The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
9 Points

Ethics classes are a good alternative to Special Religious education in Primary Schools.

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/23/2010 Category: Education
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,642 times Debate No: 13755
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (3)




For the purposes of this debate my opponent should have some knowledge of the concept of ethics classes as an alternative to Religious education in Public Primary Schools.

I feel it is pertinent to note that I exited the Primary School system about six years ago, am currently in year 12 and have rejected religious world views. I experienced 'Special Religious Education' as a catholic at my Public Primary school.

For this debate 'Ethics Classes' are defined as: Secular classes in which a qualified instructor leads children in a structured discussion about the question 'what ought I to do?' in varying situations.

I expect the definitions not to be a contentious element of this discussion.

My arguments will center around the the simple fact of a modern, secular societies' requirement for a modern, secular form of ethics. I fully accept the right of parents to have their children educated in Religious traditions, but contend that those same rights should extend to parents who don't have a religious world view.

My arguments will be further expanded when I know that I have an opponent, I look forward to round two and thank my opponent in advance


I would like to thank my opponent for this interesting debate and alternative.

I accept my opponent's definitions Ethics Classes. For Religious Education, however, I would like to define it as any class that teaches varying religions. Although this seems redundant, I feel as if it is necessary to note the difference between a class designed to teach morals and a class designed to teach religion rather than the morals of a religion.

Again, I thank my opponent for this debate and I look forward to his first argument.
Debate Round No. 1


I would contest my opponents definition of religious classes, in the context to which I am referring 'Special Religious Education' refers to the concept of parents electing a religion for their child to be instructed in.

However I am willing to accept some of his definition for the purposes of this debate, as I fancy he has not undertaken it in the context I initially intended (The NSW, Australia Primary education system) and feel this would broaden the debate, making it more acceptable to other readers of the site. However I would move that the word morals still be included in the debate, for the purposes of giving equal opportunity and not simply turning this into a silly debate about the definition of 'Special Religious Education'.

I would therefore seek that the definition of 'Special Religious Education' be this- A class in which children are instructed in varying religious ways of thinking (including the morals of those traditions), with the intention broadening their understanding of our social fabric.

I feel this definition leaves both sides ample opportunity to make their arguments in a fair way, while not excluding the other sides obvious intentions. My opponent will of course have an opportunity to critique this interpretation though I would say I have been more than generous in my allowances made the interests of vibrant debate.

Now onto my argument.

In order to properly address this proposition we must first question, in ourselves, what society we wish to live in. The obvious answer, to me and (I would assume) to my opponent is a free and secular society, in which the church and state are separate institutions. This has been the cornerstone of more than two centuries work towards a truly free society.

In order for this society to exist, we must have a population that is educated and informed in a form of discerning 'morality'. Some will derive this morality from religious tradition, and good luck to them. However many wish to move to another form, personal reflection. However there are currently no opportunities available beyond home life for children to begin to develop this thought.

Just as parents may want to send their children to be educated in the fundamentals of Islam or Buddhism they should also be given the opportunity to have the children educated in their own(the childs) concept of morality and how that functions. One of the best places to do this is a professionally facilitated course amongst their peer group. These courses allow youths to explore the practical application of their own values in a safe environment with the immediate facility to be able to question their own reasoning and motivation for their proposed actions, which will help in their growth as human beings. Trials in NSW have shown an overwhelmingly good response to the classes1.

Isn't that what education is supposed to be about, growing people into effective citizens and contributors, both economically and philosophically to society?

So, that is the virtue of ethics classes. However that is not the only element of debate I must now satisfy you that these things I have outlined make them a good alternative to religious education. I would refer you to the word 'Alternative' that is the key word in the topic, I am not speaking of a replacement, children should still have some form of education in the way religions examine the world. But families should have the right to chose just how much of this they receive and whether their time would be better spent engaging in an examination of their OWN concept of the world, rather than someone elses'. I would contend that it is this opportunity to examine ones' own world view that makes ethics classes an extremely valuable alternative to Special Religious Education.

I will leave my argument their for now, I look forward to my opponents rebuttal and once again thank them for accepting the debate.



I would like to thank my opponent for clarifying the origin of this debate and reasonable definition for Special Religious Education. However, I still adhere to the fact that a Special Religious class would focus more on teaching the basis and beliefs on the religion, rather then being taught the morals for real life application. Simply put, if a class were to focus on radical Muslims in the Middle East, we can all reasonably assume that the teacher would avoid encouraging students to pursue certain morals.

There are two contentions I would like to present today.

1. Special Religion Education is a pivotal part of learning.
2. Ethics classes have inherent problems that outweigh Special Religion Education.

Contention 1: Special Religion Education is a pivotal part of learning.

First, I'd like to bring up an assertion my opponent made. He states that we, as a society, want to move in a direction that is free and secular. The definition of secular (of or relating to the worldly or temporal ((1)) ), is summarized as "separate from religion." The society particularly want to be separate from religion? The answer is no. Only 16% of the world is non-religious, and even half of those people are "theistic" and just non-religious. (2)

This brings me to the core part of my first contention.

Not even looking at the moral argument, we can see the importance of Special Religious Education just by the percentage of the world that is religious. My opponent states that children must be able to grow "morally", but I'd also like to bring up the point that they must grow "academically' as well.

Take this scenario into account. You have a choice between two classes: An Ethics class where you would only learn ethics which you should already be familiar with just through everyday life, or a Special Religious class where you learn about something that directly concerns 84% of the world population.

But that's under the assumption that a Special Religious class would not teach morals at all. Even though I brought up in my opening statement that certain religious morals are obviously dangerous and wrong, many major religions in the world teach peace and good morals. Classes that focus on Buddhism, for example, would include the moral effects of Karma, teaching an obvious lesson of your good outweighing your bad. Take the Bible. Can you tell me where the Ten Commandments are morally wrong? The point is, we can obviously see that Special Religious Education not only teaches students about one of the biggest facts in the world (that religion is everywhere), but it also goes in-depth with morals of various cultures.

Of course, my opponent also brought up the fact that students should also be able to come up with their own views. I absolutely agree. So what exactly is wrong with doing that in an un-bias multi-religion setting? Learning about other religions is a way for students to bolster their own beliefs and also form new ones. An ethics class may offer insight to students with just a moral standpoint for varying situations, but a Special Religious class would have the same effect while also teaching other standpoints and appropriate responses to them. (Something all debaters should also learn. Taking both sides of an argument.)

Contention 2: Ethics classes have inherent problems that outweigh Special Religion Education.

As I've proved above, Special Religion Education offers all that Ethics classes do, but with added benefits. That's 1 for SRE and 0 for EC. But what if there was something that made Ethics classes a -1?

One of the biggest problems with an ethics class is the question of "who decided what's right and wrong." An old lady falls on the sidewalk. Easy answer. You help her up. But what about when your best friend steals medicine to help his dying mother. Do you turn him in?

If students are taught what the "right" answer is, then where is the student's ability to develop their own beliefs like my opponent mentioned? What if a student disagrees with a teacher? An even worse scenario is a teacher who doesn't agree with the curriculum given.

Who ultimately comes up with the curriculum for an Ethics class? A Special Religion class is bound to specific religions that wouldn't stray to one side or another.

The American public school system already has problems and complaints about the school system leaning towards liberal rather then conservative. If you were to produce an Ethics class, the person making the curriculum would ultimately decide what gets taught to students, making the political divide even larger.

In summary, with one person, or even a committee, making a curriculum, you are assured to have problems with personal bias.

I will conclude my argument here and await my opponents response.


Debate Round No. 2


In order to conduct my final statement, I would like to refute several basic assertions the con has made

Firstly, that ethics classes will lead children into a single set of morals, governed by their teacher. Here he is showing a miss-understanding of the concept of ethics class, and the definition to which he agreed. Ethics classes are discussion based class. The instructor has very little input into the responses of the children, rather they merely question the children's motivation, without being prejudiced one way or another. They allow children to explore their own decision making, without the instructors own being imposed upon it. I would also like to point out that all the risks he delineated about ethics, teachers disagreeing with curriculum and prejudicing students, are possible in Special Religious education as well, with teachers having the opportunity to highlight negative aspects of certain religions, to preference others.

Secondly that we are not moving towards a more secular society. This obviously depends on the society in which you live, certainly in my country(Australia) there has been a marked decline in religious following over the past 30 years1 and Europe is very rapidly becoming a highly secularized society. However I believe that I also emphasized that I was terming secularism in terms of the law and government. I would also question the validity of his source, is likely to be biased towards Religious traditions.

Thirdly he argues that 'Special Religious Education' offers everything that Ethics classes do. Religious Education is being instructed in the varying models of morals employed by traditions, there is no element in that definition of exploring a child's personal response to those morals. This is what is offered by ethics classes and why they are such good alternative.

Finally I will address his academic point. Most of what my opponent has spoken about makes perfect sense, children should be educated in Religious studies, however I would contend that Primary school isn't the place to be doing this, high school is the place for the academic study of religion, where as ethics classes would provide a solid base to allow children to respect all ways of deriving meaning.

I'll leave it there for this debate, thanks to my opponent for the deb and I look forward to reading his final argument.
1: ABS


For my closing argument, I would like to answer my opponents assertions to my assertions.

"For this debate 'Ethics Classes' are defined as: Secular classes in which a qualified instructor leads children in a structured discussion about the question 'what ought I to do?' in varying situations."

My opponent claims that I've misunderstood the definition of a Ethics Class, yet if we look at the definition he gave and I agreed to, we can see all of the problems I've brought up about Ethics Classes are valid. Yes, there is a discussion amongst students, however, a teacher is still presiding over it, allowing for intervention. My opponent claims that a class would be untouched by the teacher, but what if the class is wrong about an issue? Say the class is filled with raging homophobics and they come to the conclusion you should shun them and humiliate them at every single turn? Is the teacher supposed to sit there and watch? Of course there's going to be teacher interaction, and that's where bias comes into play.

My opponents second point state's we are moving towards a secular society. Although this isn't really an important point in the first place, I'll respond. I have brought up a statistic that proves 84% of the world is religious. I did not prove whether that stat is moving up or down, because that's simply not the point. The point is that 84% of the world is religious, and children should be taught what the world believes in at a safe environment, not urged to pick one.

On a side note, my opponent challenged the validity of my statistic. However, all that he's done is tried to cast doubt. If you check the link, you can see a comprehensive study on major religions that has several cited sources to validate it. It's not bias as my opponent states. I'd also like to bring up that my opponent failed to bring up a counter-statistic to the 84% religion stat. We can see several reasons why my opponent is simply wrong.

It's true that I've stated that Special Religious Classes offer everything Ethics Classes do. It's true, and they also teach more. When studying a religion, the religion's morals are brought into question. Insightful discussion on the matter can be instigated. Are Christians right with their moral code? Should we follow the Hindu's moral code? We can teach students to look at religious morals, which I've proved concerns 84% of the world.

Lastly, my opponent states that Special Religious Education is my fit for high school. I would actually contend that it's fit for both. There is no reason to not offer basic Special Religious Education to primary school students. My opponent simply asserted that it was fit just for high school. Which is better? An primary school student being taught what's around him, or a high school student being taught what's around him? We can see that both are good.

My opponent has stated that this debate concerns if Ethics Classes should be considered for an "alternative." I've proved multiple times the merits of Special Religious Education and the flaws of Ethics Classed. My opponent stated that bias also affected Special Religious Education. Can a teacher teaching math really show any bias in her set curriculum teaching already know facts? The same applies for Special Religious Education.

Are Ethics Classes a valid alternative? No. If you child had the choice between Calculus and Gym class, you would urge him to take up Calculus. Calculus is rarely used. One class is obviously more important. Special Religious Education teach students valuable lessons that Ethics Classes simply do not. Are ethics classes good by nature and goal? Of course. Yet we must ask ourselves what is more important. Special Religious Education is just as important as core academic classes. It's like offering sports against math. Both are a good thing, yet one prepares you more for the world.

I'd like to thank my opponent for this interesting debate, and I'd like to thank the reader for following. For the reasons stated above, I urge a Con vote.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by darkkermit 7 years ago
If you are con, must you argue for special religious education, or can you should go against ethics classes in general
Posted by Zealotical 7 years ago
Interesting topic, I would take this if you were con instead of pro in this debate.
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