An outspoken Anglican cleric is supporting the recent call for religious teaching to be omitted from the school curriculum.
Rev Morris, who is also a senior teacher at the Combermere School, argued strongly today in support of a position advanced earlier this week by University of the West Indies political scientist Dr Tennyson Joseph that it was not the responsibility of the school to teach religious education.
“Let the church do its work, let the Ministry of Education do its work. The Ministry is not obligated to teach religious education in schools and it should not,” the outspoken cleric told Barbados TODAY.
Admitting that he had always been an advocate of removing religious studies from the schools’ syllabus, Morris complained that “a lot of people take religious education in schools and they try to make our young people feel that they are sinners”.
“They are teaching doctrine more than anything else,” he said.
He went on to say that argue like Joseph that no one religion should be favoured within the education system.
“Barbados is not a Christian society, if you want to say it is a free society, it is a tolerant society and we tolerant all kinds of religions. If they are going to teach Christianity in the schools, then they should teach all religions in the school. They should teach Islam, Hinduism, and more so Rastafarianism,” Morris said.
However, retired principal of the Graydon Sealy Secondary School Matthew Farley did not share Joseph and Morris’ view; neither did Shone Gibbs, president of the Barbados National Council of Parent Teacher Association.
Gibbs was very dismissive of the suggestion that religious education should be banned in schools. In fact, he said it “should not be entertained at no level”.
He also said any move to abolish religious teaching in schools “must be resisted by all right thinking Barbadians”.
“As a society, we have embraced diversity, we have accommodated others
and made provisions respectfully for those who are non-Christian, but we’re a
pre-dominantly a Christian society. It’s part of our values and everything must be done not only preserve it, but to make sure that the values associated with our Christian principles become part of who we are,” he said.
Farley also told Barbados TODAY that a fully secular education system would be difficult to conceive of since very society infused their religious beliefs into the learning system.
“I don’t know if there is any society anywhere in the world that has an education system that is totally secular that excludes people’s faith,” he argued.
The veteran educator also pointed out that there were provisions within the Education Act that allow for religious diversity in our schools.
Therefore, “persons can teach their religious concepts and ideologies and still maintain a presence within the mainstream educational system,” he said.
He also suggested that those individuals who were unhappy with the teaching of religious education in schools should make a conscientious choice to withdraw their children from school once a week to be taught their faith, similar to how children of the Muslim faith were allotted half-day on Fridays.
However, in light of the recent case in which two Rastafarian parents were brought before the court for not ever sending their children to school, Farley warned that “you can’t just allow anybody to keep their children at home and say, ‘I’m homeschooling my child’.
“The question is, what curriculum are you exposing the child to, under what conditions is that curriculum being taught, who are the persons who are equipped and trained to deliver that curriculum?” he said.
He further cautioned that “you can’t just have a free for all society where everybody going to say that we’re going to keep our children at home and home school them.
“And teach them what?” he insisted.
The former principal also questioned how children would be able to “come into the society and live in the real world, without having to be exposed to the wide range of English, Mathematics and Social Studies”.