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26/09/2011 / melgardener

The ethics of teaching Ethics

Recently I decided to volunteer to become an Ethics teacher at my daughter’s school. This was something I had been considering for a while and, given that I now have some time at my disposal, it seemed like a good use of that time.

I’ve been asked why I wanted to become an Ethics teacher and the answer is simple, yet complex. At a fundamental level, I simply wanted an alternative to religious scripture classes for those children who wanted to attend. At present, at my daughter’s school, children who opt-out of scripture classes spend time drawing, colouring in or reading and my daughter often complains about being bored during this time.

Beyond this, my answer becomes more complicated. My own view is that, in a perfect world, we would not teach any form of religion or scripture in state schools. The choice to believe or follow any form of belief system is a deeply personal decision and I feel it should be up to the family to partake in following their faith as an extracurricular activity – much in the same way that we allow families to choose to send their children to soccer, dancing, art, music or other classes after school and on weekends.

But I recognise that the reality of scripture and religion in our state schools is entrenched in our school system. In light of this, my preference is to have an alternative – a genuine alternative, not just colouring in – made available to those students who do not attend scripture.

Part of the process of volunteering is to attend an interview with the Ethics Co-ordinator, then undergo two days of training. I’ve currently completed the interview and have applied for my ‘working with children’ check. Once this goes through, I’ll do the training.

At the interview, I was asked some very specific questions about my attitude towards religion. I think this is really important – religion is a contentious issue and there are people with very strong views for and against. The role of the Ethics teacher is not to debunk or negate any religious belief and I don’t believe this role is best served by someone who is openly anti-religion.

So, that’s my goal in becoming an Ethics teacher: to offer the opportunity for the kids in my class to engage in thoughtful discussion, examine the idea of critical thinking, and share their opinions and ideas. Lofty goals indeed! Wish me luck.

Do your kids attend scripture? Are Ethics classes offered at your school? If they were, would you send your kids?


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