The Hon. Verity Firth
Minister for Education
20th April 2010
Re: Ethics trial
Firstly on behalf of this group I thank you for the letter published today on The Sydney Morning Herald letters page (page10).
I note from the news item on page three today that three members of various religious hierarchies, Mr Robert Haddad, Bishop Peter Ingham and Ms Ann-Maree Whenman, “…spoke to ministerial staffers seeking an assurance that religious educators would be part of the trial’s evaluation.”
It is not evident that religious educators have a case to participate in the evaluation—I would be interested to know whether they have invited secular educators like Dr Cam to participate in the evaluation of their own religious programs.
Surely what should count in the evaluation is the assessments of the trial by the parents of the students involved, the assessments by the 11–12 year old students themselves and the informed comment of impartial professional educators. If the students and their parents are satisfied that the students benefited from the trial, there will be a very strong case for extending the concept to all students in the state who elect to be included in ethics discussion classes.
The three people mentioned above illustrate the outdated attitude of the religious hierarchies to concepts of democracy and free choice. It is striking that Mr Haddad is quoted as saying that that the practice at Baulkham Hills North, where all parents were told about the ethics classes, not just those whose children had opted out of scripture, "was an example of the abuse that will inevitably follow. There was a 47 per cent uptake [of the ethics class], and that eroded into the number of students who are going to SRE, so our case is borne out." Mr Haddad evidently objects to the free spread of information to enable people to make an informed choice. According to him, this is abuse.