Labour abandons faith schools quotas


by Sunny
27th October, 2006 at 1:22 am    

Well that took all of two weeks. Education Health secretary Alan Johnson has done a complete u-turn on plans to force new faith schools to accept up to 25% of people from other religions. Money quote:

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Sarah Teather said the whole affair had been a “dog’s dinner”. “The government first of all announce there were going to be quotas and then they found out that in fact there was a huge backlash to that and they had to row back from it.

“They don’t seem to have been clear about what the problem is,” she said, adding: “If we’re going to deal with this kind of problem you need to build consensus, you need to take a long term view.”

Expecting a long term view from Labour on community cohesion…you cannot be serious Sarah? I expect the letter did it. Another example of how this government has become fond of announcing policies before thinking them through.

My view on faith schools is that taxpayers should not be funding any of them and we need a complete separation between the goverment and religion. They should be private, set their own admissions policies and rules and have curriculums regulated by Ofsted. At least one school is doing it voluntarily.


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  1. genghis — on 27th October, 2006 at 1:35 am  

    I dont understand what all the fuss is about, would faith schools have a different syllabus from normal secular schools? OR would the rules of the school be the rules of the faith? Would any pupil from any religion be welcome?

    Do faith schools lead to segregation, its not like as if our communities are living togethor anyway? So segregation is here anyways, whether its based down racial lines or income/class lines. We’re living in a segregated society. So we might as well have faith schools funded by the taxpayer!

  2. Eleutheria — on 27th October, 2006 at 2:00 am  

    There’s no good reason to have faith schools. Learn about religious history and religious ideas in schools, by all means, but learn the catechism, the recital or whatever at your own expense. No different from learning about politics in school but having to join a political party outside school to learn and trust only what that party stands for.

    If we have faith schools, why not schools for black people, or gay people, or black lesbians? It makes as much sense.

    If the Church of England had cut its ties with the state twenty years ago, we wouldn’t be in this mess of the taxpayer paying for religious indoctrination/teaching/catechism and paying, apparently, for King Charles to have two coronations, one in which he defends Anglicanism and another in which he defends every other religious belief. Why doesn’t he defend homosexuality? or socialism? or any other ism or way of life? Or have a coronation to defend environmentalism and mock-Georgian architecture?

    It also puts him, and the state, in the position of endorsing or teaching several logically incompatible ideologies at the same time. Ordinary state schools don’t teach people that there isn’t a god, so why should we foot the bill to teach people that there is one? Surely it’s up to the individual. Belief in Islam or Christianity or Judaism isn’t incompatible with an ordinary state education. In fact, atheists are the ones who are short-changed, given we still have, AFAIK, the idiotic requirements of the 1947 Education Act for assemblies and so forth. Fortunately, many of these are as religiously neutral as possible.

    I suspect most parents who want faith schools aren’t observant, so they wouldn’t be able to teach their kids Christianity themselves, and they wouldn’t go within a mile of Sunday school.

  3. Don — on 27th October, 2006 at 2:02 am  

    ‘I don’t understand what all the fuss is about, would faith schools have a different syllabus from normal secular schools? OR would the rules of the school be the rules of the faith? Would any pupil from any religion be welcome?’

    Yes
    Yes
    No

    Faith schools and faith-based ‘academies’ have special dispensations in a whole lot of areas.

    A pupil, even at 15 or 16 would still be required to pay lip service to a belief they may not hold, whether it be an atheist forced to cover her head or a moslem subjected to daily sermons on the wonders of Ma Theresa or John Wesley. Or an intelligent child fed creationist gibberish.

    Welcome? Yeah, as far as you can welcome a hellbound sinner forced on you.

    ‘its not like as if our communities are living together anyway? ‘

    Except where we are, and religious seperatists getting involved in education doesn’t help that.

    ‘Do faith schools lead to segregation?’

    Yes, and where it already exists they help entrench it.

    ‘So we might as well have faith schools funded by the taxpayer!’

    No, we might just as well try to keep the whole religious gang mentality out of schools, just as we try to keep all gang mentalities out.

  4. Eleutheria — on 27th October, 2006 at 2:21 am  

    Also, how can faith schools honestly teach citizenship/equality/diversity or whatver?

    Many religions have a problem with women. Even if they deny that, many refuse clergy jobs to women – yet we’d hope schools don’t teach that it’s wrong for women to become surgeons or plumbers. Most religions have a problem with gay people. Well, people individually can have what hang-ups they like, but when it comes to *teaching* those hang-ups, and to blocking equality as Ruth Kelly does, it’s another matter. We have laws that can be used against teaching that black people were more sinful than white people. Why should we tolerate schools that could teach this about gay people? Schools generally have an abysmal record of homophobic bullying. This isn’t going to help. And it’s not thirty years since the Mormons renounced their belief that black people were inferior. What if they still had that belief? Would Labour be granting them faith schools to promulgate those beliefs? Would it allow Scientologist faith schools? Or schools that taught orgone therapy as the only way?

    If children want to be misogynist, homophobic, racist or dismissive of other religions, well, we can’t stop them. But we can demand not to pay for it. Schools are supposed to be places of intellectual enquiry, not collective indoctrination and segregation.

    And segregation will happen. Religious people largely believe they’re right and everyone else is deluded or just can’t see. It’s not exclusively a religious thing: it happens with political people. I was at school during the miners strike. It wasn’t pretty, as parents were on both sides. But thank goodness the school was neutral, and not teaching that Scargill or Thatcher was Satan incarnate.

    There’s a reason you often hear at a bar where everyone’s enjoying themselves that you can talk about anything except religion and politics…

  5. Eleutheria — on 27th October, 2006 at 2:37 am  

    Sorry to go on, but this really winds me up. Faith schools? Let’s be honest and call them religious schools. You can teach religion (as a collection of precepts), but you can’t teach faith, which is an individual’s relationship with god and is essentially an attitude of devotion, trust, mysticism and so on. ‘Faith’ schools is patronising, euphemistic gibberish, like calling political schools, if we had them, ‘vision’ schools.

  6. Sahil — on 27th October, 2006 at 8:38 am  

    STate funding and charitable status for faith schools should be removed. I just don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon. Someone on Question time said there was 6000 CoE schools! How can the education system be reformed, when dealing with no.s like that. I really think secularism should be promoted in schools, the French line does really appeal to me on this matter. This 25% nonsense was always trying to patch over a much bigger problem: rising religious dogma in the education system, promoted through these city academies. WHy are private individuals being allowed the opportunity to influence large segments of impressionable kids?

    People always say that the UK is 5 years behind the States, well I really hope we’re not heading towards Kansas, or, we’re bequeathing a shitty education system for the next generation.

  7. sonia — on 27th October, 2006 at 10:23 am  

    life appears to be the ultimate ‘faith school’..

    in any case.

    what I can’t understand is why the whole thing about education on ‘religion’ has to be either focused in ‘teaching’ the religion – i.e. ‘inculcation’ or – not mention of religion at all. why can’t it be a subject like any other? not about saying to people ‘this is your religion – you’d better follow it’ but treating it as an academic subject, with as much neutrality as possible.

    for me it’s not a matter of ‘segregation’ but more about education. people appear to segregate themselves as much as they like or don’t like – anyways. (school days are generally cliquey – and this can range all the way from race/religion to what kind of music you listen to and what you wear.)

  8. sonia — on 27th October, 2006 at 10:28 am  

    Health secretary? I thought Alan Johnson was the Secretary of State for Education and Skills . ( would make more sense if he’s talking about schoools?)

  9. sonia — on 27th October, 2006 at 10:32 am  

    Anyway at least they’re able to go for the U-turns – instead of staying ‘firm’ just cos they don’t want to appear as if they don’t have a reverse gear or something. Personally I can’t see the problem of backtracking if something turns out to be either not worth the hassle or turns out to be more problematic – it’s rigidity that screws everyone over. Policymaking is far more difficult and hardly a facile task. I like slagging off the govt. as much as next man but i do think we ought not to imagine we’d be that great at it if we were in power.

  10. Leon — on 27th October, 2006 at 10:36 am  

    life appears to be the ultimate ‘faith school’..

    *adds quote to the growing list of wise words from Sonia*

  11. sonia — on 27th October, 2006 at 10:45 am  

    leon :-)

  12. Sid — on 27th October, 2006 at 10:50 am  

    Very pithy sonia. ;-)

    Yeth, you’re Mith Pith.

  13. Leon — on 27th October, 2006 at 10:51 am  

    She’s fast becoming my digital guru!:D

  14. Arif — on 27th October, 2006 at 11:23 am  

    I find discussions on schools really strange. Other people accept things I find questionable and question things I find irrelevant. So I end up with very unfashionable views. Still maybe there’s a pickler out there who can see where I’m coming from.

    Schools of any kind are bound to be expressions of some form of ideology. They might be neutral within a particular conflict (as in the Miners’ Strike example), and some of us might approve of that, but that does not mean they are culturally or religiously neutral or politically neutral in general. Neutrality itself is sometimes contested by secularists as equally being an expression of ideology, such as when schools are reported to teach Intelligent Design and evolutionary theories together in biology. If we aren’t aware of the biases of our schools, it would appear to me that we share their values (whether through our own indoctrination or free choice), not that they have none.

    If we don’t want schools to divide people, and we want a school to express values of an open society, then I would suggest that schools should be open to all. Classes should not be divided by age or “ability” but by whoever wants to attend. Anybody should be able to set themselves up to teach. No-one should be forced to attend lessons.

    However it seems normal to us to set limits for the sake of discipline, management, effective learning, efficient social control, or whatever else. There is a curriculum which lays down what the Government decides is important to know and how it should be taught and tested. There is hierarchy, segregation by age, mechanisms for inclusion and exclusion, compulsory attendance.

    These express a model of society and most people seem to want to send their children to them to such a degree some even consider it an important right for children to go to such institutions. So it seems to me most of us do not want an open democratic society as much as we want a secure institution for our children most of the day.

    Whether it is a Muslim, Secular or Christian institution and how incomers are selected seem like more minor issues to me. But if we accept there will be such institutions, then of course, I would want a benign regime in charge. For me, that means one which focuses on child welfare and enabling children to escape the institution as soon as possible.

  15. sonia — on 27th October, 2006 at 11:38 am  

    interesting points arif.

    i think what goes into the national curriculum definitely reflects someone or other’s ideology out there.

    and the whole issue of discipline itself – for me – has always smacked of a particular viewpoint on the relationship between adults and children and society – schools have always been very much a ‘training ground’ for conformity. some more so than others – and then again there’s a variety of what is acceptable ‘culturally’ within pedagogy. e.g. you meet students from india and china they’ll often have certain perspectives on how you can speak to your teachers etc. etc.

    and when i was in school in dhaka for two years that was a completely different experience to the rest of my schooling: my teachers thought i was most disruptive and rebellious for asking them ‘why’ questions.. ( well i was disruptive anyway! :-) )

    but across the board -what really gets me – is this obsession with ‘getting good marks’ that is definitely inculcated in people throughout schooldays – and so often shapes how people view ‘success’ later on in life and their own self-worth to some extent. it can range from learning for learning’s sake to an institutionalized ‘show us how good you are’ – with e.g. some people at university getting seriously stressed about what marks they’ll get etc.

    for a lot of people it’s like well i need this to get through, and for some it’s..’if i don’t get a distinction it means im crap’ and getting really depressed and what have you.

    where do these attitudes come from? methinks schooldays have a lot to wiv it..

  16. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 27th October, 2006 at 11:39 am  

    Hi Sunny,

    Which one of the 5 versions of that article did you link to?

    http://newssniffer.newworldodour.co.uk/articles/8506/diff/0/5

    TFI

  17. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 27th October, 2006 at 11:45 am  

    Wow, 7 versions of “Faith schools ‘climbdown’ denied” already! Any bets on how much more fiddling can go on before wikipedia, sorry the BBC, lock that page?

    http://newssniffer.newworldodour.co.uk/articles/8583/diff/0/7

    TFI

  18. Douglas Clark — on 27th October, 2006 at 11:48 am  

    Sunny,

    What is disappointing about the States response to the issue of faith schools is that, as usual, it keeps rolling on with a policy that no sane human being agrees with. There is overwhelming support for your view, which I share, that religion should be kept out of education. Our moronic politicians don’t listen.

    And ghengis is just wrong about segregation. We live in a mixed community, and all the talk of ghettoisation is mince.

  19. Chairwoman — on 27th October, 2006 at 11:51 am  

    See the Power harnessed when our religious leaders act together?

    Whoever said earlier on that they should be called ‘religious’ schools rather than ‘faith’. Well they used to be. It’s just more of the New Labour semantics game.

  20. Arif — on 27th October, 2006 at 12:04 pm  

    Sonia, I also think that a lot of competitiveness has been inculcated by schools, and even if it hasn’t people seem to want them to (with calls for more “team sports” and for exams to be made harder so that fewer people get the top grades).

    I think dividing people by age also contributes to a society where we don’t expect help from others, but expect to be surrounded by competitive peers rather than a caring community.

    I guess it can also teach us how to work together to share homework and protect each other against teacher depredations, and we can learn disdain for the values adults try to indoctrinate if they do it unsympathetically or clumsily. And perhaps this is the hidden strength of the Pakistani education system!

  21. Don — on 27th October, 2006 at 12:18 pm  

    Arif,

    ‘Classes should not be divided by age or “ability” but by whoever wants to attend. No-one should be forced to attend lessons.’

    That can work, and has been put into practice;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summerhill_School

    ‘Anybody should be able to set themselves up to teach.’

    Strictly speaking, anyone can. Nothing to stop you or I setting out our stalls in some grove and teaching anyone who cares to learn from us. There might be some restrictions (classes on bomb making, fraud or twocing would probably run afoul of some regulation) And of course home schooling is an option.

    I don’t see why you would expect your views to be unfashionable, paras 4&5 seem to be a fairly common sense analysis of our present system. However, given that as the base model, I’d disagree that the nature of the school’s ideology is a minor matter.

  22. sonia — on 27th October, 2006 at 12:23 pm  

    i think arif’s comments make some sense to me : in the context that it’s hardly as if religions are the only ‘things’ around that have what are effectively normative moral/ethical standpoints. but as far as i can see religions often go around promoting that very view – themselves as ethical and moral – and everyone else as amoral/without any system of ethics – so they’ve got themselves to blame for that.

    imho what religions have effectively got in common is that they try as much as poss. to codify things and arrange them into dogma and want to have some measure of control over whoever professes to buy into their particular take whatever they say that is. in that sense, they’ve prob. some things in common with ‘schools’ – curriculum, control, instutionalization of ‘learning’, authority..

    i see that much – but again – if we are going to have institutions like schools, i’d rather as far as possible they’re not tied to the kinds of dodgy moral authority we get from religious leader types. admitting to not knowing everything – and not being dogmatic about any kind of knowledge we think we have – is for me very significant.

  23. Arif — on 27th October, 2006 at 12:51 pm  

    Hi Don,

    Summerhill School seems to disconnect people from their families (as a boarding school) and be quite expensive. I think home-schooling is much more humanistic, although very difficult financially for low-income working parents. Would you be allowed to live on welfare state benefits to home-school your children? And would that be financially sustainable to promote as an option in our current economic system?

    Paragraphs 4 and 5 were precisely what I was suggesting as the common sense which I find most questionable. I find it very difficult to go along with the widespread acceptance of the institutionalisation and management of children. It is so odd, that in a world of Arifs it would be considered a disgusting form of child abuse. A human rights abuse priority for Amnesty International!

    That might be why I’m less preoccupied by the issue of whether teachers wants to indoctrinate Muslim or secular values along with the State’s curriculum.

  24. Don — on 27th October, 2006 at 1:54 pm  

    Arif,

    I don’t know what fees Summerhill charges (it’s not exclusively boarding, by the way) but my point was that a successful working model for the sort of libertarian/democratic system you were dicussing does exist. There are always going to be trade-offs.

    However, I’m sure the system would only work on a fairly small scale (Summerhill has fewer than 100 pupils) and with committed staff.

    ‘…widespread acceptance of the institutionalisation and management of children’ In principle, I agree – it’s a negative. However most parents when asked what they want from a school give as their priorities discipline, ‘standards’ and exam results.
    For education on a national scale, institutionalised learning as you describe it is generally accepted as the only practical system. Most of the pressures and constraints you describe will apply to any large school, regardless of the prevailing ideology. It’s far from ideal, but it’s a trade-off most people are willing to make without too much reflection.

    Parents can opt out, but at a cost in money and hard work. Educating a child adequately for the 21st century is difficult and expensive.

    For the vast majority of children institutionalisation and management are, however regrettable, inevitable aspects of school. I don’t see any significant change on the horizon. Which is why I am more preoccupied with the values, doctrines and dogmas with which teachers may wish to indoctrinate children.

  25. Yakoub/Julaybib — on 27th October, 2006 at 2:09 pm  

    In moral panics, so some theorists have it, its common for government to act to achieve closure on an issue. I suspect this is what happened here. sadly, as often is the case, decisions preceeded careful thought. Such is the nature of moral panics.

    The biggest laugh was reading the discussions on ‘This is London’ on this issue. Most of the (insanely right wing) posters there exclaimed they would rather shoot their kids than send them to a Muslim school. Perhaps the government should note that, in some places, when schools become Asian majority, then fairly rapidly then become 98% Asian. I gather Bradford have tried just about everything to address this issue bar spray painting children, and no joy as yet, last I heard.

    Altogether proof of the priority Johnson had previously given to this issue, and the quality of his initial advice. Glad someone told him to stop being a twerp before things got too far on.

    Wasalaam

    TMA

  26. Not Saussure — on 27th October, 2006 at 2:22 pm  

    Out of interest, how many people posting here about faith schools — pro or con — have any direct experience, whether as pupils or parents, of state-run faith schools in the UK? It’s just that some of the comments (e.g. about learning the catechism) sound a bit off-beam to me.

  27. Chairwoman — on 27th October, 2006 at 2:37 pm  

    Me

  28. sonia — on 27th October, 2006 at 2:43 pm  

    interesting questions re: home schooling arif. as you say, it can end up being economically unviable for a lot of people, and also if there isn’t much social support, parents might be unwilling to be cooped up with their kids all day long. i was ruminating on this recently, and thought..if more people were keen on doing it, there could be ‘home school clubs’ or sth long those lines. with a bit of support from your local govt of course.. but say along the same principles of ‘baby clubs’ etc. or it could be even pre-school clubs. for some reason, childcare and nurseries are hideously expensive and it seems to be generally an either or situation. if you had a bunch of parents who had like a group of 3 or 4 kids – and each parent took turns – so say you’d have charge of them one day a week..rotate and so on, and it could be much more relaxed and involve weekly trips to museums, field trips etc. which is possibly quite a nice thing to do anyways for parents who may work 4 days a week and want to spend one day a week with their kid – and if you’ve got 2 or 3 of his mates along…

    dunno. things seem to be very rigid and there doesn’t seem to be much support and encouragement to do stuff like that. there could be all sorts of schemes growing out of that – univ. students could get tuition discounts for showing up to give such kid groups a bit of teaching one or two days a month..in that way you’d probably get quite a lot of knowledge dissemination happening – hell there are so many broke students around.

  29. Kismet Hardy — on 27th October, 2006 at 2:52 pm  

    Faith schools are a load of bollocks. Children should be enriched with Picasso, Pythagoras and Pluto, not about how gay people should get burned and women demeaned. Feeding a child’s head with god and paranoia and fear of hell is tantamount to child abuse

  30. Leon — on 27th October, 2006 at 2:53 pm  

    Out of interest, how many people posting here about faith schools — pro or con — have any direct experience, whether as pupils or parents, of state-run faith schools in the UK?

    I went to a Roman Catholic primary school, secondary and sixth form. As did my brothers and sisters so I think I’m more than experienced to comment.;)

  31. Anas — on 27th October, 2006 at 3:03 pm  

    Faith schools are a load of bollocks. Children should be enriched with Picasso, Pythagoras and Pluto, not about how gay people should get burned and women demeaned. Feeding a child’s head with god and paranoia and fear of hell is tantamount to child abuse

    Plato and Pythagoras had some pretty nutty ideas too, as I recall.

  32. sonia — on 27th October, 2006 at 3:04 pm  

    no experience at all thank goodness. have luckily avoided any kind of RE ‘instruction’ at all!

  33. Kismet Hardy — on 27th October, 2006 at 3:10 pm  

    “Plato and Pythagoras had some pretty nutty ideas too, as I recall.”

    I know! Isn’t it great? That’s what you should teach kids. Ideas. Not: ‘this is how the world is. This is where you’re going when you die.’ Religion is to imagination what Ann Widdecomb is to wanking

  34. sonia — on 27th October, 2006 at 3:10 pm  

    ideas of hell as they are expressed definitely amount to child abuse in my opinion – there is so much potential to screw up so many things for the child in the future.

  35. Kismet Hardy — on 27th October, 2006 at 3:10 pm  

    (Although I meant Pluto as in the planet)

  36. Don — on 27th October, 2006 at 3:14 pm  

    Religion is to imagination what Ann Widdecomb is to wanking’

    That would be the slogan on my next T-shirt, if I had the nerve.

  37. bananabrain — on 27th October, 2006 at 3:15 pm  

    it’s been a while i’ve been promising to write something about this particular issue, so here goes.

    i think i am against “faith schools”. that is, i am against schools that require “faith”. i am certainly against taxpayer funding of faith teaching within schools – but then again it’s my understanding that the state-funded jewish schools that i know of only get state funding for the national curriculum – *not* for classes with religious content or the salaries of religious studies teachers. that is paid by an extra levy. as far as the taxpayer is concerned, i think that ought to be a sufficiently clear divide – after all, if i wish to spend my money on religious education for my children, it is surely up to me to do so, the same way as if i wish to spend it on ballet or kung fu classes. the question then becomes the extent to which these extracurricular activities can or should be integrated into the rest of the child’s education. however, i don’t see this as a problem, other than an organisational one. the question, however, arises as to what the function of a school – other than formal, curricular education – actually is. if it is to be used (at taxpayer expense) to further public goals of community cohesion (and it seems that this is what our elected representatives are trying to achieve) then “faith schools” represent a slightly different challenge. in other words, how to balance the practicalities of a religious school with the necessity to turn out well-adjusted young citizens who will benefit civil society. the thing is, this has been done for a long time:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_David_School%2C_Liverpool

    king david admits non-jewish pupils as well (apparently about 25%) so obviously it works. my mum went to a convent school in india and, as far as i am aware her “christian education” has had absolutely no effect if it was intended to produce a christian at the end of it:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_and_John_Connon_School

    clearly, this can be done even in a communalist dystopia like india. so what is the problem?

    from the government’s point of view, we all know what they think the real problem is. and it isn’t even really a problem yet. there are, what, nine muslim schools in the country? that’s hardly going to undermine the fabric of the uk. and, clearly, we’ve managed to come to an arrangement about the catholic and c of e schools, although there are a lot more of those and there remain serious problems around community cohesion in scotland and northern ireland. the challenge is clearly as to how it is possible to ensure an ethos of a particular religion in a school. the problem is that the people who are pushing for muslim schools are in general the same people who are making such a pig’s ear out of representing their community, the same people that are coming across as mealy-mouthed apologists for extremism, the same people that have taken public funding and used it to support their own public profile whilst pleading impotence and islamophobia. it seems to me that these guys have used up a lot of their goodwill at precisely the point they are asking for something which requires trust. so far, the islamic education system in the uk doesn’t exactly inspire trust, given that it seems apparently to consist of rote learning run by arrogant, ignorant deobandi maulvis from pendu-ville with no grasp of english, no grasp of how our society functions and a set of social norms which are incompatible, to say the least, with modern gender considerations – even for the native-born muslims! this is actually fixable by bringing islamic education into the school system, if you ask me – by only letting properly qualified teachers teach. that’s what happens at jewish schools. i can see where it would be a problem if this issue in islamic education was allowed to be scaled up nationally and the result was a bunch of neo-taleban or pizza-huttie school-leavers. and one of the reasons that this is a problem with muslims as opposed to, say, a problem in the jewish community is that there is a fundamental difference in religious outlook – we don’t proselytise. we don’t seek converts, nor do we secretly think everyone should be jewish, nor do we actively say so or seek to promote this agenda. not even our own fundamentalists think that. this is an important distinction and one that is often forgotten in the “well, the jews are allowed, why aren’t we?” argument. there is also the question of our religious principle dina de-malchuta dina, which means “the law of the land is the law”. in other words, we are commanded to abide by uk law. if something is illegal in uk law, it’s illegal for us. this is something that i don’t think the muslim community seems to have an equivalent for, although i would welcome hearing otherwise. the same goes for the sikhs actually; the kirpan issue for us would be resolved by a) wearing it inside the clothes and b) making it non-lethal or non-usable (by means of a scabbard wire or suchlike) and c) of course surrendering it temporarily when required to do so at, say, an airport or football match or something. actually, the same argument applies to the niqab – there is no case for allowing veils in a bank when crash helmets and balaclavas would be prohibited. and, before anyone has a go, i fully support the right to wear the hijab or turban and would defend that right – i think face-concealment is a social issue not a religious one.

    the other thing is the patented “sleepwalking into ghettos” problem of segregation. clearly, faith schools ought to admit people who do not believe or practice the religion – in fact, they ought to want to go to faith schools in spite of that, because they’re good schools in secular subjects, like happens at a lot of the christian schools. the problem remains the ethos and whether these schools expect curricular exceptionalism – ie no sport for girls, no teaching of evolution in biology or religion taught as history, all of which are problematic. again, i say here the educational wisdom has to prevail. people have to learn that what is said by religion is at very least contradicted elsewhere, otherwise it’s going to come as a bit of a shock at university.

    this brings us to the real reason that parents want faith schools, at least in the jewish community. i don’t know if this is equally true elsewhere, but there is a significant part of the community that thinks that jewish schools with non-jewish pupils in increases the risk of intermarriage, which is a real demographic threat to our community. of course they can’t say that out loud, because it sounds prejudiced or chauvinist. i should point out, however, that numerically, for us, it is a real problem in a way that it isn’t for other religions, quite apart from the fact that we don’t go round saying “apostasy is punishable by death” – it’s up to G!D, not up to us. i always say, well, what about university then? working life? are you going to “protect” your children from meeting non-jews *ever*? at some point you have to trust people to make their own choices well and that is going to mean decent religious education. the trouble arises when your religious education is something you only get at school and is not reinforced in the home.

    my solution would be this:

    MULTIRELIGIOUS schools. you want a muslim school? fine – it has to be half muslim and half catholic, or 1/3 both and 1/3 nothing. religious studies must be non-compulsory, religious dress must be non-compulsory (although uniform should be) religious *faith* must be non-compulsory. actually i think this goes in favour for religious schools; i’d be a lot happier sending my kid to a half-jewish school, because there would need to be a lot more of them and we’d get a lot more choice – and surely i as a modern parent and citizen would appreciate that?

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  38. Leon — on 27th October, 2006 at 3:18 pm  

    Just for information purposes;

    ENGLAND’S FAITH SCHOOLS

    Church of England 4,646
    Roman Catholic 2,041
    Jewish 37
    Muslim 9 (expected)
    Sikh 2

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6090984.stm

  39. Anas — on 27th October, 2006 at 3:20 pm  

    Although I meant Pluto as in the planet

    Oh. I thought Pluto wasn’t meant to be a planet anymore.

  40. Kismet Hardy — on 27th October, 2006 at 3:22 pm  

    You’re right Anas. But then I didn’t pay much attention at school. I was too busy porking the mullah’s wife

  41. Leon — on 27th October, 2006 at 3:23 pm  

    Something missing from this discussion is that, allegedly, the Catholic Church was so outraged by this they were (or did?) write to all there local churches to get the flock to lobby their MPs.

    Anyone familiar with the “culture wars” in the US will get an idea of where this could be going…

  42. Not Saussure — on 27th October, 2006 at 5:25 pm  

    Leon & Chairwoman — in what significant ways did you find find the schools you attended differed from ordinary schools? My experience of school was quite some time ago, in the private sector, but the C of E public school I attended (I’m RC, but they no more tried to convert me than they did any of the Jewish, Sikh or Muslim boys — can’t remember there being any Hindus, at least in my year) sounded no different to any other good public school of the time, just as the grant-maintained convent school my late wife attended sounded almost identical to any other all-girls grammar school of the day.

    Maybe the establishments she and I attended were atypical, but I certainly don’t recall any particular religious bias in the teaching. My school certainly thought they were trying to embody a Christian ethos, but that wasn’t done in a self-consciously religious, or even Christian, way and, in practical terms, was pretty much anyone else’s ethos — honesty, tolerance, mutual respect, loyalty and so forth.

  43. Leon — on 27th October, 2006 at 5:35 pm  

    About to leave the office so don’t really have time to go into it. Will get back to this Monday, have a good weekend everyone!

  44. ZinZin — on 27th October, 2006 at 5:35 pm  

    Anas your a perfectly good reason for closing down Faith schools.

    Kismet that is shocking “porking a mullahs wife”. I am henceforth putting your name down for political correctness training( Equality and diversity).

  45. Anas — on 27th October, 2006 at 6:14 pm  

    Y? I never went to a Faith skool.

  46. ZinZin — on 27th October, 2006 at 6:49 pm  

    A sense of humour there is still hope for Anas.

  47. Iqbal Shofi — on 27th October, 2006 at 11:38 pm  

    Faith or no faith: what do you think of this story which says that David Cameron has converted to Hinduism???

    ‘Devdas’ Cameron converts to Britain’s new political faith – Times of India
    20-10-2006
    Print this page

    WATFORD: In a remarkable reincarnation, David has become ‘Devdas’ Cameron; learnt to say namaste very prettily several times; accepted a sacred red thread around his right wrist as a “lucky charm” for the cut-and-thrust of British politics and insisted he is happy to be ‘Devdas’ “as long as I can meet Aishwariya Rai the next time I go (to India)”.

    In a rock-n-roll performance that united politics and piety and was consistent with the surroundings, namely the late Beatle and Krishnabhakt George Harrison’s generously-gifted Bhakti Vedanta Manor Temple complex 17 miles northwest of London, Cameron made a very public conversion to 21 st-century multi-cultural Britain’s new political faith, ie politics of, by and for the minorities.

    Sections of Britain’s nearly 800,000-strong Hindu community hailed Cameron’s new karma, notably his decision to become possibly the most senior frontline politician to visit their Temple in 30 tumultuous years of their existence, eat a simple vegetarian dinner with them and half-jokily adopt a Hindu nom de guerre.

    Cameron, the Eton-educated, true-blue leader of the main opposition Conservatives, responded with extravagant flattery for Hindus, Britain’s country’s third largest religious community, paragon immigrants and hitherto political ingénues.

    Doubting critics said Cameron’s public wooing of the Hindus, most of whom traditionally vote Labour, is yet another cynical attempt to cultivate a rich and respectable votebank for his Conservative Party, well ahead of general elections three years away.

    Even so, Cameron’s status as the Hindu community’s aspirational political deity was confirmed by Gauri Das, president of the Temple, where the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is based. “There are four Ds – Diwali, Determination, Devotion and David”, Das told the assembled 250 businessmen and community leaders, who included the Hindujas and worthies such as Baronness Sheila Flather and Usha Parmar.

    Humourously urging Cameron to “hug a Gujji” or the Gujaratis who dominate the UK’s Hindu community, Das said Hindus set great store by Cameron’s public conversion to their special needs.

    Cameron, whose fresh-faced, pink-and-white youthful charm was offset by the regulation garland and yellow-and-orange shawl gifted by the assembled Krishnabhakts, responded with emollient words of warm praise. “It is no surprise you have become such a successful community (here),” he declared, hailing the Hindus’ “tolerance, honesty, enterprise and responsibility for law”.

    Britain’s Hindus, he said, “are more likely to stay married” than other communities, “you are one per cent of the population and just 0.025 per cent of the prison population; you live independent of government but never shirk from contributing to society”. The values that Britain’s Hindus live by, said Cameron, were increasingly lost in 21st -century UK, he said.

    Ramesh Kallidai, secretary-general of the umbrella organisation, Hindu Forum of Britain, hailed Cameron’s extraordinary desire to join politics with piety as proof the Hindu community was finally getting the recognition it deserved.

    But many observers said the pitifully small number of Hindu MPs – just two out of 646 – was unlikely to change sooner rather than later despite the profession of faith by ‘Devdas’ Cameron

  48. Iqbal Shofi — on 27th October, 2006 at 11:40 pm  

    Cameron calls on Hindus to help rebuild society
    Date:
    19 October 2006
    The Rt Hon David Cameron MP, Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition called on British Hindus to play their part in helping to rebuilt society.

    Speaking to over 250 business and community leaders at a Hindu Forum of Britain organised reception at the Bhaktivedanta Manor ISKCON Temple in Aldenham on 17 October, he said it was time for families, communities and individuals to “step up to the plate” and take responsibility to help build Britain.

    “We need a Britain where we don’t just ask what the government can do but what people can do, what society can do – a Britain that starts realising we are all in this together – it is called social responsibility,” he said.

    On his arrival to the Manor, the Temple priest chanted welcoming mantras to Mr Cameron before he was escorted through a line of monks and into the main altar. As part of the reception, which was one of a series of community outreach dinners planned by the Hindu Forum of Britain with leaders from the main political parties, Mr Cameron also offered a garland to a shrine of Srila Prabhupada and viewed the private living quarters of the founder of the Hare Krishna movement.

    He also congratulated Hindus for the contribution they already made to British society and when outlining the big challenges lay ahead in building a better country he added: “Many of the values that Hindus brought with them when they arrived here are those traditionally associated with Britain: tolerance, honesty, enterprise, and respect for the law and I have no doubt that Hindus will play a full part in meeting those challenges.”

    Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, added: “It was a great pleasure to welcome Mr Cameron to the reception and to speak with some of the most important Hindus in Britain. Since coming to Britain, Hindus have successfully integrated into the Country thanks mainly to the value systems of inclusiveness and respect for all people and faiths. But in order to take the next step it is important that all major parties open a dialogue and take positive steps to actively engage with communities from all ethnic backgrounds
    His Grace Gauri Das, the Temple President of Bhaktivedanta Manor, ISKCON Temple, commented: “We were delighted to welcome the Rt. Hon.David Cameron to Bhaktivedanta Manor ISKCON temple. During his visit he was able to experience the rich spiritual heritage of India at this temple dedicated to Lord Krishna, which attracts the largest gathering of Hindus outside India.”

  49. Rowshan — on 28th October, 2006 at 12:52 am  

    This isn’t an example of religions ‘working’ together …

    This is the power of the Church of England.

    UK isn’t secular – most of my so called Hindi, Muslim friends all went to Church of England school. They ended up OK, as I imagine Hindus or Christians attending Jewish or Muslims schools would turn out UK.

    Point is to have choice or no choice. If you have choice you’ve got to allow choice for all faiths – not just the thousands of Christian-faith schools.

    I wasn’t able to attend the local Church of England school but perhaps would’ve liked to because it was the better one in East London byt sadly worked an indirect policy of keeping the Bengalis out .

    My relatives now send their children to Muslim schools because they claim that the state schools in Tower Hamlets are bad/shite etc. Whether this is borne out by evidence, I don’t know, but certainly state schools in inner london boroughs have never fared well in league tables so there may be a grain of truth in this perception.

    I also know that many madrassas in Pakistan , Bangladesh have seen increase in student intake as a result of the poor and declining standards in public schooling system.

    I also hear that all the well heeled hippies in Hackney now are pretending to be Catholics so they can enrol their children into the Catholic schools as they tend to be better run/managed in Hackney.

    Anyway, was just making the point that motives and incentives for sending children to school isn’t always about nurturing ‘faith’ values but economics and stark reality of declining standards in states schools in England.

  50. mahtal — on 29th October, 2006 at 5:53 pm  

    I believe totally in trying to brainwash our young. Eat good food, don’t do drugs, don’t have unprotected casual sex etc. Does it work|? No.
    Brainwashing is a myth.
    The weak willed may well be cowed by religeous injuctions, however my experience is that most think the idea of an all seeing god is frankly potty.
    Of course the general taxpayer should not contribute to the costs of propagating myths. Fund faith schools but deduct any costs associated with religeous indoctrination. They can pay for that.

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