Beware males wearing dog collars

17th November 2006 at 00:00
Marj Adams teaches religious studies, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy

No surprises, and rightly so, that religious and moral education is one of the eight modes in Building the Curriculum 3-18, published by the Scottish Executive last week. I support its presence there because, if it is well taught, it encourages young people to depart from traditional spoon-feeding and challenge long-held wisdoms.

Sadly, all too often, RME is taught by a miscellaneous selection of biased individuals who promulgate their particular prejudices. This is especially so in denominational schools which expect their charges to swallow, without question, whatever religious drivel is on offer.

These children are compelled to participate in acts of religious observance. Why is it that our society, for no reason that I can ascertain, accepts that parents have an automatic right to bring up their children with particularly damaging religious opinions and then send them to faith schools so that they can be further indoctrinated?

Far from denouncing this practice as deeply damaging for children, we endorse it by continuing to place Christianity at the top of a league table of religions. Nor can non-denominational schools claim the moral or any other kind of high ground. Often they are not the free-thinking establishments of openness to which most rational people would aspire.

The 3-18 guidelines talk about how it is essential to study Christianity because it has shaped the history and traditions of Scotland. How curious that we are not issued with similar edicts regarding the teaching of Scottish history per se. Surely teaching the facts of Scottish history would be much more beneficial than inculcating our pupils with a harmful patriarchal faith which has distorted the thinking and damaged the lives of generations of Scots.

As a race, we already have low self-esteem - fling Christianity and its emphasis on sin and hopelessness into the equation and we might as well all give up.

Of course, it doesn't take a big brain to work out that the earthly, mainly male, delegates of the Christian churches in Scotland have once more leant heavily on the policymakers, thus producing this skewed thinking. I am sick beyond the back teeth that a bunch of dog collars with blinkered views are permitted to taunt and threaten the fragile Scottish psyche with eternal damnation.

I am not saying we should disrobe Christianity altogether, tempting though it is to jettison it along with the other so-called great monotheistic faiths. After all, however charitable you wish to be, these faiths have caused angst in terms of finding solutions to mankind's agonised quest for meaning in life. I'm simply asserting that Christianity should not receive special treatment.

All religious experiences are valid. We'll be doing a good job if our pupils learn to appreciate that our all-embracing benign universe is a synthesis of many truths. It is important for young people to wonder why they feel and believe in the ways they do.

I'm glad at least that the document makes some reference to the teaching of philosophy. In giving the pupils the tools of critical thinking, hopefully they will be able to apply them and work out for themselves what is real and what is manipulation. The paradox is that the very document which promotes philosophy is acting contrary to the spirit of philosophy with its disappointingly exclusive emphasis on Christianity.

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