School Chaplaincy

26 Nov

Maralyn Parker in the Telegraph (261109) raise some valid issues regarding chaplaincy in public schools and the funding of such by the taxpayer.

See Mrarlyn’s comments at:
http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/maralynparker/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/public_schools_do_not_need_christian_chaplains/

Here is what I had to say in response in my email to her:

Maralyn

Thanks for charging up the debate. Looking at this thread and reading your comments I am aware that we view the world through our own biases and bring that too any debate particularly on issues such as religion.

As someone who has worked with young people for 30 years, and for much of that time in very difficult public schools, I suggest that a range of options are required if we are to safely navigate our children into adulthood. What we don’t need are zealots at play in the education system, and by zealots I mean those of all philosophical biases (including religion) who deem that there is only one solution to the situation at hand. There is not and to believe so is dangerous.

I have worked with chaplains, social workers, counsellors and youth workers who have been balanced, accepting and effective and I have worked with some in all those roles who were, to put it mildly, simply pushing their own particular biased ideologies.

I myself am a Christian but that does not limit me in whom I work with, whom I accept or how I work with others. As a Christian I am committed to life affirming acceptance of all regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and social status. I am not into proselytising. When I worked in schools (not as a paid chaplain by any organisation or government funding – voluntarily), I worked with one express purpose, to help young people to grow and become the person they discovered themselves to be. Not who I or any ideology or faith deemed them to be.

I also know that many chaplains have little or no education qualifications, but I also know many who do. I, for example, am completing my Masters this year and I would be advocating that all who work with young people have qualifications and extensive life experience to support through practice what they have learnt through study.

Philosophically I would not accept this grant money to work as a chaplain in a public school or for a chaplaincy organisation because both limit me to a set of outcomes which are not always in the best interest of the children, their parents, the staff and the schools. I have always negotiated my own arrangements with public schools through heads of school, staff rooms and P&C’s, and always to a positive outcome for all.

My negative comment to your comments is that you may be guilty of generalisation in terms of Christian chaplains and, perhaps, a blind spot to the biases of other disciplines, but as I said early, we all view the world through our biases.

So my comment is, if school chaplaincy in public schools is undertaken by people for the purpose of enhancing the life experience of others without a proselytising agenda, then it can add to the life of the school. But if it, and the other disciplines in the school are skewed by ulterior motives, then there is some danger afoot.

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