Mum wants Christ out of school’s Christ­mas

Play­ground Santa de­bate leads to kid miss­ing classes to avoid Bible story. By Josephine Franks.

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE -

Amum kept her 7-year-old son home from school this week to avoid les­sons about the Chris­tian ori­gins of Christ­mas.

Kather­ine Hogg said she was un­happy her son’s class was be­ing asked to act out the na­tiv­ity so onWed­nes­day, her son stayed home from Stan­more Bay School in the north Auck­land sub­urb of Whanga­para¯oa.

Hogg had no prob­lem with Christ­mas ac­tiv­i­ties in gen­eral, she said, but mak­ing them Bib­li­cal was ‘‘out of line . . . for a sec­u­lar school’’.

Her son didn’t want to join the ac­tiv­i­ties be­cause he didn’t be­lieve in God, but he was ‘‘upset’’ by the only other al­ter­na­tive – go­ing to an­other class­room.

The Stan­more Bay dis­pute has opened a Christ­mas can of worms: the Sec­u­lar Ed­u­ca­tion Net­work ap­plauded Hogg’s stand, but faith lead­ers ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment.

For­mer Prin­ci­pals’ As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Pa­trick Walsh said it was ‘‘PC go­ing mad’’.

‘‘We should ac­cept the tra­di­tions of our coun­try,’’ said Walsh, prin­ci­pal of the Catholic John Paul Col­lege in Ro­torua. ‘‘While New Zealand is a sec­u­lar coun­try there is no harm in cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas with a Chris­tian theme.

‘‘We’re liv­ing at a time of good­will and cheer and I think the par­ent needs to lighten up.’’

Kather­ine Hogg said the saga started when her son had a school­yard de­bate about Santa and came home upset af­ter a teacher told him off.

In a let­ter to the prin­ci­pal she said it was ‘‘aw­fully hyp­o­crit­i­cal’’ for her son to be told to keep his be­liefs to him­self, only for the school to of­fer a fo­rum for Chris­tian stu­dents to dis­cuss their be­liefs about Christ­mas.

‘‘While it is ab­so­lutely fine for chil­dren to hold their own dis­cus­sions on Santa and re­li­gion on the play­ground, it should not be teacher-led within the class­room,’’ she wrote.

Hogg said teach­ing re­li­gion in a ‘‘his­tor­i­cal sense’’ was fine, but ‘‘I don’t think that would in­clude Bib­li­cal reen­act­ments or en­cour­ag­ing stu­dents to talk about their own be­liefs.

But Lisa Reynolds from the Sec­u­lar Ed­u­ca­tion Net­work said it would be ‘‘al­most im­pos­si­ble’’ to reen­act the na­tiv­ity scene in a sec­u­lar way.

Stan­more Bay School prin­ci­pal Matt Sides said the school was look­ing into the con­cerns raised.

‘‘The in­ten­tion of this wha¯nau (team of learn­ers) has been teach­ing tra­di­tional sto­ries, myths and leg­ends across the term,’’ he said.

Un­der draft Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion guide­lines, pri­mary and in­ter­me­di­ate schools will have to ask fam­i­lies for their con­sent to give re­li­gious in­struc­tion, and would have to pro­vide al­ter­na­tives for those who refuse.

Schools would also have to be ex­plicit about what con­tent would be taught and whether it en­dorsed a par­tic­u­lar faith.

Con­sul­ta­tion on the draft guide­lines closed on De­cem­ber 7.

‘ We’re liv­ing at a time of good­will and cheer and I think the par­ent needs to lighten up.’ PA­TRICK WALSH

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