Religious Education

Yesterday I wrote a post on the controversy in New Zealand about religious instruction in state/public primary schools in Aotearoa New Zealand. The situation is different for secondary schools. Legally, if a school board wishes to allow someone from the Churches Education Commission to take a lesson the school is “closed” and parents may withdraw children from this activity. In my thread I argue that having religious education as an academic subject in the New Zealand Curriculum for all levels in the same manner as history or mathematics would not only solve most of the problems encountered currently, but that our neglecting to do so diminishes the quality of the education provided in this country.

The Secular Education Network (NZ), spearheading this controversy, publicly has on one of its sites about me in response to my post:

For some reason I would not want this man anywhere near my child. His answers are completely patronizing and devious. The Anglican Church has been losing numbers as the population has been greying. Of course he wants RE in schools. Trojan horse anyone?

What is interesting about this libellous public statement on The Secular Education Network’s site is that no room is allowed for Religious Education whatsoever. Religious Education is merely seen as a Trojan horse for future pew fodder for the Anglican Church.

I will not bore you with all the other things said about me on The Secular Education Network’s site, but they are generally in the same vein.

On my site Jeff McClintock replied to Anne Nordhaus criticising an article for being deceptive by switching between Religious Instruction and Religious Education. As Anne had pointed to an article which talks about the SEN and its collective goals I presumed Jeff was criticising that article. I’m now clearer he was not (both being supporters on the SEN page), but that he had not noticed that in criticising my approach he was also undermining Anne’s.

So, it is time for The Secular Education Network to get its house in order. The current NZ approach is the filling of a vacuum in our education curriculum. Is The Secular Education Network’s goal merely to make a better, stronger vacuum, or is it prepared to work collaboratively with others like me who think that dividing religious education away from the rest of our education is a sad mistake?

Arguing about the subtle differences between Religious Instruction, Religious Education, and Religious Study may be interesting but on the whole distracting. Some of the SEN members prefer “Religious Indoctrination“, another “Pedotheistic Insemination“. I have been clear enough about what I refer to as Religious Education, and that whatever terms one uses there is not an hermetically sealed approach.

SEN supporter Tanya Jacob contends that “Religious education can take place as part of the school curriculum” and SEN supporter Susana Carryer makes a similar claim of “a phenomenological approach to the study of religion as promoted in the NZ curriculum”. I am still awaiting their responses of a single state/public primary school in this country where this is happening, and the location in the NZ Curriculum of this phenomenological approach to the study of religion.

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