Why is God suddenly so big in the schools we all pay for? | The Guardian

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‘Only a third of adults even approve of state funding for faith schools, over half actively disapprove, and no more than a quarter of parents would be happy to send their children to a faith school.' Illustration by Matt Kenyon

There are layers of murk beneath the free school and academisation process that would make anybody with any sense avert their eyes. They are too new to make sense of, and too fragmented to see a pattern in. Rumours swirl: of dodgy Ofsteds; academies scoring higher than maintained schools for no determinable reason; and discrimination that, when schools were predominantly under local authority control, would have been so impossible, so laughable, that it's hard to credit.

Many of the problems associated with free schools are related to the fact that they're run by faith organisations. But faith schools have been around for decades without letting in the kind of injustice parents complain of now.

In Derby, a headteacher at a Muslim free school left, complaining, among other things, that girls were being asked to sit at the back of the class. Elsewhere there is talk of discrimination on the basis of caste; documented faith provision that doesn't reflect the local demographic (a Jewish primary school in Wandsworth, a borough that only has 1,600 Jewish constituents in total); communities whose primary schools are being force-academised (this is a word I never expected us to have to make up); parents no longer able to exact any accountability from their local authority and looking around blankly for someone to take their side.

I was never persuaded of what local authorities had done wrong, to be crowbarred out of education. But whatever you think of local authority control, it had pretty good mechanisms for ensuring children received an education without having to make a declaration of belief.

Education professionals have been saying since the coalition came in that it would take years to unpick the damage the free school programme and attendant policies could do. I always thought they meant Toby Young, and shrugged, thinking, he is but one slacker journalist – how dangerous can he be?

Written By: Zoe Williams
continue to source article at theguardian.com

25 COMMENTS

  1. The fundamentalists here in the USA would love the opportunity to get an even tighter grip on our schools and we have separation of church and state. In a nation that leans to the secular side of things why do you have State funded religious schools? I suppose it comes down to liberals (of which I’m one) wanting to be fair and inclusive. Sounds great until you realize the slippery slope you create. I’ve seen Richard Dawkins documentary discussing the subject and I wonder what others have to say in regard to this situation.

    • In reply to #1 by Docbrew:

      I suppose it comes down wanting to be fair and inclusive.

      That’s exactly it. Except when it comes down to who should be ‘fairly included’ it’s a case of whoever shouts loudest.

      • In reply to #2 by bob_e_s:

        In reply to #1 by Docbrew:

        I suppose it comes down wanting to be fair and inclusive.

        That’s exactly it. Except when it comes down to who should be ‘fairly included’ it’s a case of whoever shouts loudest.

        I think in the US the drive for Multiculturalism is partly to blame. Its one liberal idea I never thought much of and the older I get the more I hate it. The “american dream” stuff I was taught in school had a fair amount of BS but one idea that I think was good and we shouldn’t have been so quick to jettison was the “melting pot”. The analogy used to be what made the US great was we took in all these different ingredients from lots of different cultures and kept the best of them to constantly create something new. I think that is a pretty cool idea actually. The alternative liberal dogma is that there is some mystical significance to your ethnic identity, That kids of spanish descent need to learn spanish as well as English (I’m all for all kids learning multiple languages just not pressuring them to learn the language of their parents). I think its BS. It’s just hanging on to the dumb racial, ethnic, national, and of course religious prejudices that have caused so many problems.

        • In reply to #4 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #2 by bobes:

          In reply to #1 by Docbrew:

          That kids of spanish descent need to learn spanish as well as English (I’m all for all kids learning multiple languages just not pressuring them to learn the language of their parents). I think its BS. It’s just hanging on to the dumb racial, ethnic, national, and of course religious prejudices that have caused so many problems.

          Of course there should not be any “pressure” and if these kids are living in a 2nd or 3d generation household where there are no longer are any native speakers -their parents aren’t- then there is no linguistic leg up from learning the language of their ancestors. But if ties have been maintained with relatives back in the old country, learning their language can be both culturally and personally enriching.

          However, if the parents are native speakers, then it is unintelligent and a tragic missed opportunity not to bring up the children in their language. Why waste an opportunity to develop fully bilingual native skills almost effortlessly as compared to academic study of a second language (later i.e. too late in life)-a miserable inefficient slog with miserable results in proportion to the effort, cost and time sunk?

          Learning the language of the parents who raise you is “just hanging on to the dumb racial, ethnic, national, and of course religious prejudices that have caused so many problems.” ?!?

          • In reply to #22 by godsbuster:

            However, if the parents are native speakers, then it is unintelligent and a tragic missed opportunity not to bring up the children in their language. Why waste an opportunity to develop fully bilingual native skills almost effortlessly as compared to academic study of a second language (later i.e. too late in life)-a miserable inefficient slog with miserable results in proportion to the effort, cost and time sunk?

            I think calling it “tragic” is a bit extreme but I agree it is an opportunity. And I agree the “melting pot” idea was taken too far up to the 1970′s when Multiculturalism came into vogue. I actually had grand parents who were born in Italy but when I was at the age when I could have easily learned a second language my parents were adamant that my grandparents speak only English around me. I agree that was a missed opportunity. (Although I still picked up the best swear words from my dad)

            However, there is a big difference between saying that parents and grand parents can and should teach children second languages in the home and telling parents that they should raise and teach their children primarily in their native tongue and that their education has to be focused around their native culture. My impression is that multiculturalism went to some ridiculous extremes in this regard. And I’m not in favor of any system that says Latino children need to be taught in Spanish and learn from the perspective of Latin Studies or that African American children need to be taught in Ebonics and Black History. I realize you never claimed otherwise, I’m just clarifying it’s that kind of multuculturalism that I object to and I do think there are some liberals who take it to that extreme.

            This thread started with me replying to Docbrew talking about how “liberals want to be inclusive” and saying that was a reason for God and religion creeping back into schools. The logical extension of saying Latinos need to learn in Spanish and learn from a Latin Studies perspective is to say Muslim/Arab children need to learn in Arabic and from a Sharia perspective. That is what their parents did after all. That kind of over reaction is what I object to.

    • In reply to #1 by Docbrew:

      The fundamentalists here in the USA would love the opportunity to get an even tighter grip on our schools and we have separation of church and state. In a nation that leans to the secular side of things why do you have State funded religious schools?

      The “why” is complicated, and historic. We only provided free schooling for all by taking over schools which religious (and at the time 100% Christian) orders had set up, in some cases centuries earlier.

      The state did a deal, enshrined in the 1944 Education Act, that in return for taking over (and almost completely funding) in future, the faith schools taken over would be able to continue pretty much forever, and to teach religion, and in many cases to select/prefer students on the basis of faith.

      70 years on you could argue the state has paid many times over for whatever it took over and is entitled to repeal this deal.

      Modern concepts of equality of course now mean that fairly bland, non-proselytising Christina schools have no better right to a place at the table than any other faith wanting to set up a school at taxpayers’ expense, and we are getting some extreme results, although so far the government remains adamant about not teaching creationism and other such twaddle.

      In Northern Ireland and at least parts of Scotland a sectarian education is pretty well mandatory, based on the faith of your parents, and religious divisions are thus propagated down the generations and, often, deepened as a result.

      I don’t know an answer. Like many typically-British compromises this has layers of complexity, and iniquity, embedded within it. I lean towards the stated policies of the Liberal Democrats, which is to end selection on the basis of faith and require all faith schools to accept a quota of people not of that faith. At least as a first step on the road to abolition.

      • That gives me a much better understanding of the history behind it. Thank you. In reply to #6 by Stevehill:

        In reply to #1 by Docbrew:

        The fundamentalists here in the USA would love the opportunity to get an even tighter grip on our schools and we have separation of church and state. In a nation that leans to the secular side of things why do you have State funded religious schools?

        The “why” is complic…

  2. When I was in high school, the vice principal was from England. He defended British system saying that individual schools were perhaps not of excellent quality, but you got diversity, and this served the public good when the students graduated. You don’t want all students believing the same state-provided curriculum.

    Here in Canada religious schools are partly funded by the government. They have to fund the religious education with fees. Vancouver Talmud Torah for example uses a conventional curriculum in the morning, and teaches Hebrew, Judaiism and Israel in the afternoons. You must bear a beanie in the school. They have security system to control which strangers enter the school.

  3. It is the zeitgeist of the 2010′s. Everything you have is with you at all times. The phone in your pocket is an absolute supercomputer compared to computers just 30 – 40 years ago. I have 5,000 songs, I have 10,000 books, I have answers.com, ask.com, the webpages of everything, everybody, every every every….

    So, the religion must travel too. BTW, most kids completely “get it” and though they, themselves, may carry their religion around, they are flexible enough to allow everyone to have their own. (I said MOST)….

    It is adults who cannot seem to allow this concept to take foothold in their minds. Laws and policies MUST be blind to religion, race, and sexual orientation in this MELTING POT of a country where “all are created equal” and “justice is blind”..

    Or are those statements inaccurate?

    • In reply to #5 by crookedshoes:

      It is the zeitgeist of the 2010′s. Everything you have is with you at all times. The phone in your pocket is an absolute supercomputer compared to computers just 30 – 40 years ago. I have 5,000 songs, I have 10,000 books, I have answers.com, ask.com, the webpages of everything, everybody, every …<

      Sounds like another form of religion, I remember times where such things did not exist, and none of us died because of that. You know, brainwash has no limits, and today, we do not need a confessional anymore, you confess yourself permanently on such social sites. People scream about violation of privacy, while they are hanging around on social networks and screaming out into the world all they do, they have, they are. So what then? I write on a few forums, when I find time, i stay objective and try to communicate some knowledge and facts about people’s concerns. Unfortunately, once you bring any truth, your account is just disabled. This proves that this world is not ready for any truth, it lives with lies, it lives for yesterday, with yesterday and by yesterday. The first occupation is BBC News and CNN, here the brainwash starts. The people say, the radio told, the doctor online warns, Obama decides, Kerry tells, and lies come and come, endless. So, in what does our brave new world differs from religions, those who live in it believe just any scrap, and if it was not that way, religions had not lasted for so long and still go on. Now, believe what you want, all you believe is all you ignore and have no evidence about. And do not say that you believe only what you see, if you see it it becomes evidence and there is no need for any faith to it. Faith turn into knowledge by evidence, and if you use that knowledge for the welfare of the whole humanity, it becomes wisdom. Many of us scream against this or that, but none is more enslaved than the one who claims to be free. I do not belong to any organization, secret society, biker gang, cult, religion, club, I need no one to rule me and tell me what to do and sets me limits. For that, I have chosen once to get married. Definitely, by all you enumerate, you show clearly that you belong to the brave new world. I have no phone in my pocket, I don’t need one. Most of us just think they need one, but all that is just a fruit of your imagination, and, fortunately for you, there are enough instances around to add fertilizer to make this fruit grow bigger.

  4. It is one of the Cameron government’s opportunities for opportunists.

    It’s a bit like his defence of those poor little impoverished bankers, suffering by having their bonuses restricted to only twice their annual salary by those nasty European regulators!

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/25/us-britain-eu-bonuses-idUSBRE98O0WF20130925

    Britain has launched a legal challenge to the European Union’s cap on bankers’ bonuses which London fears will hurt its financial industry.

    Finance minister George Osborne has long argued that Brussels has gone too far with reforms aimed at preventing a repeat of the financial crisis. But EU financial services chief Michel Barnier said the bonus cap was legal.

    The EU law will limit a bonus to no more than a banker’s fixed salary, or twice that level with shareholder approval.

    In times of economic difficulty, the “people” (who might vote for him or sponsor his party), have to be looked after!
    After all, the Libs and Labour have atheist leaders, who have proposed taxing the rich to help the ordinary citizens, and have worked for equal opportunities in the past!

  5. Steve Hill has put in all the historical reasons for this, and I can’t really add to that. Would I would say is that our secular leanings may indeed stem from the way religion has an everyday, and almost banal element due to children getting exposed to it so regularly it becomes tedious. My son, now 18, was exposed to the usual religious twaddle at his primary school, because that was the only available school. All schools in a 5 mile radius of our house were Church of England, or Roman Catholic, and the only secular one closed because of inferior funding, which made it unviable. He decided aged 8 that it made no sense to him, and has declared himself atheist ever since. The same could be said of at least 90% of his friends, who went through the same educational experience.
    Exposure to the utter daftness of religion from an early age can actually help children to see the rational light. It’s only those who get a different hymn sheet read to them at home that end up towing the religious line.

    • In reply to #9 by TenderHooligan:

      My son, now 18, was exposed to the usual religious twaddle at his primary school, because that was the only available school. All schools in a 5 mile radius of our house were Church of England, or Roman Catholic, and the only secular one closed because of inferior funding, which made it unviable. He decided aged 8 that it made no sense to him, and has declared himself atheist ever since. The same could be said of at least 90% of his friends, who went through the same educational experience. Exposure to the utter daftness of religion from an early age can actually help children to see the rational light. It’s only those who get a different hymn sheet read to them at home that end up towing the religious line.

      This is jubilant news but I worry it might be also skewed by the possibility of your son naturally having attracted intelligent friends implying a non-representative sample of the children.

      • Maybe, but as a secondary school teacher (albeit in a decidedly secular school) very few children follow any religion, despite them largely coming from religiously based feeder primary schools. Sixth form lessons are full of debate. Only today we discussed Russel’s Teapot, and they all expressed atheist views. It’s probably a little contentious, although backed up by evidence, to say that this lack of religion is associated with being more intelligent, but I am very lucky to work with a group of intelligent, rational and aspirational young people.
        In reply to #10 by godsbuster:

        In reply to #9 by TenderHooligan:

        My son, now 18, was exposed to the usual religious twaddle at his primary school, because that was the only available school. All schools in a 5 mile radius of our house were Church of England, or Roman Catholic, and the only secular one closed because of inferior…

    • In reply to #9 by TenderHooligan:

      He decided aged 8 that it made no sense to him, and has declared himself atheist ever since. The same could be said of at least 90% of his friends, who went through the same educational experience. Exposure to the utter daftness of religion from an early age can actually help children to see the rational light. It’s only those who get a different hymn sheet read to them at home that end up towing the religious line.

      Wonderfully put TenderHooligan. My recent experience as a parent has been very similar to yours. My eldest daughter (now at secondary school) went to a church run voluntary controlled primary school which includes a daily ‘service’ and a weekly visitation by ‘Mr Jones’ – the local clerical collar-clad cretin. We could have opted her out of the religious indoctrination at the school, but given the choice she didn’t really want to sit alone in a room isolated from her friends, so chose instead to sit it out. I’m actually glad that she did that because she took it upon herself to question Mr Jones on a variety of his chosen subjects of the week and very soon she realised that he could not present an intelligent enough argument to convince a questioning 9 year old (I was so proud the day she came home and told me that she had asked him to provide evidence to back up his assertions!). My youngest daughter (aged 7) is also at the same church run primary school and is already turning into a well-rounded heretical infidel non-believing blasphemy (albeit a very cute one that I’m extremely proud of!).

      I agree totally with you that, at least in the more ‘traditional’ CofE run voluntary controlled schools, the vast majority of pupils walk away unharmed by the mild (and strictly controlled/limited) indoctrination that they are exposed to, largely forming their beliefs (and developing their education) based on what they see/receive at home. However, I’m not certain that the so called ‘free schools’ or ‘academies’ are run to the same strict standards. But then again – those schools are also going to attract the more ‘extreme’ end of the religious spectrum in terms of what the children receive at home as well, so often represent the worst case scenario from both the home and in-school situations. Whilst I feel that they should be banned, or at least very strictly monitored and controlled to ensure that they conform to mainstream standards, I’m not certain what effect this would ultimately have on the children given the influence of their situation at home.

  6. Although our society may be secular, our government is decidedly not. We have 26 bishops in our House of Lords, appointed solely because they are bishops – the lords spiritual. Our head of state is head of the CofE, and as a monarch appointed by god. We don’t have a fixed constitution such as in the US. I think folk over here are lulled by the fact that the CofE is a relatively doddery and toothless organisation. The problem with this is that like any out of touch, senile geriatric with an inordinate amount of power there is the potential for great harm. Another issue is that many people can’t see (or don’t want to see) that itsets a precedent that a british secular society has religion in government. The next religion in terms of number of adherents is islam (which is growing, whilst the CofE is shrinking fast) and by the same logic we should see mullahs in our second house, by dint of their position. I would not be surprised to see ths happen in my lifetime, unless there is a huge sea change in the British public’s apathy levels. We have after all seen sharia law come in through the back door (sycophantically held open by the previous arch cock up of Cantebury, rowan Williams), and actually incorporated into British law, in all it’s mysogenistc homophobic freedom hating glory.

    • In reply to #11 by Zhap135:

      Ironically Islam will probably be the cause of disestablishment of the Church of England. Not for the wholly sensible reason that disestablishment is the right thing to do, but because there will come a point where Muslim claims to equal representation in Parliament as of right etc become pretty much unanswerable.

      And then for all the wrong reasons we will decide to disestablish, and kick out the CofE bishops, because basically far too many Britons are anti-Muslim, anti-Islam, anti-immigration, anti-brown skins and anti not-invented-here (they think Christianity was invented here, obviously). And it would therefore be political suicide for any government to create 26 imam-Lords.

      As I say, the wrong reasons. But if that’s what works…

      (It is also arguable that the accession of philanderer-divorcee Prince Charles to the throne will raise questions about his suitability to be Defender of the Faith, though the Henry VIII example still carries much force!)

      In the context of this topic, the question is then whether a disestablished and in any event (demographically) much reduced Church of England has any defensible right to remain in charge of a quarter of our schools on the back of taxpayer funding. I suppose as long as the educational outcomes are good (and largely, they are) nobody is going to want to rock the boat, unfortunately.

      • In reply to #13 by Stevehill:
        I think you’re right Steve, that it is the general mistrust of Islam that will cause the disestablishment of the Church from the State. However, I think that it is our concerns about what happens in Muslim faith schools that is fuelling this particular debate. I don’t agree that this is due to our concerns about otherness, or brown skin, but more about the iniquitous treatment of women, and the perpetuation of myths that are contrary to science and reason, and calling this education.

        In reply to #11 by Zhap135:

        Ironically Islam will probably be the cause of disestablishment of the Church of England. Not for the wholly sensible reason that disestablishment is the right thing to do, but because there will come a point where Muslim claims to equal representation in Parliament as…

      • In reply to #13 by Stevehill:

        In reply to #11 by Zhap135:

        Ironically Islam will probably be the cause of disestablishment of the Church of England. Not for the wholly sensible reason that disestablishment is the right thing to do, but because there will come a point where Muslim claims to equal representation in Parliament as…

        I hope you’re right Steve, but I can’t help thinking that if a Lord Islamic was suggested now there would be little stomach to oppose it either by parliament or by the electorate. The precedent is there, and after all it would be only fair. Furthermore there is little democratic accountability in the selection of the Lords, as we have seen.

    • In reply to #17 by This Is Not A Meme:

      Expecting one’s religion at school is like expecting it at work. It’s inherently centric, tyrannical, and ridiculous.

      You mean like at the Belfast shipyard that built (among other things) the Titanic? That was a one-religion shop at the time.

      • In reply to #24 by OHooligan:

        In reply to #17 by This Is Not A Meme:

        Expecting one’s religion at school is like expecting it at work. It’s inherently centric, tyrannical, and ridiculous.

        You mean like at the Belfast shipyard that built (among other things) the Titanic? That was a one-religion shop at the time.

        That’s it. I’m tired of my people staying silent. I demand my employers conduct military drills and flag hanging ceremonies to please John Frum, who shall return this February 15th. Prophet Fred be damned! Cargo!

  7. I don’t think many children can pick up religion in schools (a hunch, I don’t have evidence for this), due to the inclusive way it’s taught.
    Indoctrination occurs in church and primarily at home.

  8. I live in the Philippines and i fight religion as much as I can.Here, you can’t find any school that has any name independent from religion. They are called holly child, Santo Nino, Holly Name, Mother of creation, baptist school, and so on. There is only one single school here around that leaves the choice between “with”, or “without” religion. Beside that, there is a theosophical school somewhere that teaches new age stuff. My child got the permission to study Bible text in school, she could not participate in any school without this stupid teaching, but the school accepted that we keep her out of any activity that involves any religion. Religion is a real sickness in this country, and people are dumbed down by the church. They believe in all kind of superstitious things, ghosts, spirits, white ladies. As it is since ever, religion works fine where people are non educated and they leave the priest dictate to them what they should do and what they shouldn’t. Fortunately, many start fighting the system, and, like just anything in this universe, it will destroy itself some day. Humanity has not become smarter in 3000 years, and there are, like it was in ancient times, magicians and fools. Fools have empty brains, and magicians use all their magic to keep those brains empty. And, that does not only concerns religions, or is anyone of you all thinking that all the taxes he pays serve for his personal comfort or welfare. Ancient times government was the church, but since that started sucking, the wolf has hidden in a sheep’s skin, made governments, constitutions and laws, and, the same way it has been at the “church”s” times, you keep on paying. On the end, the system is the same, only the name and the front of the scene changes. The church has still more influence in governments and states as anyone could imagine. Just look at the majority of countries in this world, listen to their heads of state and hear the word GOD in their speeches, and just count how often you hear that word, a symbolic metaphor that ancients used to design something specific, and that still today is used as the best excuse for anything, wars, killings, terror, slavery, torture, not paying taxes, and the list is endless.In reality it is something like an AK47, you can hang it on the wall and forget it, or you take it and pull the trigger. I do not agree with all of what Richard Dawkins says, but I admire him for trying to fight against windmills. I do the same fight since ever, with one difference on him, I know what the sacred books say, and what they are about, and believe me, nothing of what you “read” in reality, not literally, in there, has anything to do with religion. Religions just misuse it for their cause, and that cause is power and money only. World domination and ruling is an old dream, and many tried it, and never reached their goal. It is normal, our universe is built on duality, positive and negative, and one single of those fields can not act alone, if it does, only negative remains, infinite and endless, and there, sh.t happens. Today some others try to build world governments to rule and control. I just can tell them, “good luck with that”. At the moment I write, I started listen to a speech of Dan Dennett. I like that man.

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