Educational Ethics: Good News in Good Ways
An open commitment to public school principals, staff, councils, accredit-ors, and other school gate-keepers.
OAC Ministries Australia is a non-denominational Christian organisation, presenting “Good News in Good Ways.” We verbalize the Christian message ethically. We adjust to different Outreach And Church settings, using different age-and-stage-appropriate communication tools. So when it comes to public schools, we take special care to work within the guidelines of that accreditation.
Good News: We are Educational
Whenever state governments commission a report on the the worth of Religious Education, (eg. Nott Report, Russell Report), the same conclusion is reached: Religious Education (RE) is important and worthwhile. This is because good RE reduces ignorance, debunks myths, raises mutual awareness, creates empathy, and empowers students to talk meaningfully about religious matters, and the obvious phenomenon of religion. RE seminars add to public education with knowledge of the content and nature of religions, cultural literacy, and add skills pertaining to religion such as interpreting meanings of stories, articulating religious questions, rational enquiry and evaluation, positive dialoging, transferring skills from other disciplines, appreciation of mystery, meeting new ideas without fear.
This is where OACM presenters come in. We have expertise in the Christian message itself. So we can educate about the “what, why, and so what:” What Christians believe, why they believe it, and what difference it makes to us (eg. life-skills and values.) We have expertise in presenting in fun and engaging ways. We educate.
We must be clear about education vs proselytising, otherwise it is too easy to stop religious education in case someone likes it, as if education were proselytising. We have to know where the lines are. The latter is unacceptable in schools, but the former is necessary. It is unacceptable to seek to ‘sign up’ students to Christianity in a government school. It is important to expose them to Christians, showing students the what, why, and so-what of basic Christianity.
Please be wary of detractors claiming that we proselytise. They blur the lines of education, and some have lifted words like ‘evangelist’ for church settings, imbued them with the worst of definitions, falsely accused us of those things, and of doing those things in schools. This is a misrepresentation of both what we do in churches, and what we do in schools. In reality, our conduct is very much in line with government educational guidelines.
Good Ways: We are Ethical
OACM presenters have the professional training and responsibility to maintain the secular nature of public school settings.
“Secular” does not mean excluding religion from education to teach only the secularist worldview. (It would be an unethical abuse of education to expose students to a secularist-only view of religion.) In the context of public education, secular means education that is open to all, regardless of religion. In Victorian legislation for example, “Secular education” means “open to the adherents of any philosophy, religion, or faith. It specifies the curriculum and teaching in government schools will ‘not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect’.”
Therefore, when it comes to our public school presentations, we undertake the following:
- We talk about Christianity in general terms, not to promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect.
- We make no absolute faith-statements (eg. Jesus is God), instead we use verifiable, grounded faith-statements (eg. Christians believe that Jesus is God).
- We do not coerce, proselytise, manipulate, or exert any such pressure to convert. We inform and entertain.
- We do not presume faith or induce children to pray, sing, or say words that would require Christian faith. Students may respectfully observe while we pray / sing / speak.
- We present in such a way that we would be happy for other faiths to present to our own children. (Note, parents may excuse their children from such input if they wish. However we contend that parents have nothing to fear from our school presentations. Rather, they add to their kids’ overall education.)
- We model the ability to talk about one’s own faith, with a respectful stance toward other faiths.
- We make clear our own Christian viewpoint, so there is no hidden curriculum, and no bait-&-switch.
If you experience a breach of these educational ethics by OACM staff, we would like to know about it, and undertake to rectify the situation immediately.
National Coordinator, OAC Ministries