February 27th 2016

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY SSCA: Check out this inversion of the Parental Control system

CANBERRA OBSERVED Barnaby Joyce likely to give Cabinet a kick-along

ALCOHOL Studies confirm benefit of earlier nightclub closures

HISTORY OF TAIWAN Post-WWII Japan's loss is Chiang Kai-shek's gain

SPEECH IN PARLIAMENT Welfare of children at heart of surrogacy inquiry

EDITORIAL Syria agreement first step to ending the carnage

EDUCATION Discounting Christianity in schools denies history

WORLD CONGRESS OF FAMILIES Diversity's American dream: genderless parenthood and apple pie

ENVIRONMENT Harry Butler: a victim of deep-green politics

EUTHANASIA Legitimate denial of choice at end of life (Part I of two)

ACTIVISM Safer schools or a radical Marxist sexual revolution?

UNITED STATES Big Brother v the Little Sisters: Obama takes nuns to Supreme Court

MUSIC Oppositions reconciled in logical harmony

CINEMA Of heists and hedge funds: The Big Short

BOOK REVIEW Alarms and arms

BOOK REVIEW The human factor


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Discounting Christianity in schools denies history

by Kevin Donnelly

News Weekly, February 27, 2016

While school funding, academic standards and teacher quality are perennial issues, equally as vital is what is taught in the school curriculum. And when it comes to the curriculum, one of the burning issues both here and overseas is the place of religion in the school day.

Detail of the Prophet Ezekiel

from the ceiling of the

Sistine Chapel in the Vatican

In his Christmas speech, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain was a “Christian country” and British Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has ordered schools to teach that “the religious traditions of Great Britain are, in the main, Christian”.

The NSW Government argues that Special Religious Instruction classes are an essential part of the normal school curriculum and, unlike in Victoria, classes will not be banished to lunchtime or before and after school.

The Andrews Government, on the other hand, instead of recognising our Christian heritage, is pushing a secular, anti-Christian agenda. The evidence for this includes his taking Special Religious Instruction classes out of the school timetable.

Further evidence is the decision to ban Christmas hymns that acknowledge the birth of Christ during the normal school day. While secular Christmas decorations and carols are permitted in state schools, what is described as “praise music that glorifies god or a particular religious figure or deity regardless of music style” cannot be part of a normal school activity.

No doubt the same restrictions that apply to Christmas will also apply to Easter.

The Australian National Curriculum, which Victorian schools have to teach, is also secular. In history students are told at every year level that they must learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, customs and spiritual values and beliefs, but there are few references to Christianity.

The Civics and Citizenship curriculum, when detailing the contribution of charitable, community and philanthropic groups, makes no mention of the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, St Vincent De Paul or the Salvation Army.

Even though Christianity is a central part of Australia’s history and culture, the argument is that we are a multicultural, secular society and that religion is irrelevant.

Ignored is the fact that Australia is a Western, liberal democracy where concepts like the sanctity of life, free will, truth telling, and individual rights and freedoms, are largely based on the Bible, especially the New Testament.

The Preamble to the Australian Constitution includes the words “Humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God” and Parliaments around Australia begin their deliberations with the Lord’s Prayer.

And, as detailed by Tasmanian author David Daintree in his recent book, Soul of the West: Christianity and the Great Tradition, the reality is that Western art, literature and music are also influenced by Christianity.

Classics such as The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Canterbury Tales, Dante’s Inferno and more recent classics such as The Chronicles of Narnia and novels by Patrick White have a strong Christian influence. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper and music such as Handel’s Messiah and songs such as Amazing Grace exist and have meaning only because of Christianity and the Bible.

The Australian Education Union argues that “public education is secular” and that there must be “freedom from religion in teaching programs”. What the union ignores is that the Victorian legislation clearly states that government schools are allowed to teach “about the major forms of religious thought and expression characteristic of Australian society and other societies in the world”.

The Melbourne Declaration is the policy document endorsed by all education ministers and it also argues for including religion in all schools when it states that a balanced education must teach moral, spiritual and aesthetic beliefs and values.

It’s true that Australia is a secular society with a division between church and state. Nonetheless, the reality is that we, like Britain, are a Christian nation where religion underpins much of who and what we are.

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University and director of the Education Standards Institute. This article first appeared in The Herald Sun on January 18, 2016.

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