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Education

Frequently Asked Questions

I can see that religious groups will base their education policies on their religious beliefs, but what do humanists base their policy on?

We base our policy on the four words engraved on the mace within the Scottish Parliament. They are Wisdom, Justice, Compassion and Integrity. These words state the values of the Scottish state and are the foundation of the Curriculum for Excellence.

We don’t think the present system lives up to these agreed ideals

Why are you against the teaching of religious and moral education in Scottish schools?

We’re not!

We think that religious and moral education in schools is an important part of the current curriculum and should continue. It should however be part of children and young people’s experience to learn about other beliefs and make up their own minds.

If you’re not against the teaching of religious and moral education, what makes you different from religious groups?

We think that that there should be no acts of religious observance as part of the school’s timetabled curriculum.

To allow acts of religious observance as part of the timetabled curriculum tells children and young people that the school and state believe that one religion is true.

We don’t think the state should endorse any religion. That creates two classes of Scots, those whose beliefs are merely studied out of interest and those whose beliefs are endorsed as part of the curriculum.

If there was no religious observance in school, wouldn’t we just be like America with all prayers banned on school premises?

No, far from it.

Humanism is about freedom of choice and making up your own mind.

We’re not against acts of worship in school, indeed we would encourage communities to use their local schools for this purpose, just as schools are used for Scouts or Guides.

We would be happy to see, at lunchtime or after school, Muslims praying to Mecca in one classroom, Catholics taking communion in another, a Scripture Union meeting along the corridor and the Science club next door.

We are about all children and young people together, in the same school making sense of their world in their own way.

What about Catholic (denominational) schools? Surely they would be allowed to carry on as at present?

The short answer to this is “No”.

We don’t think there should be two kinds of school in Scotland.

We don’t have hospitals based on belief, so why do we have belief -based schools?

We think that all schools in Scotland should be open to all children, with no reference to the religious beliefs of their parents.

There should be no separate curriculum or different school buildings for children of different beliefs.

In Scotland outwith the central belt there are few if any Catholic schools. A change to a non-religious based education system would make little difference in many parts of Scotland.

Isn’t this just another example of Scottish anti-Catholic bias?

Of course not. For Humanists, to be “anti Catholic” is like being “anti-Zeus” or “anti-Thor”.

We are not “anti” any particular religion, we personally don’t believe any of the religions are true.

But that does not make us “anti” the people who believe in these religions.

There are religious representatives on my council’s education committee. Why can’t we also have non-religious representatives, like Humanists on these committees?

Because we think it is wrong.

We believe that we should stop the practice of having unelected religious representatives on education committees.

Nobody voted for these representatives and yet they can vote and decide local educational policy.

We do not want to join these representatives as we believe the principle of non-elected representation is unfair and unjust.

So, your policy is based on the Scottish mace values of Wisdom, Justice, Compassion and Integrity. They’re fine words, but how would your policy deliver them?

They are fine words and sum up what we Scots think are important.

We are all “Jock Tamson’s Bairns” and our education system should reflect this. We think it doesn’t do this at the moment.

Take each Scottish mace value in turn.

Wisdom

This is not just knowing things. It’s the capacity to make judgements based on evidence and seasoned with human experience.

We don’t expect children to makejudgements in matters such as drinking alcohol, driving cars or sexual activity until they are 16 or 18 years old. In Scotland, the age of criminal responsibility is 12.

Yet we allow our education system to tell children as young as five that one religious belief is simply true and that they should accept this.

Let’s not do this. It would promote wisdom in Scotland.

Justice

This is about the state treating everybody fairly.

At present, there are a small number of schools for one section of religious belief, Roman Catholicism. The church still decides who works in these schools, which are paid for by everybody.

Unelected church representatives sit on all education committees in Scotland and vote on how our children and young people are educated.

This is not fair or just.

Let’s stop this. It would promote justice in Scotland.

Compassion

This comes from human understanding, from seeing the underlying humanity in all of us and caring about people as a result.

At present Scottish state education teaches all our non-Christian children that their understanding of the world, their religious view, is tolerated but is not believed by the state.

Let’s not do this. It would promote compassion in Scotland.

Integrity

This is not just honesty, it is about being whole and undivided. A fundamental Scottish value is in the words of the song sung at the opening of the Scottish Parliament- “A man’s a man for a’ that.”

Yet from the earliest age children in Scotland are divided and sent to schools on the basis of the religious beliefs of their parents. Children living in the same street will go to different schools for all of their education.

Let’s stop this. It would promote integrity in Scotland.

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