Religious indoctrination and religious segregation has no place in schools. Children should be able to learn and work out their ideas without officially imposed or sponsored indoctrination from priests, imams, or rabbis. There should be no faith schools. Schools should deal in inquiry and reason, not faith.
That is the basic issue highlighted by the outcry against the mild comments on faith schools made by the Chief Inspector of Schools, David Bell, in a speech on 17 January. Trevor Phillips, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, has endorsed the comments.
As some one that teaches Religious Education and Religious Studies I must object to a few of the views expressed in an article that I otherwise agree with.
Anyone who is involved in the teaching of religions will scoff at the notion that the role of RE/RS is to teach any religion as 'true', rather the point is both to learn about religions and learn from them by constructing a critical engagement of the pupils with some aspects of the religious tradtion that they are looking at. This is not my opinion but is what is laid out in all RE/RS syllabuses.
It seems an arrogant statement to say that all religions and all followers of religion are not concerned with love or truth, rather they seek to be told what to do! This is a gross distortion of what may people will have experienced of religion. How would you feel if some one argued that Communism is not about liberation but about the transmitting of holy texts via the Party leaders/clergy? You wouldn't deny that this can be the case but it is not the whole case!
RE/RS is possibly the one subject on the syllabus where there is no right or wrong answers but an emphasis on the development of critical reason and of opinion. It is also a chance to think about and debate issues that would not crop up in any other subject. It would be odd if people who see themselves as progressive would line up with those reactionaries who see RE/RS as worthless as its not about preparing the next generation of workers for deadend jobs. This socialist, atheist teacher union activist for one would oppose you.
I wasn't particularly referring to RE classes. I'm sure they've changed a lot since I was at school, and my kids are as yet too young for RE classes. So I don't feel knowledgable enough to comment.
What I *am* bothered about is compulsory religious worship at schools, religious appointees on governing bodies, and the designation of a school as being of a particular religion. These things are clearly based on telling children that the particular religion concerned is the one truth.
After all, if it is simply a matter of RE lessons teaching about all religions equally (and - I wonder if you could confirm this - about secularism and atheism too), then why have such things as C of E schools, Muslim schools, etc.?
I am also bothered about the so-called 'right' of parents to withdraw their children from learning about things such as sex education, usually on religious grounds. Parents should have no right to deny their kids the right to this knowledge. This is a clear example of putting religious beliefs above concern for passing on facts and learning.
Ok, I'd totally agree with any act of worship being compulsory (a moments reflection tells us that this wrong!). Im against a school being designated a particular religion too, though in practice not all 'faith' schools try to promote the pupils to become members of that faith: I know of inner city CoE schools that are 95% muslim.
For some 'faith' schools it is more a matter of broad principles that they encourage, or a particular mission that they have (such as providing education for recently arrived pupils in Britain) rather than promoting one religion as true. Guess which type of faith schools broadly dont do the above!
I teach Religious Studies AS and A2 level and that explicitly deals with the arguments against the existence of God,as will GCSE at a lower level. In any case, I think often socialists devalue the experiences of religious people and the notion that they might be anything to learn from any religion would be laughed at by most socialists.
I share your concerns about pupils being barred from some subjects on their parents say so on religious grounds, but then for some at least of the parents they will believe that are doing whats best for their child. Do you think the state should make it illegal for this to happen?
By the way RE is the only subject that parents have a right to withdraw their children from.
I don't think that it is just Muslim schools that have raised the profile of this issue. It is also the government's policy of allowing ever more wacky Christians to control state schools through their Academies programme. Fortunately, there are some good examples of school workers and communities defeating this.