Teaching should include all faiths

00:00, Aug 02 2013

Information collected by the Secular Education Network on the teaching of religion in schools was fascinating, as were the insights of several Manawatu primary school principals.

For some, the teaching of Christian scripture was promoted by parents. For others it had been a political hand grenade best forgotten, and for those with more culturally diverse school rolls, an unrealistic or overtly problematic notion.

Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School principal David Jopson said his students practised a variety of faiths and such teachings were best left to their respective places of worship.

It's a reasonable position, as is the argument that faith-based teaching is greatly beneficial to young students. After all, it can't hurt for kids to get a double-dose of values, such as charity, compassion and humility, at home and in the classroom.

A more contentious issue is whether pupils at schools that do offer religious instruction should have to "opt in" to the classes rather than those not wishing to take part having to "opt out".

Many parents would likely cry "nonsense!" at the suggestion. Majority rules and all that. But the reversal would likely have no impact on Christian children's relationship with their own faith, but be extremely beneficial to students of other religions or cultures and how they are perceived by classmates.

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We are unlikely the only ones who can remember school assemblies switching to scripture class and all eyes turning to the one or two kids walking out of the school hall.

Only those children knew what that walk felt like, but for those of us who remained, the impression was "they're different to us" or "they're strange".

Hopefully schools today are more tactful in their approach, but any steps that discourage students feeling excluded should be encouraged.

Massey University religious studies Associate Professor Peter Lineham believes religious education in schools that included all faiths, not just Christianity, would be of the most valuable. We tend to agree.

Our society is increasingly multicultural and our awareness of other cultures and their faiths is becoming more important.

To resist greater understanding of other cultures is to now limit one's understanding of their own community and foster ignorance and prejudice.

Inevitable as it was, it's sad to see Marbecks finally getting out of the CD business. Where there were once half a dozen music sellers in Palmerston North there is now just one worth its salt. iTunes is nowhere near as much fun as sifting through record stores used to be.

Manawatu Standard