So, in an odd coincidence, this week religion, and of course, atheism reared their controversial heads again. I learned this week that my children’s school has overlooked my wishes for my children to be excluded from religion classes and has in fact had my son attending religious
education indoctrination classes!
That a school can overlook parents’ wishes, is my primary focus here. Secondary, is that my child has been receiving religious instruction from who-knows-what religious advocate – Catholic? Anglican? Baptist? (I’ve written about my atheism and my children just last week in two posts including one about hubby’s agnosticism, so was amazed that this issue cropped up this week).
The school didn’t see fit to alert parents to the fact that their children would begin religious indoctrination this term. The first I became aware of it was when my child told me of the song they were taught, “God is in control, God is in control, God is in control…”.
It won’t surprise anyone to know that I don’t believe state schools should be teaching religious indoctrination at all. Unless they teach ALL religions. Then they can rightly call it religious education. Teach about Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, and anything else that crops up. Teach from an academic viewpoint, not an indoctrination viewpoint. If parents want their children to learn about religion from within a religion, take them to Sunday school.
The school didn’t think a note was warranted to let parents know that a new teacher would be teaching their children, even for just an hour a week, and perhaps introduce that teacher’s background or experience.
The religious education teacher is a volunteer, I understand. But a volunteer from which church? A volunteer with how much experience? A volunteer with what, if any, qualifications? A volunteer whose religious beliefs are what exactly?
You could argue that I don’t get background notes or an introduction to my children’s class teachers before school starts, so why should I get something on the RE teacher. But teachers are vetted (presumably) quite thoroughly by the government department whose remit it is to educate children. There is a level of trust I’m willing to extend that the checks and balances, which include accreditation by governing bodies, that the teacher in front of my child is qualified, experienced and competent. And that teacher is teaching a curriculum. Not passing on her belief system.
What checks and balances are in place for ‘volunteer’ teachers? Probably the only requirement is that they hold a current Blue Card. Big deal. I’ve got one. They’re easy to get and in no way attest to a person’s ability to teach a class in a competent way.
But these points are by the by.
My real objection is that my express wishes – sought by the school in a form – were not followed.
It raises doubt that other simple checks and balances won’t similarly fail.
I met with the school principal this morning to ask how this could happen and was given, in summary, a mystified “I don’t know”.
When I said, “My child has been attending religious education classes despite my express wishes that that doesn’t happen” and the principal’s response was: “You’re joking!”.
No, I’m not joking.
I’ve just received a written response from the principal who has offered an explanation and an apology, to his credit. I’m satisfied this matter has been resolved but it leaves a bad taste in the mouth that the situation ever arose at all.