News – 3 September 2013
Proposal for ethics in primary schools
The Humanist Society, being committed to secular public education, is aware of considerable dissatisfaction with the system of special religious instruction (SRI) in Victorian government primary schools, both for reasons of principle and because it is divisive and not educational for classmates to be separated summarily. Public awareness of the anti-educational aspect of SRI has been growing since the Society’s attempt to offer an ethical alternative to SRI in 2008 was notoriously rejected by the government in 2009.
However, following the religious discrimination action of 2011–13, the Supreme Court of Victoria ruled (22 February 2012, s. 77) that “There is no longer any prohibition on offering an ethics course to children who do not participate in SRI.”
We are pleased to announce that the Victorian Association for Philosophy in Schools (VAPS) has agreed to devise a suitable ethics curriculum and to train volunteers who are interested in being qualified to teach it. VAPS is an accredited provider of professional development and has been running training for qualified teachers and interested parties in the ‘community of inquiry’ method. We have come to an agreement with VAPS to start a pilot program of volunteers, intending to offer secular ethics to a few schools directly, without reference to SRI. (It has some similarities with the program in New South Wales, run by Primary Ethics.)
Accordingly and in conjunction with the annual conference of VAPS, there will be a free public forum on ethics in schools, on Friday 6 September at 4 p.m. HSV and VAPS will welcome prospective volunteer teachers and gather information on which primary school councils might wish to participate in the program.
The venue is the Van Raay Centre, CERES Environment Park, Brunswick East (Melway map ref. 30 B7). The Van Raay Centre is immediately north-east of the Visitors’ Centre, which is located at the main entrance to the Park, corner Roberts and Stewart Streets.
For enquiries, call mobile 0478 365956.
Report by Stephen Stuart