This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Am I over-reacting?

Am I over-reacting? - Comments

godzillatemple's Avatar Comment 1 by godzillatemple

No, you are not overreacting in the slightest (assuming, of course, that the Primary School in question is not a private church-run school in the first place, in which case I'd say this sort of thing should have been expected).

Thu, 10 May 2012 16:19:01 UTC | #940874

nurnord's Avatar Comment 2 by nurnord

Hello PDW709 (that really rolls off the tongue !)....

I am going to pass this article to the British Humanist Association (BHA) via their website. Richard is one of their vice presidents also. This matter is very much the sort of thing they get involved in. I would love to hear their feedback and opinion after scrutinising your case...

Thu, 10 May 2012 16:19:53 UTC | #940875

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 3 by Bobwundaye

My main gripe with the school is the lack of communication, as we had no fore-knowledge of what would happen. We even attended an evening lecture designed to communicate what the children should expect on the trip which included a list of the activities they would be doing. Unfortunately they omitted any reference to the Christian side of the organisation and certainly did not mention any such “Time Out” activities.

Although it is difficult to communicate everything that happens on a camp, camps are generally well organised and programmed and parents should be provided with an itinerary of events. If the school didn't do that, or deliberately omitted telling you about the religious aspect of the camp, then I think you have a legitimate cause for concern. You might have slightly less of a case if the school did give you access to information to Abernethy Trust, and also if your kids attend a religious school (which I'm not sure they do) because then you can expect some sort of devotional time. Anyways, if you feel like the school really misled you, then you should complain.

As for worrying about your kid, 7 days of "Time Out" doesn't make one weak ;)

Thu, 10 May 2012 16:27:24 UTC | #940877

Wiwaxia's Avatar Comment 4 by Wiwaxia

No, you are not over reacting. You were not informed of the nature of this organisation. You should have been.

What on earth did your son's primary school think that it was doing? I think that the Head/ leadership team have made a considerable mistake here. Were there any children of other religions on the trip? How do their parents feel about this, I wonder?

Thu, 10 May 2012 16:28:40 UTC | #940879

nurnord's Avatar Comment 5 by nurnord

Ok, I submitted the details to the BHA, hopefully they will get back to me...

Thu, 10 May 2012 16:32:14 UTC | #940881

Klaasjansch's Avatar Comment 6 by Klaasjansch

I don't think you're over reacting. Actually you're seeking advice which is quite the opposite.

To me it's obvious the Abernethy Trust was unsure if people would have sent their children on this particular school trip if they had been properly informed. It's better to apologize later then to beg for permission first is a statement I have heard in similar cases. I don't agree with that statement. I was ones duped into attending a musical event which kicked off by a rock band playing among other things some Lenny Kravits covers. After a while though the songs became less familiar and before I knew it the singer was holding up her finger and singing about Him.. I wonder why these people always have to trick people into joining their gang. Perhaps they are not as sure about their own religious beliefs as they want themselves to be.

Thu, 10 May 2012 17:43:56 UTC | #940901

Nordic11's Avatar Comment 7 by Nordic11

The camp should have given you a schedule of events.

Why not ask if your son can be exempt from the activity?

Thu, 10 May 2012 18:40:11 UTC | #940910

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 8 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

No, you are definitely not over-reacting and should make a formal complaint.

You had no reason to suspect that your son might be preached at and you have every right to protect your son from any attempt at religious indoctrination.

The school makes you aware that they have general religious assemblies in school and you allow you son to attend these. But that does not give them carte-blanche to send him to additional and more evangelical religious meetings run by other parties and without your knowledge or consent.

Thu, 10 May 2012 19:17:27 UTC | #940917

baldy's Avatar Comment 9 by baldy

No, I don't think you are over reacting. Religious folk are often so steeped in their religiosity that they think their world view is the norm. I'm almost willing to believe that the school involved didn't think the religous aspect of the camp was worth mentioning. That is precisely why you should raise your concerns. I had a similar dilema myself when I was in hospital and came round from the anaesthetic to find a bible on my bedside locker.Should I complain or would I be making a fuss about nothing? On balance I decided I ought to challenge the assumption that the default position is Christianity. If I didn't I was effectively endorsing that view.

Thu, 10 May 2012 20:03:56 UTC | #940926

Runicmadhamster's Avatar Comment 10 by Runicmadhamster

No i dont think you are over reacting, the school should have told you about the these "Time out" sessions. However there is a vague possibility that the school didn't know about the "Time out" sessions either, it would explain why they never brought up these sessions during the meeting you attended.

Thu, 10 May 2012 20:50:50 UTC | #940929

mmurray's Avatar Comment 11 by mmurray

http://www.abernethy.org.uk/

For over forty years, our four Christian Adventure Centres in Scotland have been providing a huge range of options to all kinds of people, from schools and colleges through to churches, youth groups, families and individuals.

Abernethy is a Christian run organisation - what does that mean?
Abernethy was set up to provide people of all ages with the opportunity to experience the beauty and challenge of the outdoors within a healthy Christian environment. Each member of staff is a committed Christian - we hope that our beliefs will be reflected in the way that you and your group are cared for during your stay. The "Time Out" session each evening explores the relevance of the Christian faith today and is presented in a fun, informal way. LEARN MORE

You have to dig a bit to the FAQ's to find that second quote. But the School certainly should have done that.

Nothing about police checks on staff that I can see. People I don't know having 24 hour access to my kids would worry me as much as the religion. But like you I would be assuming the School had checked all this when they recommended the centre.

By the way I don't think you are over reacting. I would be really annoyed if my kids school had pulled a stunt like this.

Michael

Thu, 10 May 2012 22:22:11 UTC | #940938

Emmeline's Avatar Comment 12 by Emmeline

No you aren't "over reacting".

Perhaps you could look again at the paperwork given to you about the trip and if that, coupled with the information you were given at the open evening, doesn't give explicit information about the Abernethy Trust and the planned "time out" sessions then the school has been dishonest (probably not intentionally) about the programme.

I've been a headteacher of a faith school (when I was a Christian) and used residential venues run by Christian organisations but I always made sure that all the activities were well known in advance. My residential trips were too full of other things to have had space for preaching but even if RE/preaching sessions had been on the itinerary, the parents would have known about it before the trip.

Re: your own child, I wouldn't make a big fuss about it after the event but it would be worth raising it with the school as something they should consider much more carefully for next year's residential trip.

Thu, 10 May 2012 22:25:27 UTC | #940939

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 13 by Alan4discussion

Comment 11 by mmurray

http://www.abernethy.org.uk/

Abernethy is a Christian run organisation - what does that mean? Abernethy was set up to provide people of all ages with the opportunity to experience the beauty and challenge of the outdoors within a healthy Christian environment. Each member of staff is a committed Christian - we hope that our beliefs will be reflected in the way that you and your group are cared for during your stay. The "Time Out" session each evening explores the relevance of the Christian faith today and is presented in a fun, informal way. LEARN MORE

I would have thought they would have done better, with some people with science qualifications to reflect on understanding and investigating the natural environment rather than using "awe and nature" as an evangelical prop for xtian proselytising!
There are also various sporting opportunities, but these don't need evangelism either. -

  • Relevance of the Christian faith today to these activities = zero!
  • Thu, 10 May 2012 22:37:30 UTC | #940942

    QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 14 by QuestioningKat

    Wait, I'm lost. This is obviously a UK school. Was it a public or private school? Were you able to choose allowing your child to go this trip, or not? Could you have chosen to keep your child from going on this trip? Were you given the name of Abernathy Trust prior to the trip? (I'm still having trouble figuring out why people in the UK mix religion with their schools??????)

    Sorry, IMO, religions do what religions do. I would expect prayers, Bible reading, and Christian indoctrination to occur because that is what they are and what they do. It's like going to a bar and expecting not to be served alcohol. Did they fully keep all Christian related information about this place from the parents?

    Just don't send your kid to religiously affiliated establishments! If this is a public school that required this trip or did not offer a secular option, then that is a bigger problem that needs to addressed. If they misrepresented themselves, in the US, their would be a lawsuit for misrepresentation and other violations.

    Thu, 10 May 2012 23:25:27 UTC | #940944

    mmurray's Avatar Comment 15 by mmurray

    Comment 14 by QuestioningKat :

    Wait, I'm lost. This is obviously a UK school. Was it a public or private school? Were you able to choose allowing your child to go this trip, or not? Could you have chosen to keep your child from going on this trip? Were you given the name of Abernathy Trust prior to the trip? (I'm still having trouble figuring out why people in the UK mix religion with their schools??????)

    Sorry, IMO, religions do what religions do. I would expect prayers, Bible reading, and Christian indoctrination to occur because that is what they are and what they do. It's like going to a bar and expecting not to be served alcohol. Did they fully keep all Christian related information about this place from the parents?

    Just don't send your kid to religiously affiliated establishments! If this is a public school that required this trip or did not offer a secular option, then that is a bigger problem that needs to addressed. If they misrepresented themselves, in the US, their would be a lawsuit for misrepresentation and other violations.

    The UK system is very complicated to an outsider (of which I am one). I did a bit of reading on wikipedia last time this came up. There are a lot of schools that were historically run by religious groups and still are. The UK does after all have a state religion: the Church of England. There are also a lot of new "faith" schools and academies being set up by religious groups. There is a summary here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith_school

    Notice that the notion of "public" and "private" doesn't really make sense in the UK with schools whose operating costs are provided by the government but the building and the school ethos are provided by the CofE.

    English education includes many schools linked to the Church of England, which controls governance and admittance while the funding comes from the state. At voluntary-aided schools, the Church pays for 10% of projects; at voluntary-controlled schools, the Church contributes only the building itself.[5] The Church sets the ethos of the schools and influences selection of pupils; at voluntary aided schools, usually half or more of the school's places are reserved for "actively involved" members of the Church determined by local clergy.[5]

    For an individual parent it often comes down to not having a real choice. Note also that no matter what school your kids go to the schools is required to provide them with a weekly "act of collective worship".

    Michael

    Fri, 11 May 2012 00:37:40 UTC | #940946

    jimbobjim's Avatar Comment 16 by jimbobjim

    Yes, you are overreacting (although I do think the school should have provided a lot moe information), I've been involved in schools in Scotland and have been involved with taking groups to Abernethy Outdoor Centre (and similar places).

    First, I think that UK law says that schools must provide a "collective act of worship", I don't see why, if it is the schools responsibility to do that, it should be shelved duringa school activity.

    Secondly, (state) schools in Scotland tend to link more with local faith groups than Englsih schools do. I worked for a church in Scotland and the school wanted me to meet the OFSTED inspectors to show the importance of the relationship. I now work for a church in England, schools do the opposite, they don't want OFSTED to know about any links with faith groups.

    Thirdly, all staff at Abernethy will be CRB checked (enhanced) and generally the group leaders (in this case the school staff) are usually the ones who look after the children outside of the amin activities.

    Fri, 11 May 2012 08:05:15 UTC | #940978

    jel's Avatar Comment 17 by jel

    @Comment15 by mmurray

    The UK system is very complicated to an outsider (of which I am one).

    I'm an insider and I still find it complicated :-)))

    I remember reading Billy Bunter books as a kid and getting confused about him being a "public school" boy when it was obvious to me that he went to a private school.

    Back on topic, no it's not an over reaction, you weren't informed and have a right to make a complaint. If the school is going to send pupils to an explicitly religious camp, that should be made clear, it should not be up to the parent to go delving into the background of every group that the school links to.

    Fri, 11 May 2012 08:27:26 UTC | #940986

    Sinister Weasel's Avatar Comment 18 by Sinister Weasel

    I would say you would be over reacting if you believed your son is going to be influenced, at some point he is going to have to deal with this kind of thing and think for himself. But I certainly wouldn't say that a formal complaint would be over the top, I find it dispicable how low religious communities will sink to try and target children and every example of 'sneaky preaching' must be challenged.

    Fri, 11 May 2012 09:07:09 UTC | #940991

    mmurray's Avatar Comment 19 by mmurray

    Comment 16 by jimbobjim :

    Yes, you are overreacting (although I do think the school should have provided a lot moe information), I've been involved in schools in Scotland and have been involved with taking groups to Abernethy Outdoor Centre (and similar places).

    Why do you think he is overreacting ?

    Thirdly, all staff at Abernethy will be CRB checked (enhanced) and generally the group leaders (in this case the school staff) are usually the ones who look after the children outside of the amin activities.

    Google tells me CRB = criminal records bureau check. In Australia call this is police check or police records check. They really should make this information more prominent on their web page.

    Michael

    Fri, 11 May 2012 09:17:15 UTC | #940992

    irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 20 by irate_atheist

    Not overreacting. These people need a boot up the arse.

    Fri, 11 May 2012 09:28:21 UTC | #940994

    alonthemed's Avatar Comment 21 by alonthemed

    I was CofE educated until the age of 11, which was relatively harmless in Britain in the late 70s. I remember distinctly that seeing the "CofE aided" sign outside the school every day made me question the religion that brushed past me from time to time, leading me to "come out" as an atheist at age 12. I also remember going on school/church organised visits which were much less "evangelical" and "committed christian" than they appear to be today, but more just how things were done at the time. I don't remember any happy-clappy woo... Regardless, I don't think you are overreacting and Nurnord's offer to pass this info to the BHA will hopefully bear some fruit. It is important that these encroachments on our liberty are taken seriously, and your post may encourage others who have similar issues to come forward and be counted.

    On another note, I now live in France and have 3 children going through the public school system here. Whilst no educational systems are perfect, the overwhelming emphasis on a secular education is refreshing and reassuring and it allows children to concentrate on learning, rather than having to swim against the undercurrent of bronze-age superstition.

    Al

    Fri, 11 May 2012 10:07:56 UTC | #940998

    Layla's Avatar Comment 22 by Layla

    I don't think you're over-reacting at all. I think everyone would see immediately that it is inappropriate to proselytise to children in this way, without the parents being forewarned, if the religion being preached was a different religion like Islam or Hinduism. But because it's familiar old Christianity it somehow manages to wiggle its way in and people are much less inclined to question its right to be doing that.

    Evangelical Christianity is more worrying to me than the usual C of E stuff. I think you'd be right to complain about the way this was done to the school. I don't approve of schools sending their children off to organisations which are going to try to indoctrinate them in the first place but if they're going to do that they should have at the very least been up front about the organisation.

    Fri, 11 May 2012 10:22:48 UTC | #941003

    nurnord's Avatar Comment 23 by nurnord

    UPDATE UPDATE

    I submitted this article to the British Humanist Association and they have replied with the following...

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Education is a matter that is devolved in Scotland, and so it's covered by the Humanist Society of Scotland, not the BHA.

    I've CCed in Clare Marsh, Education Officer at HSS, who I am sure will be keen to take a look.

    Best wishes,

    Richy Thompson

    Campaigns Officer (Faith Schools and Education), British Humanist Association

    1 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6HD | 020 7462 4993

    If I receive anything else back from this referral I will of course post it here...

    Fri, 11 May 2012 11:44:18 UTC | #941009

    Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 24 by Mr DArcy

    mmurray:

    For an individual parent it often comes down to not having a real choice. Note also that no matter what school your kids go to the schools is required to provide them with a weekly "act of collective worship".

    Almost true, but there are private schools that don't have religious worship. Whilst many Public (= private) schools like Eton and Harrow undoubtedly do force feed their pupls Christianity, they don't have to. There are private shools like Bedales, King Alfred School, Summerhill and others where religion is not foisted on the students. Quite how a school like Eton,which gets pupils of rich parents from all over the world, manages faiths other than CoE, I don't know. They surely wouldn't want to "offend" rich arabs, Indians, and all the rest of the fee paying community, now would they? The type of muslim kid going to Eton probably pays someone else to pray 5 times a day to Mecca on his behalf!

    From the information given in the OP, it seem to be a case of creeping Jesus, yet again. Sneak Him in when the kids aren't looking.

    Fri, 11 May 2012 12:25:13 UTC | #941015

    jimbobjim's Avatar Comment 25 by jimbobjim

    Comment 19 by mmurray :

    Comment 16 by jimbobjim :

    Yes, you are overreacting (although I do think the school should have provided a lot moe information), I've been involved in schools in Scotland and have been involved with taking groups to Abernethy Outdoor Centre (and similar places).

    Why do you think he is overreacting ?

    for the reasons given and that it is stadard practice/policy to have a daily act of worship - so they are not doing anything out of what the school are required to do on a daily basis. KNowing the centre, their "teaching" would fit with the ciriculum and I guess the question should be "was the school happy with what we being talk?" in terms of ciriculum. I think that if he is concerned, simply asking the school this question would be ok. We don't know, the teachers might have been unhappy and taken it up with the centre.

    Thirdly, all staff at Abernethy will be CRB checked (enhanced) and generally the group leaders (in this case the school staff) are usually the ones who look after the children outside of the amin activities.

    Google tells me CRB = criminal records bureau check. In Australia call this is police check or police records check. They really should make this information more prominent on their web page.

    It would be starndard practice in the UK and taken as a given - especially in Scotland. It was due to an incident in SCotland that youth organisations started to take this seriously. It is almost a legal requirement.

    Michael

    Fri, 11 May 2012 13:44:08 UTC | #941019

    mmurray's Avatar Comment 26 by mmurray

    Comment 25 by jimbobjim :

    Why do you think he is overreacting ?

    for the reasons given and that it is stadard practice/policy to have a daily act of worship - so they are not doing anything out of what the school are required to do on a daily basis. KNowing the centre, their "teaching" would fit with the ciriculum and I guess the question should be "was the school happy with what we being talk?" in terms of ciriculum. I think that if he is concerned, simply asking the school this question would be ok. We don't know, the teachers might have been unhappy and taken it up with the centre.

    I would have to leave it to the OP to comment on whether he felt the "Time Out" session at the centre was in anyway equivalent to the usual "daily act of worship" at his son's school. I don't have sufficient information to judge that.

    Michael

    Fri, 11 May 2012 13:58:35 UTC | #941020

    mmurray's Avatar Comment 27 by mmurray

    Comment 24 by Mr DArcy :

    mmurray:

    For an individual parent it often comes down to not having a real choice. Note also that no matter what school your kids go to the schools is required to provide them with a weekly "act of collective worship".

    Almost true, but there are private schools that don't have religious worship.

    Ah thanks. I didn't read far enough on the wikipedia page it seems. Independent schools are exempt.

    Michael

    Fri, 11 May 2012 14:00:12 UTC | #941021

    onlyrational's Avatar Comment 28 by onlyrational

    No you are not over reacting. We need this kind of indoctrination to be kicked out of our schools. My son was preached at for a day by a group called 'Damaris'. The head was surprised when I complained (we were not notified beforehand) but took my point and offered to try to find a humanist to come in to school - he failed. People from outside the UK are often shocked to find out how much religion (Christianity) we routinely administer to our children here.

    Fri, 11 May 2012 14:45:23 UTC | #941028

    Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 29 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

    Comment 16 by jimbobjim

    Yes, you are overreacting.....First, I think that UK law says that schools must provide a "collective act of worship", I don't see why, if it is the schools responsibility to do that, it should be shelved duringa school activity.

    There's a big difference between consenting to your child being allowed to attend a regular "collective act of worship" within the school, and consenting to a 3rd party to preach its particular dogma at your child.

    It is easy for a parent to establish the scope and content of a regular religious assembly in the school, and we know these can very often be just singing a few hymns. It is not so easy to establish the scope and content of the religious output from a 3rd party, and in this case it appears that the parents weren't even advised that the Abernethy Trust was a religious organisation, so they had no opportunity to object.

    Parents should be able to make informed decisions and it appears that they were denied that right in this case.

    Fri, 11 May 2012 15:09:13 UTC | #941030

    jimbobjim's Avatar Comment 30 by jimbobjim

    Comment 29 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee :

    Comment 16 by jimbobjim

    Yes, you are overreacting.....First, I think that UK law says that schools must provide a "collective act of worship", I don't see why, if it is the schools responsibility to do that, it should be shelved duringa school activity.

    There's a big difference between consenting to your child being allowed to attend a regular "collective act of worship" within the school, and consenting to a 3rd party to preach its particular dogma at your child.

    It is easy for a parent to establish the scope and content of a regular religious assembly in the school, and we know these can very often be just singing a few hymns. It is not so easy to establish the scope and content of the religious output from a 3rd party, and in this case it appears that the parents weren't even advised that the Abernethy Trust was a religious organisation, so they had no opportunity to object. Parents should be able to make informed decisions and it appears that they were denied that right in this case.

    So what did they teach the kids?

    Fri, 11 May 2012 15:39:20 UTC | #941034