Philosophical Requirements for Qualified Teachers

Dadvocate's picture
Posts: 56
Joined: 2007-05-04
User is offlineOffline
Philosophical Requirements for Qualified Teachers

I really don’t have any idea where I should put this, so I’ll leave it here and allow the mods. to make that decision if need be.


My girlfriend and I will be looking for new teaching posts after this year, and as is generally required before we hit the meat market in Asia, we have to get our collective credentials and letters in a row.


            As we were undertaking this arduous process this morning, I came across some old papers of hers from the Archdiocese of Brisbane which is connected to a place where she used to teach some time ago. I found this under the heading “Who can teach religion in a Catholic school?”


Only committed Catholic teachers teach in the RE programme. Prior approval is to be gained from the assistant Director, Catholic Schools RE [religious education] and Curriculum, for another person to do so.


They go on to say…


This is not meant in any way to denigrate the contributions of non-Catholic teachers to catholic schools. However, it is saying that teaching religion is more than imparting knowledge and involves teaching with our whole being. An effective teacher of religion, therefore, will be ‘living out’ their faith and its total ‘witness’ will be the real teaching ‘tool.’


            On the last page of the document I found these bulleted points regarding teacher accreditation:


TO TEACH (in general) [one should consider]


·        spirituality of the teacher

·        why are they teaching at Catholic schools?

·        RE across the curriculum

·        School as part of Church

·        Ethos of Catholic school

·        History of Catholic school in Australia


            My reason for bringing this up is twofold:


            I want to find out if others feel that religious freedom these days includes the notion that a school can preclude teachers (either in general subjects or in the specific context of religious classes) based on religious affiliation if the school itself enjoys protection considerations in a democratic country such Australia. For instance, a slightly different private school could not avoid hiring a Catholic person to teach in public sector schools simply based on this consideration.


            I am also curious how an institution of education today could place such a high standard on the religious beliefs of an educator going in (which isn’t even getting into sexual orientation, political affiliation, or as an extreme example skin color). To be fair, I need to stop and think about what requirements I would have if I were to put together a similar document for a school that is run on secular if not atheist precepts. In an attempt to see what others might include, I thought I would start with my considerations and see if anyone else wanted to add things. I would appreciate any feedback.


            Regarding point one, I’d like to come right out and say that I think a person’s religious beliefs should never enter into a conversation about a teaching post at a school, regardless of the school’s background. That has to be true in public spheres (I’m using the American English distinction in this case). For private schools things get a bit trickier I suppose, but as a general rule I think it prejudicial do to so in this day and age.


            In my case, the school I work at is explicitly secular. Neither teachers nor students are allowed to promote their religious beliefs one way or the other at our school, though being honest about who one is on the spectrum of spirituality is entirely allowed if someone asks. And to the degree that one is faithful, this can be stated in presentations or as a philosophy of a kind in the coursework if a justification for beliefs is warranted. Regardless of this consideration, none of my students know that I am an atheist.


            That said, my school is respectful of the fact that there are several faiths represented within our faculty, staff, and students. That being what it is, oftentimes we skate over issues that might lead to conflict along theistic lines. In that respect I suppose I am okay with this default stalemate.


            A quick side note: During a recent football match (soccer for the North Americans) our school hosted a western-based religious private school. I attended the match to support a couple of my students and was sitting in a mixed crowd.


            After every good play for their side, this woman kept yelling, “Praise Jesus” or Thanks to Jesus.” It was so ridiculous that I yelped in laughter at one point, but then quickly pretended that it was something else I saw on the field. Why was it necessary for me to do so?


            What bothers me is the fact that I still worry about telling students who I am. I have an instinctual need to keep my real lack of religious spirituality from them, as if it has the potential to cause me problems down the line.


            I have another friend working at a very well paying school in Seoul that is also very Christian (the school..she is an atheist). Not only is she forbidden from bringing home a friend for the night for instance, she is also required to attend certain church services during the year. Though she says she never actually told them she is Christian, the assumption was made all the same in a “don’t ask don’t tell” kind of way. Basically, she drinks when she wants to, parties like crazy when she is free, and on the occasion she gets lucky sleeps with whomever she pleases, but she never does it within the eyes of the flock. She’s attractive, and so gets all kinds of advances from good Christian men all the time but cleverly states that she doesn’t date those she works with.


            During a mentoring program, she attended a science class for a week to observe a colleague’s classroom techniques. She is not a science teacher herself, but like most traveling teachers she is well rounded enough to understand the curriculum. Her e-mails to me about what was being taught were shocking to say the least. You can fill in the blanks.


            It is with that in mind that I wonder to myself if asking a person in the context of an interview whether or not they are a creationist is acceptable, or to a limited degree if having a similar don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy that religious schools have with the clear caveat that only science taught to THE science curriculum of the school would be allowed. And this is really only one subject to consider.


            And in referencing the document above, is it hypocritical of me to think as an educator that this science teacher must “live out” the science he or she teaches at the school? To drive the point home. If I happen to catch a YouTube video of this teacher spewing creationist shite in a video on the one hand while knowing that he or she is teaching word for word the curriculum required, would that matter? Would it be any of my business?


            If I am honest with you, I’d be hard pressed to keep this person on in that capacity, knowing what I know. On the flipside (and this is borderline hypocrisy I think) I find it wrong that the Catholic school example above is essentially doing the same thing. How do I reconcile my sense of fairness here as a teacher with my sense that private life considerations ought to be… well considered?


            I admit to having difficulty here.