Mixing values and Jesus in secular education

Daniel Dennett calls it the “last big fib.*” The claim that religion and human morality are intimately entwined – that you can’t be good without god. That does seem to be a widely held misconception, or should I say widely promoted.

The New Zealand educational curriculum provides for values education. And in public schools by law the education must be secular. But these  (the teaching of values and secular education) are threatened by the legal provision which allows religious (Christian) groups to come into public schools and provide religious instruction. The “trick” is that schools are legally “closed” during that time – and parents can “opt-out” their children (if they know what is going on).

I think that is bad enough but some groups, and schools, pull another trick. They tie in values and religion so that the intruding religious group provides the curriculum requirement for values education – or justifies their intrusion this way.

On the one hand children are taught a very biased form of values and in practice these groups are more interest in converts and talking about “Jesus” than they are in values). On the other, those children who are opted out miss even that form of values education.

Very unsatisfactory!

A newly formed New Zealand group, the Secular Education Network, is attempting to publicise and change this situation. If the issue interests you or you wish to participate in this work go and have a look at their website at http://reason.org.nz/.

Here’s an excellent, and short, video highlighting the problem in Auckland.

Religious recruiting in our schools.

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*Have a look at this excellent video of a recent discussion between Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins where Dennett uses this term:

Richard Dawkins & Daniel Dennett. Oxford, 9 May 2012

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42 responses to “Mixing values and Jesus in secular education

  1. I agree.

  2. Pingback: Scientific knowledge should trump “belief” | Open Parachute

  3. Pingback: What really happens in religious education classes? | Open Parachute

  4. Why we don’t let the child know more, they can know all kind of different in all religion, then they can decide want to belives it or not at all, so we must let them (christian or other religion) had freedom to teach, also you have your own right to oppt out don’t want to learn at all too.

  5. Dave,

    I am all for teaching “about” religion. In fact I think in this modern global pluralist and multicultural world this is becoming essential.

    This could be part of social studies – part of the normal secular cirriculum. Comparative religion – which would also include non supernatural belief systems like humanism and atheism.

    I imagine there would be some fundamentalist parents who would want to opt their kids out of such teaching which is a pity.

    Teaching should be provided by the normal qualified teachers. There is no place for alloing schools to be used for he evangelization or conversion of children. That is the current situation.

  6. Here’s an idea….
    Get religions taught at schools but there’s a catch…
    The preachers have to teach “the other guy’s religion”-not their own.
    So a Muslim has to teach Christianity. (That would be fun). A Christian has to teach Janism. A Mormon has to teach Sikhism etc.

    I would pay good money to sit in on a class like that just to watch the expression on their faces.

  7. Richard Christie

    Great idea!

    In order to make sure each side does their very best for the team whose doctrine they’re obliged to teach we’d also need some sort of incentive, or better still, be able to fine those who deliberately sabotage another’s faith.

    i” bet the nation’s education budget will never be short again.

  8. Wow. Polynesians can’t actually think how to design canoes! They are not clever… wow! I wonder if that sounds less racist in Oxford?

  9. Wow. Polynesians can’t actually think how to design canoes! They are not clever… wow! I wonder if that sounds less racist in Oxford?

    It is a racist thing to say, Max. Shame on you.

  10. As you well know it was quoting someone else.

    But you are right, there is an ingrained racism built into Dennet’s work.

  11. Listen to 5:40 onward:

  12. Wow. Listening again it is more patronizing and racist than it sounded the first time. What a prick!

  13. Max, yours wasn’t the “last great fib,” but a fib nevertheless. Just shows what can be achieved by a bit of malicious cherry picking.

    Did you learn how to do this in theology school?

  14. I’ve never been to “theology school” – not sure what you mean by that.

    Do you not think that statement was a little racist?

  15. The malicious cherry picking.

  16. That is not really an answer to my question. Don’t you think the example he uses is a little racist? You can admit this without thinking Dennet is a bad man – just this particular example was ill-chosen. I thought Dawkins looked a tad uncomfortable when he was saying it as well.

  17. Max, you are really staining on this fib. It’s typical of the maliciously theological of course. But laughable just the same.

    If you could put aside you motives you might learn something. The boat analogy is a favorite one of Dennett’s and I think a fine illustration of philosophical thinking on evolution.

  18. You could just answer my question? But I will take your second part “I think a fine illustration of philosophical thinking on evolution” as you saying that you don’t consider it to be racist.

  19. Your take is correct. I think you would have to be very malicious to draw that conclusion – but I can understand the theologically inclined cherry picking something to spread a fib about Dennett.

    Sometimes it’s like casting pearls before swine.

  20. “Your take is correct.”

    Finally an answer! Like blood from a stone!

  21. I think you may be a little slow on the uptake, Max. My viewpoint has been obvious from my first comment on.

    Meanwhile your preoccupation with distortion has resulted in you missing the valuable lesson Dan was presenting.

  22. What have I distorted? I said a particular anecdote Dennet uses is racist. I think it is. It comes from a 19th century scientist (from an era where western superiority was assumed) and talks about non-westerners as incapable of cleverness or reason. Imagine this story about the building of British boats in the 19th century… the British did not really understand how boats worked, they just copied the ones that made it back from trips at sea with no real insight at all… obvious nonsense. Say it about “primitive” Polynesians and it is of course acceptable, because these “primitives” had no concept of reason, and no understanding of boat building or navigation etc… they just “copied what their grandfather made”. If you know anything about the sea-faring ability of pacific islanders you will know this is colonialist arrogance…. now does this mean Dennet’s point was wrong? Maybe not. But the anecdote itself was racist. I have not missed the lesson. I just think the example he used was ill-chosen and cringe worthy.

  23. As you well know it was quoting someone else.

    Nope. You didn’t quote. You shy away from that.

    This is how real people quote…
    Learn.

    Wow. Polynesians can’t actually think how to design canoes! They are not clever… wow! I wonder if that sounds less racist in Oxford?

    See?
    Your words. Untouched, unvarished and in the raw.
    Shame on you for saying something so stupid and racist.

    What have I distorted? I said a particular anecdote Dennet uses…

    And yet you can’t bring yourself to quote the offending ancedote.
    Hmm.

    Famous Creationist Quote Mining

  24. Did you even read anything I said?

  25. Yes. Which is why I was very deliberate in noting that you can’t bring yourself to quote the offending anecdote.
    You still can’t.
    It’s a dead giveaway.

    Quote
    Quotation is the repetition of someone else’s statement or thoughts. Quotation marks are punctuation marks used in text to indicate the words of another speaker or writer. Both of these words are sometimes abbreviated as “quote(s)”.

  26. Max | July 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm |

    Listen to 5:40 onward:

    You can listen to it hear. No need for me to write it out – unless you are deaf Cedric in which case I apologise

  27. You can’t bring yourself to quote the offending anecdote.
    You still can’t.
    It’s a dead giveaway.

  28. So your argument against the points I have made is: You refuse to write out what is recorded above… is that your only objection?

  29. Max, it is probably best that you quote exactly the text you find racist. After all people see different things in the same text, others may not recognize what you specifically refer to, and others still may not be able to, or whish to access the video but are still interested in your argument.

  30. It is there in the youtube video at the point I have pointed out. I am not going to transcribe what can be listened to above! I am not playing that silly game . Sorry.

    Now if the fact I refuse to play silly games is the only objection you have to what I said then good. If you disagree with what I said, then I am interested to know why.

  31. Max, I have already told you my position. I think Dennett’s point about the similarity of boats and similar vehicles because of what they do is an important example for explaining an aspect of evolution. There is nothing racist about and you have not been able to support your claim. It’s simply a malicious attempt to bad mouth a philosopher who makes an important point.

    You have simply chosen to allow your prejudices to determine what you hear. No sensible person is going to tag along with such a poor evidential basis.

  32. OK fine. So we understand each other. I think that his EXAMPLE is racist because it talks about Polynesians as being incapable of reason and cleverness. You don’t mind this portrayal of our Pacific brothers and sisters. No problem.

    I have explained in a post above why I think this. You chose not to respond.

  33. I think that his EXAMPLE is racist because it talks about Polynesians as being incapable of reason and cleverness.

    Think what you like. It doesn’t make it true. Reality is not your friend.

  34. You see Max, this is the problem, and where the malicious motives become apparent.

    You claim Dan describes “Polynesians as being incapable of reason and cleverness.” No one else reads that. You can’t provide any supporting evidence in the form of a quote. We know that once we look at what Dan actually said we recognize the point he was making – and it was about the nature of boats and why they are basically the same wherever they were designed or discovered. Using boats as a metaphorical example of how natural selection produces similar designs in nature.

    In maintaining your fiction you end up ascribing racist motives to everyone else who disagree with your warped interpretation (“You don’t mind this portrayal of our Pacific brothers and sisters.”).

    And no matter he many times we point out your mistake you claim we “chose not to respond.”

    Hardly honest.

  35. Rather than speculate about my motives, just address what I actually said. Which part of what I said do you disagree with (try not to make it personal again)

  36. Richard Christie

    Max, allow me, Dennett relates an observation made by a French philosopher in respect to Polynesian boat desigers:

    “These Polynesians, they’re not, they’re not clever designers, they’re just making boats the way my grandfather and his father before him made boats, but, the sea is the selector, the boats that come back, they copy. The boats that don’t come back, they don’t copy. That’s natural selection, right there.”

    Now, make your case.

  37. Thanks Richard. That pretty much speaks for itself.

  38. Richard Christie

    Dreadful man, accusing his grandfather and great-grandfather of being incapable of reason and cleverness.
    Typical of the militant new atheists.

    /sarc

  39. Why does he hate his grandfather and great-grandfather so much?
    Disturbing.

  40. Which demonstrates why it is important to listen to the segment. Although even in the written form it is clear that Dennet was referring to the polynesians’ “grandfather and his father before” not Dennet’s.

    Your tactics remind me of scientologists I have dealt with recently.

  41. Richard Christie

    Which demonstrates why it is important to listen to the segment.

    Yes, he clearly says “my grandfather”.

    Aside from badmouthing his forebears he ought to acknowledge the Polynesian use of calculus, CAD and fluid dynamics in boat design.

  42. “Aside from badmouthing his forebears he ought to acknowledge the Polynesian use of calculus, CAD and fluid dynamics in boat design.”

    Thanks. That sort of makes my point for me.

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