Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Religious fruitcakes

I have had passed to me a mailing that my head teacher has received from an organisation called the Humanist Society Scotland.

With a whopping three thousand people, HSS has a whole three times as many members as my local parish church and roughly half as many supporters as my favourite SPL football team, so they are clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Anyhoo, I am grateful for them alerting me to the facts that:

- a 'growing number of parents in Scotland... find their children regularly exposed to... explicit and implicit religious practices'

- the reason that children are not excluded by their parents from 'religious events, activities and visits' is fear of the children being 'targeted'

- many parents 'have a genuine concern that their views and opinions are given little or no credence or status'

Luckily for all of us, HSS can provide us all with 'appropriate materials for pupils and teachers... to be used as part of religious and moral education' and 'a range of support for parents' including 'a helpline, materials which can be used at home an guidelines for a positive dialogue with schools and headteachers'.

To support this, HSS does provide a leaflet with five anonymous quotes from people whose experience of school was either a very long time ago; grotesquely atypical of modern education, or was coloured by their fondness for howling at the moon.

A sixth quote is from an author I had never heard of, whose parents could have sent him to his local non-denominational school but instead opted to send him to a denominational school. Surprisingly enough, it provided him with a... denominational education. Hmmm.

I do have a few questions for HSS:

- What evidence is there that children of this generation are more exposed to religion than previous generations? Their assertion seems counter-intuitive to the point of downright barking.

- What evidence is there that parents are concerned about their children being provided with 'overly narrow perspectives'? It is not something I have experienced in eleven years of teaching.

- What evidence is there that children who are excluded from RME are 'targeted'?

- What consultation has taken place with RME teachers in the development of materials 'appropriate' to be used in our subject?

- What qualifications and experience does their Education Officer, Bob McKay, hold? Why should I allow anything he has produced to enter my department?

I would have expected an organisation which is both 'ethical' and 'rational' [their words not mine] to have provided me with information to answer the above questions.

I would attend the national launch of their educational strategy. Unfortunately, I am planning to cut my toe nails that day.

Meanwhile, I have been rolling on the floor laughing at the thought of parents calling a helpline because they are afraid of me indoctrinating their kids. In my experience, the only parents who get upset about RME are people of strong religious beliefs who think we are not indoctrinating them enough.

Ironically enough, in an increasingly secular society there appears to be less and less 'need' for a humanist organisation to exist.

1 comment:

Maria MacLachlan said...

Good questions! What is not clear is whether you have actually addressed them directly to the Society. If you have done so and received no response, this would not surprise me. Under its present executive, the Society appears to have adopted a strategy of ignoring pertinent questions directed at it. I know this from personal experience. But if you haven't, then your remarks just come across as a rant from the safety of an anonymous blogspot. (If you reveal your identity on this blog, it's not obvious).

By the way, your last paragraph reveals an ignorance as to what humanism is actually about. For the good of humankind, a secular society needs humanism as much as one dominated by religious ideas. For more information or to engage in mature and civil discussion on this issue, you are welcome to visit an independent humanist forum at www.thinkhumanism.com.