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This chapter examines key arguments for and against the teaching of religion, atheism, and philosophy‐based ethics in schools. These arguments are examined within the context of the controversy that erupted when an ethics curriculum was introduced into state primary schools in New South Wales, Australia, in 2010. This ethics curriculum is an alternative to special religious education (i.e., religious education that aims to inculcate students with the beliefs of one faith). During the debate that ensued, well‐known arguments relating to the teaching of religion, atheism, and ethics in schools were presented. An analysis of this case demonstrates the relevance of these arguments within a contemporary, largely secularized society. A Deweyian theoretical framework is used to evaluate the educational value of these two curricula and to argue that all students should partake in a general philosophy course where a range of religious beliefs are critically examined and compared to atheism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to Atheism and Philosophy
EditorsGraham Oppy
Place of PublicationHoboken NJ USA
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781119119302, 9781119119227
ISBN (Print)9781119119111, 9781119119180
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • religious education
  • atheism and education
  • philosophy of education
  • john dewey
  • children's rights
  • ethics education
  • philosophy in schools
  • moral education

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