Human values are secular

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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106 responses to “Human values are secular

  1. I’d really love to know how *anything* taught by religion encourages ‘inquiry’ as a value. I was under the impression that religion purports to be the answer.

  2. Is anybody aware of a list of New Zealand schools that employ this sort of programme?

  3. I saw something from one of the organisations claiming 40% coverage of Auckland schools. perhaps the best source of this information would be form the group managing the programmes, the Churches Education Commission. But I imagine they would not willingly give it up. Mind you the Education Ministry would be obliged to provide information by law so perhaps we should ask them as a FOI request.

  4. Yeah I checked the CEC website but no joy so you’re likely right, if they have that info they’re keeping it quiet.

    The FOI might be an idea though.

  5. Paul Bennett

    Excuse the my ignorance guys, but what is an FOI and how does one use it to obtain the information that you want? This could be really helpful to the Keep Religion Out of School campaign. Any help you can give would be appreciated thanks.

  6. Sorry, I was referring to a freedom of information application. Legally any state body, government minster etc. is obliged to provide requested information unless there is a very good reason not too. The FOI legislation requires this be done within a certain time period (something like a month). Any refusal can be appealed.

    I think it’s simply a matter of requesting the information, maybe mentioning it is a FOI request. Unfortunately it can’t be used with non- state bodies.

    Have a wee Internet search as there is a page somewhere describing procedures and requirements.

    Paul, this is the sort of thing your campaign should do and publicise.

  7. Paul Bennett

    Thanks for that Ken, I’ve contacted the Education Ministry with a formal request, so I should know more in a couple of weeks.

  8. Great Paul. I hope you share the information when you get it. I would like to see it.

  9. Me too, good stuff Paul.

  10. I think changing the permission sheet to make it clear that it is Bible based values should be enough. Good solution.

  11. Max, care to comment on the fact they weren’t up front and only acknowledged it was religious after a complaint? Some of these schools ave also been vague about the fact the school is closed. And that values are part of the secular curriculum

  12. I think I just did comment on that:

    “changing the permission sheet to make it clear that it is Bible based values should be enough”

  13. Values in Action.

    I give permission for my child to participate in the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster-based Values in Action programme (1/2 hour weekly)

    The One True God

  14. It looks like a good program other than that.

  15. So, Max, you don’t feel the scool has a responsibility to tell their parents the school is closed during these “lesson?” (an issue which some schools say s a proble for supervision). Or that the school teaches values as part of the normal secular cirriculum?

  16. Don’t I? When did I say that?

  17. I think the schools have a responsibility to tell the parents about everything that goes on at the school, to be honest, and proactive in keeping parents informed. Should go without saying. Looks like some schools due to ineptitude or otherwise have not always done so. I would not assume they had deceptive aims necessarily. But clearly an unhelpful communication breakdown which they can learn from.

  18. Bible in schools have been very helpful and necessary in our suburbs over the years. It would be sad to see them banned from schools.

  19. In what way, helpful and necessary, Carol?

    If it is a matter of teaching secular values this is already in the cirriculum. I can’t see any other justification for it.

  20. I don’t think anyone wants them banned – just more clarification about what they are teaching. Most parents would be fine with learning Bible based values. And it seems to be the schools not letting parents know what the course is rather than the Bible teachers themselves.

  21. Actually, Max, the recent NZHerald Internet poll indicates only a minority of NZers support bible in schools. And I think those of us who know anything about biblical values would definitely oppose it. Bloody hell, just imagine what Craig would teach bout infanticide and ethnic cleansing.

    Mind you, I think given the opportunity to consider properly I think most people would like to see an objective teaching about the major world religious outlooks, including non-religious beliefs. But this is not teaching values, more teaching about different approaches to a moral code.

  22. Personally… and this is just me… I do not think that the schools should really be teaching values of any kind – secular or otherwise. I have some serious reservations about some of the values taught in sex-ed these days for instance.

  23. I thought sex education was largely a matter of biology not values? Just imagine the crap kids could be taught in bible lessons on the subject.

    But I would like to actually know what is taught in values and get an idea of the lessons used.

    I did see some discussions and videos on the NSW values classes and was impressed at how practical and inclusive it was ( no not sex education).

  24. “I thought sex education was largely a matter of biology not values? ”

    You would think so! And if it was it would be a lot better. But no – there are lots of values tied up in it. For instance, students are told that sex is fine outside of a relationship, and that “friends with benefits” arrangements are fine. Now you may agree with this, but there are many non-religious reasons why sex outside of a stable relationship may be harmful.

  25. I realize sex is another area where the theistically motivated tell porkies. So I would actually like to see the real evidence for your claims.

    I feel we have the equivalent if the Singer misrepresentation coming up.

  26. Right… I am lying… got it.

  27. Well, that’s one way of avoiding the extremely reasonable request for evidence.

    Seems that some people think they can assert anything and feign offence to avoid backing up their claims.

    And they seem to be the same people who talk about “other ways of knowing.” I guess that’s how it works.

  28. There is a way to ask though Ken. Just blurting out: this person is a liar because they believe in God is possibly not the most polite way yo do it?

  29. Max, I stated a simple fact – it was not about you at all. But I guess you can use it as a diversion like you did over your claims to have supporting evidence for your misrepresentation of Singer.

  30. I could just as easily ask what evidence you have that:

    “They attempt to argue that values need religious belief – that you can’t be good without a god.”

    OR:

    “And they work hard to create the illusion that religious instruction is required to instil values into our children.”

    OR:

    “Some of these schools ave also been vague about the fact the school is closed.”

    OR

    “The Churches Education Commission are being somewhat deceptive in the promotion of, and description of, their religious instruction programme.”

    OR:

    “Sometimes the first hint they get is when their child comes home talking about sin or creationism.”

    You provide no evidence for any of these claims. If I was as suspicious (and nasty?) as you I would immediately accuse you of being a liar.

  31. “I realize sex is another area where the theistically motivated tell porkies.”
    is a simple fact? Can you back this up with evidence? What studies show that people who believe in a God are more likely to lie about sex? Until you can back this statement up there is little point continuing.

  32. Yes, Max – I should have put “some” in there. Of course I realize not all theists are conservatives who lie for Jesus. Sorry about the omission.

  33. OK. So you have withdrawn one of your claims. What about all of the other claims you have made with no evidence? Will you back off from them as well?

  34. Lets just take one:

    “Sometimes the first hint they get is when their child comes home talking about sin or creationism.”

    What evidence to you have that the values in school curriculum addresses the concepts of sin or creationism?

  35. Don’t push it Max.

    My general comments are based on anecdotal stories from parents. You may have realised there is a very activ campaign on at the moment and such stories are appearing in news coverage and in the secular education Facebook page.

  36. So no proof whatsoever! Will you withdraw that claim as well you porkie telling fibber?

  37. Come on Ken – be consistent! How would you have reacted if I said that my “evidence” was anecdotal evidence from parents! Either provide some real evidence or admit you were fibbing about the whole issue.

  38. But then I guess “religious education is another area where the atheistically motivated tell porkies.”.. oh I mean *some* of them ;)

  39. Anecdotal evidence is real evidence – just not quantitative because by its nature it relates to the individuals telling the stories. Neither the media reports or my post argues that they are quantitative.

    I sense another diversion.

  40. Not at all. Now we have established that. the evidence I have for what is taught to children in sex education in New Zealand is largely anecdotal, from stories are appearing in news coverage and on Facebook page. But also from people I know who are presently in high school , or have recently left high school and are now at university. But if you check out the year 10 PE curriculum and the “Sex with Attitude” course materials you will find a lot of the information I am talking about. The problem is individual teachers will emphasize different areas, and go further in certain areas than others – so as you have noted the evidence about how the material is actually taught (sex or religion) is by its nature anecdotal. Now at risk of being called a liar again let me relate one story:

    A class of children in a year 10 sex education class were not only told that “friends with benefits” relationships were a valid option (which seems a value judgement to me) but were also for who knows what reason shown a video of a male penis ejaculating… now do 13 year old girls really need the State to be showing them pornographic images like this? Frankly this worries me a little more than a child being told about God.

  41. Richard Christie

    Are you sure it was a male one?

  42. Any teacher involved in pornography with a class would be history and you can be sure such an event would have lead to complaints.

  43. Unfortunately it was part of the syllabus – so State sponsored pornography.

  44. “State sponsored pornography”, part of public school syllabus. I am starting to recognize a pattern here.

    Mind you if it is part of the syllabus it’s down in black and white. It’s not anecdotal. Simple to deal with if you actually have a case and not relying on misinterpretation.

  45. What pattern is that Ken. Going to accuse me of lying ahain are you? I too sense a tiring pattern.

  46. Teachers who indulge in pornography or indecency break the law, parents and students complain, they are sacked and prosecuted.

    Turns out that what you are calling “pornography” is actually part of the public school syllabus. Seems to me that if your interpretation is true such material shoud be, and surely can be, removed. On the other hand your interpretation may just be a personal one. After all, a syllabus gets a fair bit of public scrutiny and most likely the material you complain about is not considered “pornographic” by most people.

    The pattern I recognize is that anecdotal claims sometimes boil down to disagreement over a law, rule or syllabus and reflect the particular beliefs or bias of those telling the story.

  47. Well call it pornographic or not – clearly some think it is not. But do you really think 13 year old girls need to be shown a close up of an ejaculating penis at school?

  48. Richard Christie

    Max, I assume that if this normal bodily mechanism is the subject under discussion then a dispassionate clinical illustration may not be inappropriate, but clearly you think the image should only be left to the imagination.
    Out of interest, do you have a similar strong objection to graphic images of violence that are everywhere in society and to actively market products such as video games to young people?

  49. Well, Max, you seem to acknowledge that in this case pornography is in the eye if the beholder.

    I can’t make a judgement on a situation without details. At the moment you seem to acknowledge that it was in the bounds of the syllabus – probably good enough for me to not waste any more time contemplating it.

    My interest though is in how values are taught. The message I get is that it crops up in most teaching areas – although there are specific programmes (eg related to problems of student distraction).

    Again I think it is dishonest to present religious instruction as a values programme when it is not about that at all.

  50. Mind you if it is part of the syllabus it’s down in black and white. It’s not anecdotal. Simple to deal with if you actually have a case and not relying on misinterpretation.

    Oh so it’s not a case of “individual teachers will emphasize different areas, and go further in certain areas than others”? The video was not brought to class by an individual teacher but rather part of an official syllabus?
    Ah.

    Well, then there’s no need to rely on idle chatter and hearsay. There would be an official record of it. Bring forth the materials and let’s see this “pornography”. A public school syllabus does not usually contain pornography-no matter how shocked (SHOCKED!) some religious kooks or whatever may be.
    Problem solved.

  51. So then: Ken is fine with showing 13 year old girls videos of men ejaculating, but not OK with God being mentioned in schools. Welcome to the modern world!

  52. Matt, you already acknowledged that the incident you refer to was covered by the syllabus and many would not consider it pornographic. (I interpret that to mean only non-reasonable people would consider an approved lesson to be pornographic). I can’t really comment further on that not knowing any details.

    As for your hypocritical whine about it “not OK with gods being mentioned in schools.” I am sure that is not true. The law provides for secular education in our public schools and I imagine inclusion of god myths would be normal in social studies. Just not sectarian religious instruction (indoctrination).

    But a personal observation. My granddaughter was told she couldn’t give a talk on evolution and creationism in school speech competitions. I heard today a similar case where a child was not allowed to give a speech on why gods don’t exist at similar competitions. My understanding is that in both cases the school justified thus by claiming the feelings of believers would be hurt and they wanted to avoid controversy. (In the end my Granddaughter gave a speech supporting graffiti).

    It’s obviously a very sensitive area and I did wonder at first if this was a fear of cultural offense with Muslim children in our schools. But maybe it’s mainly resulting from militant Christians who are pretending to be persecuted.

  53. Confirmation. What a topsy-turvy world we live in.

  54. So then: Ken is fine with showing 13 year old girls videos of men ejaculating, but not OK with God being mentioned in schools.

    How did you come to such a screwy conclusion?
    Ken could not have been more clear.

    I can’t make a judgement on a situation without details. At the moment you seem to acknowledge that it was in the bounds of the syllabus – probably good enough for me to not waste any more time contemplating it.

    Put up or shut up.

  55. Yep. He was clear. Agreed.

  56. Ken:

    Stop telling fibs. Unless you can provide some proof that these students were stopped from giving these speeches there is no evidence this ever took place.

    Yet more porkies to support your bias!

    Put up the proof or shut up. Where is your evidence there speeches were ever stopped?

  57. Sock puppets. That’s all that’s left.

  58. Well you’re the expert ;)

  59. Sock puppets. That’s all that’s left.

  60. Max, sock puppetry is one of the worst forms of trolling. Don’t be so stupid.

  61. Stop telling fibs Ken. Front up with the evidence that these “not allowed to give talks” events ever happened.

  62. It is pretty stupid. Andy Scrase does it all the time and he’s as dumb as a bag of hammers.

  63. Stop telling fibs Ken.

    You don’t know if Ken is “telling fibs” or not.
    There’s this thing called the burden of proof.

    Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.
    Conversely, trivial claims demand trivial or no evidence at all.

    This is Ken’s claim…

    But a personal observation. My granddaughter was told she couldn’t give a talk on evolution and creationism in school speech competitions. I heard today…

    So it’s a personal observation. He made that clear enough. Might be true or it might not yet it’s entirely plausible. It’s not likely to have physical evidence to back it up due to the nature of the claim. You don’t have to accept Ken’s claim but you have no grounds to think he’s fibbing.

    Your claim is different.

    …Well call it pornographic or not – clearly some think it is not. But do you really think 13 year old girls need to be shown a close up of an ejaculating penis at school?

    This is something that is not trivial at all. It’s a very serious matter…if…it’s true. There’s no need to rely on idle chatter and hearsay. There would be an official record of it. There’s no other possibility. There would be photographs or video tape. You provide nothing but hand waving.

    Bring forth the materials and let’s see this “pornography”. A public school syllabus does not usually contain pornography-no matter how shocked (SHOCKED!) some religious kooks or whatever may be.
    Problem solved.

    Stop whining, Max. It’s undignified. Have a little self-respect and stop embarrassing yourself on the internet. I called you a dick before and your recent sock-puppet behaviour and repeated lying just gives truth to my assessment of you. You really are a dick.
    Grow up.

  64. Still waiting for that evidence…

  65. Yes. I tend to err away from name calling and stick to the issues. But whatever floats your boat.

  66. No, you don’t.
    You are reduced to trolling with sock-puppets.
    It’s genuinely stupid.
    You are a dick.

  67. Am I indeed. How nice. How does insulting someone over a computer screen further the interesting debate?

  68. Yes, you are. There’s nothing nice about it. What did you think you would achieve using sock puppets to troll? It’s a genuinely stupid thing to do.

  69. OK. I’m a dick… good Oh! Now want to keep trading insults or talk about some of the issues?

  70. No, you are a dick…bad Oh.
    There’s nothing “good” about trolling and using sock puppets.
    Your passive-aggression reflects badly upon you. You’ve lost any credibility.
    Grow up. Find a hobby or something.
    Learn how to interact with adults in the real world.
    Stop being a dick.

  71. OK. I am a “dick” and a “sock puppet”. Established. Is that it?

  72. OK. I am a “dick” and a “sock puppet”.

    No.
    There’s no need for scare quotes.
    You really are a dick. Not a “dick”.
    You are a dick, plain and simple.

    You used sock puppets to troll. It’s a genuinely stupid thing to do.
    Stop being a dick, Max.
    Grow up.

  73. OK. I have your opinion on this issue now Cedric. I fully understand that you think I am a dick and a sock puppet. Is there anything further you wish to add to this assessment?

  74. You are slowly getting it, Max. You are almost there.
    Yet I don’t “think” you are a dick.

    It’s simpler than that.
    You are a dick. Read plain English.
    Your passive-aggression reflects badly upon you.
    You used sock puppets to troll. It’s a genuinely stupid thing to do.
    Stop being a dick, Max.
    Grow up.

  75. Yep. You are right Cedrid. I agree.

  76. What possessed you to troll with sock puppets?
    Have you done it before?

  77. I was aware of this development. I realize that the comments on such Internet pages are hardly representative but am surprised that so few people support the religious instruction programme. Somebody’s message seems to be getting through.

  78. Well St Matt’s is a very liberal Anglican Church – so I am not surprised at their stance.

  79. Richard Christie

    A CEC spokesperson told Fairfax the classes were a way to make people aware of Christianity and teach values, rather than convert children.

    They do themselves no favours peddling this BS line.
    It all about saving souls.

  80. So you equate “liberal” with intelligence? Interesting.

    No I was referring to the people responding in the comments section there – and also TV1s Breakfast programme Facebook page. Apparently the bible bashers are responding in tomorrow’s TV1 Breakfast.

  81. Richard, apparently their “values” allow them to tell porkies. It’s called lying for Jesus, or the ends justify the means.

    Looks like the biblical values they teach and demonstrate conflict with the values kids get as part of their secular cirriculum.

  82. No. I use the word “liberal” to refer to the theology and social values they hold to. Their theology and social values are in line with this stance. As for intelligence? My chats with the priests there show they have a quite well thought out set of views – so they are quite intelligent chaps.

    Ah – I have not read all of the comments. I will have a scan of them.

  83. Yeah they should be honest. Of course they are trying to convince people of the truth of Christianity. But really this is what Sunday School (run by a Church) is for.

  84. Well actually. Sunday School is to explain Christianity to those who already accept it – the problem is in a secular school, unlike in a Church, this cannot be assumed…

  85. Richard Christie

    Of course this presents the godly with a bit of a dilemma. If believers didn’t take active steps to recruit members then the chances are that their cults would naturally die away over time, as we observe happening since the control of most things educational and administrative in society have been wrested from them.
    Even magic books need promotion.
    They well know this.

  86. Of course. Christians are called to spread the Gospel wherever they go. This is part of their mission. Some are more shy about it – but all should accept it to some extent.

  87. Richard Christie

    This looks better than Sunday School

  88. Max, that’s one of the things people find so objectionable. What arrogance to think that they can impose their “mission” on others, even young children.

    I guess when you have a “loving god” backing you up you can excuse or justify anything.

    Well people have had a gutsful, and not before time.

  89. Richard Christie

    The younger, the more vulnerable, the more confused, the less able to exercise critical thought the better.
    Get ‘em in schools, get ‘em hospitals, get ‘em prisons, get ‘em in rehab.

  90. How Christians Brainwash kids with creationism

  91. Didn’t say I approved. Just saying it is hardly unexpected. And it will continue in one way or another.

  92. Do you visit prisons or the lonely and those with no family in hospitals? Those who do are doing an important task.

  93. Richard Christie

    Do you visit prisons or the lonely and those with no family in hospitals?
    No, sometimes, no.

    Those who do are doing an important task.

    Perhaps they are, perhaps they’re not, depends on what motivates the visit and what message is delivered during the visit.

  94. Exactly. The motive. If someone was going in not caring about the people as individuals whose lives were important, and was only interested in them as potential converts then I would be as cynical as you are.

    I think the vast majority of people, at least those who stick at it, do these things out of compassion, not to add another notch to their conversion belt.

  95. Richard Christie

    Unfortunately as the subject of this post illustrates, some of the godly are not above using “compassion” (or “education”) ostensibly.
    They deserve having a hose turned on them.

  96. Well that is the spin that has been put on it for sure. Whether this is the reality is another matter. All we have to go on is a few anecdotes – not an actual study into the actions of the bible teachers, or into the perceptions of parents. Until an actual study is presented spin is all we will get.

  97. Max, there have been studies and reports. The church groups do them quite regularly and of course you can guess what conclusions and recommendations come up. “The children love the classes and look forward to them.” “We recommend that the programme tutors be more incorporated into the teaching structure of the school.” And so on.

  98. Well then. I stand corrected. Those sound like positive reults. Thanks for that Ken.

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

  100. Paul Bennett

    Hi All. I have received an official reply from the MInistry of Education today, to my original request under the Freedom of Information Act, for a list of all Auckland State Primary Schools that allow the “Bible in Schools Programme” to take place that I originally lodged with them on the 12th of July. As I slightly suspected beforehand, they were unable to provide me with anything as the Ministry does not collect the information, as individual schools are responsible for the programmes they run. So, it would seem if we really want a definitive list of schools, we’ll have to contact them individually. I’ve posted this over on the campaign FB Pages as well.

  101. Thanks for doing that Paul. It’s going to be a lot if work to contact individual schools for the information. But I don’t imagine the groups like CEC will cooperate willingly. Although they probably ave their own lists.

    Perhaps individual groups can phone around schools in their own areas.

  102. Have you just asked CEC Paul?

  103. Paul Bennett

    Peter Harrison has already tried to get CEC to give him the information, but they have refused. Unfortunately, as they are a private group you can’t use the Freedom of Information Act to force them to hand it over.

  104. Paul Bennett – Can you contact and share your story with Secular Scotland
    http://www.facebook.com/groups/secularscotland/

    We are mounting similar challenges in Scotland..and we have help we can share…and maybe we can learn from you..

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