Secularism in schools

In the SMH yesterday, longtime public school advocate Jane Caro criticised the spread of religion into NSW public schools, under the sponsorship of the Howard government’s school chaplaincy program. There had also been criticism earlier in the month about Hillsong recruiting at public schools.

Caro complains that

For those of us, however, who have deliberately chosen secular education for our children, such a religious invasion of our public schools is unequivocally unwelcome.

My reading of the 19th century debates on the introduction of public education was that the idea was more for the schools to be non-sectarian than to encourage secularism. This was a way of persuading people of different faiths to send their kids to the same schools. They would do it much more reluctantly if they thought that either other religions or no religion were to be taught. To this day, the NSW Education Act (section 30) leaves open the possibility of non-sectarian religious instruction in public schools:

In government schools, the education is to consist of strictly non-sectarian and secular instruction. The words secular instruction are to be taken to include general religious education as distinct from dogmatic or polemical theology.

But it seems to me that we have preference mismatching in schooling. Continue reading “Secularism in schools”