On religious education

Growing up in New Brunswick, I attended non-religious schools and never had to learn things like Catechism as they do in Catholic schools. And even though some teachers couldn’t help but offer their views in class, religious or otherwise, it was generally understood that there was a line between Sunday School and Monday to Friday school.

Here in Quebec, there is a new course to be taught for all grades called Ethics and Religious Culture. Its aim is to instruct children on the province’s Protestant and Catholic heritage, as well as the beliefs of Mulisms, Jews, Hindus, and First Nations, among, I assume, others.

This all seems perfectly reasonable to me. If you’re going to live in the world, it’s probably handy to have some idea of what the people around you believe. It’s not telling children one religion is better than another. Yet some parents are arguing for the right to pull their children from the mandatory class because the course conflicts with the moral and religious instruction they receive at home.

If the simple acknowledgement that other beliefs exist somehow conflicts with your values system, maybe it’s time to rethink that system.

5 thoughts on “On religious education

  1. John…I agree. But lots of ‘fearmongering’ going around throughout the south because folks are being told to get their children out of public schools since the Liberals have plotted to brainwash everyone to accept abortion and gay marriage. ABSOLUTELY PATHETIC! And they are truly AFRAID! I have MANY teachers in our family. Some of my neices and nephews teach in puublic school. But have their children in a private Christian school. And that’s okay. But don’t do it out of FEAR! I’m a retired teacher and the ‘stuff’ against public schools is mainly political rhetoric aimed at dismantling the biggest labor union in America…National Education Association..to which I belong. NEA has done ‘mega’ things for education all across America. I taught my three children, ‘If you can’t sit in a desk next to a heathern without your values being tainted…then you have no values.’ You are right. We live in the world. We benefit from being informed. We make our own choices. I do not fear any of it. Neither do my children. Our values are made stronger when put in positions to apply them. It’s like strength training. 🙂

    • Carolyn, thanks for commenting. You make a lot of very good points. I should point out that this new course is also mandatory for private schools as well so parents wouldn’t be able to pull their kids from a public school if they object to the course work, so that’s part of the controversy.

      That said, the private/public school debate isn’t as fierce in Canada as it is in the US. Obviously, those who have the means will send their kids to private school but many others who also have the means simply choose not to because they feel the public schools available to them are just fine. And unless I win the lottery, or become extremely successful at my job, my kid will be going to public schools.

      I’ll also have no problem with the coursework offered unless someone starts trying to sneak Creationism into the science classes. 😉

  2. As long as the instructor of the class isn’t inserting his/her own opinions on religion, I think it sounds like a good idea. It seems like a good way to create understanding and potentially prevent intolerance.

    Some parents are a little too afraid of their children choosing a different religion than their own. I think it would be better if my [fictional] child were to choose a religion, stick with it, and participate, than just refer to my church as “that place you drag me to every week”.

  3. I really don’t think that the people who are concerned about ‘alternative’ religions live in areas where they have teachers who would push or even be inclined to push kids into following other religions. Really, if anything, the teachers here will be inclined to keep anything foreign seen as exotic and not something that would involve ‘us’. While many of them are professionals who will teach the subject at an age appropriate level in order to expand their minds. The intention of the class is to expose the kids to other cultures, not brainwash them. Our first grader is learning about other countries at a first graders level of comprehension (interestingly Japan of all places). We have not heard that they teach honor killings and jihads.

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