Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

“Religious Values” classes have been fading from the schools
Although, strangely, their inclusion wasn’t breaking any rules
It didn’t take a lawsuit, or a dozen, or a score
Just… the Christian volunteers weren’t volunteering any more

A story out of New Zealand, with a title I wonder if I’ll live long enough to see in the US: Adherence to religion falling fast.

For generations of pupils at Midhirst’s closeknit primary school, the weekly routine included half an hour of religious instruction.

“No-one ever opted out and the children loved it,” principal Stuart Beissel says.

“Things have changed over the years. We don’t have all the people going to church any more, but I think people still hold the basic values of the Bible.”

But after decades without interruption, religious instruction has ended at Midhirst.

“All the great people that took religious instruction moved out of the district or retired,” Mr Beissel says.

It’s a trend being seen across the country. A survey of 1800 primary and intermediate schools carried out by rationalist David Hines showed 62 state schools had dropped religious instruction since 2011, mainly because of a lack of volunteers able to teach it.

It’s quite a lengthy article, actually, which gives it the space for a really nicely thorough analysis of the situation, with the input from reasonable people all around–some who find the change alarming, and others who are actively encouraging it. This is a big social change, and that is explored as well.

“I asked a principal who just cancelled Bible In Schools – I said ‘would you say it’s biased?’ – he said it was biased by omission. They mention there are good Christians around. They don’t mention there are good Muslims and Hindus around, so they create a bias by just what they don’t say.”

The bias is not just against other religions but against those without religion – a group to which 36 per cent of the population claimed to belong in the 2006 census. Should trends continue, the 2013 census is likely to show this group has grown to 40 per cent.

This is a stunning turnaround from 1956, when just 0.5 per cent of New Zealanders indicated they had no religion. But it was in that religion-soaked climate that the Education Act 1964 was passed and it is this act that allows religious instruction in otherwise secular state schools.

I also like that the story closes with specific definitions of “secular state” and “secular education”. Such inclusions might spare a lot of rancor on sites like Fox or CNN, where it’s not so much a duel of definitions, but a mob of them.

Oh, and for those who like such things, there is a poll at the article: Do you think state schools should conduct religious instruction for primary-aged children?

But wouldn’t it be nice to have establishment clause battles cease here in the US, simply because (e.g.) nobody was motivated enough to get on the school public address system and recite a prayer?


  1. Die Anyway says

    Yes, it would be nice. My two kids (28 & 26) are none-religious as are most of their friends. The generations pass too slowly for me to see the long-term effect.

    When I read the title of this post I thought it was going to be about same-sex marriage… the Beach Boys song “Wouldn’t it be nice” started running through my head.

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