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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

State govt undermines ethics for our kids

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The decision announced on Friday, 3 July, by the Baird Government http://bit.ly/1CPIa3Y to eliminate the option for parents to choose ethics lessons for their children from school enrolment forms, is a deliberately discriminatory action in favour of Scripture/SRE classes.

The current enrolment form that asks parents whether they prefer their child to attend Scripture lessons, ethics lessons or other supervised activity is to be changed.

The new enrolment form will only allow parents to enrol their children in Scripture classes. Parents will no longer be asked if they would like their child to attend Ethics lessons.

Accordingly, schools will no longer be able to make ethics lessons available in response to parents’ preferences.

The discrimination against parents who want their children to attend Ethics classes is profound.

Unlike parents who want their children to attend Scripture, parents wanting ethics lessons will need to go to extraordinary lengths, one by one, in order to advise the school of their preference for their child to attend ethics lessons.

Accordingly, this will effectively limit the capacity of the schools to make available ethics lessons in response to parental preferences.

In response to this change, the Chairman of Primary Ethics, Mr Bruce Hogan, said, ‘This change in the enrolment is grossly unethical on two grounds. First, it blatantly discriminates against parents wanting their child to attend ethics lessons. Second, it is grossly unethical as the enrolment form no longer enables parents to make an informed choice in the best interests of their child’.

Sadly, this change in the enrolment form is in response to secret lobbying by the Christian churches of both the Premier and Minister for Education.

One can only wonder what has led the premier to make such an unprincipled decision. Let us hope that this change has nothing to do with the premier’s need to secure Fred Nile’s vote in the Legislative Council.

It is worth noting that neither the Premier nor Minister for Education have ever consulted on this matter with the charity, Primary Ethics, which is the sole authorised provider of ethics lessons in NSW government schools.

This would suggest that the Premier has never had any interest other than to favour parents preferring Scripture, at the expense of parents interested in Ethics.

As the Premier, the Minister for Education and the Churches well know, the school enrolment form is a crucial document that until now has allowed parents to give effect to their preference for their children to attend ethics classes.

No doubt the Christian Churches will be celebrating this change as a material roadblock to the provision of ethics lessons in schools.

Unfortunately, this ‘victory’ will be seen by many in the community as the churches again acting unethically in their misguided pursuit of self-interest.

And while not a position supported by Primary Ethics, such behaviour by the churches can only fuel the fervour of those fundamentally opposed to the provision of Scripture lessons in any government school.

Primary Ethics calls on the Premier, in the interests of ethical governance and his duty to treat all parents equally, to rescind this decision to change the current school enrolment form.

Bruce Hogan, Chairman, Primary Ethics

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  1. I conduct (we don’t actually teach) ethics classes at a couple of local primary schools. The uptake of this subject has been spectacular in these schools and we could do with more ‘teachers’. The methods used is to pose scenarios to the children and then have a group discussion – no right or wrong positions are ever stated, it is left to the children to work out. They do this in a an impressive way, far beyond my initial expectations.
    I do not think that this unethical political tactic will impact on the enthusiasm of parents for these classes but it will cause considerable disruption to the administration of the ethics organisation. I call on schools to devise strategies to get around this peevish ploy and note that every time the Rev Fred sticks his nose into this issue the popularity of primary ethics surges. Shame on Baird and his toady minister.

    • I too have conducted Ethics classes in my kids’ primary school. If the Premier even bothered to look at the Ethics program you would wonder what the fuss is about. There is nothing in it that should threaten religious teaching –if anything it would enhance it given it places human rights values, fairness and empathy at the heart of considerations of how we deal with people. If people only want their kids to experience religious teaching then they should send them to religious schools. For the state to try deliberately impose religion classes on kids by concealing the fact the philosophical Ethics is on offer is so ideological a move that we could be in the US. We do not want the state getting involved in issues of belief. If this silly ploy works at all (parents aren’t stupid) it will likely not drive kids into the arms of the religious teachers aiming to catch a few souls, but to the old “non-scripture’ group where they will have non-teaching activities – killing time whilst the others get religion. Dumb, petty and immoral decision by the Premier. Must be something important he needs Fred Nile for on the horizon. Should we expect to have our kids taught “intelligent design”, aka creationism, in science classes next? If freedom of thought is off the menu in Australia then why are we battling terrorists? — they are already here.

  2. What begs the question here is whose ethics and whose brand of religious instruction?

    Whatever has been going on in terms of such instruction in the home or in our churches/mosques/synagogues/schools doesn’t seem to be working.

    There are still alot of people out there overdosing, suiciding, beating up wives, molesting children.

    Maybe we could move away from materialism, hedonisim and the emphasis on “me”.

    • Joe, the Ethics course very much addresses all the issues in your last line. A shame we can deliver it to grown-ups!

  3. I fully endorse everything said above by Tom and Cate – both of whom I have worked with.

    Hopefully this stupid decision by the Premier, who shows disconcerting signs of being a Tony Abbott lookalike, will backfire and serve to publicize the wonderful ethics program offered in NSW public primary schools. I have worked in this program for 2 years now and am happy to report that kids, schools and parents seem to love it!

    It is frightening to think that Fred Nile is able to manipulate the Premier to suit his own warped agenda.


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