It’s clear that schools are looking towards ways to help students cope with anxiety. One such group is called Grow Your Mind.
Grow your mind says on their website that it is here to “provide programs designed to educate students on brain awareness, resilience, mindfulness and compassion.”
All very well and good except we already have a program that is designed to achieve all those outcomes.
Since 1880, provision for religious education has been included in Education policy in New South Wales. SRE has been mandated by the Education Act of 1990 and gives parents a choice of whether to engage their children in the values it teaches.
These values teach children across New South Wales about the saving message of Jesus that brings hope, joy and self-giving faithfulness and resilience in forming a Christ-like character.
You see according to the Department of Education in New South Wales all those boxes of educating students about brain awareness, resilience, mindfulness and compassion are all ticked off.
According to the Department of Education, this is part of a “well-rounded education that values and supports the intellectual, creative, physical, social and emotional development of the child.”
You see, all those boxes are ticked but yet there is a problem.
The push to remove SRE
There is an online petition to remove SRE, which is backed by the NSW Teacher’s federation and even Principals according to News Limited recently, who are calling for Scripture classes to be held outside of school hours.
Teacher’s Federation complain that “antiquated policy leaves thousands of students unable to do formal school activities if they opt out of scripture classes.” According to Jack Galvin-Waight of the Federation’s SRE and special ethics education delegate.
Okay, that would be fair except I don’t believe this is about giving kids the opportunity to complete formal academic activities.
The call to introduce ‘Mindfulness’
First, we discussed “Grow your Mind”, now there are plans to introduce the “Smiling Mind Education Program”. The Smiling Mind education program provides mindfulness sessions to students.
It says Mindfulness is a “well-established research technique for achieving calmness and improved well-being”.
Again fantastic, I am all for reducing anxiety in students except, why do we need to kick out a program that has proven to bring hope, joy and resilience?
I was an SRE teacher in Grafton for four years, so I should disclose this. I have seen first-hand the differences the saving inclusive message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings to the well-being of children.
When a student is struggling in school, often the first person they call is the Chaplain who is predominantly a Christian because they build such life-giving relationships with the children, which is based on how Jesus would build relationships with those around him.
There are plans to introduce “The smiling mind program” into the curriculum at the expense of SRE which has been proven to increase resilience, stress and anxiety since 1880. If the teachers and principals believe more time should be left to academic study, then why are they including this in the school curriculum?
I have not heard one parent whose child learns Scripture register any concern with the program, which is all approved by the NSW Government and the teachers must be trained.
Even in my own family I know of kids whose parents won’t allow their kids to learn SRE and the kids are begging them to reconsider.
To not permit SRE but permit Mindfulness whose techniques are grounded in Buddhism, in other words include techniques from one religion and not allow a program from Christianity, is the very definition of discrimination and it is absolutely disgusting that a bunch of adults, who no doubt have their own bias against Scripture, are making selfish decisions for their kids without even giving them the choice.
Kids have the option to study SRE but they are not given the choice to have it removed. I am not saying not to put The smiling mind program in. But please give kids and parents the choice.
Ben Kruzins is the Campus Pastor of The Hub Baptist Church in Ocean Shores on the North Coast of New South Wales. He is also a Journalism graduate who has written articles in The Canberra Times and The Sydney Morning Herald.