SRE in Public Schools

‘Forgive others,’ ‘love must be sincere,’ ‘practice hospitality,’ ‘love and pray for your enemies,’ ‘do to others what you would have them do to you,’ ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’

Would we really be better off without these teachings of Jesus Christ?!

Not to mention freedom, kindness, compassion, progress, consent, equality, and the foundations for modern science. While easily taken for granted today, these did not exist before Jesus came into the world close to 2023 years ago.

Public hospitals, public schools in NSW, not to mention the charities and social welfare and countless hours of voluntary work that have all came through the church.

Who first spoke about the Good Samaritan (long before it became a Law in NSW)?!

Who first spoke those words echoed on ANZAC Day ‘Greater love have no man than this that he lay down his life for others’? Who gives meaning to the crosses that mark the graves of our fallen right across the world?

And so, it is a shame that groups like Fairness in Religions in School Parent Group, NSW Parents and Citizens Federation, and NSW Teachers Federation want Special Religious Education (SRE, also known as Scripture) in schools moved to after-school hours, as reported on NBN News (12/12/23).

SRE is crucial (…that word another legacy of Jesus in our everyday lives!) in forming well rounded students and members of a healthy democratic society. We must be able to respectfully disagree and live with others who have different religious values. SRE gives the language and skills of respectfully discussing issues of life, love for others, morals, death, and meaning and hope. SRE teaches a sense of purpose, self-worth, and identity for all. These are basic to managing emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical wellbeing.

To understand and relate to the 84% of the world’s population affiliated with a religious group, our children need to be educated in what SRE covers.

A recent survey by the McCrindle Group (Youth Survey 2023 New South Wales) found that 28% of our youth struggle with mental health challenges (low mental health, stress, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem or self-harm) and 25% struggle with relationship challenges (death, abuse, challenging relationships with family, friends or significant others). Would it really benefit our kids and youth to remove SRE?!

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of attending a SRE Prayer Breakfast. For most of us there the highlight was hearing the impact of High School SRE on one young lady. There was not a dry eye in the room as she shared she would not be standing here today if it were not for her SRE teacher Belinda Gonsalves supporting her through a difficult time reminding her of her worth and significance.

Groups opposed to SRE in schools, especially those with training in education, would no doubt remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. To thrive as humans we need safety, belonginess and love needs, and esteem needs met. SRE is crucial in meeting these needs, especially in a world where parents, carers, and teachers are stretched to the limit each day.

Classroom time is precious. Teachers are under enormous pressure. We need to support and thank our teachers who do a great job under difficult circumstances – when was the last time you and I stopped to thank our child’s teacher?

But are we so busy we don’t have time for SRE and its benefits listed above?

SRE teachers do a great job that we should all be thankful for. They undergo rigorous training, accreditation, and compliance to teach in the classroom. The majority volunteer their time. They put hours of preparation in for every lesson. Let’s thank and support our SRE teachers for the great job they do.

Parents and carers, I encourage you to enrol your kids in SRE so they gain the benefits of SRE listed above!

There is a touch of irony that the above groups have chosen this time of the year to ask for SRE to be removed. While they rightly argue that every hour of education counts, it is important we allow time to stop and celebrate at times of the year like this.

I hope they have a merry Christmas and enjoy the freedom, kindness, compassion, progress, consent, equality, and hope Jesus brought into the world… or at least, not stop others from doing so.

Merry Christmas!

Tory Cayzer (14/12/23).

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