The Big Issue : Edition 453
THEBIGISSUE7--20MAR2014 29 culture police Fiona Scott-Norman Besides mandatory chapel, there was also a weekly double period of RE, and I struggle to recall actual content. As we were teenagers, I expect it was well beyond Sunday School's 'stories from the Bible' level but, honestly, all I can remember is sitting up the back so I could tilt my chair against the wall and warm my hands on the radiator. This was partly, I suspect, because I'd been raised in a non-observant Christian context. Mum was kind of Catholic, Dad was C of E and, being English, they shrugged and put the whole thing in the Too Hard basket. I was christened, because that's what you did, and that was the end of it. We didn't go to church, hellfre was never threatened, and my parents used to chortle when the local vicar drove past because he was tiny and you couldn't see his head over the steering wheel. I had zero emotional investment in the whole God thing, and had the entire shebang fled under ‘N’, for ‘not pertinent to my interests’. But it wasn't only me. None of my peer group sat around rapping about the parables, or how we wished we could be as good as Jesus. We talked about the Bay City Rollers, who wanted to get off with who at the next social, and how our maths teacher had terrible BO. Everyone dreaded RE, and no one looked forward to chapel. All of us trudged there with hearts heavier than our biology textbooks, and, like Christ himself upon the cross, we endured. Despite a relentless, regular drip-feed of Christianity over seven years, at no point did I convert. Neither, to my knowledge, did anyone else. We went because we had to; we passed notes, and whispered, and drew on our pencil cases, and picked our nails, and if eye-rolling ever became an Olympic event we were ready. Maybe Reverend Kevin was a D-grade orator, but the fact is 'indoctrination' and 'empty rhetoric' aren't very engaging. People who think proselytising is the way forward haven't the faintest awareness of how crushingly dull they are. The kids, I am confident, will be all right. Apart from, perhaps, a bit of eyestrain. ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BAKES; ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPH BY MILES STANDISH RELIGIOUS EDUCATION'S BIGGEST THREAT IS THAT, FOR MANY STUDENTS, IT IS UNBELIEVABLY DULL. Faith No Bore For virtually more FSN, visit fonascottnorman.com.au or follow her on Twitter @FScottNorman. LISTEN TO TALKBACK radio long enough and you'll hear someone giving their furious 10 cents' worth on religious education in schools. It's a trigger topic for parents who like their children un-proselytised. In the most recent RE facepalm incident, a Torquay school discovered that its Year 6 students had been handed 'Biblezines', which urged anyone with homosexual urges not to act on them, and likened 'making out' to mixing dog poop into cookie batter in terms of ruining your 'purity'. Then there's been disquiet in Queensland that creationism is sneaking into some schools' science classes. And, down in Victoria, a third of primary schools have quietly dumped the SRI (Special Religious Instruction) program over the past two years, despite it being an Education Department requirement. One principal was recently quoted as saying he looked at the curriculum and found it "empty rhetoric". He added that he was committed to teaching children, "not indoctrinating them". On the one hand, I understand the anxiety around, say, 'intelligent design' showing up in biology classes. On the other, just how much infuence can one try-hard Biblezine have on any child raised in a progressive, secular household? Not to mention the totes awks factor of a supremely ungroovy institution attempting to 'get on down with the kids'. Please. Remember RE classes at school? Hideous. For me, any mention of RE fashes me back to a state of torpor so pronounced it was but one rung on the ladder above brain death. Oh, God, I was bored. Bored like a wooden house on Termite Appreciation Day. My high school was Church of England, I was a boarder, our House Master was the Reverend Kevin, and there was no escaping Sunday chapel unless you publicly declared yourself an atheist. Already a social pariah, I had no desire to cut myself from the pack even further. But once a week, as I attempted to drown out the droning by ficking through the collection of Love Is... cartoons and photos of Starsky I'd glued in my hymnbook, I deeply envied the one conscientious objector in our House who stood frm, stayed behind, and -- who knows, lucky duck -- probably spent every Sunday morning masturbating.