I don’t mind educating children about religions. But that’s not what bible classes do.
It was always something of a disappointment to me returning home to find that Religious Studies isn’t really offered in any academic capacity in New Zealand. If I’d remained abroad I’d almost certainly have taken GCSE Religious Studies.
develop their knowledge, skills and understanding of Religion by exploring the impact of beliefs, teachings, practices, ways of life and forms of expressing meaning
express their personal responses and informed insights on fundamental questions about identity, belonging, meaning, purpose, truth, values and commitments.
As it was, on returning home, I had to settle for Calculus. I do strongly agree with Emma’s original insistence as you and others have reiterated that “there is a place for teaching comparative religion and looking at the role of religion in society”.
However I have been – not unusually – less than quick on the uptake here. Perhaps the use of ‘indoctrination’ didn’t sound all that different from the nationalist agenda that suffuses preteen social studies. Perhaps ‘Bible class’ seems too easily confused with a component of Religious Studies, amongst the requisite literary analysis of Qu’ran and Torah class. When the central issue being presented is most evidently proselytizing in the classroom.
And I think, if one is serious about instigating change, that being clear about this is of utmost importance. Because one can teach comparative religion and look at the role of religion in society and still proselytize in the classroom. As Simon Bennett brought to light, you can still be a teacher of any old subject and work in ways to proselytize.
“You see that sweat Jonesy, That’s God telling you you’re unfit!”
It’s all very well being clear about what we don’t want, but without specifying exactly what it is that the people do want then we leave children open to the same shit different day. So I believe it’s of utmost importance IF actual comparative Religious Studies is to be taught , then it should be taught with the same nationalized curriculum oversights as anything else, academically, with targets and most definitely informed by methods used in other countries to minimize bias. And that this should only be introduced alongside legislation prohibiting in-class proselytizing.
the hideous atrocities committed by humans to other humans over the last several thousand years of recorded history _in the name of whatever religion was popular in the day
As I see it one of the crucial reasons to introduce Religious Studies for me is that, and sorry to strip your quote of context and meaning here Bart, sweeping generalizations like this (**not the full quote**) are all to easily digested and exploited to manipulate intolerance. Especially in this day and age. Bin Laden’s attack in the name of Islam, the 2003 invasion of Iraq in the name of Christianity, The Manson killings in the name of The Beatles, The Afghanistan invasion in the name of Freedom. The Athiest Chinese cultural revolution. Religious Studies can help us recognize
“religions that have so happily maimed, killed, raped and abused in the not-too-distant past”
But just as powerfully it can help us distinguish more clearly the blurred line intersecting the culpability of religions and the culpability of other agencies, groups and individuals who have exploited religion and how. This can develop our ability to recognize how nonreligious ideologies are similarly exploited. Nothing in the bible about WMDs etc.
Sorry to decontextualize and manipulate your words for my own purposes there Bart, I agree strongly with the sentiment in your post. It was just easier than coming up with some examples of my own. And while I’m here, might I say Bart, completely off topic, your post a few months back where you volunteered to pay a higher personal income tax rate is my nomination for post of the year. You put a smile on my face.
Lastly, sorry for the multiple posts. This clip isn’t so much what I have in mind, but without that foundation I’d have been unable to fully appreciate a whole lot of great comedy.
And a grand lesson it is.
* Incidentally, the persecution of LGBTI people was not touched upon and I guess this would largely boil down to the fact that in order to fully educate people on that topic you’d be remiss not present the fact that the sharpest brunt of the persecution (as with most persecution) in recent centuries was administered not so much by our churches but by our Governments. I stumbled on some factoids, recently, while attempting to answer a fellow on IMDB.com who asked how the bar owner in Good Morning Vietnam could be so openly gay without being arrested. I guess perhaps many already know this stuff but it was new to me. Homosexuality has never been illegal in Vietnam, despite missionaries arriving in the 1650s, nowadays the Christian population hovers at about 8 million.
The current Pope comes from a country which is 70-90% Christian and where same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults in private has been legal since 1887. In neighbouring Brazil with similarly high numbers of believers, all references to sodomy were eliminated from its penal code before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, a full 58 years before they abolished slavery. In this kind of context, any meaningful exploration of this topic would be incomplete without factoring in the absolutely brutal role (in New Zealand’s case) that successive Governments have played in this persecution of the communities. And that this occurred despite alternative models being available from the outset. Given Primary School social studies (most everywhere) tends to shy away from historical issues incriminating one’s own Government, and for that matter, in our case, anything that disputes the rather trite dictum that ‘we are leading the world’, it could just be a bridge too far for ones so young.
I don’t find religion particularly suitable for children.
I think you have made a very compelling case Emma. Your last paragraph alone should absolutely be a wake up call to whoever is in charge to carefully reconsider what it is they’re in fact trying to do with this.
I wasn’t, because it isn’t.
Oh yes, there, now I see. [voiced as Dougal McGuire] I guessed perhaps in that time slot. Regardless.
Again, only if you cherry-pick it. The Bible also preaches a lot of hate. It supports slavery, murder and rape. If you were educating and not indoctrinatng, you would mention that. It’s also central to Christian doctrine that non-Christians go to Hell, so if that’s not being taught to kids, again, that’s cherry-picking.
Due to the size of the text, and the time constraints, for most courses being given (in this case one weeks total class time per year) you’ll only ever be able to cherry pick it. And this is the case in most subjects. The rationale for the way things were presented to us I guess was that Jesus, like Siddhārtha Gautama, Confucius, Mohammed, was a massively influential thinker and so for the most part our initial studies were limited to Jesus’s parables and his life and times. We weren’t given any readings of specific doctrines of those other names mentioned, but I assume that’s because they didn’t play such a role in defining our culture and may have conflicted with that ‘Christian school’ marketing angle. The Bible’s negative excerpts and concepts were generally rationed out methodically and with utmost care over a longer period, when we’d got a little older and were less likely to be scarred in any meaningful way, which I guess is not entirely dissimilar to the way topics like sexual reproduction are structured into our science education. Witch-trials. Crusades. Persecution of women, POC were handled in other subjects, generally, but not entirely always entirely accurately, under the heading ’history’*.
But a whole lot of what you’re saying, to me hinges on this.
…is not taught by teachers.
Which really is not how things should be at all, not at tax funded schools.
While I'm not against lifting the taxable exemption.
I’m fed up with being even-handed and fair to these lying kiddiefiddlers.
Beyond the target there's more or less nothing to differentiate this bigoted hate speech from that which I've heard fundamentalists level at marginalized groups such as the LGBT community. Newton's third.
Sure Tussock, Spelling, math, science, languages don’t apply to the point I was attempting to make. Emma was quite clear that this is being taught as part of +Social Studies+, I likewise name checked the subject specifically in my 8th paragraph with the intent of avoiding this misinterpretation. I’m sorry it was a bit of an eyeful. But yeah, again, primary school Social Studies, I’m sure your familiar: Romantic New Zealand Journal tales of brave pioneers moving to this unpunished country, God fearing and hardworking, here in order to carve out this brave new land alongside the welcoming native cousins. Countless tales like this of the Brave European and the Noble savage.
What I don’t recall is anything like an alternative reading about greedy European usurpers, land thieves and arms dealers and drug peddlers being presented until well into secondary school. Certainly we were presented next to nothing about the average Maori citizen who was perfectly content with the status quo prior to colonization or the signing of the treaty. it’s in that heavily biased context, amid that narrative, as part of that subject (the range of components including history, geography, sociology, anthropology, politics etc), taught at that level, amongst that much indoctrination, that I question the stigmatization of the study of this book. And I’ll freely admit that I can and have found value in studying subjects where the student isn’t necessarily expected to take everything at face value.
As I went to lengths to state, it really depends on the teacher’s angle and framing. Like any subject. From the ages of about 4 to 16 I endured my fair share of Religious Studies, Bible Studies, Religious Education classes etc. And mostly it boiled down to readings, discussions, drawing pictures of the parables, watching videos. I never felt much compulsion to believe anything, because. There was some nice stuff. The one that made the earliest impact was the tale of the Good Samaritan. This stuff was studied in exactly the same way as we studied the Aesopica. Both Jesus and Aesop told a ripping good yarn, these were ostensibly Christian schools but the teachers were actually just teaching, right across the board.
As for being told that anyone’s family were off to eternal damnation or we’re going to Hell, I’ve never encountered anything remotely similar. That’s an utterly appalling thing to do, scaring/scarring children like that. And most importantly that’s just incredibly crap teaching, whatever the subject. A science teacher could turn up to class and scare the living shit out of children if they so desired on any given day, if that’s their agenda. I have vivid recollections of our class being shown an incredibly graphic video about Ebola in 4th form which without a proper introduction and presentation would have scarred me for life. Basically if a teacher is so fucked up that they want to traumatise children then this can be achieved regardless of the subject. Likewise if our teacher had presented Under the Mountain as factual then I’d have absolutely lost my shit, the Wilberforce were scary enough as fictitious characters. But the teacher didn’t.
The bible is just another book, albeit a book of massive cultural influence and importance, but still just a book that among a lot of down right absurd and freaky shit manages to present a bunch of positive ethics in a relatively easily and successfully consumed format. Its tall tales can be presented without recourse to indoctrination, And the issue as I see it is that we naturally don’t expect a science teacher to barrage 8 year olds with a freaky hour long horror speech about how a high enough concentration oxygen can totally fuck you up, but from various anecdotes here it seems we do expect this kind of trauma inducing stuff from a Bible Studies teacher. So that bar is obviously too low, the teacher’s selectivity is at fault. Generally though, when a teacher is a bit shit we go after the teacher rather than the subject they’re supposed to be exploring.
Having said all that I’m aware that my ideal experiences with this kind of thing are colouring my interpretation of what it is exactly that Emma’s children are being subjected to, my apologies if I’ve trivialised anything here Emma.
Thought provoking essay Emma. Destigmatising some of the language, if I may, the question is whether our schools must study mythology, and in this case that mythology native to the supplanting culture in NZ?
As to whether indoctrination is the sole purpose of this, I’d be inclined to accord that decision to the respective teacher. Certainly I’m no Christian so my stake in this zero, but I’ve been allocated a few words so I thought I’d share all of them.
Unquestionably I’m in agreement with you that there is a place for teaching comparative religion and looking at the role of religion in society, but it would seem to be an additional discipline reliant on a slightly different spectrum of faculties.
To look at this wording more closely: Indoctrination is a fairly loaded term that is assumed to be partisan in nature and generally speaking implies a kind of universal vulnerability to ideology (in order to be entirely successful). Though tentatively challenged by the hypothesised God gene (VMAT2) this ‘discovery’ remains contentious , but as Carl Zimmer characterises things, perhaps
it points the way toward one neurobiological pathway that may be important. I love this violet.
Who knows, it just came to mind in terms of what kind of success rate one can anticipate when administering indoctrination. Whether it’s categorically indoctrination or three stars for effort there.
Despite religious education of all types being banned in China there are nonetheless still 30 million Christians s and a much higher number of religious believers than 100 million – namely 31.4% of the population over 16 years of age. In this environment a reasonably strong argument could be made that for better or worse certain personality types gravitate towards religion quite naturally and regardless of education. The specialty here is political, historical, geographical indoctrination.
Not to dismiss the fact that these bible classes could be characterised as an attempt and do succeed in indoctrinating certain individuals, but to highlight that like other mythologies such as Santa, it’s nearly impossible to put that cat back in the bag. Yes, organized religion is immeasurably more invasive than belief in the Claus but once skepticism has taken root then Christian indoctrination can never be complete (such is the requisite for complete faith) and that religion remains merely a form of social ID, as you say “Like any other club or activity”. And therefore, beyond indoctrination there may be other benefits on offer here.
More importantly, and this is the point I’m desperately threshing through these inconsequential words to reach, as touched on in my China example above: Isn’t this charged charge of ‘indoctrination’ arguably applicable to a range of subjects, is it not merely just another facet of education itself. Part of its function? in accordance with a capitalist agenda? Questions best left for another time. Certainly from my recollection at school, Social Studies was rife with all sorts of misleading info, propaganda and abject lies masquerading as truth, Did Columbus discover America? Settlers or invaders? Was Marco Polo the first European in China? Did he even really make it that far? Do drugs categorically turn your brain into a fried egg? Simplifications and obfuscations all over the show. I guess what I’m asking is, did our study of falsehood, myth and error encourage the development of any useful skills? Do these fables and parables weaken or strengthen our inquiring minds? Even when presented as fact?
Stepping back in time, there is every likelihood that a concerned parent was equally critical of Aristotle choosing to indoctrinate a young Alexander in the bible class of that epoch, filling their childrens’ heads with a a lot of nonsense about Achilles and Icarus. Perhaps the parent’s issue was with the Greekness of it all and they’d have preferred an equal amount of Rostam and Zahhak or an overview of all the beliefs going round at the time. But the deeper questions in my mind would be: Was Aristotle a competent teacher? What was his angle? And of what benefit could this be to both my child and Alexander? Beyond listening to a bunch of stories with unfamiliar words and structures, beyond the lessons they embedded, beyond the questions they elicited, beyond the ideas they ignited and the critical faculties they encouraged, beyond the deeper understanding of the culture, language, idioms and laws. Would it have been better to instill a vague understanding of religions as a whole? That sounds like a different subject entirely. Or was it not such a bad thing to immerse the students in the mythology of a culture, their culture, at least the culture of the Greek homeland as it had been transplanted onto Macedonia.
Difficult to answer. But I’d be of the opinion that with these types of subjects, our key motivations to study them lie well beyond acquiring teh knowledge (for which we have the net) or to cement belief (walking on water – best left to The Avengers). The content is merely a means to an end, a framework in which to develop certain disciplines and allow talents to unfurl themselves. In unto itself really quite arbitrary. Some may argue that it’s worthy enough (or not)stuff in that it serves as a traditional connection to our collective colonial culture back beyond the time when in Europe we were subordinate to the far more advanced Islamic Umayyad Caliphate culture. And in that vein that its stories present telling answers as to the whys and what-fors of our more recent histories. But it’s generally only later in life that these connections began to make any sense to me.
Certainly in China, though religion is banned, the children are still taught various legends, myths, what have you. Not as history. And not as Bible Class, but then that’s just a name you’re calling it. But it’s something that continues to bind a culture(s). Despite and far beyond Mao’s Cultural Revolution, many are still able to explain the meanings and histories of various festivals as more than simply being an opportunity to spend up large on fireworks and mooncakes. Sure we could progress to an era where the Easter holiday is all about the chocolate and buns, Christmas the tree and toys, Shrove Tuesday only about the Pancakes. An era when we have no idea why certain shops are closed on Sundays and no reason to continue with the practice. But it strikes me that there is nothing to lose from having a deeper grasp of our context and that in teaching and learning these stories that have in their way defined our culture, language, laws and customs, we may be reaping benefits that may be just too familiar for objective appraisal. Tangentially on that note I’m also well in favour of the teaching of Maori Mythology. But basically, to me, it really depends – like any study we engage in – on how much you trust the teacher, whether you think they’re up to the material, how they’re framing it. I’d most definitely recommend focusing on the the individual minister and what they’re bringing to the office rather than the office itself.
As for the hymns, I guess we could ban Beethoven, but again I’d suggest it comes down to who’s selecting the playlist rather than placing limits as to genre. Though I may have missed a joke there. As I do, all the damn time.
The Blind Leading the Blind, Matthew 15:13-14
For Everything there is a Season, Ecclesiastes 3
Seriously, why not just go read the book? It’s quite short! Hager’s pretty good at telling a story. It’s quite an easy read
I haven’t read it, hope to one day but. But I can think of someone who these words should be directed at. To generalise, when damning allegations are made about a member of your team, perhaps the legality of their actions have been called into question, perhaps they have shown a lack of ethics or they’ve outed themselves as being unfit for their position, then you can be damn sure that any team leader worth their salt is going to investigate.
If you’re a political leader seeking reelection and allegations are made against a member of your party, then any leader worth their weight will look into it, check it out, if only to ensure none of the member have committed actions that might compromise the stab at the crown, to make sure none of your number has done anything to downtrow the party and open you’re clan up to a stern kick up the jacksy, to clarify whether these members have the integrity, the judiciousness, and the ability to handle the responsibility entailed in being a Minister in the New Zealand Government and occupying that position in a manner befitting the honorific Right or Honorable. You want to be working with the elite, surely?
If you’re in fact the Prime Minister, then ideally you really want what’s best for your country. When allegations are made against the Government you want details, you want to read the police report, you want to stay abreast of developments in the political and legal sphere because they’re your police and that’s your sphere. You want to know, because more knowledge enables you to govern more effectively. That is exactly how you do a better job. Same in any industry, field or hobby.
If you don’t know, if you’re too busy playing golf and dreaming of war, if you’re unwilling to find out with your own eyes, then how on earth can you be expected to make the most informed decisions? How in hades can you expect to do your job as well as someone who does know? And how in that scamp Satan’s name can you vouch for your Party and your Minsterial team and their aptitude to lead when you’re willingly ignoring evidence and information (with citations) generously (and for a small fee) presented by a neutral third party. And if you don’t know, willfully so, then how can you expect us to place any faith in you whatsoever, much less vote for you?
Any leader worth the price of their trouser leg would see this as a gift horse, a chance to better understand the goings on and machinations of your own party beyond your office walls, beyond appearances as normally presented by your underlings to you as that leader. That shit’s the gold Thatcher couldn’t mine.
Unless of course you already know it all and you are dick deep in pig shit.
But yeah. Kiwis are a hard bunch, people talk about tall poppy syndrome but in fairness, the nastiness, the contempt, the name calling, and the brutality is pretty much cropwide, in all directions. Even so, we do manage on occasion to look past our tribes, our bias and our vindictiveness and make a fair call. Perhaps we need more leadership there. Perhaps we need a Prime Minister with the capacity to step up from this glug of trashing our people. A leader who can reach beyond denigrating New Zealand citizens and taxpayers as a “sugar daddy” or a “terrorist” or “a bit silly” or in the case of Nicky Hager “a screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist”. Perhaps it’s high time we once again had a Prime Minister who can both call and see the value of our people for what we are, in this case
Because anything else, anything less than this is simply a blueprint for how attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment.
Superficial, and possibly already mentioned but in case it hasn’t…
Key’s earlier response appeared fairly standard:
"Some of our guys would talk to them in the same way we talk to media all the time.”
“Mr Key said he talked to Mr Slater three or four times a year, sometimes sent a text message…”
Weighing the notable omission of the first statement against the revelation in the second, the content of Key’s third version is eagerly anticipated.