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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Faith schools

Blogging teacher Shuggy is unimpressed by the case for faith schools. Grumpy puts up his hand and begs to differ with Sir...


As a liberal Christian I'm torn on the faith schools thing. But your position smacks too much of 'one size fits all - just make sure it's my size' for my liking.

At the state schools I went to in the 60s and 70s the standard pattern for assembly was effectively a short act of Christian worship. Is that still acceptable today? Or should religion be kept out of schools? If the latter, why do you think religious parents should be obliged to accept a school ethos based on the assumption that God is an irrelevance?

I think it's fair to say that Christians, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs (at least) have in common the belief that a right relationship with God involves (a) a commitment to moral behaviour understood as, at least ultimately, the keeping of God's commandments (as opposed to seeing moral codes as just arbitrary, or the product of human reason, or a matter of social convenience), and (b) worship. A school where these things don't happen is not just some kind of neutral forum for cultural exchange, it is functionally speaking atheistic. Religion becomes a private interest with essentially the same status as stamp collecting - and that simply doesn't do justice to the place it occupies in religious people's lives - and which they would wish it to occupy in their children's lives.

It's very easy and very unfair to argue from the worst case scenarios - schools teaching creationist mumbo-jumbo, schools turning out little Rangers supporters and little Celtic supporters, schools teaching kids to despise infidel 'filth'. But it's simply nonsense to imply that the average British church school turns its pupils into crazed, intolerant fanatics. And in any case it's poor reasoning to decide the issue of principle on these grounds. Where it can be done without entrenching dangerous divisions, why shouldn't parents have the option of sending their children to a school which takes their beliefs seriously?



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