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As is public education in New Zealand – by law.

But some people are unhappy with this fact. They attempt to argue that values need religious belief – that you can’t be good without a god. And they work hard to create the illusion that religious instruction is required to instil values into our children. But if we are to believe today’s NZ Herald story – Schools drop Bible as interest falls – the influence of such attitudes is declining.

This reports that a number of Auckland schools are dropping the “bible in schools” programme run by the Churches Education Commission. And the opt-out, or withdrawal clause, is being used by a growing number of pupils and students – which creates problems for schools of providing supervision for the opt-outs. (The schools are theoretically closed while religious instruction takes place to get around the legal secular requirements).

Some parents are also complaining because schools have not kept them informed of the programme. Sometimes the first hint they get is when their child comes home talking about sin or creationism. One parent, who complained to his school board, managed to get the opt-out permission slip changed (see below). Last year there was no hint the programme was religious – now, at least, the school includes “bible-based” in their description.

The Churches Education Commission are being somewhat deceptive in the promotion of, and description of, their religious instruction programme. They are at least taking advantage of a popular illusion that there is some sort of inevitable link between religion and human values, and that religious organisations should have some sort of privilege in the teaching of values.

But that is a misconception, recognised as such by our educational authorities. After all, our public schools’ curriculum requires the teaching of values – and by law that curriculum must be secular.

And school boards who promote the illusion that the religious instruction programme (when schools by law are closed) is somehow fulfilling a curriculum requirement of teaching values are also being deceptive. It isn’t, and it should not be presented that way. The Churches Education Commission curriculum is aimed at promoting belief in supernatural beings – that is their interest, and they see values as simply a tool for promoting that belief. Have a look at how their own literature describes their teaching aims. For example:

Purpose Values
For the children to understand that God watches over and cares for His people Care and compassion; Love
For the children to understand that God made everything in the world and loves us Inquiry; Responsibility; Creativity
For students to understand that God raised Jesus to life, so people could be friends with Him Perseverance; Excellence; Love
For students to understand that God does not want us to be greedy Care and compassion; Integrity; Respect

Clearly they are simply using the human values part of the school curriculum to attach their real purpose – the promotion of supernatural beliefs in young children.

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