The Week Links: in which our blogger sees cousins!

I’ve been busy with family over the past couple of weeks–our Offspring have been on their school holidays (a two-week break) and also, my cousins, whom I’ve not seen for over a decade, came to visit. It was really great to see them, and meet their children (and introduce ours) and now our Offspring are sad because I told them that the cousins live on the other side of the country! Still, it was lovely to see them all getting along, and my cousins are as awesome as they ever were.

Now, on with the links!

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Dreaming (or not) of Electric Sheep.

While pottering about with a chapbook I’m writing at the moment, I’ve been watching a YouTuber play through SOMA. Well, the Handsome Sidekick has been watching it and I’ve been kind of looking up now and then to see what’s going on. For the some of you who might want to play the game, I’ll put the rest of this entry (and subsequent spoilers) behind a cut.

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Held to Account.

I recently went out with my dad to chop wood for our fire. We borrowed a ute from a friend and drove out to the farm of another friend, and loaded up the back of the ute with logs. While taking a break and eating our lunch, our conversation meandered through a number of topics, from Facebook to university to current affairs. One of the stories we discussed was the trial of Oskar Groening, the so-called ‘Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’, who was recently sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the concentration camp.

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The Week Links: in which our blogger is REALLY REALLY COLD.

Brrr! We’re having some lovely sunny days right now, but the flipside of that is that the nights are very chilly. And so are the mornings!

I missed last week’s links, for which I’m very sorry — we had to put one of our cats down on Saturday, and it was upsetting for everyone. There were also a lot of discussions about death, which was rather exhausting. So I took the time to hang out with the Handsome Sidekick and our Offspring.

Now I’m dragging my feet posting these links, because once I’m done, I’ll no longer have the excuse to stay in the loungeroom with the heater…

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An Intermittent Itinerary.

It’s been raining here on the south coast for the past few days. I love the rain and my Offspring have been jumping in puddles and getting wonderfully grubby. The downside is the house just will not stay clean. Currently, the Handsome Sidekick is vacuuming, after having changed the washers on two taps. Now that I’m done with the links, I can turn the water back on again and clean the bath while my Offspring tidy their rooms. I guess at least at the end of the day, we’ll have a clean and tidy house to enjoy. For a few hours.

Well, I’ll go and clean, while you enjoy the links…

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Creatures of Habit.

Yesterday, I took Molly out for our regular run, but instead of heading west down the hill when we left home, I led her in the opposite direction, which takes us up a slight incline, and then in and out of a few streets before we reach the bottom of a long slope (at which point I remember that I will have to run back up it to get home and think, why did I go this way again?). We were nearly at the bottom of the long slope when Molly began to pull at the lead.

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Short Break.

Greetings!

path: ethic is taking a break this week as I just finished the first draft of my novel on Friday and am completely wiped out.

However, all is not lost! Below are some links to some interesting or thought-provoking pieces from other people. I’m intending to have this as a regular feature, so stay tuned for more weekend updates.

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Nasty, Brutish and Short: Hobbesian Ethics and the Zombie Apocalypse.

I was 19 when I read Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes. Like most of my classmates, I was at first taken aback by the idea that people act out of self-interest, but I came to really appreciate the idea of that, and of social contracts and a strong leadership, which were the elements which saved us from the chaos of man in the state of nature. The state of nature, in which the life of man would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.’

My friends and I loved that description, ‘nasty, brutish, and short.’ We’d throw it into conversations and laugh the laugh of the philosophy geek.   Continue reading

Heaven is a Place on Earth.

Years ago, when the Handsome Sidekick and I were still child- and fancy-free, we lived in an inner city rental, where the roof leaked and the garden was in shade for about 7 months of the year. It was a trendy suburb with fairly mimimal rent (which may have had something to do with the leaking roof and the redundant clothesline) and after being there a few weeks, we adopted two cats: Sasha, and Indiana. The townhouse was on quite a busy road, so we were careful about letting the cats out—we waited until they were a few months old, and even then, brought them in before bed and didn’t let them out until morning.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

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Taking the Middle Ground in the Culture Wars.

It’s summer holidays here in Australia, and while my little cherubs alternate between frolicking in the sunshine and telling me how bored they are, a review of the nation’s school curriculum is taking place.

About five years ago, it was decided that we needed a national curriculum to ensure that all students in Australia were being introduced to the same core knowledge across several subjects. Now, the cynic in me would say that apparently we seem to need a new curriculum every few years, regardless of whether the current one is still working. The pragmatist in me would suggest that teachers will take what the curriculum says they should teach, and look at what they’ve always taught, and take into account what they know works and what new information has come to hand in their subject area, and combine the lot into something they can do without having to reinvent the wheel, while complying with the guidelines so that their students will pass the exams.

But I digress.

The curriculum was discussed, changes were made, and some of the new courses have already been implemented by some states. I should note here that this new national curriculum was introduced by the former government (Labor). That’s important, because since then we have a new government, and last week, the Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, announced that due to criticism of this new curriculum, there would be a review of it. You may remember the name Christopher Pyne, because I wrote about him a month or so ago, when I was trying to convince myself to be more open-minded about what he was saying. (I’m still having problems with that).

But it’s not Christopher Pyne who has been in the news this week as much as one of those whom he asked to review the curriculum, Kevin Donnelly. When Donnelly spoke to the media a few days ago about the sorts of changes he might suggest making to the curriculum, he argued that the curriculum as it stands, is too secular, and went on to say:

I would argue that the great religions of the world, whether it’s Islam, whether it’s Christianity, whether it’s Hinduism, Buddhism, they should be taught over the compulsory years of school.

Please know that I’m not being at all sarcastic when I say that I really like what Donnelly has to say here. Religion is a strong influence on culture the world over. We should expose our children to the thinking behind Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam. Introducing these religious ideas also promotes cross-cultural understanding; it highlights the way humans have developed myths to explain the world around them, and how we have created values to help us to live together in that world.

But then he went on to say that parliaments in Australia all begin with the Lord’s Prayer. That’s not really a very interesting fact, and how is it relevant to whether schools should teach religion? Should we model our education system on the parliamentary one? Based on the way some of our politicians behave, I think not. He also noted that the preamble of our Constitution is ‘about God’ and if we ‘look at Federation, for example–1901–90% of Australians described themselves as Christian. So you can’t airbrush that from history. It has to be recognised.’

Well, the preamble mentions God. Once, directly, at the very beginning, and then rather vaguely in the third sentence where it mentions ‘Lords Spiritual and Temporal’, but I just read through it and I can’t agree that it’s ‘about God’. I think it’s about how a Commonwealth nation should form a government.

Donnelly’s reference to 90% of Australians identifying as Christians in 1901 is also irrelevant. Back in 1901, the vast majority also completely ignored the claim of Indigenous Australians had on the land they were settling. The vast majority believed in capital punishment. We shouldn’t be basing our curriculum on what people believed 113 years ago. What matters is what people believe now.

Donnelly argues that our heritage goes back to ‘Judaeo-Christian traditions’. Sure, if you ignore the heritage which includes 50 000 years of Indigenous history before Europeans even discovered this country. If you ignore the heritage of the Chinese immigrants who came to Australian in the gold rush of the mid 19th century. If you ignore the heritage of the large numbers of Greek and Italian immigrants in the 1920s. If you ignore the heritage of the Vietnamese refugees who fled here in the 1970s.

We are a very different nation than we were at Federation, and our education system should reflect that. Our society, and our schools, already do. It’s not about airbrushing out part of history. It’s simply who we are: a much richer, more interesting and hopefully more tolerant nation. What Kevin Donnelly says about religion is fine to begin with, and seems to encourage further learning about the varied cultural backgrounds represented in our society. But when he goes on to talk about the Lord’s Prayer, percentages of Christians and Judaeo-Christian traditions, it appears he is focussing on a very narrow definition of ‘religion’.

Donnelly sees our secular curriculum as a negative, whereas I believe it’s very much a positive. Instead of religion in terms of Donnelly’s interpretation, what would be wrong with our children learning philosophy as a subject which is taught throughout the compulsory years of schooling? Philosophy could involve the teaching of ethics, reasoning, logic, argument, and could address religion, and the question of faith. This would avoid a focus on any particular religion, and would allow all students to participate, without students or parents being concerned about proselytism.

I want the school my children attend to offer a broad education, to introduce a variety of ideas and to reflect the incredible diversity which exists in both the classroom and the wider society in which we live. We may have Judaeo-Christian roots. But we also have roots in Indigenous Australian religion, in Greek Orthodoxy, in Shinto, in paganism, and in atheism. Why limit ourselves by trying to focus on just teaching religion, when we could do so much more, by understanding where religions come from, by thinking about why gods are worshipped and where myths originate?

If we are going to overhaul the curriculum, let us embrace the secular nature of our schools, and leave the teaching of religion in homes, places of worship, or in religious schools. Let us create a public school system which encourages our children to be sceptical, to question, to engage on issues about ethics, politics, traditions and vested interests.

Imagine: a new generation of young people, who have been discussing religion, and culture, and history, from the age of five, until they graduate from high school. Imagine if they were invited to challenge their own beliefs, and those of others, in an environment which fostered respect and understanding? The empowerment, the self-realisation, which would come from this?

Now that is the kind of future in which I would like my children to live.