‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007


Thursday, 12 June 2008

Spirituality for Kids

The Times Online website has recently reported on a group who are active in UK schools called 'Spirituality for Kids.' This group has the endorsement of leading Hollywood actors and actresses. The Times comments: "SFK is a global youth programme that is already working within British schools as part of the curriculum and plans to expand. Its purpose, it claims, is to encourage children to recognise their own goodness, see the light and have more spiritual powers."

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4067199.ece

A worrying trend I believe. Traditional Christian belief is being expelled from education, only to be replaced by some form of neo-Platonist spirituality - note the report says SFK is working as part of the curriculum.

Here is a response from a PSHE Teacher rated by OFSTED as ‘Outstanding’.

"To be honest, there is a big problem and a huge growing trend. The problem is that people are realising (a little too late) that we have a generation of emotionally incapable people. Partly caused by dysfunctional family life, partly caused by a target driven system, partly society dysfunctioning too - something we are all painfully aware of. There has been, rightly, a realisation that there are many teachers and head teachers within the system that are emotionally not present also and the impact that this has upon schooling. There is a big shift in education taking place.

Firstly, it is believed that primary education is what works and they are trying to work out how to embrace this within the secondary system. This is largely due to the fact that primary education works in a manner in which all the links are made for the pupils, with a strong pastoral relationship with the teacher. Secondary is typically divided into subjects with weak, pastoral relationships although schools are working to alter that.

Secondly, they are introducing programmes to help develop emotionally literacy skills (SEAL - Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning). It is realised that we are not just dealing with IQ, but EQ (emotional), PQ (physical) and SQ (spiritual). There is also a realisation that those who are more emotionally capable are those who succeed. At the core is the fundamental belief that all succeed in life. Of course, that brings up the philosophical question of what is success!

Schools are having to put themselves in the position of bringing up the child - Personal, Social and Health Education has been placed as the primary focus for every subject within the new KS3 curriculum. This is right, to a point, but it all comes down to who delivers it! They are trying to readdress the balance but PSHE is not given the kudos it needs - it is such a MASSIVE area that to begin to organise an effective programme is next to impossible!

In my personal experience, pupils are very keen and relieved to be able to talk about the different experiences that they have and trying to make sense of them. There is, however, a strong pressure to be P.C. and ensure that children are not led to draw any particular conclusion that the teacher might hold but to find their own. How we expect a ten year old to be able to draw their own, healthy conclusions without any strong, moral base being put before them? But then, the 'clever' argument will be it is only a perception of what is a strong, moral base, that may not actually be the right one! We are slowly and successfully killing ourselves with the political correctness it us and that any view is perfectly valid, it just might not be the same one as someone else's! A subtle but powerful lie. This is hence why who and how it is delivered it becomes such an issue.

There is a strong trend, at the moment, to be the one who works out how to change the world! To get to perfection (the Garden of Eden?) through our own means. Of course, we will never do it from within! However, it is strongly believed that it is possible. This, of course, must all be done without God. There are huge problems being faced, teen suicide, teen violence and so on. What can schools do? Surely they will look to anything!

With this as the culture (from one professional's perception), it is not surprised that SFK is hitting schools. There will be an initial change that it brings and schools will prove that with data - whether it is increased attendance rates or increase in attainment. If data improves then that is seen as a success. It will only take into account, however, the short term gain and not the long term. What happens to these children when they are 25? Out of a structured environment and culture! SFK has the advantage of being supported by celebrities - what do our children want to be when they grow up? A celebrity, a footballer, the winner of the lottery etc. etc. etc. Aspirations are not realistic (on the whole) and are driven by media. Life is too easy for our children - they have too much, yet have nothing. This confuses them so they will look anywhere, to be fair, many adults within the profession are finding the same too and so they are also vulnerable.

SFK, with the celebrity status - also has money therefore, so they can set up programmes, pay their staff, win credibility within the students eyes and so on. With such a spiritually starved nation it will initially attract them because this aspect of their lives they will be so keen to develop. And, of course, SFK does not mention Jesus, it does not mention salvation, it does not mention the Bible, it does not mention Christianity, therefore making it extremely attractive because we all know as soon as you mention Jesus they switch off. Why? Because of family perceptions and beliefs that have already taken hold. We have become such a data and target driven culture that everything has to be measured. They are trying to suggest ways of assessing a child's personal, spiritual and emotional development http://www.qca.org.uk/qca_1954.aspx follow this link to see the discussion and decisions around it. There are far too many factors to take into account. The biggest influence on a child is family, not school, but schools are being used to push forward many agendas.

How do we tackle this as Christians? To be honest, that task is HUGE! Where is the substance? Where is the strength? Where are the people to attach to the schools and families? Where is the professionalism so that we can be seen as credible? There is a professional association for teachers (ACT). This is a huge and complex area. Sadly, I think we will see things like SFK growing and growing and growing. We have a godless society and people will happily be pointed in any direction but the right direction. I wonder how much longer Christian collective acts of worship will be the only acceptable thing. Look to the schools in the city - they tend to lead the way in trends. Schools will have prayer rooms for Muslim children so that they can respond to their calls for prayer... We are slowly becoming the 'suppressed and persecuted' but it is subtle.

To be honest, we might just need it to wake a few people up! Materialism has not worked, so maybe spirituality will as people know they are spiritually void. How can we credibly fight this? I wish I knew! "

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