Launching his National Curriculum Review — headed by Professor Ken Wiltshire  and Dr Kevin Donnelly — Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne , said;

“We are committed to … implementing an Australian Curriculum that is on par with the world’s best curricula.” 

If that is true, one subject all schools need less of — not more — is religion.  All progressive countries of western Europe provide unambiguous secular education, while Australia has the highest rate of religious instruction within the OECD bloc.  It is highly inappropriate for one Review Panel member, Dr Kevin Donnelly, to say this on ABC television, on 11.1.2014.

“Religion …I think, needs to be taught more effectively; it’s not there in what I would argue is a secular curriculum.” 

Australia introduced uniform secular education in the 1870s, overturned in 1963 by prime minister Menzies.  The 1870 debates by church and state remain in parliamentary libraries, with their sweeping decision to make education “free, compulsory and secular“.  Their view was that segregated religious schools were “damaging” to social cohesion by “dividing children on religious lines, and limiting access to good education to only those who could afford to pay.”

Citing here the entire text by Professor of Politics at Macquarie University, Marion Maddox, in “Taking God to School: The End of Australia’s Egalitarian Education?”

Citing too, Dr David Zyngier from the Faculty of Education at Monash University, who states: 

“The policy of Special Religious Instruction (SRI) currently enacted through differing state education statutes across Australia; it is an outdated and flawed model of segregated, unaccountable and unprofessional religious instruction, which caters to the interests of religious organisations and not the needs of students, educators or families.” 

Citing too, The Centre For Independent Studies, “The Rise of Religious Schools” 2010, by Jennifer Buckingham, who quotes US philosopher James Dwyer:  “The state should override parental preference for religious schools in favour of a secular education, in the child’s long-term interests.”

The argument for secular education is overwhelming.  The argument for religious education, and expansion of private religious schools, is political and elitist.  There is no evidentiary change from sociologist Michael Pusey’s 1991 study, “Economic Rationalism in Canberra”, stating a disproportionate number of senior bureaucrats come from elite private schools, qualified largely in economics and commerce, and predominately hold conservative and religious views.

Keep religion for Sunday school, and reintroduce “secular education”.

Brian Morris,
Director, Plain Reason

Plain Reason promotes reason, logic and critical thought.

Leave a Reply