Not whether, but HOW it’s done


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When RE/values seminars come to a high school, principals always encounter a worried parent asking, “does it mention God or religion?” Implying it better not. Principals know that religion is a real world issue that students should learn about. But how do you do it in a way that is safe and not expose them to brain-washing, or views their parents would not approve of? 

Here’s my advice to one such principal wondering how to answer that parent. 

 

Hi [Principal’s name]
That’s great! See you then. 
And  🙂  you can assure your enquirers that we do not assert or generalise about the Christian faith, nor spruik any particular denomination. We are experts in talking about God & religion without upsetting people. 
However we are still R-rated: we do have ‘R’eligious content. 
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The values which schools want are Judeo-Christian values (in this case generosity, helping people, courage, self-sacrifice, extraordinariness, constancy). We encourage those values, along with the primary Christian example of those values. This gives a deeper appreciation of the basis for those values, and exposes kids to the religious material – without danger. 
 
Besides, it wouldn’t be a seminar you could tick off in the “spirit” or “religious ed” category if it didn’t mention the spiritual somehow – the question is how it’s mentioned: the answer is, ethically & respectfully. That’s our niche. 
I think it’s great that people are concerned with what religious content there’ll be. That strength of feeling is exactly why it’s so important to expose students to the subject in a way that helps. Religion is a real-world issue that kids should learn how to negotiate. Lots of schools want to do that, but don’t know how to avoid the dangers. We do. 
See for yourself on the day. How we word things is very open. We don’t make sweeping generalizations or assertions. Rather we aim to educate, and trigger kids to think for themselves and draw their own conclusions. Students always feel that area is covered sensitively and respectfully. We’re happy to be tested on this. If afterwards you don’t like what we did, let me know. But if you do like how we walk the line, please let others know. It’s hard to get the word out about what we do. Many schools just leave education about religion in the too hard basket. Thanks, on behalf of the students, for not being one of those schools. 
Hope that’s an OK response.
See you next week.
Geoff. 
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