Teaching Astronomy in a Catholic School.

23


Discussion by: Eliot

As far back as I can remember I’ve always had a phobia for all things religious.  However through the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune I’ve found myself teaching 6th grade Astronomy at a Catholic school.  I know it’s strange but I felt the job would afford me the opportunity to study the Catholic in his native habitat and gather data.  I also felt that I was not compromising my beliefs by respecting the house rules.  In other words, when on school grounds, and while interacting with the children, I leave my atheism behind and I don’t feel that I’m being dishonest in doing so.   If a religious person can teach at secular school why can’t an atheist teach at a parochial school.  

On entering the school for the first time some things made me uncomfortable.   There was the portrait of the Pope in the main lobby, the statue of the virgin Mary keeping vigil over the playground, and a crucifix on the wall in each and every classroom.  As for the students they were so well behaved and beautiful in their school uniforms that they seemed almost creepy in a Village-of-the-Damned sort of a way.  It was strange being in a classroom in northern California classroom where all the students were white and just as strange that class size was limited to 16 students.  

But the oddest thing of all is that over the last year and a half I’ve come to feel that teaching at a religious school is liberating rather than constraining and I do mean incredibly liberating.   I’ve come to love it.  I teach them about Galileo and about the big bang and so far no complaints, not a one.  I also teach my students that some people believe the universe is only 6000 years.  But I let the young Earth creationists speak for themselves.  A few weeks ago I showed my class the youtube video of Rep. Paul Broun saying that the big bang and evolution were lies straight from the pit of hell.  Not a single one of my students believed Congressman Broun.  They could all see he was a nut.

What I’m saying is this, if you are an atheist and you are given the opportunity to teach at a religious school take it.  You’ll find that it’s a different world.   I’ll be the first to admit that some aspects of it are horrible but some aspect of public schools are just as horrible but in a different way.  From K through 12th grade I attended schools in the Palo Alto Unified School District.  I understand why the student suicide rate there is so appalling.   

Last year as one of the boys was leaving after class was dismissed he said to me just as clear as a bell, “I love you Eliot.”  I was so stunned that I didn’t know how to respond.   I can’t imagine that happening at any of my old schools in Palo Alto.  


23 COMMENTS

  1. Astronomy should be no problem with educated Catholics who actually study what their present religious leaders say.

    [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic-Church-and-evolution] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_evolution) -

    The Church has deferred to scientists on matters such as the age of the earth and the authenticity of the fossil record. Papal pronouncements, along with commentaries by cardinals, have accepted the findings of scientists on the gradual appearance of life. In fact, the International Theological Commission in a July 2004 statement endorsed by Cardinal Ratzinger, then president of the Commission and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, now Pope Benedict XVI, includes this paragraph:

    According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the ‘Big Bang’ and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Later there gradually emerged the conditions necessary for the formation of atoms, still later the condensation of galaxies and stars, and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets. In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life. While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5–4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution.[5]

    The Church’s stance is that any such gradual appearance must have been guided in some way by God, but the Church has thus far declined to define in what way that may be. Commentators tend to interpret the Church’s position in the way most favorable to their own arguments. The ITC statement includes these paragraphs on evolution, the providence of God, and “intelligent design”: (see link)

    In addition, while he was the Vatican’s chief astronomer, Fr. George Coyne, issued a statement on 18 November 2005 saying that “Intelligent design isn’t science even though it pretends to be.

    There are many Catholics who are still stuck in the ignorant pronouncements of previous popes, (such as Pius IX) but the above quotes should bring them up to date.

    Of course the Catholic “theistic evolution” of the Universe and biology, still claims “god-did-it” with a bit of fiddling interference, and the odd miracle, here and there – but this is very vague (to avoid challenges from science).

  2. I’m not sure what the status of religious schools is in the USA, however one point I’d make is that at least in Australia religious schools are all private. That is they receive the same money from the government per student as the do the state schools (on the basis that they are doing the states job-even though they don’t do the same job as I’ll explain below) but they also charge parents thousands of dollars per year for the religious education.

    As a result they tend to be in a competitive market place with other private schools mostly religious, competing for prestige, how clean cut their kids look (uniform etc.) and academic results. Many of the teachers I know have shifted over the private system over the years it what you are saying resounds with them (mostly). However, part of the way they achieve this and maintain it is by excluding anyone too poor to afford the many thousands of dollar per child per year, this excludes the bottom of the socio-economic bracket who are also usually the most in need of a good education. They also have the power on a whim to exclude students for poor behaviour or poor academic achievement (this is all but impossible in state education- students can assault a teacher and still end up back at the school after a 20 day suspension – this depends of course on circumstance and severity, but in the private sector they have the choice at any time for any reason) , one faith based private school I know quite a bit about kicked out a second grade student because he was sub-par in reading and the school didn’t have sufficient resources to cater for learning disabled children (this a school charging $5000/year/student in addition to the state funding). There are no special education units dealing with the physically handicapped in any of the 7 private schools in my town (pop- about 200 000).

    So you have a system that charges large amounts of money to exclude the poor, the poorly behaved, the handicapped and those that don’t share their version of faith and morality, what is more students who’s parents are paying this extra money care about education (or they wouldn’t fork over extra money). I teach many students who’s parents will buy their kid a smart phone but not a school book, who have never been read to as a child. All of these things act as filter, filtering out large segments of the community and leaving the difficult and hopeless cases for the government to deal with.
    So I really don’t blame you (I’m not being sarcastic) or any who wish to work in the religious (or secular) private sector schools, Many a day trying to teach kids who can barely read about genetics and Astronomy I feel I’m bashing my head against a brick wall. I would love to work in system that was easier, but I worry greatly that like many of our better students some of the better teachers are migrating more and more towards the private/religious sector and that this will create a greater divide between the classes. Again I can only speak for my country and state and town but I would love to hear what others have to say.

  3. Not all religious people are nutcases. I have met a few that just had their believes but respected mine, had no problem in questioning the word of the bible etc. They were religious but secular. They also accepted scientific findings simply because, as they put it, God didn’t give us a brain for nothing. I liked that one, even though my opinion was that the brain evolved naturally. No fight, no name calling, just a nice open conversation that I enjoyed.
    I went to a Catholic school as a boy and we had a library stuffed with scientific books about anything, including evolution and astronomy. Even some of the religious lessons were about the age old universe, that started with a big bang.

    But still, some of them are nutcases.

  4. When I tell people that I was educated K-12 in Catholic schools, they are shocked that I am versed in how evolution works, how the universe was formed, etc. By the same token, I was shocked to learn that there are religious people who DON’T understand such things. I have long left Catholicism and religion far behind, so maybe having been taught truthful science and scientific methods gave me a head start on my road to atheism. That said, I work in a variety of school settings (being an itinerant therapist), and I too was at first hesitant to walk into the Christian schools. However, I must say that my clients at these institutions are among the most well-behaved, motivated, sweet children I have had the pleasure to serve. Not to say that religion is to be credited for this, as I have also served so-called Christians in public schools who treat others deplorably. I actually look forward to these periods of calm in my day when I walk into the Christian schools. Kudos to you for bringing scientific thinking and facts to these children. With the proper intellectual tools, maybe they will one day come to their own enlightened conclusions about religion.

  5. I went to 16 years of Catholic School. I learned lots from lots of awesome teachers and people in general. There were shit heads, but, no more or less than anywhere else. The Catholics are usually not literalists, usually not fanatics, usually not uptight about things scientific.

    I learned about the big bang and evolution…. I learned theology and memorized my prayers. I also took comparative religion in college (Villanova University). I thrived in every classroom and am not at all surprised that you are enjoying your time in a parochial school.

    My wife currently works in a Catholic school and on my days off I often go up and guest teach a science lesson. I have done everything from paleontology to cell physiology. Like you said the kids are well behaved, polite, and eager to learn.

    This is because if you screw up there, you get thrown out. Add this to the fact that your parents are paying large dollars to send you, and you have a pretty good filter to keep out most shit heads. It is a very nice atmosphere.

    I am very glad to hear that you are enjoying teaching; I love my job and the atmosphere I I work in as well. Kudos to finding your calling. ENJOY!

  6. smill,
    You may be right. However, do not overlook parental expectation and involvement.
    What do you think?

    In reply to #7 by Smill:

    Hello, Crookedshoes, I realise what you are actually talking about here is the effect of the dollar and not the effect of the catholicism.

  7. Catholic schools have never been anti-science as far as I know. Not in Ireland anyway. Even in the 1960s.

    The RCC has other things to answer for, but messing up science education isn’t one of them.

  8. ” If you cannot talk about your atheism have you not been, effectively, gagged? “

    He is hired as a teacher with a specific role. I do not want and did not want a teacher talk to my children about his religion, I want to have him talk about the subject at hand. Why would I need to know that teacher was an atheist? As long as he teaches the subject according to the acknowledged currently valid theories – what does his affiliation or non affiliation has to do with teaching?

    [Edited by moderator to bring within our Terms of Use.]

  9. In the 7 1/2 years I lived in Australia it was the school system there that depressed me the most after the horrible politics and the general class divide that exists in the country. I don’t even have children. Lots of people don’t know much about Australia and have very little understanding of what it’s like to live there. They only see nice weather, the nice pictures of landscape and the supposedly happy people. No one really knows outside Australia that there is huge class divides and that the government is supporting this ‘idea’ along with most of the populace. I sometimes wonder if there’s a sort of brainwashing going on.

    My wife worked with both state schools and one private school. The difference between them is astounding in the student attitudes. Even though the state schools were supposedly ‘good’ they were a far cry from the private school. In the state school there were incidences of bulling of both teachers and students. Student disenchantment and detachment. In general you get the worst of the worst in state schools cause there’s no where else for them to go and you get parents sending their kids to private schools to avoid this stuff, even parents who typically can’t afford to send their kids to private school would do what they could as they saw it as their children’s best chance.

    What this has meant is a decline in student numbers in state schools, less money in them and generally a class divide as stated. This has led to poor outcomes for those students who can’t afford to go to private schools as they are left in a situation where being a good student gets you bullied. Not to mention that due to some of the horrible school grading systems that even if you do well there’s a chance you can’t go into the university program you want cause your school doesn’t have good standing. So yes the school system is horrible in Australia on many levels.

    Being from Canada I can say that it isn’t much better and things were slowly going towards a similar idea to Australia. It’s been some years since I lived in Canada so I can only go with what I remember. It wasn’t looking good though.

    In reply to #2 by Reckless Monkey:

    I’m not sure what the status of religious schools is in the USA, however one point I’d make is that at least in Australia religious schools are all private. That is they receive the same money from the government per student as the do the state schools (on the basis that they are doing the states job-even though they don’t do the same job as I’ll explain below) but they also charge parents thousands of dollars per year for the religious education.

    As a result they tend to be in a competitive market place with other private schools mostly religious, competing for prestige, how clean cut their kids look (uniform etc.) and academic results. Many of the teachers I know have shifted over the private system over the years it what you are saying resounds with them (mostly). However, part of the way they achieve this and maintain it is by excluding anyone too poor to afford the many thousands of dollar per child per year, this excludes the bottom of the socio-economic bracket who are also usually the most in need of a good education. They also have the power on a whim to exclude students for poor behaviour or poor academic achievement (this is all but impossible in state education- students can assault a teacher and still end up back at the school after a 20 day suspension – this depends of course on circumstance and severity, but in the private sector they have the choice at any time for any reason) , one faith based private school I know quite a bit about kicked out a second grade student because he was sub-par in reading and the school didn’t have sufficient resources to cater for learning disabled children (this a school charging $5000/year/student in addition to the state funding). There are no special education units dealing with the physically handicapped in any of the 7 private schools in my town (pop- about 200 000).

    So you have a system that charges large amounts of money to exclude the poor, the poorly behaved, the handicapped and those that don’t share their version of faith and morality, what is more students who’s parents are paying this extra money care about education (or they wouldn’t fork over extra money). I teach many students who’s parents will buy their kid a smart phone but not a school book, who have never been read to as a child. All of these things act as filter, filtering out large segments of the community and leaving the difficult and hopeless cases for the government to deal with.
    So I really don’t blame you (I’m not being sarcastic) or any who wish to work in the religious (or secular) private sector schools, Many a day trying to teach kids who can barely read about genetics and Astronomy I feel I’m bashing my head against a brick wall. I would love to work in system that was easier, but I worry greatly that like many of our better students some of the better teachers are migrating more and more towards the private/religious sector and that this will create a greater divide between the classes. Again I can only speak for my country and state and town but I would love to hear what others have to say.

  10. In reply to #7 by Smill:

    Hello, Crookedshoes, I realise what you are actually talking about here is the effect of the dollar and not the effect of the catholicism.

    In the UK catholic schools are state schools and therefore free. I don’t much about them but they seem to churn out very well educated, relatively pleasant and scientific kids. When we try to encourage more girls to enter engineering we tend to find they send a lot more than the non catholic schools manage.

  11. In reply to #14 by atheistengineer:

    In reply to #7 by Smill:

    Hello, Crookedshoes, I realise what you are actually talking about here is the effect of the dollar and not the effect of the catholicism.

    In the UK catholic schools are state schools and therefore free. I don’t much about them but they seem to churn out very well educated, relatively pleasant and scientific kids. When we try to encourage more girls to enter engineering we tend to find they send a lot more than the non catholic schools manage.

    As an American it’s very difficult for me to understand how any school could be both religious and state supported. How could it be possible that a nun or a priest could be paid by the state of California? Who owns the school grounds and who pays for maintenance, the parish or the taxpayers? Who pays for textbooks on theology?

    One of the arguments we hear for religious schools in the US is that the students are being educated without any burden to the taxpayers. In the US you’re free to send your kids to a religious school just so long as you are the one to foot the bill. Why would atheist taxpayers in the UK tolerate their tax money being spent on religious education?

  12. In reply to #15 by Eliot:

    In the UK catholic schools are state schools and therefore free. I don’t much about them but they seem to churn out very well educated, relatively pleasant and scientific kids. When we try to encourage more girls to enter engineering we tend to find they send a lot more than the non catholic schools manage.

    As an American it’s very difficult for me to understand how any school could be both religious and state supported. How could it be possible that a nun or a priest could be paid by the state of California? Who owns the school grounds and who pays for maintenance, the parish or the taxpayers? Who pays for textbooks on theology?

    One of the arguments we hear for religious schools in the US is that the students are being educated without any burden to the taxpayers. In the US you’re free to send your kids to a religious school just so long as you are the one to foot the bill. Why would atheist taxpayers in the UK tolerate their tax money being spent on religious education?

    There are various different categories in the UK. The long established numerous ones are “Voluntary Aided Schools”.

    A voluntary aided school is a state-funded school in England and Wales in which a foundation or trust (usually a religious organisation) owns the school buildings, contributes to building costs and has a substantial influence in the running of the school. Such schools have more autonomy than voluntary controlled schools, which are entirely funded by the state.

    Some religious organisation (usually Church of England, RCC, Jewish trusts and now some Muslims) pays a small part of the initial building cost and the public pays for the running costs, the staff salaries etc. from then on.

    Priests are usually chairs of the board of governors. These schools are allowed religious discrimination in drawing up their admission procedures, staff appointments, and are allowed denominational worship as part of the school day.

  13. In America we have a saying. You can’t have it both ways. The idea of a school that is both religious and-in part-funded by a democratically elected government is quite simply unworkable. Anyone who takes even a moment to think about it will realize why.

    Last academic year I had two excellent students in my class. Both boys were a pleasure to work with. I was very disappointed to learn that neither one had returned for the 7th grade. Their failure to return was do to an “ugly family situation”. Over the course of the summer “Tyler” and “Scott”, who had previously been unrelated, had become step brothers.

    Penalizing the boys for the marital misadventures of their parents was of course totally unfair by any secular standards. But the school doesn’t go hat-in-hand asking for taxpayer funds to mow the lawn or pay the electric bill. Therefore the school has every right to makes its own rules. Religious schools should be allowed only if they pay their own way and people living in the UK should realize that.

  14. I think Smill has a good point here, most catholics are 95% sane, 5% utterly insane and while I agree with Kraut that a teachers religion or lack of should never mater in the classroom it’s precisely these 5% moments when you have to stand back and let the bat shit crazy go on around you. These are the moments when you realise that yes you have lost something, you have let the kids down but what’s the benefit – good science teaching plus some shit about condoms that everyone in civilisation knows is lies?

    In reply to #5 by Smill:

    ‘I also felt that I was not compromising my beliefs by respecting the house rules. In other words, when on school grounds, and while interacting with the children, I leave my atheism behind and I don’t feel that I am being dishonest in doing so’. I am glad that you are having a positive teaching experience, but I wonder if you are being naive? If you cannot talk about your atheism have you not been, effectively, gagged? I also wonder in what other ways you are expected to show your tacit support of the Catholic ethos of the school?

  15. Heigh Eliot that was a good read thanks for that,
    I was raised a catholic (as in I was an Irish kid who’s not a protestant must be a catholic) and in school I was met by many contradictions Adam and eve in religion class and in science class i was thought at least a plausible theory of the meaning if life,i had never seen or heard of a talking snake so i went with the scientific version, at least I could question what iwas being thought in school, what hope do Muslim kids have to question there teachers.

  16. In reply to #17 by Eliot:

    In America we have a saying. You can’t have it both ways. The idea of a school that is both religious and-in part-funded by a democratically elected government is quite simply unworkable. Anyone who takes even a moment to think about it will realize why.

    Religious schools should be allowed only if they pay their own way and people living in the UK should realize that.

    Hi Eliot. Interesting post, but this comment comes across as a know-it-all-american telling the rest of the world how they should be doing things, which of course gives us a few laughs along the lines of pots, kettles and shades of black. I’m almost completely sure you don’t really mean to sound that way, given your stance in the original post.

    In Northern Ireland, the state schools became de-facto Protestant schools, because the Catholics, reluctant subjects of the newly defined statelet, withdrew from the system and insisted on having their own schools. A pragmatic compromise resulted in state funding for these schools, not sure of the details, I only attended school, didn’t know about the behind the scenes political stuff. At any rate, after that was established, the two parallel school systems competed for academic results, among other things. The only time that worked to my advantage was when a few families threatened to withdraw and go over to “the other side” unless the school provided classes in a subject that only a few of us wanted. Suddenly a teacher (actually, a member of a religious order) stepped up, and a store-room equipped with a table and some chairs became our classroom.

    The school was all catholic indoctrination in the Religious Instruction classes, but utterly indifferent to religion in pretty much everything else. The only religious exhortation I recall was “Pray like it all depends on God, but work like it all depends on you”, which I still like, and recommend to anyone teaching in a religiously influenced environment.

    Science was taught well, no problem with Darwin or geology. History, on the other hand, was clearly (with hindsight) biased against the British Empire. Guy Fawkes was never portrayed as a Bad Guy.

    None of which meets your prescriptive “should be allowed” stuff.

    To other commenters: I beg to be corrected if my potted summary of education in Northern Ireland is wrong in some way. I know, I shouldn’t have said “the Catholics”, as that’s an oversimplification, but I’m trying to be concise.

  17. In reply to #20 by Smill:

    In reply to Alaskansee, post 18. I am not sure if you realised the first couple of sentences of my post was quoting the original post and then questioning this?

    Just a short helpful point;

    I you put “>” or “>>” in front of quotes, and a double rerturn-line-space at the end of them, it separates the quotes from your comments.
    A “>” in blank lines in quotes joins them up into a block. (Look at the preview below your comment to see what is happening)

  18. Dear OHooligan

    This brings up and interesting question. In my 7th grade social studies class in Palo Alto our teachers told us about the political situation in Northern Ireland but none of us were able to understand it. Protestants and Catholics brutally killing each other and for what!? What was their problem? In that 7th grade class we had kids from Catholic families and others from Protestant families and in many cases they were best friends. They had no reason to fight. The only explanation we could come up with was that the people in Northern Ireland were really quite stupid.

    What’s being taught in Northern Irish schools about America today? Are the students told, “Look at the silly Americans. Their Catholics and Protestants don’t even realize that they are bitter enemies. They can’t pray in state funded schools. They landed men on the moon. They don’t have a queen. They don’t have a defender of the faith. Everyone in the world watches their movies and to top it all off they have a black man for a president and this black president is a shameless defender gay rights. They’re good for a few laughs alright!”

    Is that how the Northern Irish see Americans? Do they really think Americans are so silly to take pride in their achievements? Do you really think that we have nothing to teach you?

    Eliot

  19. In reply to #24 by Eliot:

    Dear OHooligan

    This brings up and interesting question. In my 7th grade social studies class in Palo Alto our teachers told us about the political situation in Northern Ireland but none of us were able to understand it. Protestants and Catholics brutally killing each other and for what!? What was their problem? In that 7th grade class we had kids from Catholic families and others from Protestant families and in many cases they were best friends. They had no reason to fight. The only explanation we could come up with was that the people in Northern Ireland were really quite stupid.

    What’s being taught in Northern Irish schools about America today? Are the students told, “Look at the silly Americans. Their Catholics and Protestants don’t even realize that they are bitter enemies. They can’t pray in state funded schools. They landed men on the moon. They don’t have a queen. They don’t have a defender of the faith. Everyone in the world watches their movies and to top it all off they have a black man for a president and this black president is a shameless defender gay rights. They’re good for a few laughs alright!”

    Is that how the Northern Irish see Americans? Do they really think Americans are so silly to take pride in their achievements? Do you really think that we have nothing to teach you?

    Eliot

    Oh dear. Where to begin? Why is there conflict between hutus and tutsis, hindus and moslems, sunnis and shiites, catholics and protestants, serbs and albanians (or was it macedonians)? The answer is not some crazy religious BS, as you well know, or should by now. It’s about real stuff – who owns the land, who controls the resources, who gets the jobs, who gets to stack the courts, direct the police and line their own pockets.

    That said, of course I’d not expect you to be particularly well informed – or interested – in a squabble thousands of miles from home. When I was at school, the vietnam war filled the news. The one the vietnamese call the american war. Our teachers couldn’t explain that to us either, not so I understood anyway. So you aren’t alone in your ignorance of other nations and their troubles.

    I only raised Northern Ireland as an example of why your simplistic one-size-fits-all solution …”people living in the UK should realize that”.. does not fit. People living outside the UK should realise THAT.

    PS. As you may not know (it is complicated), but the UK is short for The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Further explanation can be found here.

    And if none of this detail interests you, how is it you see fit to explain to the residents of these complicated islands how they should deal with funding their school systems?

  20. “And if none of this detail interests you, how is it you see fit to explain to the residents of these complicated islands how they should deal with funding their school systems?”

    Dear OHooligan

    The details of the UK interest me very much indeed. If you are pleased with your current system then by all means continue. However you may soon find that your tax money is funding Islamic schools and what they teach might not be so warm and fuzzy.

    There is something I’d like to add about American arrogance. On my first trip to the UK I visited a book store in London. I was amazed to find Mark Twain, Jack London, Edger Allen Poe, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Steven King, Robert Heinlein, Ernest Hemingway, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and well, you name it. The biography section had books on everyone from George Washington to Steve Jobs. The science and technology section had books on the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, Edison, the Manhattan Project and the Apollo moon landings. The travel section had books on every major American city and most of the national parks. There was a section devoted to American history and it was as well stocked as any bookstore in New York. Another section was devoted to Hollywood movies. The comic book section had Spiderman, Batman, the Fantastic Four and all the rest. The store carried all the top American magazines and newspapers.

    Standing in that London book store I realized that American ideas mattered, not just to ourselves but to others as well. I realized for the first time that America truly was a superpower and not simply a large country as I had previously believed. So this idea that America is a special place, I never learned that at home. I learned it in the UK.

  21. In reply to #26 by Eliot:

    The details of the UK interest me very much indeed. If you are pleased with your current system then by all means continue. However you may soon find that your tax money is funding Islamic schools and what they teach might not be so warm and fuzzy.

    Just some points of information;

    Tax money already is – but fortunately not very many!

    UK Religion ( There are also some charts showing analysis of number of believers. – Some are rather poor surveys and out of date.)

    In England and Wales, a significant number of state funded schools are faith schools with the vast majority Christian (mainly either of Church of England or Roman Catholic) though there are also Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faith schools. Faith schools follow the same national curriculum as state schools, though with the added ethos of the host religion.

    The Education Act 1944 introduced a requirement for a daily act of collective worship and for religious education but did not define what was allowable under these terms. The act contained provisions to allow parents to withdraw their children from these activities and for teachers to refuse to participate.

    The Education Reform Act 1988 introduced a further requirement that the majority of collective worship be “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”.[126]

    According to a 2003 report from the Office for Standards in Education, a “third of governing bodies do not fulfil their statutory duties adequately, sometimes because of a failure to pursue thoroughly enough such matters as arranging a daily act of collective worship.

    While the politicians have prescribed a legal requirement for “collective worship” in state schools (which are the majority), many educated teachers do not take this very seriously – and as you can see government inspectors have identified “a third of schools” which do not comply! (One where I was a member of the board of governors did not even have a hall big enough for a whole school assembly.)

  22. In reply to #26 by Eliot:

    Putting it another way, the world knows a lot more about america than america knows about the world. It’s like your vast country is inside a perimeter of one-way mirrors. You see yourselves. And the rest of the world looks in too, seeing a strangely different place from their home. Which is why it can be irksome to have someone from inside those mirrors telling those outside how to go about their lives. Even when they’re right. Probably, especially when they’re right.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know that there is much to admire that has happened in or been done by people living in america. Going to the moon was astounding, no matter the reasons – that a huge country could harness so much scientific and engineering talent and give them the resources, the goal, and the inspiration to do such an amazing thing, and all the while others from that same nation were raining hellfire on asian villages and showing it on tv. Such a land of contradictions. I think we outsiders simply wish you’d display more of the wonderful and less of the terrible, for your actions do affect us all, beyond the mirrors, where you can barely see.

    I’m glad you found the primer on the UK interesting, and I see Alan4 is contributing further information. How UK residents work this one out will be a matter for themselves, I expect they’ll Muddle Through, as usual, stubbornly ignoring any advice from across the atlantic, that is a very british characteristic.

    • Dear OHooligan

      I realize that you are not seeking advice from the USA but please allow me to say this. In the mid-1960s, enrollment in American Catholic schools was at an all-time high of 4.5 million elementary school pupils and about 1 million students in Catholic high schools. Today the population of the United States is much larger but we have less than 1,682,000 students in Catholic elementary/middle schools and less than 638,000 in Catholic high schools. Enrollment in the nation’s Catholic schools has steadily dropped to less than half its peak of five million students 40 years ago.

      There are many reasons for the drop off in enrollment but the main reason is, not surprisingly, economics. Few nuns are willing to teach at catholic schools and so the schools have been forced to higher teachers and pay them competitive salaries. If you want to reduce the number of religious schools in the UK the answer is simple. Make them pay their own way.

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