Some years ago, I applied for employment in a religious school.
I was young and full of enthusiasm, with a respectable religious background and church upbringing. I had appropriate teaching qualifications and impeccable references.
The job interview went well, and we all seemed mutually happy, as a panel of administrators and parents asked me to respond to their school ethos, educational requirements etc. It was going swimmingly, and we were discussing educational practice until one parent asked me a hypothetical question out of the blue:
“Imagine you are on Yard Duty, and one of the students in the schoolyard asks you the question: ‘Are Adam and Eve in the Bible true?’ – How would you answer?”
I immediately recognised that this was a potential trap and that they wanted me to say: “I would tell them that if it is in the Bible, of course it is true.” But I also knew that such an answer was unsatisfactory to me. As someone who had been taught to think for myself within my Christian upbringing, and as a teacher, I could not ethically encourage children to blindly accept indoctrination.
Pausing for a moment, I came up with an answer which I felt would be acceptable to me as a teacher, and to them as Christians: “I would tell the student to go read the Bible, read their student Bible commentary, ask their parents, ask their teachers, ask their pastor, ask their friends, and then make an informed decision.”
“Thank you for coming,” replied that parent immediately, smiling thinly and gesturing to the door. I thanked them for their time, and left the room with my head held high. I had not betrayed my professional ethics as a teacher, and therefore I was useless to them.
This is one of many reasons why religious freedoms – the fake news being peddled by our federal government in an attempt to introduce a law that would abuse human rights under the cover of religiosity – must be opposed.
Everyone expresses concern about the ability of religious schools to fire gay teachers, Muslim gardeners or single mothers whose ‘chosen lifestyle’ is incompatible with the proclamations of religious bigots. I agree – but I wonder if the greater long-term damage might be in teaching students to NOT think critically about themselves and the world around them?
©2021 Geoff Allshorn