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World Humanist Day

Ipswich library June 2010

A belated post on World Humanist Day, the beginning of Humanist Week, but some of us have been busy window-dressing. We’ve put together an exhibit in one of the display cases at the County Library in Ipswich (Northgate Street) to mark Humanist Day and Week, so if you’re in town, take a look.

While we were assembling it all (or while Andrew and John were assembling it – I supervised), a couple of people stopped to talk about it, expressing approval. We gave them leaflets.

My thanks to Andrew, John and Marion, and Sue, for all their help. Couldn’t have done it without you!

Educational confusion

SchoolchildrenI enjoy visiting schools and talking to students but I’m so glad I’m not a teacher any more. All the teachers I know have complained about frequent changes of government policy, masses of paperwork, and SATs testing (Standard Attainment Tests), which have reduced young children to gibbering wrecks with the stress.

I’m glad I’m not the parent of a school-age child either. There’s been a lot of talk about parental choice, but from what I’ve read, your choices have been limited. If you’re not religious, for example, and all the local schools have a religious ethos, you can either do what many parents do, and pretend to be religious to get your child into the best school, judged by its exam results and Ofsted reports, or what? Find the money to transport your child to a school that’s free from religion? It’s become so complicated that pushy parents are having to devote a lot of time to researching their options.

Leaving SACRE

After many years as a Humanist representative on Suffolk’s Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE), a full member* for the last two years, I resigned at today’s meeting and recommended Andrew Morrison, our group chairperson, as my replacement. I’ve enjoyed my involvement with SACRE, though there are so many changes in the offing that I’m happy for Andrew to deal with them. He’ll be fine!

RE is “inadequate” in one in five schools

The BBC has reported an Ofsted report on the teaching of RE in secondary schools, which describes it as “inadequate” in one in five secondary schools. They say, “Its study suggested many teachers were unsure of what they were trying to achieve in the subject.”

I’m not surprised. A few years ago, a report was presented to Suffolk’s SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education) by a middle school teacher who’d been given a grant from an independent body for a sabbatical to research RE provision in the county. Her report showed that, in many schools, RE was a low priority subject that came bottom of the list for resources and staffing. Teachers who were in charge of RE in their schools struggled to maintain standards because of frequent time-table changes, so that a different group of non-specialist teachers might be delegated to teach the subject in different terms. Consequently, a lot of RE was taught by teachers who knew very little about it.

June Newsletter ready now

June newsletterOur June newsletter is ready for you to download now.

Contents include:

Humanist weddings can be fun (and one of them was for our chairperson);

A visit to Down House with the U3A;

Changes at Suffolk Inter-Faith Resource;

Our car sticker designs – you choose;

Dates for your diary, including a pub lunch and a trip to the seaside.

Click here to download the newsletter (pdf).

Need help with pdf files?

Alternative medicine: trick or treatment?

Edzard Ernst is the first Professor of Complementary Medicine in the United Kingdom. In 2008, Ernst and Simon Singh published Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. Professor Ernst will be the inaugural speaker at Ipswich Skeptics in the Pub.

A Visit to Down House

I’m not one for traipsing round stately homes, being of the opinion that once you have seen one Queen Anne chair and polished mahogany table you have seen them all. However, when the Woodbridge U3A group planned a visit to Down House – the home of Charles Darwin – I thought this might well be worth a visit. And indeed it was.

The house is important because it was there that Darwin not only wrote his masterpiece, On the Origin of Species, but applied scientific reasoning and performed numerous experiments to confirm that his ideas were sound.

The time scales are surprising. Darwin moved into the very substantial Down House in 1842, but this was a full five years after his journey on the Beagle. Perhaps, even more surprisingly, it was only after another seventeen years of reflection (and probably worry) on what he had observed on that voyage that Darwin published his greatest work.

Humanist Week

International Humanist Day is on 21st June, the summer solstice. This year, British Humanists will be marking Humanist Week from 21st to 27th June with a variety of events. We’ll have a display in one of the cases at the entrance to Ipswich Central Library.

Monthly meeting

Finalising plans for Humanist Week & 10-minute Topics. We’ll be deciding what to put in the display case we’ve booked at Ipswich Central Library for Humanist Week (starts 21st June). Then, if there’s time, it’ll be 10-Minute Topics; everyone writes a subject for discussion on a bit of paper, then they all get mixed up and drawn at random. Any bees in your bonnet this week?