Like so much going on schools these days, very little is what it seems. The Minister of Education Chris Hipkins believes in a secular education. He does not believe that schools should have religious instruction; by that he means "Bible in schools".
At the very least, the minister is confused because religion will not disappear from schools even if he manages to abolish the Bible and its stories. The religion of autonomous self-realisation will simply replace it. A secular education is neither morally nor philosophically neutral.
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Secularism has no inbuilt resistance to totalitarianism because it is its own judge and it can supply no good reason for humility. The presumption of secularism's authority is a consequence of its own hubris.
Two hundred years ago, J S Mill in chapter 5 of On Liberty had this to say, among other things, on education: "A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the dominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation, in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body."
An unexamined secular education is an even greater threat to young minds than the Bible because it feigns the gratuitous authority of neutrality. What's more it thinks that authority to be a good thing. Without the alleged overarching "tyranny" of biblical declaration of human dignity pupils will be free to reach their "full potential" although just what full potential might mean we are not told.
The nature of the authority assumed over the minds and bodies of children by contemporary State education is evident in a number of ways. It might be the politicisation of teaching English literature in the context of women's rights, pacifism, sexual identity and most recently transgenderism. Chronological snobbery, a consequence of having no belief in transcendent or permanent truth encourages constant revisionism in the teaching of history.
GK Chesterton got it right when he said, "When man ceases to worship God he does not worship nothing, he worships anything" Chesterton might have added, "especially himself".
The issue spins around what it means to be human. The Bible teaches us that we have been created male and female in God's image. Maleness and femaleness possess a dignity given to us by God. It is this belief in God-given dignity that gave to Western civilisation the liberating realisation that human beings are in possession of the way to freedom. And the appropriate response to that is gratitude not the overarching hubris of self-realisation.
Neither Hipkins nor his co-belligerents have made any new discoveries about what it means to be human or the nature of freedom. Freedom to choose is certainly intrinsic to our humanity but that freedom involves, at the very least, we choose the best over the good, but most significantly right over wrong.
According to secular doctrine the individual human being is alone in the world. Dignity is discovered in the right to make any autonomous decision because that's what it means to be human. Self-realisation is the epitome of humanness.
It is not possible to have sinners anymore, only victims. The biblical narrative of the sinner seeking forgiveness and redemption is replaced by the victim forever seeking refuge in human rights. The capacity for evil does not lie in the heart of man or woman. The mystery of both good and evil can be solved by a secularised and dechristianising education. Prometheus is the hero not Jesus Christ.
So we have two conflicting religions with radically different ideas of freedom. Biblical Christianity teaches that freedom is the gift of submission to a redeeming God who reconciles human beings to themselves.
The religion of self-realisation teaches freedom is found in self-realisation. Socially constructed identity is all.
So we should not be surprised that contemporary education would teach its students to believe a fantasy; that they can make the world what they would like it to be. The authority of desire is nothing other than the individual ego. Even the ancient Greeks knew that.
The obvious irony should cause us to take pause. The dignity given to us by our Creator and our understanding of equality is presumed all the while rejecting that same Creator's authority and provision. The fantasy is a parasite sucking the juice of life from its host.
The only identity that cannot speak its name is the one that holds up the roof from which all the others shout.
• Bruce Logan is a former teacher and retired director of the Maxim Institute.