Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Every year, just before the school year commences, I get the job of going down to the school, signing the kids in, collecting all the books, paying for everything in sight, and making sure we're all duly accoutred for another wonderful year of education. And every year, after I've gone through all the other tables with books on them and signed stuff, and agreed that my kids will be doing this, that or the other, I'm shepherded towards a table with a cheerful, hopeful chap who says something like:

"And are you going to sign the kids into C.R.E?"

And every year, I smile. And I say: "C.R.E? Does that stand for Comparitive Religious Education?"

And the cheerful, hopeful chap duly smiles back and says, with a note of surprise, "Why, no! It's Christian Religious Education."

And then I say something like "Oh, what a pity. I would dearly like the kids to be able to study a range of religious beliefs. Well, never mind. No, they won't be taking part this year, thanks."

Now, I would in fact be extremely happy if the kids got an introduction to the world's major religions, placed on an equal footing, as belief-systems to study. Religions have played a huge influence on the history and on the cultural development of the world, and it's valuable to learn the basics. Especially if you live in a world shared with many different cultures and religions, yes indeed. But that opportunity seems to be lost on the education system.

However, I'm very pleased to note that in NSW, at least, they're doing something progressive:

Labor to defy churches: ethics classes likely to start next year

I think this is brilliant. I'm very tired of hearing all about how atheism cannot possibly offer a moral or ethical basis for behaviour, and I'm delighted to see that finally, finally, someone has had the courage to follow through on this. Ethics and religious beliefs are not the same thing, nor ever have been. If this programme comes to Tasmania, I will be very happy indeed to finally change the tired dialogue at that last table.

"You'll be signing the kids up for C.R.E, right?"

"Is that still Christian Religious Education?"

"Uhhh... yes."

"In that case, no. My children are going to study ethics instead. But if you do decide to teach a comparitive course, please let me know."