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The stunning success of school chaplain programs — but that was then

Crikey readers talk school chaplains, the new Tories running the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and law schools online.

The changing role of school chaplains

David Edmunds writes: Re. “The school chaplain and the poisoned cake” (yesterday). In the early 1990s the government school I was working at in Canberra received from a churches peak body, an offer of a part-time chaplain, out of the blue.  This was a trial project. The senior staff at the school discussed the issue, and decided to give it a go.  As an atheist, I voted for the proposal, on the grounds that it would give our student support team a bit more diversity, and the belief that the default position of any school should be to accept community support.

The placement was stunningly successful. The succession of people we had, chosen by us from a panel suggested by the employing body, were kind, supportive and did add that little bit of diversity. They worked as part of our student support team. None of then proselytised. They ran an ISCF group from their office on one lunchtime per week. This activity was common to all of the schools I worked in, whether or not there was a chaplain. For the remainder of their time they simply provided students in trouble with gentle sympathy and support.

However, times have moved on. Instead of people who simply want to live the precepts of their faith, Marion Maddox in her recent book reports on the infiltration of the sort of people that Jane Caro described in her piece yesterday, and who have no intention of adhering honestly to the conditions to which they agreed. That is, the conviction that they need to assemble souls preempts all other concerns, and their faith convinces them that they can do no wrong. But they can and do.

The introduction of government funding adds to the destruction of the system. If $250 million is available, this is not the No.1 priority.

When funding is provided by the community, it is the choice of those providing support as to how they might make that support available to schools. We would not knock back a football coach who offered his services on the grounds that our priority was a physics teacher. We take what the community chooses to offer in the way of support, and are grateful for that support, but it is the choice of the school. Any school that includes the sort of narrow fundamentalism that Jane Caro describes is harming its students and that offer should be rejected.

I finished working in schools in 2004, but there is no way I would be so eager to be part of this scheme with its high-profile evangelical intrusion, and some 18th-century agenda being run by the government on taxpayers’ money.

Country for old men

Frank Bongiorno writes: Re. “Tory takeover of Abbott’s $600,000 literary prize” (yesterday). Much more needs to be made of the age of this panel (my possibly conservative calculation this morning had it at one year less than you: just over 76). It’s certainly a novel way of avoiding the baby boomer domination.

As it happens, I think that most of the Australian history/non-fiction panel members are individually distinguished in those fields — I especially admire Coleman and Moyal — but with the youngest member turning 66 this year, there are issues of representativeness and perspective here, as there would be if we were having a bunch of 20- and 30-somethings inflicted on us.  This is surely as important as the issue of political leanings, even allowing for the problems that Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog raises. (Never mind Henry Reynolds.  How will Mike Carlton go?)

Unis with their heads in the sand

Kim Hudson writes: Re. “The bedroom law graduate” (yesterday). The Group of Eight universities aren’t doing this type of market research because they know their expensive business model is being swept away elsewhere in the world and they have their heads in the sand hoping they can keep an idiot like Abbott in power long enough to gouge some super profits. Take a look at this Slate article. It’s only a question of time before someone here does the same.

Womens Agenda

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