Cut out the religious mumbo jumbo!
That’s the call of University of the West Indies (UWI) Political Scientist Dr Tennyson Joseph who says it’s time to end to religious teachings and introduce a fully secular curriculum in Barbados’ schools.
He articulated the position during a session of the Barbados Senior Parliament held at UWI’s Cave Hill Campus yesterday. In making his contribution to the topic ‘Should Home Schooling Be Continued in Barbados?’ Joseph expressed the view that a universally accepted secular curriculum would eradicate any conflicts which may exist for non-Christian members of this island’s increasingly diverse society.
The issue of home schooling was thrown into the national spotlight after a Rastafarian couple was brought before the court for refusing to send their children to school. They were found guilty of breaching Section 41 of the Education Act on the grounds that there was no record of the children attending formal classes. Their children – who are both under age ten – have been placed in the custody of their paternal grandmother, pending the court’s sentencing decision on October 27.
However, in support of the Rastafarian couple’s contention that their son and daughter were being homeschooled, Joseph argued that any attempt to curtail parents’ choice to home school their child ought to be contingent on the provision of a universally acceptable education system by the State.
“The easiest way to make it [the education system] become what you want it to become is to have something called a secular education curriculum. This is universal,” Joseph said, explaining that “if you say one plus one equals two, whether you are Rastafari, whether you are Muslim or whether you are a Jew, you can teach my children one plus one equals two.
“But do not tell them about virgin births, which is a biological impossibility,” Joseph said, in an obvious reference to the Biblical account of Jesus being born to a virgin.
He argued that the rest of the world had moved away from religious-based education, while telling the authorities: “Don’t come with your packaged doctrines and say that is part of the curriculum and that a child cannot learn the secular things without it being packaged in religious clothing.”
While advocating homeschooling as a viable alternative for those with diverging beliefs, Joseph warned that the current religious-based system was failing already disenfranchised classes of society.
“The failures of the State are in fact leading to the disadvantaging of our women because they are ones carrying the burden of educating our children at home. It is leading to the disadvantaging of the poor families because they have to find alternatives to educate their children because the State will [not] do for us what we expect it to do for us in a context of independence and sovereignty . . .
“In addition to protecting our right to homeschool our children, we need to see that the struggle goes beyond that. We need to insist that the democratic State that represents us in the 50th year of our independence, the State to which we pay taxes we don’t have, begins to transform themselves into what we want them to become and they could start with education [reform] by separating religious mumbo jumbo from serious secular notions. If we do that, then we won’t have the problem that we do before us,” insisted Joseph.
UWI Political Scientist Dr Tennyson Joseph says it’s time to stop teaching religion in Barbados’ schools. Is this an argument that can be used here in Saint Lucia?