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HSS Education Strategy Launch

For discussions related to education and educational institutions.
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Rogerrp
Posts: 33
Joined: July 31st, 2007, 11:51 am

HSS Education Strategy Launch

#1 Post by Rogerrp » April 24th, 2008, 9:13 am

Dear all,

This item may belong to the Education forum but since it involves a campaign and a particular event, I have posted it in Positive Humanism.
The Humanist Society of Scotland is launching its Education Strategy this coming Saturday in Edinburgh, Our Dynamic Earth, at 2 pm. Personally, this is a very much anticipated move and something that Scottish Humanism needs. The work of the HSS in ceremonies has raised the profile of Humanism in society. It is now time to tackle the Education front.
Below is the text of the invitation sent to HSS members and others. Pictures and links will not work on the forum as I have just copy & pasted the text. I am sure this is of interest to Humanists and this is why I post it here:

<<<<<HSS calls on Government to uphold UN Convention on Rights of Child

A child is a guest in our house to be loved and respected but never possessed.

At 2.00 pm on the 18th June 2005 at Edinburgh Zoo, the Humanist Society of Scotland's 15 year campaign to conduct legal weddings succeeded spectacularly when Celebrant Ivan Middleton married Karen Watts and Martin Reijns, following the Registrar General's landmark decision that Scots law should be consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights. Since then humanist weddings have grown exponentially and the society is now the fifth most popular provider of weddings in Scotland.

At 2.00pm on April 26th 2008 at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, the Society sets out to replicate that success when it turn its attention to Education, launching a new campaign founded on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. You are hereby invited to attend the launch, where we will also inaugurate our new president, Christopher Brookmyre.

Education Officer, Bob McKay says "Article 29 of the Convention affirms the right of all children to an education that respects both their own cultural values and those of others. In Scotland, all parents have the right to raise their children in the religion of their choice, and send them to school in the expectation that their faith will be respected - which is as it should be. But no provision of any kind is made for the one in three Scots who have no religious belief. At present, all they can do is ask that their children be withdrawn or excluded from religious activities, which is quite simply inadequate and unfair.
The HSS seeks parity of esteem with those who hold religious views; an equal respect for our convictions and a recognition of the legitimacy of our ethical stance. We seek it, not as a concession or a favour, but as a civil and human right and we call on all who have an interest and influence in education to support our position."

The Society's ambitious programme is committed to providing

Free teaching materials for all children between 5 and 18
Free support materials for teachers and parents
Free help and advice for those seeking education free from religion
Free speakers to support teachers on request
All the teaching and support materials will be available from our Education Resources Page from Saturday 26 April 2008 when the campaign will launch at 2.00 p.m. in front of an invited audience of teachers, parents and children at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh.

The campaign has already attracted support from the office of Kathleen Marshall, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People which "noted how well it fits into Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international standard which all cultures have signed up to and an appropriate focus for your work."

Christopher Brookmyre also lends his voice, saying "Children necessarily must invest the sincerest trust in what their teachers tell them. Thus the same institution that tells them one plus one equals two should not then be telling them that three persons add up to one God."

The response from parents has been overwhelming. Judie & Kevin Holliday wrote "We want our children to understand the Christmas and Easter stories and Ramadan, Eid, Diwali, Chanaka and Beltane. We want them to know that there are many ways to be a good person and that you don't have to believe in a god to be good, honest, decent and trustworthy. We hope the school will not undermine these beliefs."

Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the education of the child shall be directed to:

The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;
The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;
The development of respect for the natural environment.
You can read the rest of the UN convention here

Please try to come along and support the launch at Dynamic Earth, 112-116 Holyrood Rd Edinburgh, EH8 8AS at 2.00 p.m on Saturday 26 April 2008.

The launch was reported in today’s edition of The Herald newspaper: please take a moment to read it and add your comment on their web site.

Humanist Society of Scotland

http://www.humanism-scotland.org.uk

>>>>>>>>>

See some of you on Saturday!

Roger
Student Humanist Society at the University of Edinburgh: http://humanist.eusa.ed.ac.uk

DougS
Posts: 737
Joined: July 4th, 2007, 9:48 am

Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch - Edinburgh 26 April

#2 Post by DougS » April 26th, 2008, 10:49 pm

I've just downloaded the new materials from the HSS website but I haven't read them properly yet. I'm surprised to see that amongst the materials is a 9-page document entitled 'The Origin of Religion'. Can anyone who knows - perhaps someone who went to the launch today - tell us what the rationale for including this document amongst humanist teaching materials is? I only ask because I wouldn't expect a religious organisation to include 'the origins of humanism' amongst any teaching materials they were providing. It looks as if there is far more text in this document than in the one entitled 'What is humanism?'. (I'm also surprised to see that the latter only includes one page on humanist morals and ethics.)

:puzzled:

Noggin
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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch - Edinburgh 26 April

#3 Post by Noggin » April 27th, 2008, 12:00 pm

Same question but about the 9 page document covering the Big Bang, abiogenesis and evolution. These are science subjects so why are they in a document entitled 'humanism for secondary schools'? I'll try to find some time to read through these documents today but a quick skim has revealed numerous typos already, as I have come to expect from HSS publications. On the HSS website there is a pdf file to a leaflet called 'Humanism in Education', which bears the legend: Christopher Bookmyre, novelist and playwrite [sic] and one of the pages in the new education materials has a big capitalised title: 'RIGHTS [SIC] OF PASSAGE'!

It's so embarrassing! :angry:
It is the still and silent sea that drowns a man. -- Old Norse Proverb

Maria Mac
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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch - Edinburgh 26 April

#4 Post by Maria Mac » April 27th, 2008, 1:08 pm

OK, if you want to talk about this stuff I guess that now the launch is over I'll shift this to Education instead of the archive.

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Alan H
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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#5 Post by Alan H » April 27th, 2008, 9:22 pm

I've had a look at the HSS's new education resources and a few things need to be said about them.

Summary

1. Missed opportunities to properly explain Humanism and to explain the foundation of Humanist ethics.
2. Missed opportunities to distance Humanism from religion.
3. Overall, none of the materials really explains what Humanism is.
4. Too much space given over to explaining religion and science.
5. The materials are far from a ‘watertight’ case for Humanism and a poor reflection on the many thinking Humanists in Scotland.
6. No proper editorial control is evident and all that has been produced are disparate documents with no overall theme, poorly thought out and poorly executed. There obviously has been little overall control of the content and purpose of these documents.
7. Poor coherence between the various documents. There has been some attempt to make the documents have the same ‘look and feel’, but this has been poorly executed, with scant attention to detail that would have made them look professional.
8. Overall, amateurish, and I’m sure it will be seen as such by pupils and teachers who will be used to material of a far higher quality.
9. Poor typography and layout.
10. Poor attention to detail and lack of rigour.
11. Glaringly avoids any mention of homosexuality.
12. All documents are secured so teachers can’t copy text out of it (but this is easily overcome, so it just becomes an unnecessary annoyance, particularly when the licence (which you must agree to before gaining access to the material) allows you 'to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work' and 'to make derivative works').


Primary School Material

There are several non sequiturs:
Nature is natural and humans are part of nature. Nature works by itself without magic or help from another being. Therefore we have a responsibility to care for our planet and look after it for generations to come. (Page 4)
Just because we are part of nature and/or the fact that nature works by itself, it does not follow that we have to look after it, either for ourselves or for future generations. There may be other reasons to support the conclusion, but these are not given.
The Golden Rule is used in so many religions that it must be a very good rule. (Page 9)
This is an Argumentum ad Populum. There may be many good reasons why the Golden Rule is a good rule, but the fact that many religions ‘use’ it is not one of them.

On Death, it says:
Death
Humanists believe this is our only life and that we should therefore strive to live it to the fullest by setting high standards for ourselves and others. So when someone dies, Humainsts believe it is important to celebrate the life they have lived.
When leaves fall from the tree in autumn, they become compost for the soil and help new plants and trees grow. When a person dies, Humanists like to remember how they touched their lives and how their ideas and thoughts have influenced them. In this way, Humanists think that they leave behind a little bit of themselves which can influence generations to come.
A funeral ceremony allows family and friends to grieve the loss of a loved one and say their final farewells. (Page 15, my emphasis)
What’s the highlighted sentence doing there? It looks as if it should go on to say something about death being part of nature’s cycle, but it is just hanging there. Is this just bad editing?

Also, who are they saying their final farewells to? This could have been better phrased.

Topics covered

Believing different things (an introduction to Humanism); Big questions (introduction to philosophy); The Golden Rule; Living together (qualities to make good citizens); Celebrating Life (dealing with birth, marriage and death); Festivals and Traditions (celebrating diversity).

The last one is curious. It talks about Christmas festivals and the origins of Christmas, but doesn’t say anything about Christians hijacking Saturnalia and only briefly mentions where we get some of the ‘Christian’ traditions from.

The title of that section is sub-titled, ‘celebrating diversity’, but that’s not really what it deals with. It is more about celebrating festivals than celebrating diversity. It could have been about the variety of beliefs, cultures, colours, etc in the world but simply dealing with a few isolated festivals misses an opportunity. It misses the point that these festivals are simply a manifestation of people’s beliefs and does little to explain why they exist or what others’ beliefs mean to then nor why we should celebrate that diversity.

There then follows ‘The Christmas Tree Story’. The origins of ‘Christmas’ trees are perhaps interesting, but what’s this got to do with Humanism? It would be more at home in a lesson on Christianity.

What’s not covered

In the first Annex, it says ‘Recognise the difference between fact and opinion’. This is crucial to understand the difference between religion and Humanism, but there is nothing in the main documents about this.

There is also nothing about the limits of tolerance (in this or any of the other material), ie when we should stop allowing others to do what they want.

Summary

This document, although better than the others, misses several opportunities to positively promote Humanism. It should focus more on why Humanism is a valid ethical life-stance that is tolerant of others (within limits) and less on religion.


Secondary School Material
S1 – 3


This starts:
Religious Stances
There are three different religious stances, or viewpoints, that can be found in the world today.
1. The Theist is some one who believes that god exists.
2. The Agnostic is unsure if god exists.
3. The Atheist does not believe that god exists.
Humanism is part of the atheist stance, since Humanists do not believe in any god or gods. Humanism is therefore not a religion but rather a philosophy or “Life Stance”, a way of thinking and living. It is much more than just an atheist view of the world. It is very positive in its attitude to the world. (Page 3)
Why represent atheism or agnosticism as Religious Stances? It just gets the whole document off to a bad start and presents them as just other religious viewpoints, the same as many other religions. This could easily be presented to portray Humanism as something different (which it is) and positive. Even saying they are stances on religion would be better, but even here it starts from the wrong place. This is reinforced by the very first task: ‘To what religious stance does Humanism belong?’. The fifth question here asks: ‘Why do Humanists believe we should make life worthwhile?’, but this has only been briefly mentioned in the definition of Humanism and not expanded on at all.

The definition of Humanism (page 3) is very negative and could be written far more positively. The HSS don’t seem to be clear about the purpose of the documents and when it is appropriate to confront religion negatively and when it is far more appropriate to present Humanism in the very positive light that it is.

Under ‘The History of Humanism’, it says: ‘Humanism is much older than even the oldest religions in the world’. This is a very dubious claim. It might be argued that it is older than Christianity or Islam, but there have been religions for many thousands of years before Christianity was invented.

It also says that Humanists ‘prefer to base their beliefs on things that can be proved from science and not just on stories from the bible’, implying that some Humanist beliefs are based on bible stories.

Page 5 also says ‘Later philosophers like Galileo, Newton, Kant, Darwin, Freud, Einstein and scientists like Pierre and Marie Curie…’. So, Galileo, Newton, Darwin and Einstein were philosophers and not scientists?

It has not been explained what the different meanings of the word ‘belief’ are, so it is surprising that this word is used in the title ‘Humanist Beliefs’. Without such an explanation, Humanist beliefs are put on an equal footing to religious beliefs. This is unnecessary and a clearer vocabulary would have been more helpful to distinguish Humanism from religion. (In fact, there is no definition of ‘religion’ that could be used as a contrast.)
Humans have a personal responsibility to shape their own lives, society and the world in which they live. These should not be left to religion, astrology, fortune tellers and prophets to sort out. Each of us must play our own part in changing our world for the better and not leave it to others. This creates an open, democratic society where everyone is valued and where their opinions and efforts count. (Page 7)
The conclusion is a non sequitur. It does not follow that just because we should play our own part in changing the world that this will give us an open, democratic society where everyone is valued, etc. The latter might be a necessary condition for us to play our part, but it certainly does not follow from it.

Under Humanist Morals and Ethics, there is a section on the Golden Rule. Listed are some of the principles that Humanists would like to see. This is a very sparse and confined list and hardly representative of Humanist views. Also, ‘Legal voluntary euthanasia for adults’ and ‘The right to die with dignity when one chooses’ are repetitive and I’m not sure of the merit of mentioning these without some careful discussion about the whole subject — it is one that is a very large can of worms and needs to be handled carefully.

The UN Declaration on Human Rights is mentioned, but one of the questions posed in the Tasks is ‘What document do Humanists use to decide what is right or wrong?’ If the answer to this is supposed to be the UN Charter (there is no other document mentioned), then this is downright misleading. It may be a useful guide, but it can hardly be described as the ‘bible’ of Humanism. To do so opens Humanism up to all sorts of criticism about dogma.

The next section is titles ‘Humanist Rights [sic] of Passage’ (page 11)! Who on earth let that through?

There is a similar criticism here that is also in the Primary materials. While it may be argued that it is not appropriate to openly discuss homosexuality with Primary school children, there can be no excuse for not at least mentioning same-sex relationships with Secondary school students.

Under ‘Humanist policy on religious education’, there are statements about the difference between ’religious’ and ‘moral’ and between ‘idea’ and ‘fact’ (cf ‘opinion’ and ‘fact’ in Primary material), but these important differences are not amplified. This whole statement is devoid of explanation for the policy.

The last paragraph:
Humanists would like to see Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies being replaced with a module on Philosophy and Ethics. This should start at Primary school. In Secondary schools many moral and social issues are already studied in subjects like History, Modern Studies and PSHE.
The structure is a bit muddled (why no mention of RME?) and the final sentence leaves open the criticism that if many moral and social issues are already studied, why introduce something else?
The second Secondary section is on ‘The Origin of Religion’. Now, while it may be useful, as part of an explanation of Humanism’s origins, to explain how religions came to be, why are nine pages devoted to the origins of religion? Surely this space could have better put to developing some the Humanist ideas that have only so far been briefly mentioned?


Secondary School Material
S4 – 6


The negative title (Education without religion) gets this document off to a bad start also and, because it is aimed at S4 to S6, presumably it is meant for Higher RMPS. However, all it discusses is science and there is no mention at all of Humanism, which makes the title even more puzzling [---][/---] surely science is already taught with religion? What’s the purpose of providing material on science that almost certainly is covered in more detail and more professionally presented by others? Isn’t this supposed to be material on Humanism to ensure it is discussed and available to all school pupils?

It’s not worthwhile commenting on this because it has little to do with Humanism.


Overall Conclusion

A missed opportunity and one that could set back Humanism in schools by many years. It will make the HSS an organisation to be ridiculed in the staff room.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Ted Harvey
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Joined: September 10th, 2007, 4:41 pm

Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#6 Post by Ted Harvey » April 28th, 2008, 11:59 am

This 'missed opportunity' and the misguided inclusion of some material confirms again for me the fears I have before expressed about the HSS - the dysfunctional way it is operating, at least with respect to accountability, administration and good governance, means that it is becoming a potential threat or at least hinderance to the interests of all secularists in Scotland.

Noggin
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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#7 Post by Noggin » April 28th, 2008, 1:00 pm

Thank you for that very thorough critique, Alan. I ploughed through the documents yesterday and spotted many of the same problems and I agree with your conclusions.

I am none the wiser as to the exact purpose of these materials. Were they commissioned?

From the 'Humanism in Education' leaflet, it seems that these documents are simply to provide material on Humanism for those that want it and, given the liberal use of the Saltire-clad logo (which appears on every page!) it seems that they are intended only for use in Scotland. As a Scots woman who works in Primary Schools in England, I find the flag-waving inappropriate for educational materials.

But is there a place in any curriculum set aside specifically for the study of humanism? If not, what impact do they expect these materials to make and how and where will they be used? There is no clue. In any event, I very much hope that teachers will look at other sources rather than rely on these. I see very little that I would be prepared to use in my classroom.
It is the still and silent sea that drowns a man. -- Old Norse Proverb

Rags
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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#8 Post by Rags » April 28th, 2008, 8:30 pm

Greetings all. I followed a link to this discussion after posting my disagreement with some comments about the HSS educational materials on the not quite so friendly humanist blog and subsequently being accused by another poster by the name of Stuart Ritchie of 'trolling'. I hadn't realised that expressing disagreement on someone's blog amounted to 'trolling' and that the facility to comment must only used to agree and praise. I certainly won't bother posting there again but will respond to Ritchie's comments here.
Stuart Ritchie wrote: Your concern about the Golden Rule thing in the Primary material gets the point exactly backwards. The material is saying that religions use the Rule because it is good, not that it’s good because religions use it.
This is wishful thinking on Ritchie's part. The material does NOT say "the Golden Rule is used by religion because it is good". That may be what the writer wanted to say but it isn't what they said. The precise quote is "The Golden Rule is used in so many religions that it must be a very good rule." I mentioned this in the first place only because it was a particularly glaring example of the kind of sloppy writing that characterises the whole document.
What’s your problem with the Declaration of Human Rights section? After saying that most Humanists like to accept the Declaration as a good set of moral principles (which is, as far as I’m aware, true), it goes on to say that these rules came about through ‘reasonable discussion’ and that ‘people do not need to rely on god or religion for moral guidance’. Your objection?
I thought I'd made my objection clear but it seems I have to spell it out. On page 10 there is a question:

What document do Humanists use to decide what is right or wrong?

I expect the answer to this to be 'none' but, according to the HSS, the UN Declaration of Human Rights serves that purpose. So people don't need to turn to the bible for guidance - they've got this document instead. And that makes humanists different from religionists....how, exactly?

As an atheist, I don't need a bible, the Declaration or any other scripture to decide what is right and wrong. I use my own powers of reasoning and my capacity for human empathy.
Yeah, maybe there are a few spelling mistakes (’RIGHTS OF PASSAGE’ being my particular favourite). I agree that this is pretty poor, but it hardly means that ‘75% of the material is inappropriate’. In any case, it can be sorted before the material goes out to schools.
No, indeed, the fact that there are a few spelling mistakes doesn't mean that 75% of the material is inappropriate. The fact that the bulk of the material has nothing to do with humanism as a world view is what makes it inappropriate.
Maria, your forum includes a contributor crying about the fact the HSS logo is on each page of the Education material. Some people, to use a cliché, obviously have too much time on their hands.
This Ritchie guy clearly has a reading difficulty. I see no contributor on here 'crying about the HSS logo'. I see an opinion calmly expressed by a teacher on something that hadn't occurred to me, namely the inappropriateness of plastering the national flag all over educational materials but which, on reflection, I think is a good point.
What I saw at the Education launch event at Dynamic Earth (were you there?) was a bunch of enthusiastic, committed people who were excited about getting to share their philosophy with young people and reducing the poisonous influence religion currently has over many schools. Let’s support them - I hardly think that coming on here and gurning is doing humanism, or atheism for that matter, any favours.
OK. So we must give our unqualified support to those who produce sloppily written documents that focus far more on religion than on humanism and which, even then, don't describe humanism properly. However civil we are, we mustn't express disagreement because then people might mistake us for freethinkers instead of mindless morons who, underneath it all, aren't that different from religionists, right? Gotcha!
Can’t we all just… get along?
Of course we can but I respectfully suggest that accusing anyone who expresses an opinion that happens to differ from yours of 'trolling', 'gurning' or 'crying' is perhaps not the way to win friends and influence people. I expect adults to be to listen respectfully to each others points of view even if they disagree.

But then I'm not a member of the HSS.

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Alan H
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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#9 Post by Alan H » April 28th, 2008, 11:29 pm

Rags

:welcome: and thanks for your contribution to the discussion.
Rags wrote:the inappropriateness of plastering the national flag all over educational materials but which, on reflection, I think is a good point.
You might be interested in this discussion on Humanism and Nationalism.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Noggin
Posts: 497
Joined: July 4th, 2007, 11:48 am

Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#10 Post by Noggin » April 29th, 2008, 12:41 am

Stuart Ritchie wrote: Maria, your forum includes a contributor crying about the fact the HSS logo is on each page of the Education material. Some people, to use a cliché, obviously have too much time on their hands.
Image Oh no...they've got the HSS logo on every page!



Yes, being off work with an injury I probably do have too much time on my hands. But for the sake of accuracy, if I can just repeat what I actually said:
Noggin wrote: From the 'Humanism in Education' leaflet, it seems that these documents are simply to provide material on Humanism for those that want it and, given the liberal use of the Saltire-clad logo (which appears on every page!) it seems that they are intended only for use in Scotland. As a Scots woman who works in Primary Schools in England, I find the flag-waving inappropriate for educational materials.
Interesting that Mr Ritchie ignored all the more substantive points made by Alan and focussed on that one, only to misrepresent me. Perhaps he might be persuaded to register here and engage in a proper discussion? :shrug:
It is the still and silent sea that drowns a man. -- Old Norse Proverb

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grammar king
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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#11 Post by grammar king » April 29th, 2008, 12:58 am

Wow, refusing to reply in the actual discussion because of another commenter who isn't affiliated with the blog, that's rational.

What was taken issue with wasn't your disagreement (if you read around the blog you'll see there's been plenty of that in the past), it was that there wasn't anything but negative comments. You couldn't find anything positive to say at all about either the material or the rationale behind making it available.

I'm happy to discuss, but when all people seem prepared to do is sit on the sidelines hiding behind their monitors and slagging off people who are actually out there doing something, I get annoyed!

Rags
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Joined: April 28th, 2008, 6:25 pm

Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#12 Post by Rags » April 29th, 2008, 12:34 pm

grammar king wrote:Wow, refusing to reply in the actual discussion because of another commenter who isn't affiliated with the blog, that's rational.
I expect discussions to be conducted civilly and without putting people down. As the blog, for all its merits, doesn't appear to be such a location - nor is the blog software appropriate for detailed discussions anyway - I reserve the right to post somewhere that seems to meet my criteria.

What's irrational about that?
What was taken issue with wasn't your disagreement (if you read around the blog you'll see there's been plenty of that in the past), it was that there wasn't anything but negative comments. You couldn't find anything positive to say at all about either the material or the rationale behind making it available.
No I don't have anything positive to say about the material and I have no problem with people taking issue with me about this. Everyone is at perfect liberty to disagree. What I have a problem with is being accused of trolling. Stuart defines this as "offering negative comments for the sake of it". I do not offer negative comments "for the sake of it". I made specific criticisms in the hope that they would be listened to and taken on board or, alternatively, that somebody could persuade me that my criticisms are unfair.

As for the rationale about making it available - like others in this discussion - I don't know what that is.
I'm happy to discuss, but when all people seem prepared to do is sit on the sidelines hiding behind their monitors and slagging off people who are actually out there doing something, I get annoyed!
Well as I haven't slagged anyone off I'm not sure of the relevance of this comment to this discussion. You know nothing whatsoever about me and yet on the grounds that I have criticised the HSS educational materials you imply that I am hiding and am not actually doing anythings useful myself. That's rational.


I'll respond to your post on your blog separately.

Rags
Posts: 2
Joined: April 28th, 2008, 6:25 pm

Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#13 Post by Rags » April 29th, 2008, 1:35 pm

grammar king wrote:
Rags wrote:I’m not sure what your point is here. I said the content was patchy by which I meant that a few bits may be suitable for use but since the documents have been secured so that bits can’t be copied and pasted, what good is that to anyone?
My point is that although some of the wording etc may be a bit out, it’s not going to be quoted verbatim so it’s not as important as you’re making out. In my experience teachers read around the subject more than the material put in front of them by the National Curriculum. You said yourself, the copy and paste problem is easily solved.
I did not say the copy and paste problem is easily solved. How is it solved? I've no idea.

Yes, of course, teachers read around the subject but teachers are also used to having high quality materials that they can use directly and photocopy. The HSS materials are simply not of the standard I would want to see used in my children's school, or any school for that matter.
grammar king wrote:
Rags wrote:A stance about religion is not the same as a religious stance and if they want to be taken seriously, it behoves them to get it right. If you say you don’t believe God exists, would you call that a religious belief? Or would you say that you don’t have any religious beliefs?”
See above. It’s a linguistic error, not a factual one.
I have not said it is a factual error. The point is that it is an error - one of many different kinds of errors that appear throughout the material. Much as you and other defenders of the material are trying to make light of these errors and call them a few "niggles" or "spelling mistakes", looking at the material from the perspective of one who has high expectations of the education my children will receive and who'd had high hopes of this material in particular, it just won't do!
grammar king wrote:
grammar king wrote: And the quote about the Golden Rule, that was from the primary 1 material, you can’t expect them to go into such detail as to explaining why it’s good quite so early.
Rags wrote: “Did I say they should go into detail? My objection is to the statement that, because religions use it then it must be a good rule. It is not the fact that religions use it that make it a good rule. This is a fallacious argument and, I believe, a misrepresentation of the humanist position.”
How else do you explain to a 5 year old without going into detail? It’s evident that it’s good because many religions use it, they wouldn’t use it otherwise. Makes perfect sense to me.
Dear, oh dear!

And do you also think that fasting is a good idea because "many religions do it"? They wouldn't do it otherwise!

Come to that, many religions believe in a supernatural creator god. Does that make god-belief a good idea?

I realise I am going to sound patronising and I'm sorry about this but it's time to brush up on your critical thinking skills. You might start by looking up Argumentum ad populum.
grammar king wrote:
Rags wrote: “Really? Where did you get this idea that it’s a ’starting point’from? The HSS has presented these materials as the finished article. Sorry, but it sounds as if you are trying to defend the indefensible and on rather dubious grounds.”
From what was said at the launch. Bob McKay made it more than clear that we were at the start of a long journey.
He didn't present the materials as an unfinished draft though, did he? I'd find it very strange indeed if the HSS were to widely publicise the launch of the first draft of materials that they expect to be drastically rewritten. I would have expected them to make the first draft available to the membership only for feedback. I assume they did this?
grammar king wrote:
Rags wrote:
“Huh? Why do I need to ask myself that? I am already clear about the kind of education I want for my children and that is that they be taught about both religions and about non-religious philosophies in RME.”
So you’ve already asked yourself and answered yes. At the moment what you want isn’t taught. This is one solution that will enable it to be.
Well at the risk of repeating myself one more time, most of this material isn't what I want to see taught in RME. That is my reason for making my criticisms public. I've already mentioned the experience I had of trying to use the HSS website guestbook and of (actually my father-in-law) corresponding with the HSS Education Officer directly and don't want to waste any more of time in that direction.

Finally, I'm sorry to read that you found my comments on your blog 'overly aggressive' and I am at a loss as to understand why. I did not criticise you or anyone else personally, I did not use abusive language or indulge in any name-calling. My comments were simply criticising the materials that you were appearing to promote in your blog. If you prefer comments to be sugar-coated, perhaps you could post a notice to that effect?

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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#14 Post by Maria Mac » April 29th, 2008, 2:39 pm

Rags wrote: Finally, I'm sorry to read that you found my comments on your blog 'overly aggressive' and I am at a loss as to understand why. I did not criticise you or anyone else personally, I did not use abusive language or indulge in any name-calling. My comments were simply criticising the materials that you were appearing to promote in your blog. If you prefer comments to be sugar-coated, perhaps you could post a notice to that effect?
This is the classic problem with discussions that take place without the benefit of tone of voice, facial expression and body language. One person's plain speaking/robust discussion will be another person's aggression/trolling/gurning - especially if they arguing from opposing positions. In common with other fora all over the web - we've had people flounce off (or leave quietly) because they simply couldn't take the heat. Sometimes a bit of sugar-coating is helpful if you want discussion to remain good natured and productive. At the same time, it's important not to take things too personally and to try to rise above any comments you perceive as inappropriately personal or aggressive. The chances are that they weren't intended as such.

I haven't read the HSS educational materials though I trust Alan's judgment on them as someone who is passionate about the subject and has put many, many years into humanist and secularist campaigning on education in particular. One of the purposes of this forum is to allow people a place where they can air dissent and I only ask that people here behave civilly towards each other, although obviously even civility is subjective. Remember that at least the people here have the bottle to come and engage with each other and we don't ban people just for expressing a dissenting view.

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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#15 Post by grammar king » April 29th, 2008, 4:19 pm

Rags wrote:
grammar king wrote:
grammar king wrote: And the quote about the Golden Rule, that was from the primary 1 material, you can’t expect them to go into such detail as to explaining why it’s good quite so early.
Rags wrote: “Did I say they should go into detail? My objection is to the statement that, because religions use it then it must be a good rule. It is not the fact that religions use it that make it a good rule. This is a fallacious argument and, I believe, a misrepresentation of the humanist position.”
How else do you explain to a 5 year old without going into detail? It’s evident that it’s good because many religions use it, they wouldn’t use it otherwise. Makes perfect sense to me.
Dear, oh dear!

And do you also think that fasting is a good idea because "many religions do it"? They wouldn't do it otherwise!

Come to that, many religions believe in a supernatural creator god. Does that make god-belief a good idea?

I realise I am going to sound patronising and I'm sorry about this but it's time to brush up on your critical thinking skills. You might start by looking up Argumentum ad populum.
We're obviously not making ground on the rest of your post, and since I have to be at work in less than an hour, and I shouldn't be faffing around online at this time of year anyway, I'm going to concentrate on this part of your post. You've once again not replied to what I highlighted as the most important part of my response.

Anyway, although I agree with you that the golden rule isn't simply a good rule because many religions use it (and although I haven't mentioned it so far, that was one thing I pointed at in the launch and said I didn't agree with), I appreciate that it's very difficult to explain to a 5 year old why it's good without going into a hell of a lot of detail.

It's the same in lots of subjects, and it carries on right up through school. A verb is a doing word, according to an 11 year old. Actually that's not exactly true, but it'll do at that age. I would say the majority of what I learned in GCSE science classes wasn't actually true, and if I went on to do A Level I would have learned that. Such as the shells of electrons which are so fundamental to GCSE Chemistry, they actually don't exist! It's just a useful way of expressing it to someone in a way they can understand. You couldn't explain how electrons actually work, without having to go into much more detail than is necessary or desirable. In the same way, it's very difficult to explain why the golden rule is good to a 5 year old, without first doing the basic groundwork in other philosophical disciplines such as moral relativism.

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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#16 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » April 29th, 2008, 4:39 pm

grammar king wrote:Anyway, although I agree with you that the golden rule isn't simply a good rule because many religions use it ... I appreciate that it's very difficult to explain to a 5 year old why it's good without going into a hell of a lot of detail ... [and] without first doing the basic groundwork in other philosophical disciplines such as moral relativism.
Really? I'm very surprised. I was taught the golden rule by my parents when I was around that age, in the form "do as you would be done by", and I believe the justification for it was something along the lines of ... "people would get along with each other much better if we all behaved that way, and so everyone would be happier". Wouldn't something like that, with a few examples, perhaps, not be easier for a 5-year-old to digest, as well as more humanistic, and more honest?

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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#17 Post by Rags » April 29th, 2008, 6:02 pm

grammar king wrote:You've once again not replied to what I highlighted as the most important part of my response.
Well I'm very sorry about this. My tendency is to respond to things as I see as wrong and ignore things I agree with or don't think are important. I'm not sure which bit of your post you see as the most important but if you'd like to repeat whatever your main point is, I'd be happy to try and respond. I can be a bit thick sometimes and I thank you for your forebearance.
Anyway, although I agree with you that the golden rule isn't simply a good rule because many religions use it (and although I haven't mentioned it so far, that was one thing I pointed at in the launch and said I didn't agree with), I appreciate that it's very difficult to explain to a 5 year old why it's good without going into a hell of a lot of detail.

It's the same in lots of subjects, and it carries on right up through school. A verb is a doing word, according to an 11 year old. Actually that's not exactly true, but it'll do at that age. I would say the majority of what I learned in GCSE science classes wasn't actually true, and if I went on to do A Level I would have learned that. Such as the shells of electrons which are so fundamental to GCSE Chemistry, they actually don't exist! It's just a useful way of expressing it to someone in a way they can understand. You couldn't explain how electrons actually work, without having to go into much more detail than is necessary or desirable. In the same way, it's very difficult to explain why the golden rule is good to a 5 year old, without first doing the basic groundwork in other philosophical disciplines such as moral relativism.
I think Emma has answered this very adequately. The Golden Rule is easily understandable by five year olds - though in fact this material is intended for children aged between 7 and 12. My only point in raising this particular howler in the first place (and I see Alan H has made the same point) is that it is a fallacious argument and if humanists want to be taken seriously they should not use fallacious arguments in educational material.

The removal of that one sentence would make the rest of the information on the Golden Rule acceptable though it could be improved if it stated clearly that the Golden Rule is important to humanism because at the moment, it does no such thing. What we have is a document with one isolated page (9) which starts by saying the Golden Rule is good because religions use it, continues by giving a few different versions of it and ends with a very nice wee task. But what does it have to do with humanism? Readers are not told.

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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#18 Post by DougS » April 29th, 2008, 6:58 pm

Aha - someone who was actually at the launch! Do you know, grammarking, the answers to the questions posed by Noggin and myself about why they have produced material on the origins of religion as well as the scientific stuff about the origin of the universe?

I've just read through the Primary School document and I think there is a lot in it that is very good - I'm a Primary School teacher and I already give my pupils tasks similar to those in this document as do all of my colleagues. However, I agree with all the criticisms made about the standard of the material and would add a few of my own. For example, on page 11 it states, "You will always have friends if you learn to listen to people." Nobody has the authority to say to a child "you will always have friends....." and with a bit of thought this could have been rephrased to make the same point but more honestly. "People often appreciate having someone who is prepared to listen to them...."

What I'm not clear about is what is the precise purpose of this material. I had originally assumed that it was to teach all children about humanism alongside other beliefs and to be used with children of all religions and none. Now that I've read it, I'm wondering whether it is in fact intended as an alternative to Religious Instruction. Just as I'm opposed to any kind of RI taking place in schools, I'm afraid I am also opposed to setting out to turn children into humanists.

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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#19 Post by Maria Mac » April 29th, 2008, 7:53 pm

Rags wrote: The removal of that one sentence would make the rest of the information on the Golden Rule acceptable though it could be improved if it stated clearly that the Golden Rule is important to humanism because at the moment, it does no such thing. What we have is a document with one isolated page (9) which starts by saying the Golden Rule is good because religions use it, continues by giving a few different versions of it and ends with a very nice wee task. But what does it have to do with humanism? Readers are not told.
Indeed. I've just checked the document and it does seem a bit odd. I had a look at the BHA website and it gives a 600-word explanation of the GR and why it is important to humanism here, which would probably do for secondary school students. For younger children, the last paragraph alone with only slight amendment would fit the bill, I should think:

"Implicitly, the golden rule requires kindness and care for the less fortunate, because this is what we would want in their situation, and it discourages lying, bullying and theft, for example, because no one wants to be lied to or bullied or to have their property stolen. It has the virtues of simplicity and clarity and works well in many situations."

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Re: HSS Education Strategy Launch

#20 Post by lewist » April 29th, 2008, 8:07 pm

DougS wrote:...I think there is a lot in it that is very good - I'm a Primary School teacher and I already give my pupils tasks similar to those in this document as do all of my colleagues. However, I agree with all the criticisms made about the standard of the material...
I agree that there are a lot of good ideas in the material. As another primary teacher and having written material for primary schools, my first thought was that I would have to rewrite a lot of this material before giving it to children. Teachers appreciate having tasks that children can get on with and these need teased out into activities suitable for children. It's a bit of a pain that the cursor and copy/paste have been disabled when the *.pdf files were made but not to worry.
Just as I'm opposed to any kind of RI taking place in schools, I'm afraid I am also opposed to setting out to turn children into humanists.
The present situation in Scotland's schools is that RME is taught and our perspective has to be there. It's not about turning children into humanists but letting them know there is a good and moral alternative to religion.

I missed the launch on Saturday but I am going to the training day this coming Sunday and will take it as it comes. Much good could come of it. We'll see.
Carpe diem. Savour every moment.

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