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  • Technorati: graph / links

    Faith and trust


    by Ala on 5th September, 2008 at 5:56 pm    

    A furore around faith schools has once again been generated, this time in conjunction with the launch of Accord, a new coalition of organisations that oppose state-funded faith schools. Accord would like to see a world of no state funding for any school that discriminates in its intake on grounds of belief and doesn’t teach a fair and balanced RE curriculum, all in the name of cohesion and giving children their full rights.

    Thankfully, social services save children from the denial of their fundamental rights, but when it comes to faith, children usually adopt the faith of their parents by default until they’re old enough to leave school anyway. A faith school doesn’t have to be a place where only Muslims mix if the same Muslims decide they don’t want to be Muslims when they’re older. A faith school discriminates more on parents’ belief, and if parents are so stuck in their ways in the first place, it’s probably best their children have the camaraderie of their peers in the same situation.

    Polly Toynbee points out the problem of faith related bullying, but fails to acknowledge that such bullying is more likely to come from the child’s own parents: the gay child of religious parents is unlikely to come out until they’re much older, regardless of what school they’re in. They would suffer the same bullying from the same religious people should they all be transplanted into a secular school. Likewise with cohesion. What’s to stop pupils in secular schools grouping together by faith, forming faith-based school gang rivalries? Nor does a faith-based teaching bias have to fetter a child’s critical thinking. I was not taught a single thing about history or other religions at school, but that didn’t stop me acquiring that knowledge in later life, learning about other religions with a depth no RE curriculum could have paralleled, before rejecting the lot of them entirely.

    The national curriculum and wider society ensure that those in faith communities are not trapped. Unless you get rid of faith altogether, getting rid of faith schools won’t solve a thing. Children don’t have faith, all they have is their parents. In their time of need and vulnerability, as they grow up and learn to fend for themselves, they’re not thinking of theology and metaphysics, but friends and acceptance. Their school experience should be a warm and fuzzy one: there is plenty of time for the big questions.



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    88 Comments below   |   Add your own

    1. Don — on 5th September, 2008 at 6:18 pm  

      A faith school doesn’t have to be a place where only Muslims mix if the same Muslims decide they don’t want to be Muslims when they’re older.

      Sorry, could you rephrase that? I don’t quite get what you are saying.

      Most of the parts I did understand, I disagree with.

    2. Muhamad — on 5th September, 2008 at 6:43 pm  

      Don, I’m guessing she’s talking about a possible multifaith school?

      “Unless you get rid of faith altogether, getting rid of faith schools won’t solve a thing.”
      I see what you’re suggesting. :-)

      At the end of the day, every taxpayer must worry about where his or her money’s going. I’m all for someone having faith, I just don’t wanna fund it.

    3. Ala — on 5th September, 2008 at 6:53 pm  

      Sorry about the wording. I was challenging the argument that children in faith schools only mix with people of the same faith, therefore making them intolerant, by pointing out that they’re all just children and their faith is something they decide when they’re older.

      I’m not surprised you disagree with me, as most here probably will, too. Then again you didn’t have a religious upbringing and didn’t go to a faith school. One interesting ancedote I didn’t include was that when I was at a non-faith school, the school didn’t do a thing to bring me out of my religious shell. I still sat out of dancing, never played a musical instrument, didn’t eat pork and my parents didn’t encourage me to go to friends’ houses. The school didn’t help me integrate into wider society, it made me a complete and utter loner. The huge difference that I as a child noticed when I moved to a faith school was the feeling of what it was like to be popular for the first time. Interestingly, my grades shot up. And here I am now.

      Did my parents abuse me by aiding my failure to integrate? Possibly. But they fed me good. And hey, they were the only parents I had. And I still somehow feel that a dogmatic yet peaceful childhood rather than an undogmatic but miserable one (without my parents) did better to make me the person I am now.

      My point, and the point of this post was that dogma matters little to children and their playground popularity game, and a secular school matters little to a child with religious parents.

    4. Don — on 5th September, 2008 at 7:47 pm  

      I see, you mean that just because a school is exclusively for the children of followers of X-faith, the children themselves are just children, not X-faith children?

      Well, I’d strongly agree with the spirit of that, but when children are told by every authority figure they come into contact with that they are X-faith, that X-faith is the true faith, that X-faith is their primary identity, then for many that will stick. If the school then goes on to imply (or even openly assert) that followers of Y-faith and Z-faith are either deluded or depraved (and damned either way) and should be avoided and distrusted, some of that will stick, too.

      On a few of your other points,

      What’s to stop pupils in secular schools grouping together by faith, forming faith-based school gang rivalries?

      A good headteacher, for a start.

      Nor does a faith-based teaching bias have to fetter a child’s critical thinking.

      It doesn’t have to, but it is intended to and can be very effective in doing so. Critical thinking is difficult enough to develop in a child when you are trying to do so. If it is actively discouraged then very few students will acquire it for themselves. Some will - you did - but they will be relatively few. And faith based teaching is an oxymoron by any definition of teaching I am comfortable with.

      I was not taught a single thing about history or other religions at school, but that didn’t stop me acquiring that knowledge in later life,…

      You are very forgiving of what sounds like very, very bad teaching. Yes, you made up for it off your own bat. That doesn’t make it ok that you were bilked of a vital part of education by those charged with educating you. I might as well say that I was taught no maths at school but managed to educate myself in the subject in subsequent years. The school would still have been culpable for cheating me of a crucial part of knowledge. It’s not ok.

      … before rejecting the lot of them entirely.

      Good for you. Seriously. But wasn’t that despite your educational experiences?

      The national curriculum and wider society ensure that those in faith communities are not trapped.

      In theory that makes sense, in practice the NC is delivered according to the ethos of the school, and mixing freely and comfortably with wider society is not a given.

      Unless you get rid of faith altogether, getting rid of faith schools won’t solve a thing.

      I partly agree with this, we aren’t going to be seeing the end of faith any time soon. And a total ban on faith schools would probably be impractical and enormously disruptive as well as leading to home schooling and informal, uncontrolled, unaccountable centres of indoctrination.

      Children don’t have faith,…

      Yes they do. They have faith in the adults they trust to tell them the truth.

      Their school experience should be a warm and fuzzy one…

      Their school experience should be of feeling safe and valued while they explore and learn to navigate the world of knowledge and questioning.

      there is plenty of time for the big questions.

      Aaaaargh.

      (BTW, you are right that I didn’t have a strict religious upbringing, but I was raised in a religion {Methodist Christianity} and required to spend every Sunday morning at chapel and Sunday School until my early teens.)

    5. Rumbold — on 5th September, 2008 at 8:14 pm  

      I am disturbed by the new breed of faith schools that are really religious. My primary was a Church of England state school, but we had loads of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus as well as people who didn’t go to any temple. Yet as a school we had Christian assemblies and went to church. The new type of faith school seems to increasingly reject this sort of lax pluralism, which is sad.

    6. Desi Italiana — on 5th September, 2008 at 8:28 pm  

      Rumbold:

      “Yet as a school we had Christian assemblies and went to church. The new type of faith school seems to increasingly reject this sort of lax pluralism, which is sad.”

      Yo, it ain’t ‘lax pluralism’ when everyone has to attend Christian assemblies and church, regardless if they were Christian or not!

    7. Rumbold — on 5th September, 2008 at 8:48 pm  

      They were Church of England assemblies, which aren’t really religious.

    8. Don — on 5th September, 2008 at 8:49 pm  

      Rumbold,

      I think the difference is that in some schools the religious element is a hangover from the past while in others it is a vision of the future.

      I find the former annoying to a greater or lesser degree, but the latter is a real cause for concern.

    9. Rumbold — on 5th September, 2008 at 8:56 pm  

      Don:

      I don’t consider the former to be annoying, I think it represents the best of British- a faith school where half the pupils don’t follow that faith and the other half don’t have a clue what is going on.

      Desi:

      You have to remember that the Church of England was founded not on religious grounds but so the king could marry his mistress and get some money. That rather set the tone for the next four hundred years. These two clips, from the greatest show ever, should explain things:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBtDIVfhh8k&feature=related

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwkI6PZhm4A&feature=related

    10. Rumbold — on 5th September, 2008 at 9:51 pm  

      How an Anglican bishop is expected to behave:

      “While most members of the Church of England are arguing over whether women should be elevated to the episcopate, one bishop is exercising authority in a very temporal matter.

      The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Rev Michael Langrish, whose favourite tipple is a gin and tonic, was dismayed to find Plymouth gin no longer available on the 19.05 train from London to his diocese.

      “When he was told the train no longer served Plymouth gin he brought it up with Charles Howeson (the chairman of First Great Western),” says his spokesman. “It was then
      reinstated.”"

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mandrake/2264698/Portillo-prickly-about-weight-loss.html

    11. Sid — on 5th September, 2008 at 10:09 pm  

      They were Church of England assemblies, which aren’t really religious.

      No true, you only have to open up your hymn books and sing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ which is a cheery song about marching off to kill Arabs.

      I went to a faith school but it wasn’t of my faith. The teachers were Jesuit nuns who were the most secular, open, inspiring and tough-loving bunch of virgins I have ever known.

    12. Ravi Naik — on 5th September, 2008 at 10:14 pm  

      Again, Don nails it. And I also totally disagree with this assertion:

      Their school experience should be a warm and fuzzy one: there is plenty of time for the big questions.

      I believe school years are the most important part of your life. Kids are innate scientists, they want to learn new things and want to know why they are so. They should be encouraged to question any knowledge given to them, and they should be taught to seek those answers. I think it is sad to castrate that natural human trait, and force-feeding them a version of the truth and putting them in a class of people who are forced to do the same. In this case, they won’t be able to ask the big questions later on.

    13. Katy Newton — on 5th September, 2008 at 10:21 pm  

      You have to remember that the Church of England was founded not on religious grounds but so the king could marry his mistress and get some money.

      Henry VIII did not found the Church of England, exactly, and not just to marry Anne Boleyn. He split England from Rome and used it as an excuse to pull apart the Church to get his hands on its wealth, having spent all of the money his father had saved. But although some of Henry VIII’s wives were reformers (Anne Boleyn and Katharine Parr in particular), and may have influenced him to a limited extent, Christianity under Henry VIII was basically Catholicism, but with Henry VIII at the head of the Church instead of the Pope, and an awful lot of reformers were put to death during his reign.

      It wasn’t until Elizabeth I that the Church of England proper was founded, an uneasy compromise between Catholicism and Protestantism founded for political reasons that didn’t actually please anyone except a bunch of politically expedient centrists. And under Elizabeth’s reign extremists on either side were frequently put to death just as they were in her father’s reign.

      So there.

      As you were.

    14. monkey — on 5th September, 2008 at 10:36 pm  

      wow i can see many of the points here but i see it as important to keep our faith schools if not increase them. Children need guidance in today Britain because no one else seems to be giving the right guidance and we cannot rely on a government without backbone to do so or set examples. Faith schools have a better way of teaching morals, respect, selfrespect and more importantly the importance of life. Which is lacking in our children today as we see them kill each other.

    15. Sid — on 5th September, 2008 at 10:39 pm  

      Their school experience should be a warm and fuzzy one: there is plenty of time for the big questions.

      My brain hurts when I think of the number of contradictions in that statement.

      Ala, some parents might want race schools, and the kids would be happy with them too since mummy and daddy would be happy. the children might even come out well-adjusted. Would you be happy with white-only schools?

    16. Desi Italiana — on 5th September, 2008 at 11:00 pm  

      Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m regurgitating my thoughts when I comment on PP, and that’s because some of these themes have already been visited in the past (faith and schools).

      So, rather than re-typing everything that a lot of people and I have already said, discussion from almost 2 years ago:

      http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/947

    17. Desi Italiana — on 5th September, 2008 at 11:02 pm  

      Sid:

      “My brain hurts when I think of the number of contradictions in that statement.”

      It’s ok, just have a bhang lassi, that’ll go a long way in soothing your sore brain :)

    18. Desi Italiana — on 5th September, 2008 at 11:07 pm  

      Shit, re-reading myself from almost 2 years ago, I’m struck by how organized my thoughts were, how I took time to respond, and how much more diplomatic I was. Now I just do drive-by commenting. Or disastrous surgical strikes with collateral damage, if you will.

      Has anyone else compared themselves to their blog persona of yesteryears?

      Sorry, this is off topic, but just wondering…

    19. Sid — on 5th September, 2008 at 11:10 pm  

      that’s a girls drink, Desi.

    20. Desi Italiana — on 5th September, 2008 at 11:12 pm  

      “‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ which is a cheery song about marching off to kill Arabs.”

      “Onward Christian Soldiers”? That sounds like something one would hear in the South (US), possibly even a war-cry of the KKK.

    21. Desi Italiana — on 5th September, 2008 at 11:17 pm  

      Sid:

      “that’s a girls drink, Desi.”

      Oh, well, excuse me. But since most men are primary school drinkers (with them sucking on innocuous beer-which is like drinking milk- rather than downing some REAL alochol) I mentioned bhang lassi, which is slightly stronger and would put most dudes into coma. If we had a drinking contest with hard liquor, I bet I would beat all of your guys’ asses.

      If you want something stronger than bhang lassi, you can alternatively snort coke.

    22. Don — on 6th September, 2008 at 12:00 am  

      When I was teaching in Sudan I was asked by a student, ‘Is it true there are people in your country who don’t believe in God?’ I replied, ‘Yes, we call them Anglicans.’

      As a teacher, that was very unethical of me. But I was young, I was weak.

    23. Sunny — on 6th September, 2008 at 12:07 am  

      ‘Is it true there are people in your country who don’t believe in God?’ I replied, ‘Yes, we call them Anglicans.’

      haha! you naughty person you…

    24. Andy Gilmour — on 6th September, 2008 at 12:08 am  

      Anyone wishing to perpetuate/extend the anachronism of state-funded “faith schools” should first consider the wonderful atmosphere of love, peace and mutual understanding they’ve engendered for decades in the west of Scotland.

      And to have included a minor variant on the “well, it never did *me* any harm” argument…oh dear. COngratulations for managing to repair the sub-standard education, shame about your blithe assumption that your fellow ‘indoctrinees’ were all so capable and fortunate.

      Finally, as for the CoE, it’s not such a cosy old irreligious institution any more, now is it? When you pass a CoE primary now, just ask yourself - which side of the “great gay schism” they fall?

      Ho hum.

    25. Sunny — on 6th September, 2008 at 12:26 am  

      Anyway, in response to the original post…

      As one of the original signatories to Accord, I’d like to first point out that it doesn’t say we should get rid of faith schools. Its point is to look at admission policy and the curriculum, and say they need to be regulated differently rather than allowing them to be self-segregating.

      Funnily enough, I had a similar discussion with my brother today (who’s quite religious) who said he actually wanted more religious segregation early on.

      His thinking was that in their early formative years, children should be taught at least the basics of their religion and all the arts and crafts (playing Sikh music instruments and singing classes) early on otherwise its too late when they’re much older and want to learn.

      I see his thinking, but obviously I disagree. He’s not coming from this view that religion is a bad thing because he wants to teach them about all the good things the Sikh Gurus did.

      While I see that, I still oppose it. I think in their early formative years, kids should mix and mingle as much as possible between different racial and religious groups.

      Although, there could be better provision of extra-curriculur religious teachings if parents wanted - but then they should fund it themselves…

    26. Leon — on 6th September, 2008 at 12:26 am  

      I went to a Roman Catholic primary school, secondary school and 6th form and turned out Atheist. As did many of my school mates. If that’s the effect of faith schools I’m all for them! :D

    27. Rumbold — on 6th September, 2008 at 10:37 am  

      Katy:

      “An uneasy compromise between Catholicism and Protestantism founded for political reasons that didn’t actually please anyone except a bunch of politically expedient centrists.”

      The Elizabethan settlement is widely considered to be a masterclass in how to settle religious disputes. Take a look at France in the same period to see what could have gone wrong (seven or so civil wars in 40 years).

    28. Shuggy — on 6th September, 2008 at 11:36 am  

      One or two of your points are perfectly reasonable but like most people who support faith schools you’ve ended up making a utilitarian argument. Moreover, this one’s rather weak - i.e. faith schools don’t do the harm that is imputed to them.

      Coming from the West of Scotland, I’d take strong issue with this claim but this is besides the point: the question is, how can faith schools be justified? To be more precise, how can the state justify taking taxes to pay for services that will exclude the tax-payer if they are of the wrong religious background? Beyond that, how can the institutional discrimination in employment be justified in this day and age? Where I live, this form of discrimination means that I have approximately a third fewer job opportunities than those colleagues of mine who are RC approved.

    29. Ala — on 6th September, 2008 at 3:31 pm  

      I’m not actually supporting faith schools, I hold a neutral stance on them, but I am trying to demonstrate that they can have advantages, or at least not the disadvantages people attribute to them. As a ten year old I was pulled out of a CoE school and sent to an Islamic school with much relief on my part. I became a happier, brighter and less bullied child because I was surrounded by others like me. I don’t think this applies to race because people of different races don’t live fundamentally different lifestyles.

      As for how faith schools can be justified, I can only say as a corollary of faith and faith communities, like other faith tailored services. As long as part of the electorate has a faith, the goverment will fund services for them.

      The national curriculum should be enough to ensure that all children get the same modicum of education. If I was allowed to obtain an RE GCSE by only studying Islam, then there’s a problem with the national curriculum.

      Ravi, I think we have different expectations of the education system. Since when did schools encourage real individual thinking as opposed to regimentalised rote learning? When I felt an itch for enlightenment I went home and read a book or watched panorama.

    30. Don — on 6th September, 2008 at 4:42 pm  

      Ala,

      Your argument seems to be based on the recollection that you changed schools at ten and were happier in the second school. Unfortunately, the second school, while giving you warm fuzzies, was lousy at actually educating you, to the extent that you accept as normal the fact that you had to go off and find your education elsewhere. I can’t understand why so are so relaxed about receiving a ‘modicum’ of education when you were entitled to so much more.

      Since when did schools encourage real individual thinking as opposed to regimentalised rote learning?

      What a defeatist attitude. Of course schools should encourage individual critical thinking, problem solving and basic philosophy. I don’t know of a single teacher who thinks otherwise. It may be true that some, perhaps most, fail to do this adequately. But that is a failure of the school, just as a hospital which does not maintain adequate levels of hygene is a failure of the hospital. There may be factors which make this failure explicable, but it remains a failure. And failure in such a key area needs to be addressed urgently, not shrugged off as just the way things are.

    31. Fiona Bruce — on 7th September, 2008 at 7:01 pm  

      I have a met a few jewish kids who are taught at jewish only schools and the kids cant even speak English and know nothing of the REAL world! All in London!
      i went to a CoE school and was left a mess! i did not have a clue what religion i was, did not get where Jesus and the Gurus met. My parents wanted me to be educated but religion was meant to be for them to teach me.
      I asked my folks about Father Christmas and was told he does not exist, went to school and told all the 7 year olds he is not real!
      I think schools are much better these days and different religions and cultures are taught to all the kids, so sep schools should not really be needed. Sunday schools exist in most religions.

    32. Ravi Naik — on 7th September, 2008 at 11:08 pm  

      As a ten year old I was pulled out of a CoE school and sent to an Islamic school with much relief on my part. I became a happier, brighter and less bullied child because I was surrounded by others like me. I don’t think this applies to race

      Your argument DOES apply to race as well - because one could easily make the case that ethnics would be happier, brighter and less bullied if they are surrounded by others like them.

      Your argument in fact can make a case for segregation under any group type: gender, religion, race, culture, etc. I don’t think segregation cures bullying: it will happen regardless - so I believe that schools should have a culture of zero tolerance towards bullying.

      I am strongly against segregation, because let’s face it: parents who do want their kids in that type of school do not want their children to be “polluted” by diversity and mainstream culture.

    33. Desi Italiana — on 8th September, 2008 at 6:31 am  

      “Their school experience should be a warm and fuzzy one: there is plenty of time for the big questions.”

      I feel extremely cheated that my high school history and English teachers made me think and question things from a critical perspective, even when we lacked the basic necessities that schools should have, like up-to-date textbooks. They made my life hell, with them challenging basic yet flawed assumptions, forcing us to read outside sources on the history of the US because our outdated textbooks sucked, attempting to incorporate a more inclusive understanding of world history sans the stereotypes that plagued the textbooks of my years, trying to meaningfully engage us with literature, making me do homework, and encouraging me to read and think about the ‘big questions.’

      Effing wankers.

      Traumatizing and scarring me for the rest of my life. My school experience should have been a warm and fuzzy one; I could have thought about the bigger questions sometimes later on in life without them pointing out that there are, in fact, ‘big questions’ in the first place. I am going to write them nasty letters right now, demanding to know why, why, why did they take it upon themselves to actually teach me anything at all. Why didn’t they just bring us cookies and Kool-Aid and let us chit chat for the whole period? Why didn’t they let us watch Days of Our Lives during class? Who do they think they are?

    34. Desi Italiana — on 8th September, 2008 at 6:36 am  

      Ravi:

      “a case for segregation under any group type: gender, religion, race, culture, etc.”

      Perhaps this is a stretch, but there’s also segregation of socio-economic classes in terms of schooling, and I am against that as well.

    35. Desi Italiana — on 8th September, 2008 at 6:40 am  

      “Since when did schools encourage real individual thinking as opposed to regimentalised rote learning?”

      I KNOW!!!! Seriously! In fact, why have teachers and schools at all?!

    36. Desi Italiana — on 8th September, 2008 at 6:50 am  

      Don:

      “Of course schools should encourage individual critical thinking, problem solving and basic philosophy.”

      No, they shouldn’t. Following graduation, we will spend the rest of our lives problem solving, individually thinking, and working in a regimented environment. Why do this during our youth when we will have to do this from 21 years old until we go to our grave? That’s plenty of time. You just want to hurt the little kiddies and tarnish their golden years, which make up a small slice of their general life span. That small slice of happiness, and you want to snatch it away from them. Sadistic, you are!

      Free the Children!

    37. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 11:34 am  

      interesting - of course you’re right about the problem in the first place being that about the parents faith and of course nothing to do with the children. and as you say, well what happens to these kids?
      if that’s how their parents feel, then they’re better off being surrounded by people whose parents arepressuring them similarly. certainly there is something to that - expressed often by children as if you wanted me to be brought up a muslim, why did you leave the muslim world!* etc. type of questions.

      And there is of course the business about giving children the tools to figure things out for themselves
      later i.e. question their parents and society, (and of course school isn’t about this generally at all school generally is to teach children to conform. ) So of course if you dont give children the tools then
      they will find it harder to break out. Some of us think this is a problem and some of us dont. Of course this is set in the wider issue of conformity, teaching children the silly things we believe and not giving them the truth (i.e. this is what we think, but we dont KNOW) and the ability to figure things out for themselves when they become adults.

      but hey who cares right. it was shit for us so why should we treat the next generation any differently?
      besides, we want to protect children from the existential angst dont we - fool them into thinking we
      know the answers and they are the right ones.

      and anyway the idea of school itself is problematic, but given the range of the extent of problems, telling a child they’ve got to fear this world and authority is bad enough, without compounding it by saying ooh if you dont listen to me or your teacher, God will get you too. Its giving authority a whole otherworldly dimension which just makes it that much harder for a child . Of course that is assuming you want to make give the child some tools to figure things out for themselves later, rather than force them to conform and be scared and they wont want to figure things out later, just follow the good old rules.

      i tend to worry that people who support faith schools are much that kind of person, the kind of person who thought the “victorian school” and corporal punishment was a GOOD thing etc. i mean its not the ‘faith’ in x y z really is it, its this idea of WE KNOW BEST and we will tell you what that is :-) Authoritarian attitude that i find highly problematic.

    38. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 11:54 am  

      and yes it is the bullying of the parents that’s the problem, but when those same parents stick a kid into a religious school, its much harder for them to come out and assert themselves. Of course again, it depends on whether you think that is a good thing or not. psychologically speaking, yes if they are going to “submit” to religion then may as well be surrounded by others equally forced! (seems to me to be the crux of your argument) Which at least is honest and makes sense - that’s why communities herd together, of course. so
      yes its about your peers and what support you get from them. if your social circle you think is going to ostracise you as well as your parents because your parents have chosen your social circle - then you’re going to have to be drastic and run
      away from it to escape, are those the kind of extreme choices we want for young people? Yes until parents change, kids are going to have trouble
      but get them out of convents and madrassahs and they stand a damn sight better chance to be independent individuals.

      (but of course, again the premise being that one thinks individuality and independent thought is a good thing, which of course society doesn’t.)

      you are basically saying as long as the parents decide to “oppress them”/feed them religion, what the hell difference do faith schools make. and im saying yes
      the parents are going to do that of course thats the big problem and precisely why other exposure is important for balance. my assumption being that to equip the kid to make their own decision.

      It doesnt matter if we want to bury our head in the sand and say ah well if thats what their community forces them to believe, at least they’ll be better adjusted muslims/christians/hindus/jews this way! - which certainly is true of course.

      but anyway, im glad someone is acknowledging its all the fault of the parents. But who are the people who stick up for faith schools? you might find its parents who want to easily inculcate their children into religion. and ‘ringfence’ them in, in a society where it would be too hard otherwise to easily stop their questions.

    39. Ala — on 8th September, 2008 at 11:56 am  

      Wow, your history and English classes taught you all that? That can only mean one thing: you were schooled in a hippy commune; and here we all are like muppets sending our children to ‘proper’ schools where all they do is memorise the names and reigning periods of English monarchs and mull over how to spell onomatopoeia.

      Ravi, although people group around different forms of classification, none is so culturally pervasive as religion. And people will always segregate themselves in a perennial human desire to seek like-mindedness. I’m sure no liberal parent would want their children hanging around with a gang of neo-nazis.

      I’m not condoning religious segregation by any means, but it exists, and forcing the children of these communities to break the mould and suffer the schizophrenic divide between home and school is putting unfair pressure on them. And if they’re not missing out on crucial information avaible to every other child, who by the way you talk about it is going to a modern day equivalent of a Socratic academy, then why not let them get schooled with their peers until they’re old enough to act outside the diktats of their parental home?

    40. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:01 pm  

      school is all the more important i would say to provide a ‘real world’ experience for those whose parents insist on controlling their environment to include only those who share the same community practices. Otherwise you’re going to find it harder to shake off bigotry, if you think everyone in the world shares your view.

      faith schools, what a silly term that is anyway. of course there should be no public funding for them, why should we subsidise dissemination of nonsense?

    41. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:06 pm  

      Ala, you surprise me. you say : “Their school experience should be a warm and fuzzy one: there is plenty of time for the big questions.”

      well precisely honey ! i would say just that to any parent who wants their kid to go to a faith school. :-)

      its always religious parents who get those publications for their little kids ” why we are muslims” or “what our faith means” and suchlike - why not leave it till they are older? (of course we know why, inculcation might not work then)

    42. Ala — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:10 pm  

      Sonia, you are working on the asumption that religious people are essentially abusing their children by saturating them with their religion. I know Dawkins has bandied this idea about, but it is still highly controversial, and might I add, offensive. If a young child saw the light at their secular school and decided they didn’t want to follow their parents’ religion anymore, they’re not going to act upon it until they’re older if their parents are repressive. You assume that a child will be able to question their parents’ authority if it conflicts with their schools’ authority, but I highly doubt that as it’s not just a matter of authority but trust, and children trust their parents more.

    43. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:12 pm  

      anyway back to the point. these parents are the ones who are the problems. as you say, lets leave the big questions till later. so why are they so obsessed with imparting their religion to their children who won’t understand anyway and everything is a story to them?

      there lies the crux of the matter. Why do parents do this?
      Why why why?

    44. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:15 pm  

      “Sonia, you are working on the asumption that religious people are essentially abusing their children by saturating them with their religion.”

      yes ala, my assumption being that that when they bring hell into it, there’s a problem. if its a religion that doesn’t have hell - quite different.

      and yes, being brought up as a Muslim, i must say I agree with Richard Dawkins that Hell is a particularly unpleasant idea to feed children - i do think it is abuse that I have suffered.

    45. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:17 pm  

      So please excuse me when i pull out the abused person card. now not all parents pull the same nasty trick, some liberated parents dont, however, i have grown up with enough muslims to know a good-ish amount of us didn’t like it. as you no doubt are aware, a good-ish amount of people seem to accept it and in turn feed their children the same stuff. so its split- some of us think its abuse and some of us dont.

      and like you say - leave the big questions till later, why feed this stuff to children?

    46. Katy Newton — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:24 pm  

      I have a met a few jewish kids who are taught at jewish only schools and the kids cant even speak English and know nothing of the REAL world! All in London!

      I’m sorry, I find that very hard to believe. Jewish schools in this country teach in English, just like Protestant and Roman Catholic schools do. There is no first language of “Jewish”. There may have been Jews from overseas whose first language was not English but that isn’t because they were taught at a Jewish school.

    47. Sid — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:24 pm  

      Their school experience should be a warm and fuzzy one: there is plenty of time for the big questions.

      If there is plenty of time for the big questions, why send the children to faith schools, where you can be sure that the “big questions” will certainly *not* be saved for later? I agree with you that for many parents, religious schooling will keep them happy, and happy parents means a happy homelife for the children - hence the warm fuzzy school experience.

      But lets be clear on this - warm and fuzzy, indoctrinated children with little or no experience of religious and cultural pluralism.

    48. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:31 pm  

      anyway my point is if people as adults want religion, then that’s their business. telling kids some scary stories means some of them wont like it, and some of them will carry on doing it to their kids. why tell the kids these stories when we know some wont like it? plus they can make up their minds as ADULTS.

      so the point isnt is religion bad or good. the point is not all of us want to be force fed this stuff.

    49. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:31 pm  

      47. Sid precisely

      Ala seems to be contradicting herself.

    50. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:32 pm  

      anyway it all is coming back to faith as part of community and the rights of the “community” vs. rights of an individual.

      and this is my big problem with it.

    51. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:37 pm  

      of course what is entertaining is whether these people
      who are keen on faith schools would be so keen on freedom
      of religion, so if i set up a religion tomorrow and try and teach it in schools, and this religion is all about
      highlighting how the people of medina who followed one Mohammed many years ago, were all really from Satan, then id like some public funding for that please.

      after all - why should i not inculcate others with what i believe to be revealed to me?

    52. Katy Newton — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:39 pm  

      I find the faith schools thing really tricky, because a lot of them are also very good schools and frankly if I had a choice between sending my kids to a poor secular school or a high-performing faith school, I’d choose the faith school. But I don’t like them. I don’t approve of mixing religion and education, any more than I approve of mixing religion and the workplace.

      Ala, I think the saddest part of your post is that your parents put you in a position where you didn’t feel that you could interact with anyone who wasn’t the same as you. I think that’s awful. I do remember girls at school who weren’t allowed to go to parties, weren’t allowed to sleep over and weren’t allowed to invite people home. That’s horrible, frankly, and faith schools don’t solve that problem, they just brush it under the carpet.

    53. Katy Newton — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:39 pm  

      I’m just imagining sending my kids off to school. “Have a nice day, and remember - IT’S ALL LIES!”

    54. Sid — on 8th September, 2008 at 12:50 pm  

      yep. “Bye Johnny and remember, god is only a construct used by power structures to apply organisational groupings on people in order to impose laws and beliefs and bind them socio-economically!”

    55. Katy Newton — on 8th September, 2008 at 1:13 pm  

      “Here’s your satchel, Patty, and do ask your teacher what she thinks about the fact that religion in one form or another has been behind virtually every large-scale massacre since written records began…”

    56. Ravi Naik — on 8th September, 2008 at 2:10 pm  

      Here’s your satchel, Patty, and do ask your teacher what she thinks about the fact that religion in one form or another has been behind virtually every large-scale massacre since written records began…

      There is always the possibility that the teacher might say that religion is evil because it is behind every large-scale massacre. Or the teacher might give extra homework to Patti to research which regimes did the most large-scale massacres in the 20th century, or for that matter, in the history of mankind.

    57. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 2:42 pm  

      anyway, i think there are many difficulties so i see (what i think) ala’s point about the faith is there anyway sort of thing. for me though well when it comes back to the issue of public funding, ‘faith’ school well i say if you want to do that fine, but then you can’t discriminate, you’ll have to be open to whoever wants to call themselves a religion - otherwise its just a monopoly traditional “religions” have - how is that fair and how are we going to address who’s a religion and who isn’t? do you just have to have a community that says well this is our religion? Like the Jedi Knights? who gives it ‘legitimacy’? the fact that some religions have effectively ‘conquered’ and some clearly havent?

      see this is the real issue.

    58. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 2:47 pm  

      i think its pretty clear that one ought to set up any group one wants to constitute as a religion. i mean - you’d be foolish not to. Look at the amount of following/lack of questioning/ you can generate - really this is the best organisational vehicle in town. Ok so you have to fight with the other wannabes in town and say actually I am the Way but hey, you’ll get there eventually.

    59. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 2:52 pm  

      I hear Katy’s point. It’s sad that public education is so bad that one has to send one’s kids to a ‘faith school’ to get a good education. now there’s another crux of the matter - there clearly isn’t enough money in the education pot and frankly i think there are better uses for the money.

      and also yes - what Katy says in no. 52. “do remember girls at school who weren’t allowed to go to parties, weren’t allowed to sleep over and weren’t allowed to invite people home.”

      yep.

    60. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 2:52 pm  

      so this is really about “self-segregation”.

    61. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 2:54 pm  

      or we want the right to segregate our kids from the rest of society

      if people want to isolate themselves thats their business but their kids..

    62. sonia — on 8th September, 2008 at 2:56 pm  

      what we are talking about here is the tyranny of the FAMILY.

    63. Desi Italiana — on 8th September, 2008 at 8:03 pm  

      Ala:

      “Wow, your history and English classes taught you all that? That can only mean one thing: you were schooled in a hippy commune…”

      Don’t be daft. My school didn’t have resources that the richer schools had and it was in a low income area. And all it took was about three teachers out of all the teachers I had to encourage education, questioning, etc, which then paved the way for college, etc. With the situation of public schooling in the US, it’s remarkable what my teachers did. So don’t hate because I got lucky to have about 3 teachers in all of my schooling years who went above and beyond whereas other people got ‘fuzzy and warm’ experiences in school which didn’t teach them jack.

      “Schools should be a warm and fuzzy experience” which should not teach individualized thinking is the most ridiculous crap I’ve heard in a long time.

    64. Desi Italiana — on 8th September, 2008 at 8:08 pm  

      I mean really, in this day and age, who the hell says that schools should not teach anything substantive? Who argues in favor of faith schools for reasons of being around your own kind and hence it’s ‘easier’ because schooling is meant to be ‘easy’?

    65. Ravi Naik — on 8th September, 2008 at 10:12 pm  

      I’m not condoning religious segregation by any means, but it exists, and forcing the children of these communities to break the mould and suffer the schizophrenic divide between home and school is putting unfair pressure on them.

      No. What is really unfair is secluding children from the diversity that exists in this country, and in this process alienate them from mainstream. And I have to say that for someone who states is not defending religious segregation, you are doing a pretty good job in that. I mean, schizophrenic divide? Really!

    66. Katy Newton — on 8th September, 2008 at 10:40 pm  

      forcing the children of these communities to break the mould and suffer the schizophrenic divide between home and school is putting unfair pressure on them

      Argh, argh. I think I agree with Ravi @65, and it’s hard because I am really not a fan of putting children in the position of suffering because of their parents’ beliefs. But if they don’t experience it then, when will they? At some point children have to learn that everyone is not the same as them, and if you ask me they will cope with that better when they are younger, not when they are older.

      And besides, school isn’t a warm and fuzzy experience even if you don’t have cultural clash issues. I got bullied, I got teased, I felt left out, I was ignored for no reason, teachers picked on me, and I spent a lot of time buried in navel-inspecting angst even when that wasn’t happening. Not all the time, but a lot of it. That is childhood and early adolescence for you. Mostly I would say that I was happy at school, and I made some very good friends who are still my core friends - but that is not the same as “warm and fuzzy”. Those feelings of alienation that you had, Ala, are ones that virtually every teenager has had to some extent even if they were the same colour and religion as their classmates. That is part of the adolescent experience and it can’t be avoided. I say that part of education is helping children to develop a thick skin. Getting hurt, feeling rejected - these things are part of life to some extent, and our job as parents and teachers is to help children cope with those things, not to put them in an artificial environment where they don’t exist.

    67. Ala — on 8th September, 2008 at 11:31 pm  

      I’m not talking about adolescents but young children, and I still believe that these innocent children can be put under unfair pressure. It’s almost as if you’re advocating a battle between the state and parents: the parents raise a child to act one way, the state tries to indoctrinate (because I don’t think they’re old enough to make up their minds) the other way. I actually think it’s easier to break away when you’re older should you want to do so. By warm and fuzzy I’m referring to a situation where your friends and teachers aren’t saying one thing and your mummy and daddy something different. You might disagree with the mummy and daddy, but you can’t do anything about it. They will always remain the most important thing in the child’s life.

      Desi, funnily enough some of my best teachers, who expanded our minds and taught us to be critical, were from my faith school, so there goes one of your arguments that this is somehow impossible. If you have ever had an experience of teaching part of the national curriculum or any curriculm, you realise it is about a modicum of education, about meeting targets and getting a red tick, not some kind of philosophical enlightenment. The whole school model is a relic from the days when we indoctrinated and regimentalised children outrightly and whipped them with sticks if they misbehaved.

    68. Don — on 8th September, 2008 at 11:58 pm  

      So anything taught in a school which does not accord with what mummy and daddy say is state indoctrination?
      Well, I could see how you could argue that but I can’t see why you’ld want to.

      If you have ever had an experience of teaching part of the national curriculum or any curriculm, you realise it is about a modicum of education, about meeting targets and getting a red tick, not some kind of philosophical enlightenment.

      You are making some pretty authoritative pronouncements. Are you working from some kind of expertise or evidence base, or just conviction? Either way is fine. Just curious.

    69. Desi Italiana — on 9th September, 2008 at 1:34 am  

      “If you have ever had an experience of teaching part of the national curriculum or any curriculm, you realise it is about a modicum of education, about meeting targets and getting a red tick, not some kind of philosophical enlightenment.”

      Ala, I have in fact worked as a teacher. And no, it is not only about teaching the barest possible. It is about arming students with the basic tools to think critically.

      I’m not really sure what your point is, to be honest. I don’t get why you think that good schooling amounts to ‘philosophical enlightenment’. And you seem to take the abysmal state of education as proof that schooling sucks, that it should be really fuzzy and warm, or that it should be done away with. You don’t hate the institution itself, but rather the way the institution is run.

      “Desi, funnily enough some of my best teachers, who expanded our minds and taught us to be critical, were from my faith school, so there goes one of your arguments that this is somehow impossible.”

      Didn’t you write this earlier:

      “When I felt an itch for enlightenment I went home and read a book or watched panorama.”

      If your schooling at a faith school was so great, why go home and read or watch Panorama for purposes of enlightenment? Consistency, please.

    70. Ala — on 9th September, 2008 at 11:54 am  

      There’s no contradiction there. We don’t just sit there gaping out our teachers waiting for them to enlighten us. In my experience the best things I’ve learnt were self-taught. I’ve had experience in teaching but I’d hate to think anyone relied on me to get their brains ticking. Teachers only have a degree and a PGCE of difference between their students, I wouldn’t rely too much on them. I don’t want to go onto a different topic about the merits of the school system, but I doubt your teachers were radically superior to mine and I doubt any teacher is that important in the development of someone’s philosophy on life.

      Don, I haven’t conducted studies on this, nor am I woman of conviction. But it’s fairly obvious that critical thinkers and enlightenment philosophers aren’t produced via GCSE syllabi

    71. Katy Newton — on 9th September, 2008 at 12:03 pm  

      I doubt any teacher is that important in the development of someone’s philosophy on life

      Seriously? I mean, really? I’d be wary of saying something as sweeping as that. You certainly don’t speak for me or for a lot of other people I know. I had some teachers who were exceptionally good and whose teaching definitely sent me in directions I wouldn’t otherwise have followed.

      critical thinkers and enlightenment philosphers aren’t produed via GCSE syllabi

      I think you are confusing subject matter with quality of teaching. A GCSE syllabus is just a list of topics to be taught. A good teacher’s teaching is far more than just ticking a load of boxes on a form. The point is not that the subjects are taught, but how they are taught, and how teachers teach their pupils to think about those subjects. I’m not going to say that there aren’t some teachers who teach as if they were ticking off boxes on a form, I’m sure there are - but most of the teachers I’ve met, both as a student and as an adult, approached teaching as a vocation, not just as a job, and were genuinely committed to widening the horizons of the children they taught.

      It sounds to me as if perhaps your teachers weren’t particularly inspired, but I wouldn’t use that as a springboard to say that teachers generally have no real effect on a student’s outlook, or that education doesn’t produce critical thinkers.

    72. Sid — on 9th September, 2008 at 12:18 pm  

      But it’s fairly obvious that critical thinkers and enlightenment philosophers aren’t produced via GCSE syllabi

      Not many are the products of madrasas either. Unless you count the ability to reel off the Quran from memory as a form of enlightenment.

    73. Leon — on 9th September, 2008 at 1:58 pm  

      I doubt any teacher is that important in the development of someone’s philosophy on life.

      Heh you obviously never had any good teachers (big shout out to Mr Doherty!).

    74. Jai — on 9th September, 2008 at 2:19 pm  

      I doubt any teacher is that important in the development of someone’s philosophy on life

      Hmm. Some people obviously haven’t seen Good Will Hunting, or Dead Poets Society. Or a certain classic sitcom involving characters with names like Dwayne Wayne.

      Or, indeed, the legendary ’80s TV show Head of the Class, depicting the even more legendary inspirational teacher “Mr Moore”.

      ;)

    75. Don — on 9th September, 2008 at 5:28 pm  

      But it’s fairly obvious…

      When I’m delivering a course on philosophy for children (or P4C as I’m apparently expected to call it) one of the first thing I hope my students grasp is that ‘it’s obvious’ is seldom a valid argument.

    76. Desi Italiana — on 9th September, 2008 at 7:34 pm  

      I am getting kind of sentimental now, teary-eyed and all, thinking about my HS teachers. Maybe I should go to my old high school and pay them a visit.

      Like Leon, I want to give a big shout out to my US history teacher Mr. Rhone and my English teacher Mrs. Lammers. And my other history teacher, what’s-his-face. Might as well include my bio teacher, MUN instructor, and physiology teacher. Much love to you all.

    77. Desi Italiana — on 9th September, 2008 at 7:35 pm  

      Did you guys ever get the show “Welcome Back, Kotter” in the UK?

    78. Desi Italiana — on 9th September, 2008 at 7:37 pm  

      Speaking of movies and teachers, don’t get me started on Stand and Deliver and Dangerous Minds.

    79. sonia — on 10th September, 2008 at 10:19 pm  

      good points from rumbold in no. 5 - and Don. in no. 8 - absolutely. that hits the nail on the head.

      and Shuggy’s points. Again, if you’re talking about ‘faith schools’ in themselves, that’s completely one thing. State funding is quite another. Why should parents who want to exclude their children from mainstream society want mainstream society to pay for that? it’s ridiculous. good trick too.

    80. sonia — on 10th September, 2008 at 10:20 pm  

      i dont like you but i want you to pay for my dislike of you. brilliant!

    81. Ala — on 10th September, 2008 at 11:51 pm  

      Religious people are part of the electorate, too. I don’t know why you see it as everyone paying for ‘them’, while they’re sitting back and getting handouts. Religious people also pay taxes and they contribute to a secular education they don’t believe in; why shouldn’t it happen the other way round?

    82. Ravi Naik — on 11th September, 2008 at 12:18 am  

      I don’t know why you see it as everyone paying for ‘them’, while they’re sitting back and getting handouts.

      Correct.

      Religious people also pay taxes and they contribute to a secular education they don’t believe in;

      Faith schools are supposed to teach national curriculum, which is secular, no? Are you saying they don’t believe in it?

    83. persephone — on 11th September, 2008 at 1:02 am  

      @ 81 “Religious people also pay taxes and they contribute to a secular education they don’t believe in; why shouldn’t it happen the other way round?”

      Answer: because the secular education seeks to be all embracing.

    84. persephone — on 11th September, 2008 at 1:15 am  

      Ala, I disagree with most of what you have written.

      As to your experiences in a non faith school. Children do pick on each other.I was picked on when I started to wear glasses at 11. My response was not to find a another school with only spectacle wearing students but deal with the problem - as my parents expected me to rather than run away from it.

      I went to a school in a low income area - my father being a teacher believed the combination of a striving child (backed by parents who inculated love for learning, challenging) seeking an education from their teacher was the basic ingredient for a successful education. It worked. I had some good teachers who taught me to achieve in classes where I remember a boy throwing a chair at the Physics teacher (I also got teased by the boys in that class as I was one of few girl studying Physics…). Yes I got a few not so good teachers who taught by rote but even they, when I was coasting, pulled me up on it. Am I glad that I got the opportunity for such an education - we should not wish it away seeking for some fuzzy nirvana - some children in underdeveloped countries would kill for such an education.

    85. Desi Italiana — on 11th September, 2008 at 1:20 am  

      “believed the combination of a striving child (backed by parents who inculated love for learning, challenging) seeking an education from their teacher was the basic ingredient for a successful education.”

      Absolutely. Apart from my teachers, I have to thank my parents and family for making us read, read, and read and holding education up to the highest degree. Sure, they often view education as a way to make money (ie, study medicine or engineering so you can ’settle down’ well) as opposed to learning in general, but they were happy to see me reading about history, politics, etc, and they always encouraged my brother and I to do so. Learning and education is often times 50% on the family and 50% on teachers. Both need to work in tandem to make sure children get an informed education.

    86. Roger — on 11th September, 2008 at 4:08 am  

      “Answer: because the secular education seeks to be all embracing.”
      Er, no, Persephone, it doesn’t, by definition. It excludes a religious perspective, which is the most importanr part of education for religious people. A better description would be “non-religious education”. The state should provide an education that covers everything- including morality- except religious beiefs.

    87. persephone — on 11th September, 2008 at 2:43 pm  

      Roger @ 86 Whatever tag is put on it, my personal view point is that in not focusing on religion it makes it more inclusive. And yes there are some who are religious who feel that this excludes them on this basis.

    88. persephone — on 11th September, 2008 at 2:46 pm  

      @ 86 ” The state should provide an education that covers everything- including morality.”

      Is that realistic? Sometimes it may be too late for the state to do this. I’m reading that book called They **** you up ” by Oliver James whose clinical studies show that a child’s personality & mental ‘hard wiring’ (inc. conscience) is largely developed by 3 - well before the state education.

      The child’s (home)environment is instrumental in this early development. We cannot leave all the responsibility to the state to cover everything.



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