‘Religious pluralism’ in secular schools

How dare religious separatists seek to indoctrinate primary school students in secular state schools in sectarian religion! Church attendances are continually falling. Many parents do not marry, or have their children baptised. Non-religious private celebrants increasingly conduct marriage ceremonies. Only after death can a religious service be expected to occur. This situation defines modern, white, ‘Christian’ Australia, no matter that Roman Catholic (camouflaged as ‘right wing’) politicians are in (temporary) control of federal parliament.

For those who believe in sectarian religion, there are religious schools available in our capital cities for their children. They may even attend church regularly, taking their children with them. Churches exist everywhere for those whose children are seen to need to learn about the benefit of religious affiliation.

Religion is to be lived, and not to be used as a weapon. The ‘forest’ religions of Asia – Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, etc – are lived – without challenge to one another. Only the 3 ‘desert’ religions – and their doctrinal sects – adopt a competitive approach to those who are ‘not of us.’

Taking doctrinal religion into public schools in Australia, using laypersons who are not trained in the art and skills of teaching, would be a retrograde step in a nation doing rather well in integrating the wide ethno-cultural diversity of recent decades.

Do continue to pray as you wish – in your own places of worship or at home. But do not shove divisive doctrinal theology down the necks of innocent and impressionable children. Children need a broad education which emphasises the unity of humankind. Our teachers have done an excellent job so far. Do not interfere with that.

Way back in the 1970s, I drew up an outline of a program for educating primary school children about religion – what it is about, what it means, and so on. This was accepted by: my school board (of which I was chairman); our teachers; all the priests in the national capital, Canberra; and by the A.C.T Schools Authority. In drawing up this outline, I had consulted experts in Flinders University, and other prominent people involved in religious education.

I heard nothing more after I had moved on. Any change, especially emanating from outsiders, is traditionally anathema to the practitioners and protectors of a prevailing paradigm.

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