Pom in Oz with Derek Goforth: Why Christian education needs protection from those who don’t understand it

Derek GoforthGeraldton Guardian
Proposed reforms have been flagged in WA that will aim to radically change the way education takes place, more specifically Christian education, Derek Goforth writes.
Camera IconProposed reforms have been flagged in WA that will aim to radically change the way education takes place, more specifically Christian education, Derek Goforth writes. Credit: manusapon kasosod/Getty Images

Proposed reforms have been flagged in WA that will aim to radically change the way education takes place, more specifically Christian education.

Legislative change has already occurred over east and if you want more information I suggest you google the Equal Opportunity Act (2010) of Victoria.

I believe a similar Act in WA could change the very face of Christian schools — in a bad way.

That’s not to say there are not a lot of good things and essential reforms within the Act, but the implications for Christian education are huge.

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I teach at a Christian school and fully support its ethos, but not simply because I am a Christian. I know of great non-Christian teachers, and I know of great non-Christian schools, of which the Mid West has a lot.

I am, however, writing this piece as a Christian man and I make zero apologies for that fact.

I support the parents’ right to choose a Christian education for their child.

Sound, solid Christian education takes the Bible seriously. I know this would mean nothing to a non-Christian but it means the world to a person of faith.

Christian education believes a Christian worldview can make a positive difference. It gives students a strong foundation in a world of shifting values and morals. I think some kids today feel lost, with such a loose moral compass because of the lack of role models and upstanding examples. There is no better example than Christ.

No academic subject or curriculum is outside the remit of God. Maths, technology, sport — every subject links back to creation and God’s teachings.

There are many elements to how possible legal reform may change the way Christian schools operate. One of the more “controversial” of the changes could be to forbid schools form hiring (and firing) staff based on their religious beliefs.

Currently, a Christian school in WA can ask staff about their religious beliefs, their lifestyle and church membership in a job application process. To be employed the staff member may need to be in allegiance with the school’s views.

To some people outside the schools, this looks like discrimination.

The dictionary definition of discrimination is “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of ethnicity, age, sex, or disability”.

The keyword is “unjust”. I do not think it is unjust to deny employment of a staff member based on their religious beliefs and life if they are to work in a school that has these teachings at the very core. It makes no sense to me that someone would be employed in an organisation that to do not align with. It’s like working for the Labor Party while being a card-carrying member of the Liberals. Why would you do it?

Christian schools are places where students practice their faith along with teachers and staff. The idea that staff are not required to live according to the school’s religious ethos is at odds with teaching from a biblical perspective. Removing the ability of Christian schools to employ staff who share the school’s values and beliefs would undermine the ethos of the school.

As a parent and as a teacher I believe that Christian schools must be allowed to employ Christian teachers living a Christian life. If you want to call me a bigot for thinking that, then so be it, but I ask, have you understood what I am trying to say?

I am not seeking to have all schools teach the same as Christian schools do, but I am supporting the preservation of the rights of those who do.

I know this may seem like the ramblings of a madman to some, but like I said before, I make no apologies for speaking from my own faith. This is not a plug for my employer, I speak from my own perspective as a Christian dad and teacher.

If I learned one thing this week about the resignation of Essendon CEO Andrew Thorburn after just 24 hours over his church links it’s that Australia is no longer a society that is committed to pluralism. By that, I mean that there is a minority section of our community that declare love for an open, diverse society but at the same time attach clauses and caveats at every step.

I don’t agree with some of the things Thorburn’s church have said, but Thorburn himself said the same thing. He also said that that was good — debate and learning are all part of his and everyone’s faith journey.

But it is clear to me, holding certain views on abortion and gender does not sit well with some sections of our community. The attempted “cancelling” of movie star Chris Pratt tells a similar story.

I know how this article is going to be received by some, so perhaps I am foolish to write it.

But I feel like I should lead by example. I don’t live a perfect Christian life — I fail, I sin, I fail again, I sin again but I do know what I believe and I do value my right to express that.

Derek Goforth is a teacher at Geraldton Christian College

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