“Indoctrination” – It’s what Parents DO!

Father Bob, Father Bob, Father Bob…

In today’s paper, Fr Bob has jumped on the “dump Special Religious Education and replace it with General Instruction on Religion” bandwagon. He says: ”

“Children can have religious instruction in parishes, mosques and ashrams.

At school, there ought to be a general religious curriculum to introduce children to the ideas and motivations and rituals – in a word, the ethos – of all the religions…

It should be mum and dad who help children come to conclusions, not the instructor in religious class.”

Yes, Fr Bob, and Mum and Dad have the right to ask a parish priest, a teacher, or a religious instructor, or indeed anyone they trust, to help them in the exercise of teaching their values to their children. A “general religious curriculum” would be a nice thing too, just as a general “science” or “maths” or “literature” curriculum is a good thing, but that doesn’t rule out the perfectly legitimate place for education in doctrine specific to one’s family of origin religion.

The same article also quotes InterAction co-founder Ali Majokah:

The current system is unfair because it allows for indoctrination to occur. It allows for students to be instructed in one religion rather than giving them a broader perspective.

One man’s “indoctrination” is another man’s catechesis and another man’s “values education”. It’s what parents do. And moreover, parents have a right to pass on their beliefs and values to their children, and, as I said above, to seek assistance in this task. One way in which they do this is by their choice of school – which is why the right to have special “denominational” schools must be upheld. Another way is by taking advantage of the state provision for special religious education in state schools. To educate your children in your faith is a major obligation of most religions, including Christianity, and especially Catholicism. It can’t be replaced by a “general mish mash of all things religious”.

Indoctrination. It’s what parents DO.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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7 Responses to “Indoctrination” – It’s what Parents DO!

  1. matthias says:

    I agree Schutz,educate one’s children in the parents’ faith is essential. In state schools general RE classes are the only avenue that some kids here about the alternative to the values of their parents-personal peace and affluence,hedonism,Money is the ultimate truth ,sex and sport are the two associates of Money.
    I think Fairfax are on a campaign to replace RE with RS ( religious Studies). In our Post Christian era it is now more improtant to ensure that the children of the Faithful are brought up in the knowledge of the Faith. I use to envy the Catholic and Jewish kids at Primary and high schools as they went off with the Priest or Rabbi -i went to a primary school with a large Jewish contingent-as they had a large sense of Community. Something that fundy proddyism of the 60’s seemed to have overlooked.
    Coming forward,if we want to see the results of what happens when there is no longer a Judaeo-Christian ethic in society just look at:
    -the scandals in the Defence Force
    -the alcohol fueled violence in the streets after dark
    -the behaviour of some of our sporting ‘role models.
    I think our children need to see the strong sense of community in Christian churches a which is backed up by a practice of the purity of the Gospel .

  2. jules says:

    Active parenting is vitally important, but it also takes a caring ‘village’ to raise a child. [to borrow an African proverb ] . ‘Extended families’ stimulate the intellectual, social and spiritual development of children . Educators can assist parents if they are serious about educating the ‘whole person’ .Time after time we hear stories and read the latest research about living , learning and practising a Christian/religious life of which the outcomes help: significantly to reduce children’s use and risk from Alcohol, Tobacco and Drugs; dramatically lowers risk of suicide;helps children rebound from depression 70% faster; dramatically reduces risk for committing crime; improves attitude at school and increases school participation; reduces risk for rebelliousness; improves odds for a “very happy” life; provides a life-long moral compass; provides children with a caring ‘extended family’ and creates a sense of ‘belonging’! Sounds like a well rounded education program to me!

  3. Robert says:

    I have no brief for Father Bob Maguire, in this matter any more than in most of the other matters on which he (dare I say it) pontificates. But I think I know why the mass media are so much fonder of reporting him than of reporting, say, the rather similar dissent proffered by Paul Collins.

    In temperament, in manner of speech, and even in appearance, Father Maguire (whatever his religious heterodoxies) reminds vast numbers of Australians – certainly Australians of my age and older – of what Catholic priests used to look and sound like. They used to look and sound tough, sensible, plain-spoken, and personally reliable, with a decided suggestion of a solid blue-collar upbringing. Many of us (whether we were Catholics, Protestants or whatever) recall from our childhoods meeting priests like that. Many of us have rather fond memories of them.

    • Schütz says:

      He is a bit like Rumpole of the Bailey in that regard: He is a “character”. And for that, I commend him. It is too easy and too safe for Christians to simply blend into the general grey and beige background. Step one in Evangelisation is to be that “fool for Christ” that attracts an audience. Big tick to Fr Bob for getting Step One in a BIG way. Step Two is, of course, all about what you tell that audience…

  4. Paul G says:

    Fr Bob needs to be aware of the destination of the bandwagon he is jumping on. There are some people picking up on Richard Dawkins’ description of religious education as “child abuse”, and they are seriously talking about making RE from parents to their own children illegal. Christopher Hitchens has come dangerously close to supporting this idea, but I’m not sure if he has fully signed on to it.

    My theory is that people like Dawkins and Hitchens grew up in the 60’s, and in those days they expected religion to wither and die. They are now facing the uncomfortable fact that religion will outlast them, and they have come up with the idea that RE is indoctrination, and it is that that explains the continued interest and practice of religion. Hence the attack on RE is their attempt to destroy religion. Dotty old codgers like Fr Bob are being led by the nose, they know not where.

    • Schütz says:

      But keep in mind that Dawkins would oppose not only Religious Education but General Education in Religion too. Moreover, he himself (if he was the kind of father who actually lived with his daughter as she was growing up instead of just writing long philosophical “letters” to her and publishing them as books) would bring up his own children in his firmly atheistic, scientistic thought. Moreover, he would see it as his daughter’s school’s duty to pass this kind of world-view on to her, supporting his values. So how does that make him any different from any other parent who wishes to pass their religious views on to their children and seek the assistance of teachers to do so?

  5. Paul G says:

    I’m not so sure that Dawkins would object to GRE (as we call it in NSW). I think I have heard Dan Harris, another of the new atheists, say he has no objection to studying religion as a historical or cultural reality, but just not as truth.
    I agree there is an irony in Dawkins telling his daughter what she should think, I just don’t think he has the wit to see the contradiction and admit it to himself.

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