Like most parents, I want my children to have access to stimulating, informative materials that will enhance their knowledge of the world around them. At home, I carefully select the books, films, plays and exhibitions that I believe will increase their understanding, and vet those that I think might be confusing or inappropriate.
I have no choice but to trust that their school is under the same obligation. If anything, runs my reasoning, the school should be even more diligent about the selection of its educational materials and experiences because, after all, learning is its prime directive.
So I am at a loss to understand why Christian Bible stories are being related to young children as if they were historical fact. I can see that, with Easter coming up, it’s relevant to offer some context for the celebration – but the context should extend beyond the story of violent death and cartoonish resurrection to include the themes of springtime and renewal for which the Passion is simply a metaphor.
While the Bible has some great stories, it’s not appropriate for these to be presented to small children as real-life scenarios. My four-year-old son isn’t mature enough to decide his own dinner, let alone whether or not he believes in God, and yet the school considers him Christian by default, and integrates religious articles of faith into his daily education.
Young children are simply not mature enough to differentiate faith-based learning from fact-based knowledge, and it’s critically important to help them make that distinction – so that in time, they will able to make their own informed, educated decisions about the relative value they want to place on each.
Since what my son calls the “God assembly,” last week, at which I believe there was a performance relating to the forthcoming Passion play to be staged in town, he has been enthusiastically re-enacting the crucifixion with his brother, happy to play either side, reassuring me that it’s fine to nail to people to trees because they come back to life again. I suspect this was probably not your players’ intended response, but then he is only four – not the most sophisticated of audiences, which is my point: not mature enough to make the appropriate interpretation. At least in Star Wars Qui-Gon stays dead, and his murderer is punished: a much more valuable lesson, in my opinion!
I recognise that the school is bound by certain strictures to incorporate a degree of religious practice into its daily life. However, I firmly believe that religious instruction should be confined to churches and faith schools, and should be the choice of the parents. Where religious motifs are explored in school, it should be relative to other religious and cultural values, and the difference between faith and fact should always, always, be made explicit.