Monday, 28 October 2013

Evangelising in British Schools - Unbelievable? Debate

This is mainly a post in response to the latest Unbelievable? debate from Premier Radio, which I advise anyone who is interested in religious debate to subscribe to, it is available as a podcast on iTunes.  In the latest debate Terry Sanderson from The National Secular Society went head to head with Reverend David Robertson about the latest  report released by the NSS regarding Evangelism in State Schools . Ther is a concern that certain Christian groups attending British State schools and evangelising to pupils rather than only informing pupils about religion.

The report is a collection of complaints that parents had made regarding Christian groups attending Religious Eduction classes, a class that looks at a wide variety of religions from an objective view point R.E as it is shortened to is supposed to be informative and fact based and has no spiritual or theological purpose. This is a fact that unfortunately David Robertson failed to understand during his argument, which he came at very aggressively from the beginning.  The complaints ranged from the fact that parents had not been informed that Christian groups would come into school, to children being given Bibles and being told this was the most important book they would ever read. Other instances highlighted by Terry Sanderson were young children being told by visitors to the school that miracle healing works.

Robertson believed the report was scare mongering, anti-chritistian and anecdotal as there were no statistical evidence to back up the frequency of occurrences and complaints. While he may have been right regarding the methodology of the report his answer to some of Sanderson's complaints showed he hadn't fully grasped the idea of objective teaching.

For example Sanderson wants religious education to remain objective, and has no problem with Christians coming into schools to inform children about the traditions, history and story of Christianity, however the evidence that groups had been crossing the objective line and began evangelising in schools was met with indifference by Robertson.  Instead of admitting evangelism isn't objective he went off on a tangent about The NSS wanting to influence the national curriculum, he then began insisting that Sanderson say wether he believed it should be taught that abortion is right in schools, again Sanderson said the facts and opinions of abortion should be taught and the decision left up to the child as to wether they find it wrong or right.  Robertson again unaware of the reality of being objective only read that Sanderson was advocating that abortion is right should be taught in schools.

It was a frustrating tit for tat as the Christian representative got weighed down by his own anger and intolerance for the NSS. He exposed his personal belief that children should not be allowed to make up their own mind on the ideas of abortion and euthanasia. He overlooked the points made my Sanderson about children not being taught in an educational environment that miracle healing works to which Robertson angrily replied "how do you know it doesn't work?" Again missing the idea that what Sanderson wants is a fact based education in the school, and I for one agree with him.

Religion in school should stay within the realm of informing as it was for me when I was at school.
In primary school there was a marginal amount of Christian ideology taught in our lessons, we preyed in morning assembly and sang hymns, but by the time secondary school came around all trace of that was gone - and rightly so. Religious Education classes focused on looking at the different beliefs people held, the moral arguments around euthanasia, abortion and gay marriage. But these were done as an open debate with the teacher acting as moderator only and our opinions were left for us to form.

Robertson he made a valid point that the production of the report was to condemn the actions it depicted,  Sanderson tried to state it was only a report and neither condemned or supported it was only to demonstrate findings. However, it is quite obvious the report is constructed to counter these arguments but someone has to. Yes in a country of 50 million+ a few complaints seems marginal, however it is something that should be monitored and the NSS report gives a voice to concerned parents who must, state school or other wise, be aware of the nature of their children's education.

You can read The National Secular Societys Report here 

And listen to the Unbelievable debate by visiting Premier Radio's page here

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