Religion in Schools: A complete shamozzle

Posted: August 8, 2007 in Atheism, Australia, Education, Religion

blackboard.gifThis leads from my last post on why creationism in schools is a damn stupid idea and why any attempts to teach it as part of any sort of curriculum is morally indecent.  This post shall deal with two points:  The impact religious beliefs have on everyone else and just what religious aspects are taught in the classroom.

At the school where I am currently employed, there is one family in the class which holds pretty fundamentalist beliefs.  Yes, including that whacky fun called ‘Creationism’ (Young Earth Creationism at that which, let’s face it,  is just plain bizarre) and a complete distancing from anything that so much as mentions wizardry and magic.  That includes the various Harry Potter novels.   Now, I am no fan of that series – it is highly over rated and praised for things that are simply not specific to it (let’s face it, it relies heavily on various cliches and stereotypical characters) – but children do seem to love it like crazy.  Anything that gets their interest in reading up is great, no denying that.

Despite my personal opinion of the series, it would be a great text to use in the classroom for various reasons and it could very easily serve as the basis for many lessons covering various topics.  The students would be engaged from the beginning and things would mostly likely go great.  But because of that one family, that text can not be used so as to ‘respect their religious beliefs’.  That is right, because just one family in the class have a religious belief the rest of the students in that class can not be given as a class text to analyse, read or otherwise use as a basis for work.   Let’s change that around a bit and see if it works if other beliefs are brought into play.  Let’s assume that a new family comes to the school and they, for whatever reason, that the letter ‘E’ is unholy and should be avoided at all costs.   Using the same logic that bars certain narratives from the classroom, all representations of the letter ‘E’ would then need to be expunged from the learning environment.   See how ludicrous the logic is?

Now the stated reasons from this family about why Harry Potter must not be read in class is that (to paraphrase) ‘it contains people using magic and other evil things which people worship to get what they want’.

Think about that carefully for a moment or three.   A Fundamentalist Christian family saying something is bad because ‘it contains people using magic and other evil things which people worship to get what they want’.

Hold on. What about their own text, The Bible?  Plenty of people used magic in that. Moses turned his stick into a snake, parted the waters, raised a stone so his army would win a battle, etc.  That must certainly count as magic.  What about all the supposed miracles of Jesus?  Water in wine, walking on water, blah blah blah. Magic.  I smell hypocrisy in the air.

warning.jpgI assume at this stage some people who may be reading this are thinking ‘we do not want our children exposed to devilry and tales of people using powers to get what they want! Our children must be exposed only to wholesome texts!’.   Fair enough.   Oh, hold on … the Bible contains some of the most violent and sadistic stories to be found in fiction; human sacrifices, genocides, women being freely given over to be pack raped, murder … the list goes on and on and on.  But I suppose that was god-sponsored acts of morally abhorrence so that makes it just fine and the Bible, despite containing many times the depravities of a childrens book series, is alright to study in schools.

Damn, there’s that hypocrisy smell again.

It does make me wonder, though. What about other texts that contain the heroes using magic? The Lord of the Rings? Greek Mythology? Should the tales of Gandalf and those of Hercules be off limits just because of the sheer ignorance of one family?  Bollocks to that.

That sorts of leads to the second point I wish to address;  The exact nature of religious classes in public schools.  Now according to the Principle of Secular Education, schools are allowed to deliver religious instruction in one of two ways but ‘not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect‘.   The school can offer time where students can be instructed on ‘general religious education’ where all faiths are given equal time and none are given favour over another.   That fails simply because it is logistically impossible to cover every faith in proper detail in the time available, even just the major ones.

The second way is to offer ‘instruction provided by churches and other religious groups and based on distinctive religious tenets and beliefs‘.   This is the one that is by far the most often seen in public schools which is something akin to a tragedy.  While these classes are not compulsory, they are still almost always included as part of a Teacher’s Allocated Preparation Time and students who elect not to take part have to go into a (usually) empty room and get on with ‘busy work’.   That makes them feel horribly excluded from the rest of the class which is simply not fair on them.

This method not only fails because of the feelings of exclusion suffered by those who do not participate.  It fails because, quite simply, it is not education in way proper sense of the word.  The students are not being taught to critically make up their own minds about the subject, instead they are being what can only be termed as indoctrinated.   Only the viewpoint of one faith is presented as being the truth and all others are either ignored or stated as being wrong.

That also creates other problems, entirely unnecessary ones, in the classroom.  The students are instructed that god or some other sky pixie father figure created the world and so on.  Unfortunately, all available information, evidence and other findings point completely elsewhere.  So when a students puts his or hand up while you’re explained that the Earth is around 4 billion years old and asks “But Mr. ____ said it is only 6,000 years old and god made it, not the combining of cosmic gas and dust” … you’re stuck with a pretty shite choice.  Either you call the religion teacher an ignorant git, you open the possibility that something that available evidence rules out is true or you try to find some sort of weird balance between the two.

Which should not be necessary at all.  As previously stated, Schools are there to teach thinking skills, established knowledge and facts.  Religious instruction should solely belong at churches and bible meetings.   That includes religious beliefs held by families which should left at the school entrance lest they unfairly affect other families who do not hold such beliefs.

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Comments
  1. Joey says:

    I like this post, I agree with it wholehartedly. Find it a little harsh on some levels but valid nonetheless, public schools shouldnt be a forum for religous thought and opinion, they’re suppose to be supporting and teaching what is accepted to be fact.

    I like the Harry Potter series, and im proud to say i liked it long before it was popular lmao, but its also a work of fiction. No where in Harry Potter does it say “All Christians are wrong”, or “Paganism is the way to go!” so why should they even give a damn?

    I know a small community thats near where I live who have the most hardcore christians I’ve ever met. They even have their own little catholic school right in the middle of all the houses and the parents teach. And two of the most prominent series in those little classrooms are The Lord of the Rings, and Hary Potter. The parents are hardcore christians but they’re smart, they know and accept the fact that the books are fiction and support them because they’re well written and entertaining.

    A similiar event that happened a little while back, a class in a public school took the students to see The Chronicles of Narnia. Some parents threw a fit because they claimed that the movie supported christianity and they were forcing ideals on the students. I’ve seen the movie and nowhere in the bible does a talking beaver help Jesus to defeat an evil ice-queen.

    I agree, there shouldnt be any school-organized religious classes or prayer. Perhaps clubs but those are normally student organized and all religions(atheism included) should retain the right to form their own ideal-based group.

    I’m sorry for the long post, but you hit one of my true pet peeves there. Theres a lot of “holier than thou” christians that make me look bad for being catholic.

  2. AV says:

    public schools shouldnt be a forum for religous thought and opinion

    I disagree somewhat. I think there is a place in public schools for comparative religious studies. I don’t think the fact that it couldn’t possibly encompass every religious belief system in the world is that much of a problem: it is highly unlikely that there is room on the average history syllabus for a treatment of every historical trend, era, or personage. And there is certainly no room on the average English syllabus for the study of every work of fiction ever written.

    What there should be no place whatsoever for is religious indoctrination.

    At the school where I am currently employed, there is one family in the class which holds pretty fundamentalist beliefs. Yes, including that whacky fun called ‘Creationism’ (Young Earth Creationism at that which, let’s face it, is just plain bizarre) and a complete distancing from anything that so much as mentions wizardry and magic. That includes the various Harry Potter novels.

    A good education involves exposing yourself to new and challenging ideas, not wrapping yourself in cotton-wool and flushing your brain down the toilet because you can’t handle your most cherished presuppositions being questioned. The fundie parents you speak of are not seeking a good education for their children; they are looking for indoctrination, and they are demanding that the public school system do (at least part of) their indoctrinating for them.

    It is to the detriment of our education system that it feels obliged to pander to these idiots.

  3. Joey says:

    Good point, I didnt choose my words very well right there. I dont mean that the ideals that religion exists or anything should be completely swept under the rug. I meant that the school itself shouldnt show any preference for any particular religous mind-set.

    Thanks for pointing out that error.

  4. Precisely what I believe. Evolution is NOT taught as fact in schools, but there is so much pressure in the States to show creationism as fact instead!

    Public schools are, well, public. You can’t give respect to all religious beliefs without offending other beliefs, causing problems between students, or without a huge amount of time and resources wasted.

    So why have religion in school at all? As an after-school or lunch-time activity, sure. But it should never dominate teaching. I just wish the religious folk out there could trust themselves to read Harry Potter without comdemning themselves to hell.

  5. Georgia says:

    you are completely ignorent, have a cry about harry potter and choose another book, religion should be taught in schools because it gives students something much much more than thinking skills and facts. religion gives millions of people a reason to keep going and to live, keep it to yourself and do the job your paid to do.

  6. Matt says:

    Religion gives people nothing that is honest, it is naught but a delusion. Meanwhile, I suggest you brush up on your own schoolwork, with such wonderful examples as ‘ignorent’ and ‘your’.

  7. AV says:

    you are completely ignorent, have a cry about harry potter and choose another book, religion should be taught in schools because it gives students something much much more than thinking skills and facts. religion gives millions of people a reason to keep going and to live, keep it to yourself and do the job your paid to do.

    Evidently religion does nothing for one’s ability to string together a coherent thought.

  8. Trip says:

    Mate you are soooo uninformed

    Darwins ideas are totally dead, Do you know anything about dimensions? Time? I know im not that well educated but to dismiss what could be beyond your small universe is what I would call a closed mind that is afraid to look outside of the coffee shop, There is so much stuff being revealed by science that points to a young earth its not funny like polonium halos, 4500 year old deltas to most of the major rivers in the world and I could go on and on so people have the right to be taught truth and facts not bullshit ideas about monkeys that has Absolutely no evidence to back it up (show me the money) put it where your mouth is brainwashed boy.

  9. Matt says:

    How about you point me to some of this supposed evidence, hm? The peer reviewed journal entries, the independently verified scientific research and so on?

    As for a quick selection of some of your other comments:

    Darwins ideas are totally dead

    That’s very odd, since his basic ideas (please note that Darwin was wrong about a great many things about Evolution but his basic ideas still hold up) are still the basis for all modern biology and medicine as well as a wide number of other areas of research.

    Do you know anything about dimensions? Time?

    As neither you or I are theoretical physicists, I would say we’re both reasonably ignorant of the deeper understandings of both these concepts. However, that you called Time ‘time’ tells me a lot. When dealing with large scale events such as space or even planets, it’s usually referred to as SpaceTime.
    I recommend ‘A Brief History of Time’ by Stephen Hawking.

    like polonium halos

    Long since debunked, as laid out here:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/po-halos/

    4500 year old deltas

    You do know how river beds are formed, don’t you? Here’s a clue: They change their course, all the time, especially when you take into account geological time scales which sees them form and disappear entirely.

    Absolutely no evidence to back it up

    This blog is full of links to scientific/ peer reviewed/ independently verified information which fully supports the Theory of Evolution and the idea that the Earth is approximately 4 billion or so years old. I recommend talkorigins.org.

  10. Trip says:

    There are no facts mate its all a religion and if the earth was that old then every body of land would have been washed away that many times it wouldnt be funny but we are still told that all the dead flat layers with no erosion apart from the top down are millions of years old, what a joke, and also it seems there is mounting evidence that we live in a universe that was formed very quickly and shaped by huge electrical discharges get with the times the earth being old is an old theory. Oh yer the evolutionary lawn instead of tree because that doesnt stand up any more, sounds like creation to me.

    We are not sons of God anymore, we are sons of Adam if you want to know your family tree and we are living in a dimension where everything is in decay but Jesus came and made a way back for us and thats fine if your not interested in going back, you can stay here, because your house/body wont go on forever and then where are you going to go and yes there is another you, the software you but your hardware is built from corruptable components and it seems that your software is to, enjoy your selected short life my friend and remember God does love you so start to examine how you think with your heart as well, it does have brain cells you know, seek it and you shall find it, its real mate, I know and I know thats hard to phathom for some. Remeber its like a treasure in a feild, you have to look and ask as its beyond this dimension and when and if your eyes are opened to it, the love, joy and experience you will get is beyond compare but you will be hated as I am because those who are perishing seem to know there outcome. Like Jesus said when asked what will the end days be like ”Take heed lest any man deceive you!” There was a time when I thought the earth was very old and we came from lets face it, nothing but now I see the true delusion. sk and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

    Just try knocking mate you might get a surprise.

    Oh that doest mean you have to go to some church/freemason organisation.

    Matt says: Three comments merged to save space and make things look neater.

  11. Matt says:

    There are no facts mate

    That’s interesting since you said just above that there was increasing evidence/facts pointing to a young earth. I find that directly contradictory to your statement just now.

    if the earth was that old then every body of land would have been washed away that many times

    You obviously have no idea about geology, do you? Certainly not about how new land is formed. Here’s a suggestion; do some brief research into continental drift and tectonic plates.

    also it seems there is mounting evidence that we live in a universe that was formed very quickly and shaped by huge electrical discharges

    And this evidence is where, exactly? I would very much like to see the peer reviewed scientific research that states this.
    The formation of the Universe, as we know it today, took quite a long time – from the most basic of elements forming to produce more complex ones, which then led to the formation of stars and so on.

    We are not sons of God anymore, we are sons of Adam…

    Snipping a whole bunch here simply because it’s incoherent rambling which is not backed up by any sort of evidence.

  12. Trip says:

    I’m not going to argue anymore as this will always be you thinking that you are smarter than me and that you you have done all the research and have all the answers and after this you have some kind of metal victory. I could spend the rest of my my life wrestling with you but like I said “enjoy your selected short life” I’m sure as you draw your last breath the questions will be going through your mind but you will console yourself with the the things you think are fact as you join those in darkness that has been reserved as a place/dimension lower than ours for the day of judgement.

    *wipes dust from feet* The war is in your head now Goodbye

  13. Matt says:

    You have proven yourself to know little to nothing about astronomy, geology, biology and a few other fields as well. You have failed to provide any sort of evidence at all to back up your seemingly groundless assertions. You have also directly contradicted your own statements.
    You have also failed to counter evidence when it was provided.

  14. Trip says:

    http://video.google.com.au/videosearch?hl=en&q=electric+universe&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=X&oi=video_result_group&resnum=4&ct=title#

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3682855866783766146

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8506668136396723343

    http://www.electric-cosmos.org/planets.htm

    http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/electric_universe/electric_sky08.htm

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2433471460463354645&hl=en

    “Until recently a mechanism for DNA to scan its inner and outer environments was not known. It is now known that DNA uses a scripted language to think about and respond to its environment. It senses it environment using a holographic matrix through which it can ping its interior and exterior environments via electromagnetic resonance and acoustic signaling. DNA interpret (understands) its surroundings and has algorithmic action codes to select from to respond to the information it gathers. This is far too intelligent to have happened by chance. How can random events lead to the design of a holographic quantum bio-wave computer complete with a computer program language and billions of lines of response codes? If this is not the clincher for design theory I don’t know what is”

  15. Matt says:

    And that’s still not evidence. If you knew anything about science, you would realise that. To begin with, all those videos you post don’t actually present any evidence – they present assertions and try to make them sound good using pseudoscience (I will assume you know what pseudoscience is). Your last section of comments is an excellent example of pseudo-science, for the sake of an example.

    Text such as How can random events lead to the design of a holographic quantum bio-wave computer complete with a computer program language and billions of lines of response codes? If this is not the clincher for design theory I don’t know what is also fails prey to simply being an argument from incredulity, which simply holds no weight what-so-ever in any sort of debate or argument.

    Bring me peer reviewed (that means independently verified research) and then we’ll talk.

    I would also appreciate if you didn’t make numerous comments within a short amount of time. It makes things look untidy and just makes me merge all the comments to clean things up.

  16. AV says:

    I’m not going to argue anymore as this will always be you thinking that you are smarter than me

    The debate was always going to boil down to this. “You think you’re better than me!!!!!!” (Whine, sniff.) How mean, nasty and insensitive of you, Matt, to beat this poor individual around the head with the facts, and to point out the flaws in his reasoning.

    Anti-intellectualism: one gigantic chip on the shoulder.

    Tripp has taken the bat and ball and run home, promising never to return. He’s broken that promise once already, so if he breaks it again, I’d like to know if he is able to explain to us the following, in plain English:

    1. What evidence is there that DNA “thinks” about its environment. And when you say that DNA “thinks”, is this the same thing as human thinking? If not, how is it different?

    2. What is a holographic matrix?

    3. Can you please explain the phenomenon of “pinging,” and how it functions in the context of DNA?

    4. Can you please explain electromagnetic resonance.

    5. And algorithmic action codes.

    6. And what on earth is a holographic quantum bio-wave computer?

    7. Finally, assuming you do actually know what you’re talking about and are not just attempting to bamboozle us with jargon, why is design the default explanation for the phenomena you describe?

  17. AV says:

    *wipes dust from feet* The war is in your head now Goodbye

    There goes another loving Christian. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, mate.

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