Posted in #atheism,#badreligion by skepdadblog on February 18, 2010
Tags: , , ,

I have a splendid pair of kids.  They’re happy, well balanced, sharp as tacks and perfect.  They also have no idea about religion.  Like I said: perfect.

My wife and I debated a lot about what sort of school the eldest, four, who started prep this year, should go to.  We evaluated all of the local options, including private religious schools, long and hard.  I was schooled entirely at private catholic schools, my wife at public state schools.  I’m a card-carrying atheist, leaning antitheist, she agnostic.  Spreadsheets were involved.  No, I’m not kidding.

In the end the local public state school won out.  It has an excellent reputation, but I’m not going to lie to you, internets – being nondenominational was a big factor in our choice.  However, we agreed that we wouldn’t exclude him from the optional religious education; partly because of our desire for him to fit in, but also because we both believe education about, rather than indoctrination in, religion is important to understanding it.

At the first parent information night, we sat listening and nodding as the very impressive principal and deputy told us about their vision.  It’s progressive, inclusive, compassionate and no-nonsense.  Until the deputy mentioned the school creed and prayer, we were sold.

Wait, what?

School prayer? We cornered the deputy afterwards and asked what she meant by that.  She replied that it was “just a little tradition” that the school followed.  Still not wanting our boy to be labelled the “poor child of the atheists” we let it be.  It was one fly in the ointment, but the ointment was good.

Cut to the first day of prep, as we sat with wee man in his new classroom.  His teacher spoke purposefully about her curriculum, the importance of parental involvement, allergies and pickup times and whshhhhwhshhhwshhhh what the hell is that in large print on the wall?

Our School Creed
This is our school
Let peace be here
Let the rooms be full of contentment
Let love abide here
Love of God
Love of mankind
Love of life itself
Let us remember
That as many hands make a house
So many hearts make a school.

I’m sitting in my son’s new classroom.  The place he will spend the next year.  And there it is – a word I believe he is not equipped to deal with yet.  The eyes slide right, and in equally large print, prominently on the wall near the drink bottle table:

Our School Prayer
We pray for your blessing Lord on the work we are doing today,
That we may do it well, both in school and out.
And may be good to each other and try to do well in all things.
Teach us to be honest, truthful, kind and obedient.
Through Christ our Lord.

In case you missed it earlier, I’ll remind you that this is a public state school.  It accommodates children with parents of christian, muslim, hindi, baha’i, and I presume many other faiths; as well as at least one set of parents with no religious beliefs.  Christian pledges of supernatural subservience are not what I expected to see on the walls of the classrooms; I was thinking more bunny rabbits and primary coloured alphabets.

I could barely contain myself.  As soon as I got home, I started researching secularism in my country, because it’s clearly not what I thought it was.   Australia’s constitution mandates a separation of church and state right?  Not according to Max Wallace. He makes a strong case.  A frightening one.  There is, if you follow his argument, no constitutional reason why my state cannot nominate the Anglican faith as the state religion.

Even then, we tried to chill.  We could deal with this.  We could wait for him to come home, drop his bag and ask “mummy, who’s Christ our Lord?” and handle it in the spirit of education.  He sees that prayer every time he gets thirsty, and he can read.

We weren’t, however, prepared for what he said last week when he came home, dropped his bag and engaged me in a conversation about dinosaurs.  He’s been crazy about dinosaurs ever since he was two, has met and impressed the staff paleontologist at the Queensland Museum and knows more about them than his mum and dad combined.  We’ve even talked about him podcasting about dinosaurs.  Then, this:

“Daddy, Mrs [teacher] says dinosaurs were never real, and their bones were put in the ground as a joke.”



The dagger in my heart, it burns.


3 Responses to 'Speechless'

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  1. Victa said,

    I made a comment the other day on the Rainbow of Chaos blog post about Children and Religious Extremism, and in my comments I mentioned that there are three subjects that I never comment on. One of them is religion.

    I have now broken that personal rule twice in as many days.

    I believe that whatever your religious beliefs are, they are yours, and I believe you should be free to practice them, and NOT force them on others.

    What outrages me enough to make a comment about it after reading your post, is that as an Australian taxpayer, taxpayer’s funds are being used to push the agenda of the Government and their supporters.

    When I went to school, ALL religious beliefs, teachings, etc, required SIGNED Parental permission for the school to teach any religious beliefs to a student. I attended a public school by the way.

    As to there being a State Religion, I’m astounded, probably speechless. I’m ex military and even in Australia’s military they have Chaplains, but respect your own personal beliefs and nothing is forced on you.

    Your last paragraph is the final outrage. Dinosaurs! I think Mrs Teacher is not real and should be sacked for making comments such as that.

    My children have all grown up, but if this was the case for my children, they would be removed from school and home taught, which is what was done with our youngest daughter.

    As a side note, the bible does not state WHEN the earth was created. The earth may have been here for millions of years, complete with Dinosaurs, before the Garden of Eden appeared.

    Who Knows? The way Australia is going is starting to worry me. The government is getting at our children by teaching them the “states” moral beliefs.

    Sorry to rant, but as an Australian who was taught at school that Australia is a free country, something like this really get’s up my nose in a major way.

  2. anaglyph said,

    It will all be OK for your son. He simply can’t be indoctrinated if he’s taught to think rationally and presented with all the facts. I grew up in a religious household and in a school that was non-denominational but had ‘a school prayer’ and scripture lessons. And I made it through OK without parents who were encouraging rational thinking. So your son has an enormous advantage.

    And, in my opinion, he needs to understand the enormous hold that religion has over our culture. If he doesn’t encounter it in school, he’ll get it from religious friends or tv or somewhere else. Don’t make it Forbidden Fruit or it might start to sound appealing…

    • skepdadblog said,

      Thanks anaglyph. I too grew up indoctrinated as an RC; an altar boy at 10, a close shave with an “inappropriate” catholic headmaster at 11 and 13 years of private catholic school.

      Despite all this (or, perhaps, as a result?) I eventually realised it was all nonsense. My kids as you say do have a flying start, and it probably is a little naive of me to expect that teachers would be able to separate their deeply held beliefs from their teaching.

      It’s hard watching our kids leave the shelters we build around them, but it is necessary for their growth. Thanks for reminding me of that.

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