Tuesday, August 29, 2006



Why we need secular secondary education

Last week, I blogged about secular education and the current compromise which requires that teaching in state primary schools "shall be entirely of a secular character", but allows schools to temporarily close so that those who want to can participate in religious education and observances. One of the problems with this is that due to a historical anomaly it applies only to primary and intermediate schools. As for what goes on in secondary schools, check out Asher’s experience. The high school he attended (Wellington High School College) forced students to participate in Christian prayers at assemblies, sing Christian hymns, and of course had a preacher round once or twice a year to tell them about Jesus and give them Bibles. Which is a bit problematic if you're a Jewish atheist (or indeed, anything other than a particularly noxious sort of Christian).

There is no question that this arrangement contravenes the Bill of Rights Act's affirmation of freedom of religion, in that students are being forced to participate with apparently no opt-out. This is simply not something that should be happening in our school system. If the new guidelines don't apply to secondary schools and force them to adopt a primary-school style scheme in order to comply with the BORA, then I think there's a very good case for legislation - either to extend the provisions of s77-80 of the Education Act 1964 to all state schools (and repeal s81), or to enact parallel provisions in the Education Act 1989.

Correction: Corrected name of the high school. This is what happens if I post at 2:30am...

7 comments:

Anyone now how religion is taught at Rudolf Steiner schools?

Posted by Anthony : 8/29/2006 06:13:00 AM

Badly. Much like everything else taught at Rudolf Steiner schools.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/29/2006 09:42:00 AM

What Asher's talking about is exactly what happened in my intermediate school, except we had the minister in assembly once a week. Hymns every day. So far as I know, no child was ever excused. Completely illegal, but of course I didn't know that at the time.

I saw a terribly nice man on Campbell Live the other night asking what harm it could possibly do. My friend's daughter attends a primary school where they handed out chocolate, in normal class time, to kids who could answer Bible questions. At ten, I asked a question of our 'religious instructor' and got a five minute screaming insane rant about evolution in return, completely killing the very last interest I had in the religion I'd been raised in. My major problem, though, is that it's just such a pointless waste of valuable class time. Avoiding such waste will be a major factor in our choice of high schools.

Posted by Ghet : 8/29/2006 10:28:00 AM

Slightly OT a report on the performance of charter schools in the USA:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/27/opinion/27sun1.html?ex=1314331200&en=a2fe3bf7a7a808fc&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

I note that these "Christian" schools want freedom of parental choice but still want state funding.

Since when was beating children a core Christian "value".

The Christians I was brought up by and with and the Christians represented by these schools are so different it is not funny. I wonder if Bob Clarkson has anything to say about these folks.

Posted by noddy : 8/29/2006 12:07:00 PM

My (low-mid decile) high school also featured prayer in assembly for several years, solely on the whim of a senior administrator (who also led the "non-denominational prayer to which no one could object"). I think those were his words. Arsehole. Why he felt the need to preach, albeit briefly, to a (literally) captive audience was beyond me.

He was also the sort who would go apoplectic over minor uniform infringements. A regular swell guy.

Posted by dc_red : 8/29/2006 12:39:00 PM

Noddy said :I note that these "Christian" schools want freedom of parental choice but still want state funding.

Since when was beating children a core Christian "value".

The Christians I was brought up by and with and the Christians represented by these schools are so different it is not funny


These people are so far away from the teachings of Jesus it isn't funny. "Praise God and pass the ammunition" - they are being kicked out of some churches in the US I believe.

I'm an atheist, but Jesus was cool - a radical non-conformist.

Posted by Ruth : 8/29/2006 02:20:00 PM

"He was also the sort who would go apoplectic over minor uniform infringements. A regular swell guy."

Yeah, we had that too. In addition to the "no mufti day" rule (as mentioned in my original post), we used to have the Headmaster (or sometimes the Deputy) sitting at the bottom of the driveway at the end of school, making sure our shirts were tucked in, our shoes were polished and our socks exactly 2 finger widths below the knee before we left. If your uniform wasn't perfect, you couldn't leave until it was.

Posted by Asher : 8/29/2006 04:01:00 PM