The Scrapping of SRI

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The Scrapping of SRI

9 September 2015 Hits:4409

Along with many Christians, as well as those of other faiths, I was disappointed to hear recently that the Victorian State Government had broken one of its election promises.  Premier Daniel Andrews promised to remove asbestos from schools, but said he would not scrap SRI during school hours.  I’m not sure how the asbestos removal is going, but SRI is being dumped during school hours from 2016.  I know I shouldn’t be surprised, after all both sides of politics seem to entice voters with various promises only to default on them once they’ve gained power: “There will be no SRI under the government I lead!”

The weekly 30-minute SRI program will move to lunchtime or before and after school – of course we parents need another extra-curricular activity to fit into an already busy week!

This move discriminates against all faiths, not just Christianity (including the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches).  At present SRI is provided by Jewish, Buddhist, Baha’i, Islam and Hindu faiths.  The vast majority of Victorians identify themselves as belonging to a religious group.  Why is the majority being wronged?  This decision also negates the value that religions bring to our society.  Dr. Sue Smith from the Buddhist Council of Victoria says, “All religions have rich repositories of stories that provide resources for ethical exploration with students and can support existing values programs.”

Christian SRI taps into much of what our community already knows about the Bible and Christian faith.  For example, we often hear people refer to someone as a “Good Samaritan” or a person facing a “David and Goliath” challenge.  Teaching children the stories from the Bible gives them an understanding of these concepts and values that enrich their lives and the lives of others.

I had many enjoyable years teaching SRI (known as CRE at the time) in the late 80s and early 90s.  I taught four grade six classes every Tuesday morning.  The kids loved it and so did the teachers.  Very few parents opted their children out.  I never proselytised.  I stuck to the curriculum and we engaged in some great discussions and lots of fun.  I’ve received a number of emails over the years from the kids I taught (now adults with children of their own) saying how grateful they are for those lessons.

But for many years there’s been a concerted attack from secular and humanist groups and individuals to see SRI removed from school hours.  In 2011 the opt-out system was changed to opt-in and enrolments dropped 42% over the next two years as a result.  One of the arguments used against SRI is that non-participating students were sent to the library or sat in corridors.  If that’s true then that’s an issue that needs to be addressed by individual schools and parents.  I believe most teachers use this time for non-participating students to engage in self-directed learning like reading, finishing projects, homework or revision. Children are not being discriminated against. Some parents are exercising their rights to voluntarily withdraw their children from SRI. If schools were to provide new work to non-SRI students, this would result in SRI students missing out.

SRI is being replaced with new content on world histories, cultures, faiths and ethics.  Classes that address domestic violence and respectful relationships will also become compulsory for all prep to year 10 students from 2016.  While I think this course will be of great value to children why does it have to be either / or?  Surely both SRI and the new ‘Respectful Relationships Education’ program are equally worthy.

If you feel strongly about advocating for SRI to continue to be offered during school hours in Victoria here are some things you may want to do:

  • Visit/call/write/email you local MP to voice your opinion.
  • Write to your local paper or to The Age or Herald Sun.
  • Take the petition found on the Access Ministries website to your church, your school and your friends and ask them to stand up for children’s rights to receive SRI .
  • If you want your child(ren) to learn about the Christian faith then make sure your faith is strong and well-informed.  Find a good local church where the whole family can grow in faith together.  This also stands true if you belong to another faith tradition.

And finally, be careful, prayerful, graceful and respectful in all you do and say.

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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11 replies on “The Scrapping of SRI”

Sharon Muhleisensays:

I am really enjoying all your posts to Facebook and when I have time, your blogs too. Thank you for the gentle reminders to stand up and walk a step closer to God and stand for what I hope to be true. These words are encouraging me to do that.

Rob Buckinghamsays:

Thanks for your encouraging words Sharon. God bless you.

Grant Kirbysays:

I agree Rob! I think it is a great shame that children will miss out on SRI. Like me, many will only hear of Jesus through programs like SRI that reach into their world.

There is nothing more surgical than the story of the Gospel and God’s love touching the virgin territory of a young child’s pure and open heart. The two were designed by God to fit like lock and key. To me, that was the opportunity of SRI. What will replace that?

Jamessays:

I read the things the opponents of SRI say online, in newspaper articles and letters. Kids being scared and confused, discrimination and plain lies and misinformation being taught. Then i try to match that up with the people I know who teach it. Either they undergo a huge change when in front of a class or something is wrong. I can’t help feeling a whole lot of other issues are unresolved in those against SRI. They must have been hurt by the Church in some way and this is their payback. It’s not transparent or open the way this has been done. But it’s a spiritual battle I’m sure.

Cameron Bouchersays:

Truly, it will be a shame for SRI to be removed from the classroom. I wonder, if maybe the SRI program has had it ‘too good for too long’ so to speak? That there has always been provision for it so it was taken for granted? Maybe it’s a shake up necessary to help reinvigorate the approach needed to provide it?? If it’s to be held at lunchtimes, maybe feed the kids with a meal as well as the gospel? Interesting discussion to have sometime.

Rob Buckinghamsays:

Some good points Cameron. I like the food at lunchtime idea

Andreasays:

Hi Rob,
Totally agree. I recently added some comments to the Fairness of Religion in Schools facebook page expressing my disappointment at the decision. I didn’t think I would get a positive response but I wasn’t prepared for the absolute vitreolic hateful comments I received, including the FB page administrator. I was shaking and in tears by the verbal attacks. I ended up actually being more concerned about what kids are exposed to in their own homes rather then the issue of SRI being removed from schools. People’s hearts are so hard and full of hatred for God and Christians and this is what they are passing on to their children. All I could do was pray for them and forgive them ‘for they know not what they do.’ God help the children of Australia.

Leah Psays:

I love unsructing sri.
l love the kids.
lts very sad.
.

Brendon Eisholdsays:

The normal lies and misrepresentations made by those who wish indoctrination instead of education to continue in our schools. SRI can still be offered but outside of class time. We shouldn’t teach children myths as facts within class time. This move does not discriminate against people of faith. Do they not still have their churches? Can they not still promote after school activities and classes? What this move does do is remove the special privilege that for some inexplicable reason churches have had in this country where they can proselytise and evangelise our children during class time. Our public schools are not your mission fields. We all know you want access to children from a young age but now your access is where is should always have been. Outside of the classroom.
The new program to be introduced will finally be a fully inclusive educational program. Which is unlike SRI where children are separated from each other based on their parent’s faith and it is clearly indoctrination rather than education.
You’re all still more than welcome to indoctrinate your children within your homes, within your churches and within lunchtime and after school programs. Finally you’re not welcome to do it within valuable class time.

Sebastiansays:

If, if, religion is so important, then you should be more than happy to add it as extra curriculum, and in fact it should have priority over other activities, so pretty bad excuse.

Second, when kids go to piano or guitar or whatever, the rest of the class continues normally. It’s you who is opting in into a special program, nobody should be disadvantaged because of your choices. Religion is an opt in, and should have no impact on those who do not opt in. Simple

Chrissays:

As you point out when the system went from opt-in to opt-out in 2011 enrollments fell dramatically. Your figure of 42% is a conservative one- at my school enrollment went from a little over 50% to just over 20% in that two year period. The dissemination of information about what the program really consisted of rather than the implied values, ethics and bible stories suggested by the consent form, even the general religious education that many parents believed the program to be, allowed parents to show what they felt of SRI and reject it en masse.
“If schools were to provide new work to non-SRI students, this would result in SRI students missing out”. Exactly Rob, all our kids are missing out while the SRI program runs in class times. The government has listened to the complaints and wishes of the vast majority of Victorian parents and educators (Parents Victoria and the AEU have opposed the program for years). We welcome the end to segregation of children according to the religious beliefs of their parents and the extra half hour of professional teaching of curriculum material within class times.

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