Friday, 1 April 2011

Scientology to be taught in Religious Education lessons

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Dianetics, the key founding text of
Scientology, may may soon be taught in schools
as part of a radical education overhaul
Children as young as four will be taught about Scientology from September, New Humanist can reveal, as a local authority unveils major changes to religious education in primary schools.

Education bosses in Blackburn, Lancashire, have overhauled the RE syllabus to ensure "non-mainstream" beliefs are taught, as part of a major shake-up to be introduced from September in each of the 28 primary and secondary community schools in the borough.

Education chiefs stressed that children will continue to learn about the six major faiths - Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.

But they will also be taught Scientology - the belief that, 75 billion years ago, an evil intergalactic overlord named Xenu brought billions of people to earth, arranged them around a volcano, and killed them using thermonuclear weapons.

According to one of the council’s advisors it will allow children to become "citizens in Blackburn and the world" and instill "confidence".

The overhaul follows an earlier decision to introduce humanism on to the syllabus – a move a local imam said would send the "wrong message" to children. The introduction of Scientology could prove similarly controversial, but those behind the move are keen to emphasise the benefits. Councillor Barb Holdrun, who sits on the area's SACRE, or Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education, said:
"We really must recognise that some people neither believe in the major monotheistic religions, nor subscribe to rationalistic worldviews such as humanism. An increasing number are attracted to philosophies considered alternative or niche, such as Scientology, and we have to make children aware of these beliefs. We want to support children to engage and enthuse them about RE to become good citizens in Blackburn and the world. The aim is for them to be confident wherever they settle.”
To create the syllabus the team reviewed the census results in 2001 which revealed that, although the borough has representatives from all of the six major faiths, as well as more than 10,000 who identified as non-religious, there were at least four people in the area who described themselves as Scientologists.

Update: In case it's not clear from the content (Barb Holdrun, anyone? Four people?), this story was published on the morning of 1 April 2011. Sources tell us the new syllabus was quietly withdrawn shortly after midday.
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