Teach, don’t preach

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I am amused to find myself in sympathy with the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (your report, 30 December) who believes that the “classroom is the front line against extremism”.

Sympathetic yes, but in agreement, no – because I ask myself just how many extra responsibilities we can pile upon our school teachers before they become unable to fulfil their primary responsibility of educating our
children?

Recent years have seen demands that schools take up the battles over extremism, vandalism, birth control, gang culture, drugs, obesity… to identify abused children and those who prey on them… to feed our kids, prepare them for jobs (which rarely manifest) and teach them how to care for families in their own right.

Sadly, many of these demands on the teaching profession come from organisations – the church among them – which once took these tasks upon themselves, and subsequently failed.

Or maybe I have this all wrong, and the world is changing faster than I imagine, and in 2015 we will see the first demands from teaching unions for GPs to take on the responsibility of teaching our young to read and write, and maybe clerks will teach physics classes in the atrium of the
council HQ.

Seriously: it’s time to leave the teachers alone, and allow them a genuinely happy New Year for a change.

David Fiddimore

Calton Road

Edinburgh

It is disingenuous of the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to claim he is not calling for proselytising within schools. This is hardly surprising, as he has no need to – evangelising and proselytising in schools already takes place every day of the week.

All manner of Christian evangelical groups with anti-women, anti-gay and anti-evolution stances are waved through non-denominational school doors by Christian heads and chaplains, a practice actively encouraged by the current Scottish Government guidance on religious observance.

None of this activity is controlled or monitored, nor is any of the content. We do not support forced worship in schools, but we do support education about religion.

However, this must be carried out objectively, not by those who turn matters of myth and belief into incontrovertible fact and who proclaim that one form of religious belief trumps all other forms.

Alistair McBay

National Secular Society

Atholl Crescent

Edinburgh

Speaking on Tuesday on BBC Radio Scotland’s Morning Call about religion in schools, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said that in addition to children learning about all religions in a neutral and comparative way, they should also “experience how people worship”.

This is an unnerving contradiction to what he has also said – “there is nothing worse than the indoctrinated child.”

We must distinguish between Religious Moral and Philosophical Studies (RMPS) and Religious Observance (RO) which is still a statutory requirement for all head teachers and is sometimes delivered by invited
evangelising outsiders.

RMPS rightly makes young people aware of all world views but RO, even in so-called “non-denominational” schools, can allow for exactly the proselytising about which John Chalmers seems so ambivalent.

Neil Barber

Edinburgh Secular Society

Saughtonhall Drive