Midnight Oil

Subject: Re: [powderworks] chaplains?
From: Chris
Date: 13/09/2011, 11:49 pm
To: RM <ribman@gmail.com>, Powderworks <powderworks@yahoogroups.com.au>

On Tue, Sep 13, 2011 at 10:33 PM, RM <ribman@gmail.com> wrote:
I can see how atheists and agnostics must find chaplains naturally problematic, but can you see how they are relatively harmlessly filling a gap in the mental health picture at a relatively low cost? �I honestly don't think that many kids are so docile that they can be "brainwashed" into any of the mainstream christian religions involuntarily anyway. � Really these religions are now so people-pleasing and subject to media scrutiny that they can't operate in a systemically manipulative way that would carry a Jones-town level of manipulation without fairly rapid media scrutiny and condemnation. �So the little religious efforts that chaplains rather timidly attach to their otherwise benign agenda of giving kids a shoulder to cry on are hardly what I would call a dangerous systemic brainwashing effort. �Therefore I struggle to agree with the logic of declining chaplains putting in many unpaid hours simply because they finish their counselling session with a prayer for something good to happen (that may be words into thin air, but how does that hurt?)

Yeah, I'm really not that worried about this part - from an atheist perspective, chaplaincy is a much less bothersome intrusion than school scripture classes, and those never did me any harm.

(That is, so long as a school has a�counsellor�as well as a chaplain, students are presented with a choice, and only those who are overtly religious are likely to choose the chaplain over the better-qualified counsellor anyway, although my comments below about the stigma associated with counselling should be taken into account)
In all, I think chaplains are cheap, have an overall net positive effect (admittedly not as great as equal time with a dedicated counsellor), and are largely harmless and reliable. �Therefore I can see how attractive they are as to a bureaucrat trying to resource an overstretched system.

Nice thought, but my concern is that the savings don't seem to be large enough - the figures I've seen seem to suggest funding averaging more than $50,000 per school - the government documents are ambiguous as to what timeframe that funding covers, but it still seems like a lot of money.

Frankly, it just feels like a vote-buying exercise to me - the majority of the population still identify as Christian, even if most are apathetic to the point of agnosticism, and it's easy to nod approvingly and make noises about "moral values".

It just bothers me when, in the same budget, I see (and I hate to harp on about this, but I'm a Uni student) the HECS discount slashed to save $400M, and funding for school chaplains increased by $200M. Whilst I know the reasoning is fallacious, it feels like I'm paying for those chaplains!

I'd like to see an improvement in psychological counselling skills across the board. �I think our society is in great need of some simple principles of thought that are already plainly available for public consumption. �This applies to everyone: managers, workers, politicians, parents, kids. �Large sections of our society frequently seem to be operating in a fairly childish paradigm that is readily visible after even basic psychology training.

All true, but there's still considerable stigma attached to seeking counselling - particularly in schools (Despite the fact that they're very discreet, it doesn't take long to notice if a particular student is routinely called out of a particular class). First you need to address that bit of psychology, then you can get down to work!
Good luck with your argumentation. �I endorse any positive debate that refrains from demeaning the other.

I didn't intend to start an argument - I'm just curious as to what the�perceived�value of chaplaincy is amongst the community. Personally, I ultimately see it as an inappropriate gift of authority - chaplains without psychology training are no more entitled to give�counsel�than any other man who walks in off the street! (Unless, of course, you believe that he speaks with the authority of his all-knowing God, in which case his advice ought to be excellent, but that's an easily testable hypothesis that I doubt would hold up ;o)

- Chris

On 13/09/2011, at 9:10 PM, Chris wrote:

On Tue, Sep 13, 2011 at 8:39 PM, Tom <tr_espen@yahoo.com.au> wrote:

And this week he's helped protect the separation of church and state while also supporting chaplains in helping school kids, IMHO.

OK, you mentioned it, so I'll bite - just how DO chaplains "help" school kids? As opposed to the (far more productive, so far as I can see) roles played by counsellors, or just plain old teachers? And wouldn't the money that's being spent on that program be better put towards, oh, I don't know, not cutting the HECS discount by 10%?

(Yes, I'm an atheist, but this isn't an atheist debate...I just don't see that having a chaplain at a school achieves anything that having a chaplain in a church doesn't)