walker, who is the association representative on a NSW Department of Education consultative committee on scripture and ethics, said he would raise the question of whether a disclaimer was needed on enrolment forms with the department.

“Parents may well form the view they’re signing a Department of Education form giving permission for their children to attend scripture and as a consequence their understanding is that the content of the scripture lesson is endorsed, approved and vetted by the department, and that’s not the case,” Mr Walker said.

The disclaimer could take the form of parents acknowledging that in giving permission for children to attend scripture, they were aware the material was approved by the scripture provider and not the department, he said.

In NSW a large percentage of scripture material is provided by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney’s Youthworks, and is based on evangelical Christian teachings including that the Bible, both New and Old Testaments, is historic fact.

The Youthworks Connect scripture material was the subject of a Queensland Department of Education review which raised serious concerns about lessons consistent with “possible grooming behaviour”, and attitudes to people with disabilities, women and Indigenous people.

On Tuesday Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Bishop Bill Wright authorised a statement saying the Connect material was not used in the diocese. Newcastle Anglican Bishop Peter Stuart said he was “troubled” by issues raised in the Queensland report and the material was being reviewed.

In a statement on Thursday NSW Greens Justice spokesperson David Shoebridge repeated his call for scripture in NSW schools to be immediately suspended pending release of the $300,000 review into scripture, which was completed more than 12 months ago.

“The NSW Education Department must release the comprehensive report they have undertaken into special religious education in NSW, following the public release of the comparable report in Queensland,” Mr Shoebridge said.

“The Queensland review shows that the unvetted material used in NSW scripture classes encourages behaviour that put children at risk of sexual abuse, such as having special relationships with adults and keeping secrets.

“Given the ongoing risks to children we will be demanding its public release, through freedom of information, parliament and if necessary the courts. Until it is released, scripture should be suspended.

“It’s time for the NSW Government to listen to the justified concerns about these programs, rather than any conservative religious elements within their own cabinet.

“We are calling on Rob Stokes as the new Education Minister to urgently suspend scripture classes in public schools,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Darrin Morgan from Fairness in Religions in Schools (FIRIS) said the lack of ministerial oversight of scripture material and whether parents had enough information to make informed consent were risk management issues for the Department of Education to consider.

“Over the last three years of correspondence with FIRIS as we’ve raised these issues, the Department of Education has made it clear that it is not interested in risk managing Special Religious Education at a systems level,” Mr Morgan said.

“In fact, it seems that it has acted in the interests of SRE pressure and made policies and procedures weaker.”

In complaints about proselytising (attempting to convert someone) by scripture teachers in NSW schools the department has told FIRIS that principals are responsible for the implementation of the department’s religious policy in schools.

“If a parent/caregiver or community member believes an SRE provider or volunteer is proselytising as part of SRE, ten a complaint should be made to the principal,” the department said in one response.

Mr Morgan accused the department of “dumping responsibility” for dealing with scripture issues on to principals “without providing them with clear and robust procedures to assist them to ensure they fulfil their duty of care responsibilities to all students”.

“The department is also making parents use a reactive and frustrating complaints process,” he said.

In a statement on Monday the department said it took its duty of care to students seriously.

“If an allegation is made against a person providing SRE in a government school, it will be investigated with reasonable action taken to protect students from foreseeable risk of harm,” the department said.

“Parents/caregivers seeking information about lesson content for their child’s SRE class, or prospective SRE class, should contact the relevant provider of SRE.

“Approved providers of SRE submit a written assurance to the department stating that they have in place processes that satisfy the requirements for teaching SRE in NSW Government schools. This includes an assurance that SRE teachers are teaching the curriculum with sensitivity and in an age appropriate manner.”

http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4441340/the-trouble-with-scripture-consent-forms/

Fairness In Religion In Schools (FIRIS) launches information campaign outside Morisset High School today

CAMPAIGN: Paul Foster talks to parents outside the school on Monday. FIRIS says there's "a total lack of oversight" by schools of scripture class content.

David Stewart – http://www.lakesmail.com.au
30 Jan 2017, 12:12 p.m.

Fairness In Religion In Schools (FIRIS) launched an information campaign outside Morisset High School on Monday to inform local parents of what it describes as concerning aspects of scripture classes, now known as Special Religious Education (SRE), in public schools.

FIRIS said it was concerned about the content of some SRE classes but spokesperson Paul Foster said: “FIRIS is not against religion being taught in schools. We think this is vital. We are against churches being in schools. Let qualified NSW teachers teach all of our children.”

FIRIS’s goal is to see religious education removed from public schools and replaced by an alternative program run by the department “that does not divide children along religious lines”.

http://www.lakesmail.com.au/story/4434327/parent-group-campaign-at-morisset-targets-scripture-classes-photos/

Newcastle Anglican and Catholic bishops question basis of Anglican scripture material and Bible as historic fact

Fact: Bishop Peter Stuart says the Bible is a sacred text but "It is not a history text or science book"

Joanne McCarthy – http://www.theherald.com.au/
1 Feb 2017, 6 a.m

SCRIPTURE in NSW public schools is “an echo from a bygone era and now needs to be reconsidered”, said a prominent Newcastle Anglican Diocese priest after calls on Monday for scripture’s immediate suspension.

Father Rod Bower said Anglican Special Religious Education material produced by a Christian evangelical group and authorised by Sydney Anglican Diocese was “of great concern”, a view backed by Newcastle Anglican Bishop Peter Stuart after a review raised serious concerns, including questions about “possible grooming behaviour” linked to some material taught to children.

Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese has also ruled against the Sydney Anglican Diocese material, with Bishop Bill Wright approving a statement on Tuesday saying Maitland-Newcastle “has not endorsed for use the Connect program in our diocese”.

Bishop Stuart said he was “troubled” by matters raised in a Queensland Department of Education review of the scripture material known as Connect, and produced by Sydney Anglican Diocese’s Youthworks. Connect material is taught in scripture classes across NSW, and teaches the Bible as historic fact.

The Bible was a “sacred text” but “not a history text or science book”, said Bishop Stuart after the Queensland review questioned the Connect material’s teaching of the Bible, both New and Old Testaments, as a “factual, historical document” describing “historical and true” events.

In its statement on Tuesday Maitland-Newcastle diocese also challenged the Sydney Anglican Diocese’s authorised scripture position on the Bible, saying: “Catholic tradition does not insist our taking every bit of biblical history or science or cosmology as historical or scientific fact”.

Father Bower said the Connect material was used in most SRE classes and was “of great concern to many mainstream Christians”.

One of the main issues is that most SRE teachers are now drawn from conservative evangelical churches which raises concerns for more secular-minded or spiritually progressive parents, he said.

Father Bower, a prominent refugee advocate and human rights supporter, said a general religious education in schools which equipped students to “navigate their way in an increasingly multi-faith, multi-cultural society” was a “much more appropriate system”.

“Parents who desire for their children to have Special Religious Education should take them to a local place of worship of their choice,” he said.

Bishop Stuart supported the $300,000 review of Special Religious Education and ethics classes in NSW that was finalised 12 months ago.

“It is appropriate for the current forms of religious education to be reviewed. Australian society continues to change and education about ethics, values and beliefs needs to reflect those changes,” he said.

The Queensland Department of Education review of the Connect material revealed scripture teachers were advised to “bring a dead animal to dissect” in an animal sacrifice lesson, that children were encouraged to have secrets with adults, and a man’s blindness was linked to his parents’ sins.

On Monday NSW Greens Justice spokesman David Shoebridge called for the immediate suspension of scripture in schools and release of the long-awaited NSW review. He strongly criticised lessons consistent with “possible grooming behaviour” after more than three years of evidence from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The call came after confirmation NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes and the Department of Education have no power over the content of scripture lessons under the Education Act. It also came after controversial changes to NSW public school enrolment forms in 2015 removing ethics classes as an option, and leaving scripture as the default position in some state primary schools.

The Queensland review in August recommended removing an animal sacrifice lesson for children aged 10-12, which suggested scripture teachers “bring in a dead animal to dissect”. The review found other lessons had the potential to be upsetting, inappropriate or likely to affect the social and emotional wellbeing of children, including a lesson for children aged 7-9 about a man born blind, which asked: “Was it a punishment from God because his parents or someone else had done something wrong?”

The material also included a lesson requiring children aged 7-9 to list ways to “get rid of” a person, after a Bible story about people “getting rid of” Daniel, and a concluding prayer where children “pray that we may not be like the Israelites”.

A group challenging the application of scripture guidelines across three states, Fairness in Religions in School, letterboxed houses near Hunter and Sydney schools on the weekend with information about enrolling children in scripture and ethics classes, after accusing the NSW Department of Education of failing to act on the Queensland and NSW reviews.

“We can’t believe the Department of Education hands over its duty of care to children in state schools to religious groups that are unaccountable, even to the minister, for what they teach,” said FIRIS spokesman Darrin Morgan.

The Queensland review found that while the “vast majority” of Connect material aligned with Department of Education guidelines, it raised concerns about parental consent, the lack of data on scripture numbers and the lack of legislation to allow “centralised regulation” of scripture content.

Mr Shoebridge called on Mr Stokes to release the NSW review and allow debate on whether scripture legislation reflected community views about state education in 2017.

“Parents put an awful lot of trust in schools when they leave their children at the school gate, and that trust is breached by a system that makes attendance at unsupervised and unchecked scripture classes the default position,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Read the original article here.

Education Minister Rob Stokes asked to immediately suspend scripture in NSW schools

Rob Stokes


SCRIPTURE material endorsed by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney and taught to NSW public school children as young as five includes dissecting an animal, encouraging children to have secrets with adults, linking a man’s blindness to his parents’ sins and reminding scripture teachers not to see children with disabilities as “unintelligent”.

There are calls for NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes to immediately suspend scripture in schools, and release a long-awaited NSW review of special religious education (SRE), after a Queensland Department of Education review raised serious concerns about Anglican “Connect” scripture content used in both states, including lessons consistent with “possible grooming behaviour” and advice to scripture teachers about punishing children.

Read the review here

The calls come after confirmation Mr Stokes has no power over the content of scripture lessons under the Education Act, and controversial changes to NSW public school enrolment forms in 2015 removing ethics classes as an option, and leaving scripture as the default position in some state primary schools.

The Queensland review in August recommended removing an animal sacrifice lesson for children aged 10-12, which suggested scripture teachers “bring in a dead animal to dissect”. The review found other lessons had the potential to be upsetting, inappropriate or likely to affect the social and emotional wellbeing of children, including a lesson for children aged 7-9 about a man born blind, which asked: “Was it a punishment from God because his parents or someone else had done something wrong?”

The material also included a lesson requiring children aged 7-9 to list ways to “get rid of” a person, after a Bible story about people “getting rid of” Daniel, and a concluding prayer where children “pray that we may not be like the Israelites”.

The review noted Connect producer, the Sydney-based Anglican Youthworks, amended lessons about Indigenous children and children with disabilities after community anger that scripture teachers were told “SRE, a barbecue and an afternoon’s sport would be the most pleasurable experience Aboriginal Primary students could imagine”. Scripture teachers were also reminded not to see children with disabilities as “unintelligent”.

You know something is wrong in this state when even Queensland is more proactive in releasing information.
– NSW Greens Justice spokesman and barrister David Shoebridge

Youthworks conceded the instructions were “dated and clunky”.

Connect presented the Bible, both New and Old Testaments, as a “factual, historical document”, with scripture teachers reminded to “emphasise that these events are historical and true”, the Queensland review found.

Calls for the immediate suspension of scripture in schools comes after the NSW Department of Education confirmed it had Crown Solicitor’s advice that a NSW education minister “does not have the power to control the contents of SRE under the current provisions of the Education Act”.

A group challenging the application of scripture guidelines across three states, Fairness in Religions in School, letterboxed houses near Hunter and Sydney schools on the weekend with information about enrolling children in scripture and ethics classes, after accusing the NSW Department of Education of failing to act on the Queensland and NSW reviews.

“We can’t believe the Department of Education hands over its duty of care to children in state schools to religious groups that are unaccountable, even to the minister, for what they teach,” said FIRIS spokesman Darrin Morgan.

On January 16 the department rejected a FIRIS freedom of information request for the $300,000 NSW review, which has been with the NSW Government for 12 months, on public interest grounds. While releasing the review would “promote open discussion and informed debate” on special religious education in state schools, the NSW Government was still considering its response and releasing it would have “a negative impact on the department’s functions”, the department said.

The Queensland review found that while the “vast majority” of Connect material aligned with Department of Education guidelines, it raised concerns about parental consent, the lack of data on scripture numbers and the lack of legislation to allow “centralised regulation” of scripture content.

Greens Justice MP David Shoebridge called on new Education Minister Rob Stokes to immediately suspend scripture in schools, release the NSW review and allow debate on whether scripture legislation reflected community views about state education in 2017.

“You know something is wrong in this state when even Queensland is more proactive in releasing information,” Mr Shoebridge said.

“Parents put an awful lot of trust in schools when they leave their children at the school gate, and that trust is breached by a system that makes attendance at unsupervised and unchecked scripture classes the default position.”

Lessons for children about keeping secrets with adults and having “special friendships” with them were particularly concerning because “We know from the Royal Commission that encouraging ‘special friendships’ and secrets with adults endangers children and plays into the hands of predators”, Mr Shoebridge said.

“Keeping children safe must be the number one priority in our schools, not pandering to extreme religious views.”

A spokesman for former Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said the NSW review of SRE was “currently being considered by government”.

A spokesman for Mr Stokes, who was sworn in as minister on Monday afternoon, did not respond to questions. The Anglican Diocese of Sydney did not respond to questions.

In a statement on Monday Youthworks said all “inconsistent” lesson material identified in the Queensland review had been amended to the standard required by Queensland Department of Education.

“The changes required by Education Queensland have also been applied to our material sold in NSW, and our teachers are being trained to use the new material accordingly,” the statement said.

Youthworks did not respond to a question about whether a scripture teacher had ever dissected a dead animal during a lesson at a NSW primary school.

The NSW Department of Education said it was the responsibility of special religious education approved providers to authorise scripture material, provide an annual assurance to the department that authorised teachers were only using authorised material, to make lesson content accessible on a website and provide information about lessons when requested by parents or principals.

“The department takes its duty of care to students seriously. If an allegation is made against a person providing SRE in a government school, it will be investigated with reasonable action taken to protect students from foreseeable risk of harm,” it said.

“Parents/caregivers seeking information about lesson content for their child’s SRE class, or prospective SRE class, should contact the relevant provider of SRE.

“The NSW Department of Education does not keep a central database of what materials are being used at schools by approved providers.”

http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4431811/dead-animal-dissection-and-the-scripture-class/

Editorial Newcastle Herald 30 Jan 2017

Sydney Anglican Diocese authorised scripture material that includes dissecting a dead animal

Sydney Anglican Diocese authorised scripture material that includes dissecting a dead animal

30 Jan 2017, 9 p.m.

NO one can officially say if a scripture teacher has ever walked into a NSW primary school class with a dead animal and proceeded to dissect it.

He or she could have, by following the authorised Sydney Anglican Diocese scripture material known as Connect which includes the dissection of a dead animal in a lesson about animal sacrifice. The lesson fits within a framework that requires scripture teachers to tell children that the Bible – both Old and New Testaments – is a “factual, historical document” and all events within it are “historical and true”.

The Queensland Department of Education reviewed the Connect material in August after complaints from parents to a principal about what their children were being told in scripture classes where Connect material was used. It is favoured by evangelical Christian groups with connections to the Sydney Anglican diocese.

One of the most disturbing parts of the Queensland review is the lack of government knowledge about too much relating to special religious education in schools – how many children are taught, what they’re taught and who’s teaching them. What is also disturbing is the lack of knowledge about scripture demonstrated by principals, parents and teachers. The situation is the same in NSW.

The Queensland review only occurred after the school principal suspended scripture when he inspected the Connect material and discovered it was not approved by the Department of Education, because legislation prevents it.

Again, the situation is the same in NSW, where the NSW Government paid $300,000 for its own review in 2015, only to sit on it for the past year.

There are serious concerns about scripture in NSW schools, not least the NSW Government’s apparent favoured treatment of church groups and unwillingness to allow public debate about whether the long tradition of religious classes in state school class time should end.

In Victoria, in response to community action, scripture is conducted outside school hours. In NSW the government appears to want to make decisions about scripture in secret, and in response to a report paid for by taxpayers, and tell the community later. Mike Baird paid the price for that approach.

It might have taken dead animal dissecting to shine a little light on the subject.

Issue: 38,454.

http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4435240/too-many-unknowns-in-school-scripture/?cs=12

FIRIS: Campaign Launch

FIRIS NSW Campaign Launch 27 January 2017

More information coming soon…

Sydney Evangelical Curriculum pulled because of FIRIS report

Read the report that is causing chaos in NSW parachurch ministry in schools!

FIRIS recently released a report detailing the nature of the curriculum promoted by Generate Ministries and YouthWorks, who provide the majority of Special Religious Education (SRE).

In response, Generate and Youthworks have “axed” the curriculum.
australia

Axing this curriculum in response to the FIRIS report, is like amputating a gangrenous appendage, in hope of saving the body.

The problem with this strategy is that the material being “axed” is not an appendage, it clearly reflects the core teachings and ideology of both Generate and Youthworks, which are set up to proselytise with “government endorsement”.

You: an introduction is core teaching of the Sydney Evangelical faith, and it is written by the movement’s most educated thinker: Dr Michael Jensen, son of the former Archbishop and leading Moore College Scholar.  Even Jensen himself says “A lot of the things ­mentioned in there are just ­orthodox Christian teachings”.

Rather than defend the curriculum and its place in public schools, the para-church strategy is to announce that it will no longer use it!

Ironically, when the Department took steps to suspend these same materials, due to concerns for student’s welfare, it resulted in a hysterical response from the Evangelical community, drawing comparisons to North Korea!

bird

Now that FIRIS has released irrefutable documentation of the nature of this curriculum, the para-church groups have seen that accusing the Department of being “North Korea” isn’t going to work, so they have tried to conduct a controlled burn.

parachurch claims to be conducting a review and removing the materials at exactly same time as FIRIS report released!

parachurch claims to be conducting a review and removing the materials at exactly same time as FIRIS report released!

This report is long and detailed but it is vital for the public to understand that the Para-church groups using NSW schools are NOT able to shut down public analysis of these materials by claiming that they will no longer use them! 

The report concludes the texts are divisive, promote gender inequality and discrimination towards same-sex attracted and gender diverse students, students with a disability, chronic or terminal illness, and those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALD).

And it finds that these texts have no place in Australian government schools and promote messages contrary to NSW Department of Education policies and educational best practices.

The report has been reviewed by senior professionals across the issues examined, including:

  • Georgie Harman, CEO, beyondblue
  • Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Managing Director Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, child and adolescent psychologist
  • Professor Marion Maddox, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations, Macquarie University
  • Fiona McCormack, CEO, Domestic Violence Victoria
  • Dr Cathy Byrne, religion sociologist, Southern Cross University
  • Justin Koonin, convenor, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby
  • Sally Goldner, Executive Director, Transgender Victoria
  • Daniel Witthaus, CEO, National Institute for Challenging Homophobia in Education (NICHE)
  • Dr David Zyngier, Senior Lecturer, Department of Education, Monash University
  • Dr Naomi Priest, Fellow, ANU

This discussion WILL continue, both in the public sphere and with the Department.

Read the entire report here:

Download (PDF, 3.48MB)

An open letter to Sandy Grant: It is not OK to preach in Australian Schools

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Reverend Sandy Grant
St Michaels Anglican Cathedral Wollongong
Corner of Church St and Market St
Wollongong NSW 2500,
Australia
+61 2 4228 9132

Dear Reverend Grant:

You have our condolences for the loss of your friend, Bronwyn Chin, who died as a result of long endurance of pancreatic cancer, but your sorrow over her death does not licence you to repeatedly fail to grasp why your policy agenda and FIRIS’s aims are in conflict.

Your letter in response to the public discussion of the CEP curriculum, was a masterpiece of “missing the point” – and given your intellect, is best understood as a deliberate attempt to misdirect people from the issues at hand.

The issue is not, as you suggest, that anyone wishes to argue that “suffering is not an opportunity for growth“, as you phrased it, the issue is that you have used her suffering as part of a curriculum in our state schools that is clearly using this example, as a rationale to promote a particular religious agenda.

It is also relevant that you want to do this in our schools as part of a programme of confessional religious instruction that segregates children according to their family’s religious opinions.

If your letter reflects your ability to listen and understand other’s suffering, or if it reflects the pastoral care you routinely give, I offer my condolences to your parishioners as well.

You seem to have a Jesus shaped blind spot in your conscience.

Sandy Grant wants to expose your children to Jesus.

Sandy Grant wants to expose your children to Jesus.

Let me offer you an observation:  The exibitionism you display around your religious convictions, and the outworking of these convictions in the lives of your fellow citizens as policy, has reached a point where you have run into our opposition (as well as the opposition of others).  We need to be very clear with you, that this conflict is one caused by your exhibitionism, and your refusal to respect the sensitivities and feelings of us, your neighbors.  It is your imposition of your religious beliefs into the private and personal lives of our families that has led to this conflict.

As a priest, you must be keenly aware that cancer claims the lives of people without regard to their religious belief, and sadly, claims the lives of people who are very young, or in the prime of health.  As a priest though, you are acting like the proverbial carpenter, who, because all he has is a hammer, considers every problem to look like a nail.

nailr

While it might feel reassuring for you to explain, and comfort your congregation by urging them to see cancer as a perfect reason to “focus on Jesus” – as you did at Ms. Chin’s very public funeral – I can sincerely assure you, that there are equally sincere people who would not welcome this message at their funeral, and your attempts to reframe this, as merely proposing that there is virtue in overcoming suffering, is simply dishonest.  This is manifestly NOT what you are proposing in this example.

Furthermore, the materials at issue, do not frame this in any sense as “your opinion, but instead they clearly assert the truth of a view that “cancer is the result of sin in the world”.

The fact that many view this kind of religious expression with contempt should not surprise anyone.

The way you served the Chin family at their funeral, and I’m sure, as a friend, is exemplary – but you have taken her death, and rolled it into a public school curriculum – administered under the laws of our state, and incumbent on the staff of our schools to oversee and administer.

You repeatedly fail to see why, what you presume to do in our schools , impacts on the lives of those, who for various reasons choose not to join your religious community.

You repeatedly mischaracterise these underlying issues:  as you did in your letter to the Australian.  This pattern rises to a level of willful deception on your part.

So let us be very clear:  because you blend your religious convictions and passions, with legislation and state school policy – we have come into direct conflict.

Were it not for these facts, you and I would not be addressing each other via the intermediary of the pages of the Australian.  Just as none of us protested your sermon at Ms. Chin’s funeral, if if were not for the fact that your views about cancer have been made into curriculum you present in our schools:  it would not be the subject of discussion.

If you were not imposing on our family, and indeed on all families who count themselves as part of the body of public education in Australia – we would not be discussing this- but because you seek to keep a policy in place that has the effect of dictating to my family – how my children are treated in their school there is a conflict.

Let us be very clear:  this issue is one that can be easily solved by your agreeing to conduct your ministry outside of the hours which my children are obligated to be present in school.  We resent having to excuse our children from a timeslot given to your instruction.  Why does it seem to strain your imagination to believe that your insistence that our state schools should uphold a practice that gives you access to conduct ministry – imposes on everyone in a way that is unwelcome? 

I would like to offer another observation – and this has to do with the overarching value of our system of public education, which you seem unconcerned with.

Ms. Chin, as the wife of someone employed by a parachurch group, sent her children to “Illawara Christian School” – and if Australian families who are Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or “none” – attend that school – they would be doing it under clear submission to the “religious confession” which is part of the charter of the Illawara Christian School. While I have every confidence that the people of Illawara Christian School mean no ill toward any of the other faiths, the school charter reads as a reminder of why we need “public education” and why our forefathers sought to create it.  We’ve overcome a past that is steeped in policy that is confessional, dogmatic and celebrates the imposition of “religious tests” for membership.

The beauty, and moral purpose of “public education” – is that it educates children as Australians – which is to say, it educates them, irrespective of, and without favour towards the religion of their family.  This formulation was (historically) reached over the direct protestations of your church, and those of other churches out of which our nation chose to form – in spite of its historic sectarian differences.

The innovation of public education which Australia can proudly claim as a first (ie ours is the first nation on earth to establish a system of free, compulsory and secular education) – is not hostile to your faith – it is your actions which are hostile to our system of education.

We believe that families can and should be trusted to attend to the religious formation of their children, and while a “market” for religious expression clearly exists in this country, none of these should be allowed to commandeer the system of public education – in whole or in part.

We have not “attacked” you or your chosen religion – we have decided to defend our system of public education against an increasingly aggressive and exhibitionist expression of your religion.

Perhaps this is your ultimate goal – to stand in the way of others interrogate them about their beliefs in hope that you’ll convince them of your views – if this is your goal, then let our efforts, bring adversity to you your agenda, and in so doing provide you an “opportunity for growth”.

I sincerely suggest that the sooner you experience this “growth” … the better off we all will be.

The Australian looks into Michael Jensen’s year 9 curriculum – and finds it wanting (your kids soul).

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Download (PDF, 202KB)

Are you Experienced?

Are you Experienced?

How SRE’s apologists are against education about religions:

John Dickson and Michael Jensen swear on a stack of bibles that they believe SRE does not, and should not exist as a form of missionary work, wherein Christian Evangelists take the bible into schools and recruit children to follow their religion.

It is absurd of them to assert this, because it is abundantly clear that this is why religious groups, and especially evangelical ones, burn to prevent FIRIS from accomplishing what they call our “end game”.  Namely, to terminate the practice of granting access to “religious groups” to operate in our state schools (because they should not be using our schools as “mission fields” – schools are places of learning, not places of worship and not street corners to hurl threats of damnation at passers by.  We should expect what is taught in schools to submit to some standards).

SRE does not have any metrics like this, and its most ardent supporters don’t want it to – because they aren’t in schools to educate, they are there because they want to recruit.

Michael Jensen, especially is incandescent with rage because he sees FIRIS as “anti-religious”. Keep in mind that Michael Jensen is not some internet hack, he’s a respected Ph.D., scion of Sydney Anglican Royalty – and he’s constantly slandering FIRIS as “anti-religion” – he knows it isn’t true, but it fits his narrative of persecution.

John Dickson, however has a more nuanced way to slime FIRIS.  His claim is that we don’t want people to “believe religion”!

I want to drill down on Dickson’s claims and show how this agenda is not educational at all: that his goals, while coated in elaborate and often original euphemism, have only one meaning. John wants dedicated and protected space to have people “experience his religion” inside the schools. To be clear, this is what John should be doing – he is after all a priest – he’s sworn to go out and bring people into his faith. It is just much easier if he’s given the schools as a venue to do this. He’s not content to live in a society where people are free to come to him; he wants a world where the Minister for Education lets him come into the schools, and then indicate if you want “opt out” of the time slot he’s been assigned.

theyhate

 

Here is one of FIRIS’s intellectually adept voices, Andrew Glover, stepping in to push back:

theyhate2

John’s response is to claim that few people accuse FIRIS of wanting to get rid of religion (despite that Michael Jensen just said that is what we are about), John wants to defend the idea that FIRIS is against “believed-religion” – he says we “despise believed-religion”.

So you have Michael Jensen claiming we “hate religion” (untrue) and Dickson claiming that we despise something he called “believed-religion”.

This is breathtaking dishonesty (on both counts), given that high profile religious leaders routinely make FIRIS’s case. What John Dickson wants to do is act in the role of “confessor” and define a category of “religion” that he arbitrates, so he can accuse FIRIS of being against it!

John then makes another move. He claims, in effect, that treating religion as something which can be “studied” (ie as a school subject that is non confessional in nature), is a form of attacking religion (despising it), as it is tantamount to killing the living thing!

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To carry this analogy further, into the educational realm, if we can have “botany”, we must despise living plants. Because to systematise and classify, and catalog in drawers – the plants turns them into “museum pieces” instead of living things.

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Beneath this claim is a disdain and contempt for learning that should strike horror into anyone who values education and knowledge, as a source of human understanding and advancement. John’s proposition is that learning in a systematised, objective, mutually understandable and repeatable, content-driven fashion, is hostile to something he’s in favour of: something that in his formulation can be defined as something that “ignites a worldview”.

What does it mean to “ignite a worldview”? I put to you that this is dressed up way to say “saved” or “converted” .

Andrew Glover’s response was exemplary:

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One of the key reasons why SRE deserves to be kicked out of the classroom is that NO ONE will tell you if you’ve learned the material or not, because the only metric that they care about is one that can’t be measured by mankind:  salvation. The goal of SRE instructors (evangelical ones at least) is “salvation from eternal punishment for not believing“.

This is what John’s proposing: to sort those who believe from those who don’t.

John Dickson wants us to avoid that truth, by dancing around with lots of euphemisms; watch him respond to Glover’s intellectual checkmate, by reaching for “heritage and culture” – his “go-to” cover story.  What he seems to miss is that our “culture” deliberately has moved beyond “our heritage”: why does SRE fullfill John’s demands – why not demand that we take all children to mass on Sunday, as was done in yesteryear?  Why does John not demand that girls be made to experience the domestic arts to experience “their heritage”? Because that would make John Dickson look like a fool. But as long as he keeps this argument vague enough, it’s a con he can put over on us, largely because of a reserve of goodwill and deference that most decent people afford piety.

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It isn’t that John is wrong about what he’s saying here. It’s OK for him see religion as something that you do, not something that you “learn about” or “study”, just as it’s OK to be someone who loves plants so much that you can’t stand to see them studied in a systematic way. But this kind of passion is not a qualification for teaching in a school, and in fact it is fair to say that it is hostile to a classical understanding of education.

We should not set up schools built on the liberal arts and on secular foundations and then have priests come in and “do religion” in them, any more than we should have botany instruction that is only given though the lens of “aboriginal knowledge of plants”. Such an education would not be a serious education, just as SRE is not a serious education: it’s there to give evangelists something to do, some people to convert.

SRE is really about the need for the instructors to appeal to students with their passion – more so that something that is there for the students to be educated in any way that we can speak of in a sense of being informed or educated.

John Dickson has no interest in people who are educated about Christianity – he is only interested in having people become Christians, and from his comments it is clear that all his claims about the importance of understanding the bible as means to know about art, literature and culture are hollow.

John compares religion to sport or dance – or music, but the vast majority of us watch and passively consume these things, and in order to understand a footy game, you need to know who the teams are, and the rule; people who cannot move their legs can enjoy footy.  There is no need at all for me to pole vault to watch the Olympics, and my enjoyment of the sport is not diminished by knowing that the games have ancient origins.

Johns arguments are completely self-serving and invasive and anti-educational. Religion, in John’s formulation, is more like sexual intercorse than music, because he feels that it can’t be really appreciated without doing it. It has to be personally felt to qualify as being something you can claim to “know” in the biblical sense (pun intended).

John is really claiming that unless he is allowed to get naked with you, that you really haven’t had the experience he thinks you need.  John Dickson wants to go into the schools and have you “do religion” … not just learn about it.  He wants to know “are you experienced” …

He takes it even further, and argues that our advocacy that all children should learn “about religions” in an educationally valid way, is to despise religion.

John’s intentions are euphemistically worded, but it means the same thing: “Let me have a go”.

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