Education reviewer Kevin Donnelly makes case for more religion to be taught in public schools

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There should be more religious education in Australian schools, says one of the men tasked with reviewing the national curriculum.

Former teacher and ex-Liberal Party staffer Kevin Donnelly says Australian education has become too secular, and the federation's Judeo-Christian heritage should be better reflected in the curriculum.

The review was announced yesterday by Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, after concerns the curriculum had become too left-leaning and was failing students.

Mr Donnelly says religion does not have enough of a presence in Australia's "very secular curriculum", and that it needs to be taught "more effectively".

"I'm not saying we should preach to everyone, but I would argue that the great religions of the world – whether it's Islam, whether it's Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism – they should be taught over the compulsory years of school," he said.

Written By: Andrew Greene
continue to source article at abc.net.au

29 COMMENTS

  1. Quote from source article:
    “But Christian Schools Australia says Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage cannot be ignored.”

    If we are to go down that path, what about Australia’s convict heritage? Let’s add instruction on the “Great Criminals of the World.” Considering the increasing number of the clergy getting hauled in front of the Courts for diddling the choir boys, the two subjects could be merged to large extent.

    Seriously, what’s not to expect from our god bothering committed catholic PM, who rejoices under the nick name of “The Mad Monk.” Our time under the stewardship of a committed atheist woman PM with a live in partner and progressive views on abortion and women’s rights was, despite the failings and conflicts of her government in other areas beyond the topic of the thread, a time of social advancement.

    All of which appears to be, if not undone, at least under serious attack.

  2. “I’m not saying we should preach to everyone, but I would argue that the great religions of the world – whether it’s Islam, whether it’s Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism – they should be taught over the compulsory years of school,”

    IF there is no preaching, IF there is no compulsory worship, and IF there is a genuine, open comparative study of all of these religions, then I agree with Donnelly.

    Opening up children’s minds to the idea that there are many gods and many ways of worshipping them necessarily begs the question that not all of these religions represent any sort of absolute truth. And if most of them are wrong, maybe they all are.

    Religious education creates rationalists.

    Compare the outcome in places where it does not happen, like America….

  3. Nice comment, Sheepog. “You can’t airbrush that from history” – OK we won’t. It can stay in there along with slavery, burning at the stake, female disenfranchisement… etc, etc.

    With respect, Stevehill, you are being naïve. When Christians pay lip service to other religions and general religious education they are simply using them as a Trojan horse to get what they really want – old style Christian mass brainwashing.

    • In reply to #3 by Mrkimbo:

      With respect, Stevehill, you are being naïve.

      We have compulsory RE (and less helpfully compulsory worship) in all UK state schools. There is a right for parents to opt out, rarely exercised. In the majority of schools which are not faith schools, there really is very little preaching.

      Fewer than 1.2% of under-16s attend a weekly Church of England Service.

      I would say education works.

      And whether you believe or not, you cannot really understand who we are without some understanding of the impact of religions on out history, culture, legal systems and philosophies. Nor can you argue against it from a position of ignorance.

      • In reply to #14 by Stevehill:

        We have compulsory RE (and less helpfully compulsory worship) in all UK state schools.

        Having a special god slot for RE is all wrong. It’s not a sufficient defence to say there is ‘very little preaching’ in secular state schools as opposed to religious state schools. In the first place, about a third of state schools actually are run by the Catholic Church and the Church of England with a few Jewish, Muslim and others included. This is a solid platform on which they can build as new types of school –such as free schools– are introduced into the system. In non-religious schools, there’s no reason to be too confident about the lack of religious zeal. The opportunity is there and a religious RE teacher (there are some) can slant lessons in favour of their beliefs.

        • In reply to #15 by aldous:

          You are conflating two arguments. I am wholly opposed to faith schools, which (it seems to me) have no choice but to preach that their religion is the One True Faith. I very expensively moved house to avoid my kids going to a faith school, which fester like vermin in my part of the world.

          But I still think ALL schools should teach RE, just as they should teach history. I think I am right in saying Daniel Dennett shares this view.

          • In reply to #16 by Stevehill:

            In reply to #15 by aldous:

            You are conflating two arguments. I am wholly opposed to faith schools, which (it seems to me) have no choice but to preach that their religion is the One True Faith. I very expensively moved house to avoid my kids going to a faith school, which fester like vermin in…

            By the same token, schools should teach politics and economics, which have even greater relevance to society, so one could argue that they should take top priority. Why should religion be singled out for compulsory teaching, but not them, in an age when not everyone has a religion but everyone has to deal with political and economic issues?

          • In reply to #16 by Stevehill:

            But I still think ALL schools should teach RE, just as they should teach history.

            I agree that the study of religion is an essential part of education. Whether it should be a standalone subject, part of a traditional subject, such as history, or part of newly developed subject, under a title such as, Philosophy and Ethics, is open to discussion. What should not be the case is that it is a statutory requirement for head teachers to organize religious worship and religious education in all state schools. The law should be amended to abolish this requirement. Removing this legacy from the past, would clear the way for a rethink of how the study of religion could be best be done educationally within the national curriculum and not as a specially reserved god-slot.

  4. Yes, I don’t see anything wrong with teaching a historical course on world religions. The more religions they teach about, the better. I think the kids will either be confused by all the conflicting claims, or they will come to see what outright bunk they all are. Of course, the teacher will probably try to slant the discussion in favor of one religion. I also worry that textbooks will have to run the gauntlet of every “religious council” and will be so watered down that the kids won’t get the true dirt. They shouldn’t leave out the gone-out-of-style religions too. I think Greek mythology is just wonderful.

  5. I suppose it depends on how they word things. For instance, saying “Our forefathers believed God guided them in building this nation”, or “God guided our forefathers in building this nation.” The first statement is OK, the second one I have a problem with.

  6. This is incorrect religion is already available through RI. I agree the state should take over the teaching of comparative religious studies. But I don’t think they understand what a can of worms they are opening. If they begin this they will find teachers giving a balanced approached, what do they think will happen if some kid asks about female circumcision? Witch hunts? etc. Conflicting doctrine? What the liberal party probably want is a respectful tint at Christianity and some lip service to other faiths and all the things they have in common. However that is not how curriculum are written, they will produce a general document which will say something like ‘students will explore the impacts on world religions on humanity’ that’s fine I teach that at the drop of a hat – they won’t like what I have to say though….

  7. “too secular” !!!
    Too secular is still not quite secular enough, in my opinion.
    Used to read Kevin Donnelly articles on http://www.abc.net.au just for a laugh because he was so outlandish in his claims and ideas. 99% of comments to his articles were negative (ie. typically mocking him or disagreeing) so not so comfortable with a guy who has about 1% support in the general population having an advisory role for the education system

  8. If we are to go down that path, what about Australia’s convict heritage? Let’s add instruction on the “Great Criminals of the World.”

    I think the overlap would be way to confusing for young children, better to stick to just one or the other. I vote for the criminals that were actually considered criminal.

  9. Here is a sighting of that old favourite, I am not saying we should preach but oh fuck it of course that is what I want to happen and I will do everything in my power to ensure that it happens.

  10. If he had said religionS plural should be STUDIED, rather than taught, that might get general agreement. And did anyone see in his remarks any mention of teaching critical thinking, looking at the alternative theories to religions ? You know, the arguments the anti-evolutionists bring up all the time…..Not so much. I would hold his feet to the fire, and say “Show us the course outline, and the tests students must write, and then and ONLY then can we talk.”

  11. …the federation’s Judeo-Christian heritage should be better reflected in the curriculum..

    and

    … I would argue that the great religions of the world – whether it’s Islam, whether it’s Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism – they should be taught …

    That’s not contradictory at all.

  12. …the federation’s Judeo-Christian heritage should be better reflected in the curriculum..

    and

    … I would argue that the great religions of the world – whether it’s Islam, whether it’s Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism – they should be taught …

    That’s not contradictory at all.

  13. I tend to think of religion as a high explosive: very dangerous stuff. All of us expect explosives must be handled with care by highly trained individuals and most of us would certainly not want it to be handled anywhere near our children. Religion and religious “education” consists mainly of gospel, IOW stories. We all know how stories can strike the imagination of kids. Often in unpredictable ways.

    The only acceptably safe place for religion in education is within the context of a History or Philosophy course. Like an explosive, if it is necessary to study it then it’s best to keep it contained within an “explosion-proof” box and put a strong emphasis on the true nature of what is being taught: mythology.

    Another aspect: age and mental development. No religious education in schools until kids are old enough to think rationally and have had basic courses in science, logic and critical thinking should be MANDATORY before they are introduced to this dangerous stuff.

    Men like Kevin Donnely have an agenda. They are not really interested in kids becoming more knowledgeable. But they are trying hard to make it look that way. It’s just another excuse to promote religion and religious indoctrination in schools. “Educated” religious people know they lost the rational argument but they are becoming more sophisticated, they invent these clever schemes to try and sell religion as “cultural education”. Sadly, a lot of people are taking the bait.

    • In reply to #20 by NearlyNakedApe:

      I tend to think of religion as a high explosive: very dangerous stuff. All of us expect explosives must be handled with care by highly trained individuals and most of us would certainly not want it to be handled anywhere near our children. Religion and religious “education” consists mainly of gospel…

      I agree. Religion is a social and historical phenomenon, like art, industrialisation, kingship, democracy etc. It has shaped societies, driven historical development, wars, political ideas, social movements, and it has always ended up serving the ruling classes and their ideology.

      It is of such crucial importance that it should be referenced in most if not all the subjects taught in schools. It impinges not only on the obvious subjects like social studies and history, but also on science, literature, the plastic arts, painting, sculpture and architecture.

      Religious studies should appear throughout the school curriculum, BUT…as a component in understanding the meaning and development of ideas, politics, science and arts….NOT as an exercise in what is sometimes called faith formation.

      As a phenomenon, perhaps historically the most important component in the formation of our intellectual and societal life, religious knowledge should be embedded in the rest of the curriculum. As dangerous, high explosive stuff, it should not be given the status of a separate, stand alone syllabus, giving the school authorities open slather to proselytise for their particular preference in fairy tales.

  14. Yes. They should have a class where someone representing each religion is brought in and says “Mine is the truth! If you don’t believe in my religion, you’re going to hell?”

    Great way to create atheists a whole lot faster.

    • In reply to #22 by MAJORPAIN:

      Yes. They should have a class where someone representing each religion is brought in and says “Mine is the truth! If you don’t believe in my religion, you’re going to hell?”

      Great way to create atheists a whole lot faster.

      I think Monty Python did that in The Life of Brian did they not?

    • In reply to #22 by MAJORPAIN:

      Yes. They should have a class where someone representing each religion is brought in and says “Mine is the truth! If you don’t believe in my religion, you’re going to hell?”

      Great way to create atheists a whole lot faster.

      I actually did a scribble about that on this site years ago. Let me see if I can find it.

      lifestance fair

  15. Can any one tell me more about the educational and professional background of Kevin Donnelly? There is no Wiki entry for him and his own bio on Linked In and ESI are patchy and not really that informative. Clearly a wing nut rent a mouth but on what grounds is he at all qualified to comment on any thing. Any information from co-workers?

  16. Apparently there has not been any decent moral or philosophical literature written in the past 2000 years!!! How about “Lying by Sam Harris “which is nice and short so well suited to the classroom. I mean absolute rubbish compared to the stuff written by Middle East sheep herders in the first century I know but still thought it was worth a mention.

  17. Australian schools probably also need to focus on the nation’s political, judicial, and police corruption heritage. Not just it’s convict, genocide, environmental, and religious heritage. Plus currently important social topics like how to take steroids, peptides, and growth hormones plus various other image enhancing and recreational party drugs that are apparently crucial to prevailing Australian culture. Possibly more so than any amount of religious heritage. But there just isn’t enough time, they’d have to ditch irrelevant stuff that hardly anyone is interested in like maths, chemistry, physics etc.

    I think it’s reasonable to assume that what they’re really talking about is religious indoctrination, specifically of the Christian fundamentalist kind. Ten commandments etc. Not necessarily creationism.

    But last I heard schools were already struggling to deliver effective learning outcomes in maths, science, language, and thinking skills. With Australia dropping down the international rankings etc. Plus declining knowledge of history and society and all those other things I failed to learn at school.

    I suppose that if schools are already failing so badly then it couldn’t possibly make things any worse if teaching time is re-focussed towards religious indoctrination instead.But a problem for the curriculum reviewers is that there are already effective and established RE processes that don’t rely on leaving social engineering up to the already overburdened public schools.

    Normally public sector intervention is attempted to be justified when there is evidence of a significant failure in the private sector. But there is evidence that significant religious education outcomes are already being successfully achieved outside government classrooms. Australia is now leading the Western world in Jihadist indoctrination and now leads the rankings by exporting a disproportionately high number of Al Qaeda martyrs to international opportunities like the Syria conflict.

    Some concerns have been raised about what will happen when so many trained and experienced religious killers eventually arrive back to settle down in Australia, but this seems unlikely based on recent media reports.

    According to some theories it’s possible that those who do survive and return to promote jihad and Sharia law in their adopted nation of multiple citizenships might eventually contribute to boosting growth and securing Australian’s economic future. This might be stimulated by the surge in employment opportunities for security intelligence officers, telecoms monitoring, military and tactical police snipers, bomb robot operators, security and surveillance system sales, and maximum security prison guards. Prison construction alone could be a significant impact on GDP growth. Insurance payouts and premium growth would also enhance GDP. Similar to what’s happening in New Zealand where the reconstruction activity owing to recent earthquake destruction is being attributed as the cause of positive economic growth.

    If might be difficult for the curriculum reviewers to ignore the success of these existing non-governmental, community-based RE programs. Possible because their Judeo-Christian heritage blinds them to the otherwise obvious benefits of other kinds of death cults. Hopefully these programs will to continue to generate such positive social changes in Australia. Though this probably requires that the Syrian conflict not be resolved too quickly. Australia’s membership of the UN security council should assist here.

  18. BACK TO THE FUTURE

    Turn back the clock, back to the 1950s beloved of the conservative Liberal/National Party coalition, when

    • There were only White Christians in Australia (or at least they were the only people who mattered);

    • Our Judaeo-Christian heritage was a source of pride and attendance at church was expected and proper behaviour;

    • Our religious leaders were unquestionable paragons – the protestant ones were often ‘wowsers’ (prudes) but accusations that any of them were dubious characters were dangerous left-wing propaganda;

    • Parents had proper control over their children;

    • Religious Education was a compulsory subject in Primary School and in many Secondary Schools as well;

    • Everyone knew the National Anthem and our children sang it before Assembly every morning at school;

    • Our children knew Dates and Important Events in the history of White Australia and the Mother Country (the UK), and didn’t care what Aborigines believed or how they lived. Removing children from Aboriginal society was a way of raising them to a higher level of civilization;

    • Higher education was only for the wealthy, those born-to-rule, or those upwardly mobile persons who could prove that they could be trusted not to rock the boat;

    • We all lived on quarter-acre blocks of land behind white picket fences in the suburbs — or on The Land (on farms, or cattle/sheep ‘stations’) The Man (it was *always a man) On The Land was a cultural icon;

    • Intellectual and artistic achievement were despised, and only foreigners or homosexuals thought them important;

    • Sporting prowess was the only thing that mattered, the source of our identity as well as national pride;

    • Off the sporting field (or the battle-field), dullness, mediocrity and self-interest were Positive Virtues;

    • The military, based on mateship and the Anzac Tradition deserved our undying adulation;

    • The Police and the Law had our unthinking Respect;

    • Protest about any matter was dangerous and unpatriotic;

    • Violence, in all its forms, was an acceptable part of our lives;

    • Heterosexuality, monogamous marriage and the missionary position were normal and non-standard sexualities were Illnesses;

    • Dad was not only the breadwinner, but head of the (heterosexual) family. He could rape his wife, molest his daughter or beat his son with impunity;

    • Divorce was a scandalous admission of failure and dying in bloody butchery from an abortion – a Mortal Sin – was what a woman deserved for daring to defy her proper biological role;

    • Women who wanted to be anything else but homemakers and/or incubators were ‘eccentric,’ to say the least;

    • Women who had sex outside marriage were sinners – or, at best, objects of gossip and polite rejection;

    • Girls who had babies out of wedlock were dirty little sluts who were unfit to be mothers and whose children had to be removed from their care for the good of both;

    • Men and boys who had sex outside of marriage were doing wrong — but “boys will be boys”;

    • Only Pommies (English people) were gay or lesbian;

    • Other foreigners were despised second-class citizens whose histories didn’t matter and whose highest ambition was to be accepted into the dominant Anglo-Celtic culture;

    • Only white people could immigrate – even people from Mediterranean countries were white … but only if they had the right (in both senses) political stance. The best migrants were reffos (refugees) – ex-fascists of any nationality, but especially East Europeans who were fleeing communist tyranny;

    • Good Aussies were at best conservative – traditional trade-union social democrats were acceptable, but even the Labor Party was suspect, and catholics had their own anti-communist version, the Democratic Labor Party;

    • Our Alliance with our Great and Powerful Friend, the United States of America, was unquestioned and unquestionable — the USA was our Saviour, the source of only Good Things and we all wanted to BE American.

    [SNORT]

    The right-wing culture-warriors do not seem either willing or able to accept that some of us (even some,like my father, who lived through the 1950s) don’t actually want to relive the period, which was surely one of the most stultifying in recent history.

    Even fewer of us feel “relaxed and comfortable” when this rose-coloured version of the 1950s that conservatives want to create is integrated with a US-style Social Darwinist dystopia where Private Enterprise, unchecked either by unions or by the concept of the Welfare State, reigns supreme, buoyed by the ethics of the Thugby field and underpinned by a fanatical Calvinist fundamentalism.

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