An 11-year-old New South Wales student has written a brilliant piece on why the State should keep ethics classes in public schools. Charlie Fine has described the benefits of the classes and why the National President of the Christian Democratic Party, Fred Nile, should keep his dogma out of the classroom.
The classes are currently run as an alternative to scripture classes, and Nile is demanding that the two classes do not coincide. Unfortunately, Nile seems likely to succeed, as the government is bowing to pressure in order to secure the Christian Democratic vote to pass its controversial industrial relations legislation. This is despite the mass support from parents' groups for the classes and the government's election promise to keep them.
It is of course no surprise that the man who wants the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras banned would also want the classes scrapped. The classes present a wide range of issues to students and encourages them to apply critical thinking in order to come to their own conclusions. Debate, discussion, reasoning and open-mindedness are all part of getting students to think for themselves and establish themselves as ethical and moral citizens.
Some may dismiss the classes as an exercise in moral relativism, but this is not the case. Students are not told that the truth does not exist, but rather, that individuals and societies often disagree on many issues. The application of critical thinking is merely a tool to move us closer to the truth.
Critical thinking is responsible for moving societies away from grotesque biblical practices such as stoning, as even the "absolute truths" of the bible are open for debate. The average Christian of course does not condone stoning, but this is not because of religious instruction. It is because of secular reasoning.
Fred Nile does not want students to learn the virtues of critical thinking because it leaves the teachings of Christianity open for debate. Nile would prefer that students be merely instructed on moral issues, and taught that the bible is the only true word from the one true God. Not only would this leave students with a warped moral compass, but it would also encourage a blind submission to authority.
I cannot help but wonder the following: if the bible is indeed a book of absolute moral truth and the one true word of God, then would not a rigorous application of critical analysis prove this? And, why would Nile be opposed to this?