Archive | January, 2014

Teaching Religion in Primary School

27 Jan

At the moment there is an ongoing discussion about the teaching of religion in Irish State schools especially those “of a religious ethos”  i.e. those run by, or in buildings owned by, religious institutions.
So my questions are these:-

1) Why do we “teach religion” in school? Surely the churches & the homes of believers are the places where religious instruction should take place? Unless of course the religious orders do not believe that they are effective in reaching their flock in a church setting & also have little faith in their members’ ability to raise their own children in the faith. In which case why should taxpayer subsidized educational time & space be expected, nay mandated, to rectify their failings?

2) In an era of questioning teaching standards, performance related league tables & providing an education which fits the students for the world in which they live how then are we to judge the effectiveness & value for money of the religious education being provided by our taxes? All the major faiths claim to provide moral & ethical frameworks by which the individual can not only live their own life but also create a more moral & ethical society. So using this criteria how effective have Irish schools been in this regard?

On the personal level? The evidence is not good. During the Celtic Tiger religiously educated Irish adults, across the board spent with no regard for the future, when offered more money than they could possibly repay they just took the cash & now they cast about for others to blame, complain about having to honour their agreements & seek not to repay what they owe. In other words they were greedy, selfish & lacking in the “moral fibre” to face their failings & the courage to accept their punishment. All of this behaviour is contrary to the teachings of the Christ they have been alledgedy educated to follow. So the teaching of religion has failed in this area of education.
On the societal level one only has to look at the duplicitous behaviour of top politicians, church leaders, top business people & the boards of charitable organisations to see that the education system has most certainly failed to instill a Christian moral & ethical framework both in the persons & the institutions in which they serve. The failure is all the more glaring when one considers that many of the “leaders” of our society have come through the leading educational institutions & therefore had the best teachers. So here again “teaching religion” has failed the test.

The only area where religion as it is taught actually passes the test is in familiarizing the children with the rituals of the particular religion i.e. forming a habit of rote observance devoid of context or application to the adult’s daily life.

So I ask again why do we “teach religion” in primary schools? What exactly are we teaching & to what end?