When I first said I disagreed with faith schools I assumed people understand my reasons – but not so. One reaction accused me of ‘siding with the humanists and atheists’ against faith-schools. So I’m now responding to the accusation.
We all have a mental picture of how the world works – or should work. Here’s mine on the issue of faith schools.
1. A high priority for the British government is ‘social cohesion’ in a multi-cultural nation. The aim being to avoid inter-racial tension; social unrest; radicalisation or – God forbid – social disintegration.
2. All government policies therefore aim to facilitate integration, harmony, British identity and values.
3. The problem is that the social cohesion agenda is being hi-jacked by three ideologies.
i) secular humanism (This is ‘non’ or ‘anti’ religious and wants religion out of the state system so supports ghettoizing faith from public space.)
ii) political correctness (This naively over indulges faith groups as a way of dealing with post-colonial guilt; others are secularists who support faith schools in a cynical attempt to provoke the political right and to allow them to fail and so turn public opinion against them.)
iii) political right-wing (This is hostile to the indulging of any non-Anglo Saxon expression in society, including faith groups. This group does the dirty work for the other two groups as it vocalises protest.)
4. The three agendas above consistently undermine the social cohesion process by creating an ‘oil-and-water’ society where never the twain meet. If young people don’t experience friends from other faith groups and cultural backgrounds during their school experience where and when can this happen for them.
5. So far the agenda of people in groups i) and ii) (above) have prevailed and the church, which started the education system in Britain, are now required to accept that if they have ‘Christian schools’ then other faiths should also have them. So faith schools have flourished – often with inadequate controls; lack of transparency and inadequate monitoring. This is what has led to scandals such as the ‘Trojan Horse’ saga in Birmingham where schools were being bullied by aggressive individuals who were insisting that backward-looking ideology was taught.
6. In reality, faith schools are not beacons of religious freedom – quite the opposite – they marginalise faith and cause children to grow up in mono-cultural silos where they learn about the others but rarely (if ever) meet them or have opportunity to learn to live with them.