Monday, 22 November 2010

Sanity Prevails
PARENTS will have the right to ethics classes as an alternative to scripture in their child's school even if the principal and the majority of the school community opposes them.

The state cabinet is expected to approve the introduction of ethics classes to primary schools today after a successful trial this year. They will begin as early as term one next year.

While the classes will be voluntary for schools, the Herald has confirmed that parents who want their children to attend the classes will be able to appeal to the Education Department if the principal opposes them.
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As long as the St James Ethics Centre, which will run the classes, is able to provide volunteers and there is a reasonable number of children to attend them, the department will ensure they are offered.

Students in years 5 and 6 are likely to be the first to be offered the classes, because they are the years in which the trial was run. Eventually classes will be offered in years K-6.
Looking back on my time spent in scripture, it would have been much more productive to be in an ethics class than it would that time in Scripture. All that effort to try to convince me (along with the rest of my class) of the factual nature of Jesus and of the importance that faith plays in life didn't work. Meanwhile I didn't get to study ethics in any sense formally until my third year of university. My sense of morality was pieced together from paternal figures, common sense, experience, intuition and works of literature. While I don't think this is exactly a horrible way of doing it, it would be a shame to not give young people a formalised way of thinking about such issues.

I look at it like language. Yes people can pick it up and do generally fine without formal education. After all language long pre-dates schools. But it would be absurd to think that language lessons are useless, or its systematically imposing one language on students ahead of its culture (even if language is arbitrary and culturally-dependant), language lessons add a proper structure to what we intuitively acquire. While morality could be argued is a lot less culturally-dependant, I think they are analogous at least in the respect of the value of teaching.

Anyway, this is great news for parents in NSW who have children in years 5 or 6 next year. The question of Jesus or the importance of faith is what churches are for, not public schools.

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