‘Jeesis is alive! he is the king of Australia’: segregated religious instruction, child identity and exclusion
Byrne, C 2012, '‘Jeesis is alive! he is the king of Australia’: segregated religious instruction, child identity and exclusion', British Journal of Religious Education, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 317-331.
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Religious categorisation occurs at enrolment in Australian state-run (public) primary schools, with children segregated into religious instruction classes during their first week. Lesson content has no government oversight and, in some schools, options are limited to Christianity. The effect of this categorisation on children’s attitudes to religious diversity is not well researched but the role of religion in public schools is increasingly controversial. Social identity theory (SIT) considers cultural hegemony as a factor in individual identity construction. SIT posits that inter-group bias increases with in-group identification and suggests that categorisation itself is a source of prejudice. This paper explores the implications of SIT in the development of children’s strength of religious identity. An exploratory study suggests that a Christian emphasis at school may influence a child’s tendency to exclude those with different beliefs.