UK Faith Schools Petition Update
Back in April I urged my British readers to sign an online petition to ban faith schools in the UK. The Prime Minster’s office has now responded to that petition.
The Government remains committed to a diverse range of schools for parents to choose from, including schools with a religious character or “faith schools” as they are commonly known.
Religious Education (RE) in all schools, including faith schools, is aimed at developing pupils’ knowledge, understanding and awareness of the major religions represented in the country. It encourages respect for those holding different beliefs and helps promote pupils’ moral, cultural and mental development. In partnership with national faith and belief organisations we have introduced a national framework for RE. In February 2006, the faith communities affirmed their support for the framework in a joint statement making it clear that all children should be given the opportunity to receive inclusive RE, and that they are committed to making sure the framework is used in the development of RE in all their schools and colleges.
The Churches have a long history of providing education in this country and have confirmed their commitment to community cohesion. Faith schools have an excellent record in providing high-quality education and serving disadvantaged communities and are some of the most ethnically and socially diverse in the country. Many parents who are not members of a particular faith value the structured environment provided by schools with a religious character.
This is disappointing to say the least. Even accounting for its brevity, this response does not even begin to tackle the issues at hand.
I have no objection to the education system “developing pupils’ knowledge, understanding and awareness of the major religions represented in the country”. But that is not what many of these faith schools are doing – they are teaching myths as facts, fairytales as science, unfounded religious dogma as evidentially supported conclusions. Children can learn about religion at a regular state school, we do not need faith schools for that.
I am concerned by the claim that a faith school “encourages respect for those holding different beliefs” without any mention of whether or not those beliefs actually deserve respect. The beliefs of young Muslims whose parents have taught them to hate the Jews have not earned any respect, and the education system should counter, not accommodate this despicable practice of racist indoctrination.
Once again, we see the obsession with diversity. I touched on this issue in my article Positive Discrimination (Wince!), where I showed that this paradigm of celebrated diversity is merely racism dressed up and posing as anti-racism.
What cannot be overlooked is that, just as with religion in general, there are no benefits a faith school can offer pupils that can’t be enjoyed at a regular state school, where they wouldn’t be taught that Noah’s flood actually happened. I would like to see a national debate followed by a referendum on this issue, although I doubt that will happen.