SCHOOLS: by Kevin DonnellyNews Weekly
The sly assault on faith-based schools
, August 31, 2013
Surveys prove that the economy and refugees are the main issues preoccupying the public’s attention, and it might appear that education, especially for faith-based, non-government schools, is not a significant election issue.
Wrong. Approximately 90 per cent of Australia’s 1.1 million non-government school students attend faith-based schools, mainly Catholic, Anglican and non-denominational, and there is no doubt that such schools are under threat because of the Rudd government’s education agenda.
That education is a politically sensitive issue is proven by the fact that low-fee, non-denominational, Christian schools in marginal seats, where parents are voting with their feet choosing such schools, are most at risk because of the ALP’s education policies.
Even though the Prime Minister portrays himself as a Christian, and describes the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer as “the man I admire most in the history of the 20th century”, his government’s secular, cultural-left education policies represent a clear and present danger to religious schools.
In relation to school funding, there is no doubt that Rudd’s Better School Plan discriminates against faith-based schools. Such schools, along with non-government schools in general, will not be entitled to the full amount of what is known as the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS).
By contrast, government schools — even those serving wealthy and privileged communities — will receive this basic level of funding without any restrictions. The level of funding given to faith-based schools will be reduced according to parents’ capacity to pay.
Coupled with the requirement that religious schools, even those low-fee-paying schools serving poorer communities, will have to finance at least 10 per cent of the SRS from local funds, such as school fees, and it’s clear that such schools are being discriminated against.
The Rudd government’s national curriculum — compulsory for every school across Australia, government and non-government — also represents a threat to faith-based schools. It’s no accident that an early draft of the history curriculum replaced BC and AD with Before the Common Era and Common Era.
While students will be forced to learn every subject through a politically-correct prism involving Asian, indigenous and environmental perspectives, the debt owed to Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage is ignored, with Christianity reduced to being treated as only one religion among many, alongside Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
The draft civics national curriculum and the history curriculum also embrace choice and diversity — code for multiculturalism — and ignore the central place of Christianity in the evolution of Australia’s political and legal systems.
Christmas Day is a celebration no different from Harmony Day, National Reconciliation Week and National Sorry Day; and when the civics curriculum mentions religion, it refers to the “religious groups to which Australians of Asian heritage belong”.
Instead of advocating those very liberal, democratic values that ensure peace, social cohesion and the rights of the individual, and that can only be fully understood in the light of our Judeo-Christian tradition, the civics curriculum adopts a relativistic, subjective view.
Australia is described as being “a secular nation with a multicultural and multi-faith society”, one that is “diverse and dynamic” and where students are taught to “value their own, cultures, languages and beliefs”. Instead of committing themselves to Australia’s civic values, students are also told, “citizenship means different things to people at different times and depending on personal perspectives, their social situation and where they live”.
Taken to its conclusion such a belief makes it impossible to argue against religious extremists championing the persecution of Christians or to argue that there are some values and a system of morality we must hold in common if society is to survive and prosper.
The reason so many refuges, both legal and illegal, want to live in Australia is because we are a liberal, Western democracy where there is a deeply-held commitment to what the American constitution describes as the “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
The cultural-left argument that Christianity should be airbrushed from the nation’s curriculum as we are a secular society ignores the fact that, while there is no state-mandated religion, we are a Christian nation.
Parliaments around Australia begin with the Lord’s Prayer. The preamble to our Constitution includes the words, “humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God”. And the majority of Australians, while not always church-goers, describe themselves as Christian.
It’s no secret that secular critics argue that Christianity should be banished from the public square in the mistaken belief that religion is a private matter which should not influence public policy.
The Rudd government’s Better Schools Plan, with its unfair funding arrangements and politically-correct, cultural-left curriculum, illustrates how far critics will go in undermining Christianity and enforcing their secular agenda.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is director of the Melbourne-based Education Standards Institute and author of Educating Your Child: It’s Not Rocket Science! (available from News Weekly Books). This article first appeared on Quadrant Online’s QED blog.