Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Brother, Could You Spare a Cite

If there's one question that people have been struggling to answer conclusively ever since it was asked for the very first time, it's this: "how should we live?" Through the ages, thousands of religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines have been tested to destruction as we've searched for an answer. Personally I think it's a question that will never be answered, at least not to the satisfaction of everyone; life is too big, too unique, to complex to be boiled down into a simple answer. The best we can do is find an answer that works for ourselves while at the same time fitting into society. That's the crux of it, really - the question would be better posed as "how should we live with each other?" Or possibly "without killing each other?"

Yesterday, the Brisbane Times - of Australia, for all you geography majors - reported on the latest noises issuing from the Liberal National Party of Queensland, a state-level party that is described by Wikipedia as being a party that combines "conservative liberal" and "liberal conservative" ideologies, somehow. They seem to be backing the continued prominence of religious instruction in government schools as a means for ethical education of students, in exclusion to secular ethics classes of the sort that started being rolled out in New South Wales' education system recently so that non-religious students could have an option aside from opting out and "studying" in the library.

Why? Because the party, according to its education spokesman Bruce Flegg, "believe[s] that the overwhelming majority of Queenslanders want their children brought up with a Judeo-Christian grounding in religious education. In many cases this applies to people who themselves may not be particularly religious. I am sure this also applies to the increasing number of Queenslanders who identify themselves as Islamic."

There isn't a [CITATION NEEDED] big enough.

The stained glass window represents religion.

Those are pretty big concepts - "believes," "I am sure," and likely more that aren't quoted in that snippet from the Times - and full of truthiness. There's no evidence brought up to support the case for why the LNP has reason to believe this, there are no studies or surveys or quotes; there's just what the party claims to know from the gut. It's the sort of intellectual viewpoint I'd expect from the Conservatives up here, or the Republicans in the States... more and more, it seems like right-wing parties across the Anglosphere are working out of the same playbook.

Now, I'll admit that Flegg's stance isn't totally out to lunch - there are people who send their kids to religious schools without being really religious themselves in order to get what they perceive to be a moral grounding. I know because I went to high school with one such dude, who had gone through Ontario's Catholic elementary school system for that reason... though I do only know one such dude. Ultimately, it's a choice that should come down to the family, and not to the government.

But it should also be a choice. The availability of secular ethics courses does not diminish religious ethics courses; only in the minds of people who can only be secure when they have an ideological monopoly is that so. To claim that secular instruction is unnecessary because you believe without evidence that people are sufficiently satisfied with it to not need an alternative is not only doing a disservice as a political party - it's intellectually dishonest.

After all, religion is not the only way to ethics, not the only possible path to answering that age-old question. I know because you won't find my footprints on that road.

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