Today the Herald highlighted an issue that has been going on for quite some time in many schools; that of religious studies under the guise of ‘values education.’ A school north of Auckland has been caught out putting a young student in a ‘naughty corner,’ to read a book while other students partake in bible studies. It appears that the ‘instructors’ are devout Christians and to a certain extent the school is encouraging this approach.
New Zealand has a system whereby those students and parents who do not want to take part in this instruction, are able to opt out. That opting out should not be such that its leaves the students isolated and feeling that they have done something wrong.
Who are these ‘teachers and instructors?’ How do we know exactly what they are doing? The very fact the school principal and the organization behind the instruction have not come out and answered some fairly important questions is somewhat disturbing. We in New Zealand have for a long time recognised the division between church and state. In a multicultural society this is even more important.
I have nothing against religious studies being taught by qualified teachers, where the students have genuinely opted in as is the case in some secondary schools and the fact that they open the door to all religions is a good thing.
I have a lot against pressuring kids by the very nature of the ‘exclusion methods’ practiced by the school in question. They don’t seem to understand the damage that they can inflict by their ‘holier than thou methods.’ It is time to look at the question of ‘religious instruction’ in an open manner and come up with a system that is much safer. Those delivering such lessons must be open to scrutiny and appraisal, just like teachers and other professionals.