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The Forum > Article Comments > Public schools need ethics, not religious education > Comments

Public schools need ethics, not religious education : Comments

By Glen Coulton, published 2/7/2010

Religion, especially Christianity, is not essential to the teaching and development of a sound ethical sense.

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The strawmen are certainly on fire today!

Your definition of ethics seems to be open to either utilitarian or eudaemonistic interpretations but precludes the Kantians. It you added the words "right and wrong" with regard to behaviour we would be approaching a broader conception of ethics. Then again, this would not sit well with your plug for situationist ethics which a priori precludes intrinsically evil acts such as torture (or as Aristotle would have it - adultery).

As regards the grounding for ethics, you will find that it is often found within religious traditions. The principles may be abstractable but I think it simplistic to believe that secular humanism is objective in a way that religous faith traditions fall short. Remember, not all Christians are fundamentalists and not all rationalists are rational.
Posted by Gordo Pollo, Friday, 2 July 2010 9:19:56 AM
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If, as Glen Coulton seems to be saying, ethics is about miniminising
collective discomfiture, then the non-ethical nature of same-sex
"marriage" has already been decided on in a unanimity of the 31 American states
which have permitted citizen initiated referenda on the matter.
Minimum discomfiture,
maximum satisfaction:
an ethical solution.
Posted by Proxy, Friday, 2 July 2010 10:09:21 AM
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I agree completely with the author, Glen Coulton.

And I'm normally resistant to ethics in schools because it boils down to "whose ethics?"- but he even defined that in a satisfying manner- mutually agreed concensus on maximum benefit/quality of life for all.

And, needless to say I agree with his point that religious preachers should be kept FAR away from being allowed to judge the criteria.
In fact, I would argue the course needs to be as 'democratic' and open as possible, with input to make people think about it, as opposed to let someone 'more qualified' decide for us.

The only downside is Schools are NOT open, inclusive environments where everybody's opinions are equal- or even matter- peer pressure and the hierarchies in school, along with the fear of getting marked down with the 'wrong answer' will prevent my idea from happening.

But still, generally agree.
Posted by King Hazza, Friday, 2 July 2010 10:31:20 AM
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Gordo Pollo: I donít think I made a straw man error. I did not suggest that all, or even most religious teachings can be justified only by the belief that following them will get you a good place in heaven. I suggested that religions do prescribe certain beliefs/behaviours that are justified only by this argument. If itís not true that religions rely on this kind of justification, then my argument is a straw man argument. But they do. Donít they? You also seem to criticise me for not acknowledging that ethics can be often found within religious traditions. I wasnít saying that it canít. I was simply saying that to end up with ethical awareness, it is not necessary to start with religion belief, which is what the archbishops are arguing.
Posted by GlenC, Friday, 2 July 2010 10:33:05 AM
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It is clear that Glen Coultonís concept of ethics involves teaching
school children that homosexual behaviour is the ethical equivalent
of heterosexual behaviour. Like all same-sex advocates, he is being
disingenuous. To then claim scientific backing for his view borders
on bizarre. All right, letís approach the subject of same-sex
behaviour scientifically. Are statistics a sufficiently scientific
basis for discussing the relative merits of homosex versus heterosex
Glen? How about the statistical fact that men who have sex with men
are 40+ times likely to acquire HIV/AIDs? How about the statistical
fact that domestic violence in same-sex households is a multiple of
that in heterosexually married households? What about the statistical
fact that people who engage in homosexual behaviour account for
around 2% of the population, and not the 10% figure used to bolster
their case. The Glen Coultons of the world arenít interested in
science or facts where these contradict their agenda. To them, people
who use facts are haters. Homosexual advocates do their darndest to
obscure the facts. My viewpoint is not religiously based, however I
can imagine how the religious proscription may have originated. With
vastly inferior medical treatments available thousands of years ago
when these prohibitions were likely formulated, imagine the disease
resulting from any form of promiscuous behaviour, let alone that
which by necessity focuses on the anus. The disease risks haven't
been measurably reduced in the intervening millenia, merely society's
capacity to try to ameliorate them.

Glen Coulter, is it ethical to teach school children that homosexual
behaviour is the moral, ethical and health equivalent of heterosexual
behaviour when it is scientifically demonstrable that those engaging
in male homosexual behaviour are 40+ times as likely to contract
HIV/AIDs, not to mention suffering vastly higher rates of gonorrhoea,
syphilis, MRSA, etc?
Is it ethical to lie by omission?
Are you really genuine when you say these things should be discussed
openly in the school classrooms? I don't believe you are and Iím
hoping that your ilk are kept as far away as possible from my
childrenís classrooms.
You represent a real threat to their welfare.
Posted by Proxy, Friday, 2 July 2010 10:59:13 AM
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Whilst the nomenclature is doubtful in that perhaps the term 'ethics' in this context could best be understood as 'critiical thinking' as applied to behavioural norms, Glen Coulton has clearly deliniated the essential issue - which is the relative merits of a rationaly argued humanisitic ethic as compared with prescriptively dictated behaviour. Such a view will of course be fought tooth and nail by the various church apologists who, as well as protecting their places in heaven, see the on-going and readily observed failure of religiously bsed ethics as some sort of mandate to continue in the same vein - no doubt the 'Hitler and Stalin were atheists' argument will not be long in coming forward. For these people to see the unquestionable superiority of a naturalistic ethic does however requires two capacities as mentioned in the article - an open mind and an engaged brain - capacities that they do not normally possess.
Posted by GYM-FISH, Friday, 2 July 2010 11:54:09 AM
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