Do parents these days expect schools to teach their children everything so nothing needs to be taught at home. We have seen an increase of sex-educations classes being taught in younger and younger classes, we have seen classes on “bringing up baby” for teenage students and now in one state the introduction of “ethics classes”. Once upon a time all these things were taught by parents in the privacy of the home. Sex education was discussed with the children when the parents thought appropriate and as for “how to look after a baby” this lesson was often taught by looking after ones siblings — but not discussed in the context of a single teenage mum or dad. Parents had a choice about the delivery of these “lessons” and knew that they would not be overridden by the school their child attending.
The new ethics classes are being introduced as an alternative to religious classes* in public schools and covers such topics as fairness, bullying, the importance’s of telling the truth, animal rights and questions about life and death. The course is being taught to children aged 9 to 12 and runs for 10 weeks (but if considered successful will be run permanently in schools) and taught by volunteers from the St James Ethics Centre. According to the Ethics Centre: “the overarching aim of the course is to ‘provide a secular complement for the discussion of the ethical dimension of students' lives’.
As it will be run concurrently to religious classes (which is voluntary) the ethics classes will contain no religious component —this is where I struggle, as a Christian I cannot discuss or understand the issues of truth or lies, being kind to others, life or death without the scriptures. Morality isn’t part of the course.
Some of the questions the children need to consider include:
- The moral rightness or wrongness of an act of lying.
- We shouldn’t kill harmless creatures’ or If we have to kill (pests, say, or animals for food) we should do so painlessly?
- It’s not wrong to use animals for human purposes (for example as guide dogs) if it is good for both humans and animals.
- Are there any circumstances in which graffiti is perfectly acceptable?
This raises the question of the role of schools and what they should be focusing on. But it would appear that more and more topics are being taught in the school that were once the responsibility of the family. As a result the days are very full and nothing can be taught in any great detail.
* Around 50-80% of students do not attend religious classes in New South Wales (one of the states of Aust.).
For those interested, here is the final report on the New South Wales Ethics trial:
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