The place for religious education
by: John Tyrrell
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The spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, Peter Kearney, has suggested* that if the demand exists, publicly funded secular humanist schools should be set up as society should cater to all beliefs. He asked:
“Why should tax-paying parents who follow a secular humanist belief system be denied the opportunity to have their children educated in accordance with their beliefs?”
Superficially a fair and open-minded question, except it forms part of an argument to provide a publicly funded expansion of faith-based schools. It's toss the non-believers a bone and they'll roll over and play dead to even more religious indoctrination in even more publicly funded faith-based schools.**
The real question, and this applies in many countries in addition to Scotland, is "Why isn't publicly funded completely secular with no religious indoctrination at all?"
By posing that question, I am not suggesting that schools should teach atheism, agnosticism, or secular humanism instead of Catholicism, Presbyterianism, Islam, Judaism, etc. I'm suggesting they should not teach any of these specific beliefs.
Of course they can teach comparative religion - that means teaching about these various religious perspectives - but not teaching any of them as fact.
So if parents want their children taught a specific religion, where should that teaching be provided?
How about in the churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues, which already exist - and which are already indirectly publicly supported through special tax status? Isn't teaching a specific religion what religious institutions exist for? Why should it even be considered part of a public school system education?
The religious buildings are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Let the various religions put them to use promoting their religion to the children of their congregation memberships. And don't ask those who are not members of the specific religion to fund religious indoctrination.
It is long overdue to eliminate religion indoctrination completely out of public schools. The various religions already have the infrastructure in place to do the job.
As for non-believers - we'll continue to muddle through the education of our own children into thinking for themselves, and hopefully they'll intelligently find their way to one or more of atheism, agnosticism and secular humanism. At least they should not fall victims to the blinkered thinking discussed in the previous meditation.
* Leading Catholic Church figure urges Scots secularists to set up their own schools -- Gerry Braiden -- Herald Scotland 28 December 2015
** As a side issue, a faith-based system isolates children of various faiths from each other during the most formative years - it serves to emphasize that followers of different faiths are somehow different and should be avoided. And there is no opportunity to learn mutual respect firsthand. When I went to school, Catholics went to their own school system. I did not know any Catholics in my age group - let have one as a friend - until I went to university. I do not see that as a good situation. It makes it harder to find mutual respect.
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