Ethics classes will soon be taught in New South Wales primary schools as a secular alternative to scripture classes.Praise the lord! Finally, something useful during that period of time. Scripture lessons were such a waste of time, it wasn't much more than trying than masked proselytism, trying to sell the validity of Christianity and more concerned with pushing articles of faith. Tales of the importance to God in ones life, concern for the afterlife, and historical Jesus = biblical Jesus because there are more copies of the bible than any other historical document.
Religious groups have argued against a change to the government's policy which prevents children who do not go to scripture classes from having other formal tuition during that time.
But the Premier Nathan Rees has announced that the government will now allow a trial of an ethics course in 10 primary schools over two terms next year.
"This will provide students with an opportunity to examine ethics that underline their own values and reflect the choices that they make in everyday life and that is a good thing," he said.
Mr Rees says the course will deal with issues like fairness, bullying, as well as lying and telling the truth.
Dr Simon Longstaff from the St James Ethics Centre says it is a big win for parents who have been pushing for the classes for years.
"It's a wonderful achievement for parents they started the ball rolling almost seven years ago when they raised the concern about those children whose parents made a conscientious decision not being able to do something meaningful," he said.
"It's wonderful to see what they've asked for being recognised by the government and given a chance to be tried."
Schools that are interested in being involved in the trial are being asked to nominate themselves.
More than anything, I think my atheism was pushed by the complete lack of substance in religious class. While in all other classes I was learning something useful, or at the very least playing sport, there was selling Christianity as true and faith in a virtue. In history we learnt about Greek mythology and explored their culture including literature, and even that had more substance than scripture.
And given religion's supposed link to morality, it was amazing the lack of value teaching their was. Now that perhaps is because I was given a very liberal theological "education". Why should we be good to each other? How to we go about resolving an ethical dilemma? What does it mean to be good? None of that, just that we're all sinners and we need Jesus to be forgiven by God.
I welcome this news, because it is not replacing scripture with a non-religious alternative. It's giving children something useful, a way to think through what would otherwise be value judgements. Hopefully this is the start of a general public shift away from the thinking that morality and religion are tightly coupled.