Education choices for our kids
I wanted to expand a topic I touched on in another thread. Public and private education.
I live in country New South Wales in Australia. I have two options for sending my kids to school. Option 1 is the local state high school. Option 2 is the local private christian school.
I think I should explain the school system here in Australia, as schools differ so much around the world. The state and federal government decide how much it costs to educate a child. Between them they give each school that much for each student enrolled. A private school may wish to charge more than the minimum education cost. So parents only have to come up with the difference. Australia has a lot of private catholic schools that only charge a nominal $50, $100, $200 dollars per term. They pay teachers roughly the same as state schools and offer similar education (with a catholic bias). All schools have to follow the state curriculum.
My local private school is touted as a christian school. It is reasonably expensive at about $1200 per kid per term, but it has a lot more facilities than my local state school.
Added to that the fact that the state school has been flooded with a fire hose, set on fire and students have been stabbed and beaten senseless.
My wife and I decided to send our kids to the christian school, believing that we could answer and counter any theist mumbo-jumbo that our kids were subject to.
We had both been to christian schools in Britain where the christian bits were kept to assembly in the morning (with a bit of happy-clapping) and 'Religious Education' classes, which really didn't mention any other religion. But overall our education was religion free. The popular belief in the 70's and early 80's was that religion had no place in other subjects.
Back at my kids christian school, I keep a watchful eye on the quantity of religion in their education. Most of the time it is background noise, and without religion at home my kids recognise the more bizarre aspects of theism. (I do teach them Richard Dawkins inspired 'god delusion' facts and encourage critical thinking.)
Two things have troubled me though. the first was about a year ago when I became aware of the creationist menace that seems to be spreading around the world. I read as much as I could about it (which led me here) and realised how prolific and insidious it is. I decided to ask about it at a parent day at school. So I approached the head master and asked bluntly what the schools position on creationism was. I was told the school believed in a creationist god and that he created everything. not a very satisfactory reply given the global climate on creationism. I must have frowned at that point, and believing I needed more explanation he went on to say that he was a science teacher himself, and if a student asked him about the complex systems in the eye he would have to tell that student that due to its complexity it must have been designed by sombody. He also added that they do teach the curriculum in science, but he felt compelled to let them know what he thinks.
I honestly believe he thought he was educating me at that point as if I was some hick country bumpkin that needed to know the 'truth'. (I must admit I do look like a scruffy overweight cave dweller at times). I retreated stunned at what I had heard, a line straight from the 'Creationism 101' handbook.
The next scary moment was in the last few weeks the whole school had a visiting guest preacher in chapel. He asked kids if Alexander Fleming invented (not discovered) penicillin. When they tentatively (some as young as 6-7) said yes he shot them down and said 'no, god did' This continued with lots of science being debunked and being replaced with god as ultimate creator of everything. My son who is 13 thought this was hilarious as he is very capable of critical thinking and saw it for the nonsense it was. My daughter can't remember a word as she thinks those chapel evangelical moments are very boring.
I guess I am not too worried about my kids, but I would prefer a more secular education in a school as well equipped as this one. I do supplement their science knowledge at home because it is a passion of mine. But it does anger me that so much creationist clap-trap can be fitted around the state curriculum.
Also it really frustrates me that religions are still the only organisations that can afford to build excellent schools that surpass what the state can offer.
State schools have to enroll everyone that lives in that catchment - even if they are ferral. Private schools select the students they want - bullying is nearly non-existant at my kids school. Teachers get paid more at private school - but they have to be religious.
Finally, I guess the point of this whole post, is that creationism isn't just in fundy America it's even in the country regions of New South Wales but it is under the radar.
It's creeping and I think it must be intoxicating in its simplicity to those who desparately have a need to feel important. It's not easy to believe that in the universal picture we are but insignificant ants. This also doesn't mean that 'insignificant ants' means 'anything goes - moral freefall'. It is simply a relative perspective.
Truly important people earned the right to be called important. They are not important because they are part of some 'bigger picture'. In fact most of us are very ordinary and when we die a handful of people mourn us, then nothing. I think this is the concept that most christians find disturbing. They cannot accept how ordinary they really are.
Please stay vigilant about your kids education and give them plenty of opportunities for critical thinking, because no matter how much fundy indoctrination they get, it will sound like mumbo-jumbo and they will be athiest if you keep letting them know that religion is not 'special' and it deserves no special respect.
Myth-Bustin' religiosity from the World.