Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bugging my MP about Primary ethics classes.. again

Rev. Fred Nile thinks he has the upper hand an declared war on Primary Ethics classes, again. And again, I have written to my State Member. I urge you to do the same if you are appalled that Rev Nile would use our children as a "trump card" to manipulate the government to get his own way.

The following is an adapted version of my letter:

The issue of Primary ethics is one close to my heart. I've been following it since April last year. I watched the success of the pilot. And now I teach the ethics class at my local school.

I understand that politics often involves power plays and manipulation, it come with the territory. Rev Nile has always made his opinions regarding the Ethics classes well known and this stunt really wasn't surprising. But please allow me to give you some quick facts about the Primary Ethics program and my experiences in the classroom. As of June 2011, Primary Ethics had started 180 Ethics classes in 128 schools across the state, teaching about 2700 students in Years 5&6 each week. Primary Ethics managers claim that there are about 100,000 children whose parents opt their kids out of SRE classes, and we are offering an alternative (it is not compulsory) to that section of each school. 

These classes promote higher order thinking. They are philosophy classes. Ethics is the study of the concepts involved in practical reasoning: good, bad, freedom, virtues, rationality... etc (according to the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy). In these classes children learn to investigate how they behave in a moral context, and why they choose to do it. The curriculum puts a strong emphasis on reasoning. Without realizing it (or being able to define it in the same way as a university philosophy text book might), the students in my class have learned to recognise "circular reasoning". Rather than state "Your premise assumes the conclusion", they'll say "you've just said the same thing twice". But in its most simplistic form, the class is learning to see logical flaws in others arguments. While this may have created an issue 6 months ago, being a potential chance to "put someone down" they have also learned to respect each other. Fallacious arguments are pointed out with care and consideration. Students will often then reflect upon the comments of their classmates. Furthermore, the children love the classes. They are held right before lunch recess, and yet there is a communal groan when I tell them it's over.

Now, for my personal opinion. Keeping in mind the critical analysis skills these students are learning, the fact the ethics teachers require formal training and ongoing monitoring and that the curriculum has been approved by the DEC (formerly known as the DET) I can see possible validity in the argument, from those who oppose the classes, that the SRE children are disadvantaged by not attending the ethics course. I disagree that cancelling ethics is the answer. Surely the solution would be to fight for inquiry based learning, and higher order thinking to become more widely spread throughout the entire general curriculum, rather than scrapping the only subject based on philosophy.

I then finished be asking my PM to fight to keep the Liberal Party's promise not to cancel the program.
I ask that you write to your member if this issue is important to you too.

Over, and Out