Greens NSW MP, Dr John Kaye, told The Educator that Special Education in Ethics (SEE) provides a “meaningful alternative” to Special Religious Education (SRE), adding it puts an end to discrimination against children.
“By providing a meaningful alternative to SRE, ethics classes brought to an end 130 years of discrimination against children whose parents do not adhere to one of the main organised religions offered by the school,” Dr Kaye said.
“SEE fulfils the right of all children to be meaningfully engaged in useful learning at school during the scripture period. It is hardly surprising therefore that demand from parents has outstripped the supply of SEE teachers.”
Dr Kaye said the NSW Government had done “everything they could” to hide the existence of ethics classes from parents on the new form being rolled out to the state’s schools.
“The new form takes away the ability of parents to withdraw their child from SRE classes and enrol their child in ethics classes, if available, at the point of enrolment,” Dr Kaye said.
“It creates an irrational and punitive two-stage administrative process designed to deceive parents and deny them an informed choice. The form changed to suit a powerful and well-connected lobby.”
Dr Kaye added the change came about after the Australian Christian Lobby “called in favours from their friends in high places” and Premier Mike Baird’s office “flew into action”.
The NSW Government’s perceived favouring of SRE over SEE came under fire in May when a parent lobby group Fairness in Religion in Schools (FIRIS) claimed that curriculum material used by SRE providers promoted sexism, homophobia and discrimination against students with disabilities and from multicultural backgrounds.
The NSW Government is currently considering how to improve SRE in the state’s secondary schools, with a final report due at the end of the year.
Victoria announced earlier this year it would remove SRE from the curriculum during school hours, making way for new content on world histories, cultures, faiths and ethics, and respectful relationship education.
Dr John Dickson, founding director of the Centre for Public Christianity, told The Daily Telegraph that removing SRE was “an act of cultural vandalism”.
“It condemns our kids to ignorance about a key dimension of human life,” Dr Dickson said, adding the main arguments against sympathetic religious education “miss the mark”.
“Some of the naysayers cite anecdotes of kids going home to mum in tears after of a scripture teacher’s insensitive remark about sin, or their denial of Santa, or because a piece of literature was handed out that does drift into proselytising.
“This can, and should, easily be fixed with better SRE protocols and training.”