Are Christian schools a risk to society? One university professor has argued that Christian schools teach values to students that go against the values of society.
Professor Marion Maddox, the director for research on social inclusion at Macquarie University in Australia, has argued that Christians schools not only fail to offer a full education but also push values that go against the secular values that parts of Australia choose to uphold. Those choice values, however have been largely refuted by the fact that attendance at private Christian schools has only increased in the past decade.
"Latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show almost 40 per cent of Australian secondary students attended private school," the Brisbane Times reported. "According to the ABS, the state's Catholic and non-Catholic independent schools accounted for 33 per cent of all full-time students in 2011, up from 29 per cent in 2001."
According to Maddox the increased acceptance of "Christianisation" in state schools is worrying.
"The fact that an increasing proportion of students are being educated in schools that determinedly disavow those values of inclusion and equality that we think of as Australian is a cause for concern," Maddox said last week before giving a lecture at the University of Queensland on the topic, according to the Brisbane Times.
Private school officials have argued that parents choose to send their children to private Christian universities because they support those values, so why then is increased attendance at Christian schools a concern?
"There are plenty of cases of teachers who have been sacked, or students who have been expelled because of their sexuality or sexual behaviour in ways that would be prohibited by law if they were state schools, and yet these schools take government money and cite religious freedom, and that's something we haven't really had a public debate about," Maddox argued.
One of the teachers that Maddox referred to as an example was an unwed, pregnant teacher who was dismissed from Sunshine Christian College in Australia after breaching a Christian "lifestyle agreement" which she had signed upon being hired.
"As a Christian College we require that all staff have, and demonstrate, a faith and lifestyle consistent with the Christian beliefs taught here," the school said in a statement. "These beliefs are set out in College policies and documents, including the agreement under which all staff are employed. This requirement is also made clear to staff prior to appointment."
Maddox also suggested that those same Christian values could result in a poor education. She stated that students who attend a private Christian school would be taught the Creation Theory, but charged that those schools would not teach students actual "scientific" terms. The professor questioned whether students would be "equipped with the scientific vocabulary to understand the debate about the environment," for example.
Christian schools also pose a threat because they challenge the law, according to Maddox, who suggested that Christian schools would "teach an unusual approach to citizenship, so that God's law is more important than the law."
However, Maddox also admitted that the values Christian private schools promoted included "how these schools will make the kids wear the uniform and make sure that everyone talks nicely and there's 'discipline.'"
Catholic Education Office spokesman John Phelan argued that students would receive more, not less education, than they would at a public school.
"Some people seem to think that Catholic schools do not teach particular components of the curriculum," Phelan said. "What we do is teach the current curriculum, but add to it by delivering the curriculum within an overarching environment of Christian values."