When I first created this website and wrote my story, I was really upset. I’d been through the mill for nearly a year, trying to go through the official channels to complain about religious instruction classes. First by contacting my Daughter’s teachers and then the school Board of Trustees, who fobbed me off. Then through the hierarchy of the Ministry of Education until I got a personal meeting with the regional director.
I wrote the whole story here but it didn’t have the effect I intended for everyone who has read it. I thought that people would read the facts and see how unjust and (in my opinion) unethical it is to allow Religious Instruction classes into primary schools. However, some people were more upset that I’d criticised the school than they were about the RI classes. That was never my intention. I was complaining about the school’s treatment of me, not the school itself, which I think is great. It’s the difference between telling your kids you don’t like their behaviour and telling your kids you don’t like them!
Anyway, I didn’t get everything right. Some of it is not as tactful as it might be. I probably should have distanced the actual school more from the issue than I did and I also upset the PTA by having a rant when they ignored my concerns. It was my misunderstanding and not their fault. Sorry again! I created a facebook group for parents, which has been seen by some as me creating a soapbox for myself to push “my agenda”, even though I didn’t raise the topic on there and I’ve never linked to this website. When it was brought up by one of my detractors, I simply asked for questions from parents.
I knew that no matter what I did, there would be some people who would be upset about criticism of RI classes. That was always going to happen. However, I am disappointed that the information I’ve tried so hard to get across has been lost to some because of the way I’ve presented it. I hope that you can look past that and really consider the issue. As always, I am happy to discuss concerns with school parents or anyone else who is interested. You can go through a quick guide to religious instruction here or read on…
Every Tuesday morning, I have to take my daughter to school late so that she can avoid the “religious education” (indoctrination) class that the schools board of trustees have decided children at my Daughter’s school should have. My Daughter probably thinks that I have ambitions for her future as an Olympic swimmer, because we use the time to take her to swimming lessons every week instead. While she enjoys the swimming lessons, sometimes she does ask why she can’t be in her class with the other kids doing colouring in. The RE classes frequently run over time and when we take her in a little late, she thinks she’s missing out on something. I would explain to her that allowing unqualified teachers to evangelise their religious beliefs to her by colouring in the dinosaurs that “God made” and telling stories about God’s son, Jesus, who is also God, are not my beliefs. But she wouldn’t understand and this should not be an issue for her. So we’ll just stick to the story about swimming lessons being super important. You can read the whole story about this here.
That is what angers me the most. Adults imposing their religious beliefs on other people’s kids. My Daughter should be free to go to school without anyone walking through the gate telling her or her school friends to believe in God, Allah, Buddha or that there are no deities. I’m an Atheist but my Daughter isn’t. She doesn’t have any spiritual beliefs, she’s six! She’s a sweet, innocent little kid whose strongest belief is that the different foods on her plate shouldn’t be touching. We’re hoping she grows out of that.
People who are for religious education classes (they are not actually “religious education”) often respond with; “But you can opt her out of the classes!”. Well, yes I can but why should I have to? Why should she be segregated from her friends because of the religious beliefs parents have? Our school and hundreds of other state primary schools like it around the country are offering religious education classes while at the same time being considered a secular school. “Secular” means non-religious or not connected with religion or a church. If I wanted my kids to be in a religious school, they would be. I could have opted-in to it, as could all the people who consider RE Classes a good thing. Instead, a minority of Christian evangelists have insinuated their religion into the school through a loophole in the law.
It’s important to understand that the stance I’ve taken on religious education classes is not anti-Christian. I have lots of friends and relatives who are Christians and I would expect them to be equally upset if an Atheist group was entering the school to tell the kids that there was no God. State schools are not a “mission field” to be conquered by any religious group and your kids should be free of religious pressure within a secular state school.
You can read a quick guide to religious instruction or read more about me and follow the story of my experience with my Daughter’s school. You probably have some other questions about religious education in NZ primary schools and why I created this website. I’ll be adding more information on a regular basis, so please check back and feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.