A Prayer to Teachers of Primary Ethics
I use the word “prayer” here in the old meaning from the Latin word “precari” meaning to beg or entreat.
My supplication here is not to a greater being but to the wonderful teachers in Primary Ethics. I would like you to look deeply at the ethical content of what I am saying and its implications for the on going, and wonderful, Primary Ethics program. I write this as somewhat of an apologia for the inevitability of my having to leave the organisation in the not too distant future, after almost five wonderful years. I was among those who originally wrote a submission to the General Purpose Standing Committee No2 on the Review of the Exucation Amendment Act. concerning the provision of Ethics as an alternative to SRE.
There is no doubt in my mind that this excellent curriculum, the wonderful trainers and you devoted teachers who give up your time to deliver lessons to classes, do something very admirable for the children whose parents opt for them not to participate in the Special Religious Education classes in which schools, pursuant to the NSW Public Instruction Act, were and still are obliged to host in our public secular school system.
I do not live in the city or in the country but in a large regional area which contains multiple demographics. Whether this program can be provided in a school appears to me to be increasingly a question of division rather than inclusion. In areas in which parents have had their own opportunities for education and philosophic musings it is not too difficult to persuade them, and sometimes other interested community members, to teach Primary Ethics courses.
On the other hand in different areas, whilst some parents want it for their own children, they express reluctance, even fear, at the thought of teaching. Some others are turned off volunteering by their lack of access to computers or even the moderately sophisticated programs they have to master to access and deliver the classes. Some are deterred by the expense of printing out material, and one or two, who have been encouraged to do the training, have found it quite daunting in terms of time it takes them to prepare lessons.
Therefore once again we have, quite unwittingly, enhanced one group’s chance of opportunity over that of another group. The offspring of thinking parents who already discuss these issues with their children can provide yet another forum for their children and their friends. Less privileged schools have to continue to provide the children with supervision by teachers, unable to teach them, during that compulsory time spent at school when SRE is taking place. We are, although acting with every superb intention, making an even bigger divide between children who have opportunities and children who have not.
I can think of one answer. This is where my supplication comes in. When your own children move on to another school or if you have a little more time to give to the community, could you wonderful teachers, with all your experience, chose to help a disadvantaged school which has not been able to start a program? There are lots of them.
I am getting a bit long in the tooth, the reason I will be leaving in the not too distant future, but there is also a bright side. While I am part of Primary Ethics I cannot in any way campaign for Special Religious Education to be removed from Public Schools. Of course we must not prothletise as part of our provision of Ethics Classes in Schools. If an individual did so it would reflect badly on Primary Ethics. But I need to. I have been doing so all my adult life. This is an iniquitous situation we have been left with which has come from the age old negotiations for the state to provide the school system. It became a more ethical problem when education was made compulsory. I thought that the widespread adoption of Primary Ethics would ameliorate this inequity in our schools. Unfortunately it is unwittingly creating another and this can only be solved by having Ethics Teachers in every school or removing SRE.
I cannot in all conscience say to myself, “Just let it go and help where people are willing to get involved.” Children are too important.
So as I continue my last efforts to have Ethics teachers in our local schools I exhort all you wonderful teachers to keep up the good work but also find another school that needs you.
These are the only ways toward equality of opportunity.
So be it.