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The open secret of religious instruction in state schools

By Hugh Harris - posted Wednesday, 19 October 2016


It's long been an open secret that educators and politicians turn a blind eye to proselytising in faith classes.

In spite of numerous media reports highlighting proselytising in the Connect series of special religious instruction (SRE) lessons, Premier Mike Baird has pledged to continue with SRE, based purely on his own personal faith. Listen to him tell Werrawee Anglican Church:

I'm not going to distance what I believe from who I am, and, in that context, I think, SRE should remain as part of our schools and will remain as part of schools while I'm there.

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And his Education Minister Adrian Piccoli stubbornly refuses to release the $300,000 report by ARTD consultants, investigating various concerns about SRE and ethics (SEE), despite holding on to it for nine months.

Advising on "the nature and extent of SRE and SEE" in NSW schools, a source from ARTD consultants said the report was an objective analysis, which no-one would be happy with.

That could be why the state government has filed it under the rug.

Responding to inquiries about Connect lessons proselytising, the NSW Education Department Director, Jason Miezis (on behalf of Minister Adrian Piccoli), advised on 20 July 2016:

Given that parents/caregivers have indicated their preferred religious persuasion for the child on enrolment, proselytising should not occur in school authorised activities.

In other words, parental consent equates to a child being considered a Christian.

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So, proselytising - soliciting a child for a decision to change their religious affiliation - should not occur.

The problem is, we're talking about 6 and 7 year olds.

And, if the fallacy isn't plain enough, the authors of Connect themselves remind instructors that most of their audience is not yet Christian. That's why they're proselytising! The NSW Education department earns the "Computer-Says-No" award for deliberately missing the point.

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About the Author

Hugh Harris is a freelance writer who owns a blog called The Rational Razor on philosophy, and rational thought, and is a member of the Rationalist Society of Australia.

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