The right and wrongs of an Ethics Trial


Well if you are like me you will have received emails asking you to sign a petition against the ethics trials in NSW.

Have you read Peter Jensen’s 10 reasons why it’s a bad idea.

Did you listen Simon Longstaff on ABC radio and read his reasons why it’s a good idea .

Have you read the invitation letter sent out to parents outlining the contents of the course and inviting all kids to join.

I’m not sure what to make of it all. I’m inclined not to agree with thin edge of the wedge arguments, as long as in this case the door is left open for SRE. If the trial came to our school I think I’d let my son go along to try it out for 10 weeks. I’m not sure that he’d want to. But if all his friends did he might. It would certainly raise some interesting discussions given the content of the course including when it’s right to lie, the limitations of absolute morality and so on.

So after spending an hour or so looking at the issues, I’m not decided. I’m not inclined to sign a petition. I have a hunch that this might mean less people in scripture classes but I’ve never been into forcing SRE onto kids. Do I sign a petition? Do I concentrate on making the opportunities for scripture that we do have as good as they can be?

So it’s back to pastor mode. I’m hopeless at this sort of stuff. I’m busy, too busy. I could have spent that hour with my kids, or preparing a sermon. I’m wondering to what extent am I responsible to keep up on all these issues to try and lead people in how to think about them?

7 thoughts on “The right and wrongs of an Ethics Trial

  1. Hi Wayne

    I think my questions on this issue have been prompted by an underlying impression that most if not all of the arguments I’ve heard from Christians against the ethics trial/course don’t seem to ring true. In fact I’d go as far as saying they seem a bit sneaky.

    The reality is that we know how “lucky” we are to have the opportunity to share the gospel with so many non-Christian kids and we’re scared that parents and kids will now have a genuine choice and choose not to go to SRE. But instead we put forward a whole bunch of arguments like, “my kids won’t get to be part of the ethics course”. To me that’s not a genuine objection.

    I’ve actually started wondering lately whether the ethics course (if it gets off the ground which isn’t guaranteed – the question of who’s going to teach it remains wide open) might be helpful for the long-term future of SRE. Anyone who’s been involved with the organisation of SRE knows that timetabling is one of the biggest issues. Many schools have opted for occasional SRE assemblies rather than weekly classes to make timetabling easier. If the ethics course is run in the same slot as SRE it could actually give SRE a firmer place in the school timetable.

    In any case, I’m definitely with Wayne on the let’s make SRE as good as we know how so that kids won’t want to miss out. And lets get involved with our school communities so that teachers, parents and kids will be happy to be involved with us and what we teach.

  2. Hey – guys… I’ve been silent – but been reading. Want to put together a more thought out response. But to tell you the truth after all my thinking over the weekend and even mentioning the issues in preaching has convinced me to invest hard yesterday and this morning in making my 3 scripture classes this week ‘top notch’ – so will write some more tonight (maybe during slow moments at a meeting of local Presbyterian ministers and elders tonight)

    I think Wayne and PEte have come to great conclusions – I’m with you all the way.

    Teach well – champs – Russ

  3. I’m just about to prepare this afternoon’s scripture lesson and was thinking of getting in a pre-emptive strike along the lines of 1 Tim 4:8, just replacing “physical training” with “an ethics course”.

    Just wondering though, do you think it’s ethical? 🙂

    1. he he!

      But in terms of pre-emptive, it did get me wondering how well my kids (infants/primary age) would be able to articulate a biblical ethic. They can say ‘It’s wrong to lie’, but when we get to ‘Is it ever right to lie..’ it gets difficult! We had a discussion this morning at breakfast ranging from Corrrie ten Boom to Rahab.

  4. Just back from Scripture. It was amazing! I hadn’t decided whether or not to do my ethics course drive-by shooting but the kids decided for me! I asked them to think of examples of everyday decisions and one of them said “to go to scripture or not”. So i told them about the ethics course and they all said they wouldn’t want to do it, they’d much rather stay in scripture! And you know what reasons they gave – it sounded too hard, like something you’d have to do at university (love it!); and that I’m the best scripture teacher they’ve ever had and scripture is cool!

    Now PLEASE, you know I don’t think I’m that great – that’s not the point. The point is that if we make scripture engaging (and it’s really not that hard) then I reckon we’ll retain most of our students regardless of what happens with the ethics course.

    I reckon that with this sort of thing its the kids that decide and most of them will do what their friends do. So here’s my strategy (and I encourage you to do the same): I’m gonna work harder than ever to win over the influential kids (good classroom management anyway) and trust that most will just go with the flow.

  5. I think that I agree with all of what you guys are saying….

    but I wonder whether it might be naive to simply think that having good scripture classes will guarantee the future of scripture.

    That’s a political decision made by people far removed from the classroom.
    That’s why at the very least I think we need to politically respond to a decision that in even a small way threatens the future of Scripture. If we don’t politically act in a way that says that we think Scripture teaching in schools is important and that it matters to us I worry that our silence will simply be used by secularists to remove it.
    It is a privilege and we are “lucky” to have it…. so as well as teaching the best scripture classes we can (& there’s no way I can compete with Pete’s stories from the trenches!!!!) I think we need to speak up… if not so much against the ethics trials so much as FOR scripture.

  6. Hi Paul

    agree that it would be naive to think making scripture excellent guarantees it. My BIG question though is ON WHAT GROUNDS can we speak up for school scripture. It seems to me that most of the arguments I’ve read aren’t the real reasons. The REAL reason we want to protest is because we value the opportunity that we have to teach Scripture in gov’t schools and we don’t want to lose it. We think it’s a bit of a coup, an anomaly if you like that we get to do it and want to make the most of it. We also believe that the gospel is what kids need to hear more than anything else and is the only sound basis for ethical living. That’s what we really think… I think. But we know that argument doesn’t hold much weight with secularists so lots of people are very busy fabricating other reasons. At least that’s how it seems to me.

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