By Sue Erica Smith
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Extra resources for Buddhist Voices in School: How a Community Created a Buddhist Education Program for State Schools
These schools bear similarities with each other and those in Australia, yet with Buddhist communities operating independently and in relative isolation from each other they will continue to struggle to maintain their operations. Their longevity will depend on broader Buddhist community support and/or greater ability to have their Dharma approaches to education reaching wider public acceptance. Buddhist voices too are seldom heard in forums where Buddhist educators hold perspectives, such as in values, ethics, character development, religion, spirituality, resilience and wellbeing discourses.
These are astute moves by schools to recruit local expertise, and although optional and ad hoc, help to mitigate potential violence to the ‘other’ in Derrida’s sense that Kameniar suggested. Buddhism has a place in the Australian and state curricula and it is shocking to all parties, particularly students, if this component of their education might be misinformed, or worse still, feed prejudice or derision. It is potentially equally as shocking to opt to deny students opportunities to understand these potent influences in our society.
Extremist acts such as terrorism, wars, human rights abuses, and civil unrest in Australian society are often being explained and justified in terms of religion. Religious groups are also invariably some of the most visible bodies to provide aid and advocacy for disadvantaged people locally and internationally. The messages children receive about religion are incredibly varied and potentially confusing. Children in the twenty-first century will be required to be peace-makers, to defend liberty and a fair go, and be equipped to contribute to a plural civil society.