Om-levels


by Rohin
26th December, 2006 at 1:18 am    

I would hate to think that my opinion on faith schools is ambiguous. I am vehemently against them. As a website, Pickled Politics has specifically opposed any link between the government and faith schools. We’ve also mentioned how Amartya Sen denounces them at length in one of his recent books.

So it is with considerable disappointment I catch up on the latest development in the progress of the UK’s first Hindu state school. Whilst touted quite some time back, nearly £10million of taxpayers’ money has now been put forward for the development of the Krishna-Avanti school in Harrow.

The venture is backed by ISKCON, known by many as the Hare-Krishna movement. However, it is the cryptically-named I-Foundation that is promoting the school. The hopeful date of completion is September 2008.

The school initially angered residents by selecting a prospective site they felt would cause a loss of green space, increase congestion and make parking difficult. However, the groundswell of support from Harrow’s large Hindu population seems to have overcome preliminary objections, although the site is yet to be confirmed.

Local residents remain unhappy with the plan, and have formed the William Ellis Action Group (named after the area earmarked for the school) to oppose the school’s building. The directors call this racism.

The primary school is estimated to cost £12m to build and a surprising 83% will be provided by the government, with only£ 2m to be raised by private donations.

The school’s directors claim “Hinduism’s ethos will be woven into all aspects of school life” and that “the school day will begin with 30 minutes of Hindu worship before classes.” The school will teach vedic maths, which I love, but they wouldn’t be the first school in London to do that. St. James Schools have been teaching vedic maths for some years now.

Nitesh Gor is one of the school’s and the I-Foundation’s directors. He says that “every major Hindu organisation is backing this application” but one of his comments smacks of why I think this school is enjoying the support it’s receiving. He takes care to point out that Hinduism is the only major faith that does not have a state faith school. As someone who loosely associates their views on religion with Hinduism, I quite liked that fact.

I think Hindus were just feeling left out.

Many of you have heard of ISKCON and its unusual history, but what of the mysterious I-Foundation? It is, in fact, a group established by City hotshots like Mr Gor. Its website boasts its aims:

    • Create flagship initiatives, grounded in Vedic philosophy and culture, in areas such as education, retail, media, performing arts and professional services.
    • Build a strong network of like-minded individuals and partner organisations that can help establish a forum for exchanging ideas, best practice and support.
    • Leverage networks and management expertise to create a vehicle for promoting on-mission and for-profit initiatives.

    If you can understand that, go to the top of the class.

    Gor’s deluded shoulder-chip is more apparent when he says “For the first time Hindu parents will have a choice.” Yes. They’ve NEVER had a choice before, damn that facist Christian government.

    Spiritual adviser to the school will be Gauri Dasa, the current president of the Bhaktivedanta Manor, the UK’s largest ISKCON temple. He worked at an ashram school in India:

    “Dasa established its first child protection scheme in 1992. He restricted and then abolished the use of corporal punishment. He also helped set up a Kidscape programme to encourage children to identify and protect themselves from abuse.” [Link]

    However, a recent investigation’s first conclusion was:

    “Gauri Dasa Prabhu used a stick to administer corporal punishment to 3 students.” [Link]

    Just as Catholic schools are a separate entity from CofE schools, there will be no such thing as a ‘Hindu school’. The oft-misguided, but sometimes admirable Hindu Human Rights pressure group oppose ISKCON’s involvement with the school. Arjun Malik, spokesman for Hindu Human Rights, said:

    “If there is to be a Hindu school, it should be run by a mainstream group, not a sect. It gives the Hindu community a bad name.”

    Reliably predictable.


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    1. El Cid — on 26th December, 2006 at 8:59 am  

      I’m in favour of faith-based schools, at least at a primary school level. I’m against money-based schools. Will come back to you, if I have time.

    2. El Cynic — on 26th December, 2006 at 10:01 am  

      Rohin,
      Not sure what this means either:
      Just as Catholic schools are a separate entity from CofE schools, there will be no such thing as a ‘Hindu school’.
      It would help to know a bit more about where you are coming from. No doubt you can form an alliance with militant and intolerant atheists (fascists dressed up as liberals), but all I sense is an Asian who is against Hindu/Sikh and Moooooslem schools and for the sake of consistency has extended his diatribe towards all faith-based schools. But what have Catholic and CoE schools done to you? They are part and parcel of historic UK culture, just as much as the liberal tradition. For example, the Labour Party has strong Christian roots.
      I’m willing to compromise, but you’re heading down an antagonistic road with such an uncompromising starting position. A value-system at an early age is better than no value system.
      Try this for size:
      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-2517335,00.html

    3. Kismet Hardy — on 26th December, 2006 at 11:34 am  

      Any establishment that forces children to wear uniforms and train in one theory should be bulldozed and turned into a quirky indo-creol fusion eaterie. So should all mosques, churches and temples. Turn them into Indian restaurants, or even pizza parlours, or those quaint American diners where they keep filling up your coffee cup and give you maple syrup with your bacon

      What’s YOUR new year’s hope?

    4. William — on 26th December, 2006 at 11:45 am  

      I’m agnostic on faith schools. There seem to to be arguments surrounding two areas. One is that faith schools will produce people narrow and unable to intergrate. Another in favour of them seems to be that people can be psychologically stronger being with their own group, this engenders confidence and produces better educated pupils etc. I still keep an open mind to the arguments for and against and more importantly any evidence for or against.

      I can say that I remember different faith schools as a kid. There was a Catholic school up the road from our secondary modern. A few years after leaving school I met some people who had been pupils there. They were not narrow in there views about the outside world and of course they were definitely better educated.

    5. Kismet Hardy — on 26th December, 2006 at 12:05 pm  

      Religion teaches children guilt, fear and prejudice

    6. Katy — on 26th December, 2006 at 12:51 pm  

      Religion teaches children guilt, fear and prejudice

      Well, prejudice is bad, but I don’t know about guilt and fear. Guilt and fear reinforce social values in every society, regardless of its religion. If we didn’t have guilt and fear we’d all be maiming and killing each other without qualms. The problem with religion is that the main ones tend to teach people to feel guilty about things that they no longer need to feel guilty about (mainly in relation to sex, and mainly in a way that discriminates against women) for reasons which might have made sense in the distant past but don’t now.

    7. Kismet Hardy — on 26th December, 2006 at 1:26 pm  

      No no no you lovely bag of saucy bones. Guilt and fear don’t stop you from maiming each other. Feeling loved and learning to care about the world does that. If you grow up thionking you’ll probably go to hell anyway because you screwed up, you’re more likely to think: sod it, I have now no qualms about ripping off this person’s head for calling my mum gay

      The above example is for illustration purposes only, you understand

    8. William — on 26th December, 2006 at 1:33 pm  

      Kismet

      “Religion teaches children guilt, fear and prejudice”

      I agree that it often does. I also think that anything to do with the above should be stamped out even though I am a religious person myself. This includes for definite cruel gods ready to cast naughty children and adults into eternal flames. Also that we are born sinful. There are just so many personal accounts of people who say that this sort of indoctrination as a child slapped on a load of guilt and fear into them.

      tosh!!

      Harsh views in religion should be replaced with affirming ones of hope etc. Incidently it is not just the Abrahamic religions that can have harsh views. Views surrounding karma can also be used as abuse. There is a person (lets just say in my orbit)who was born a Hindu. They have a disfigurement which shows. Their family say that they were born with it as punishment for their families bad karma in the past. However the person themselves was blamed and stigmatised within the family for this. Now lets look at this one.

      It is our fault so it is your fault. Therefore because we are guilty you must be guilty for our guilt.
      We have done something so we will do something to you.
      We are to blame and this it’s return so we will blame you. You are to blame for our blame???????????
      The person still suffers a lot because of this.

      Tosh!

      There should just be compassion in religion if there has to be religion at all. More especially in the modern world where we understand that there can be a mulitude of reasons for human behaviour.

    9. Kismet Hardy — on 26th December, 2006 at 2:13 pm  

      William, far be it for me to force anyone into a tedious ‘justify thyself’ shpeel, if you do see the tosh our children are fed, would you as a religious man feel comfortable knowing your own children are being force fed it at school?

    10. El Cynic — on 26th December, 2006 at 2:22 pm  

      Kismet, things that look compelling on paper usually run aground on the rocks of reality. Go train as a teacher and teach at a rough inner-city school — see where your liberal atheist prejudices take you. What’s good for you, isn’t good for the rest of us. If you can’t grasp that and we are both signatories to the NGN, then the NGN is a sham.
      My son’s Catholic school teaches him about other faiths (just Jewsish so far, but he’s only 8). The morality is quite simple also: everyone is equal under one god, and worthy of the same respect. Apart from the god bit, what the fuck is the problem? Tolerance is not a one-way street.

    11. El Cynic — on 26th December, 2006 at 2:24 pm  

      seems 8 followed by a bracket creates a smiley with sunglasses. cool!

    12. Rohin — on 26th December, 2006 at 2:24 pm  

      El Cynical Cid, I wasn’t attacking CofE or Catholic schools – I was just saying that all religions have different branches. A Shia school is different to a Sunni school, CofE different to Catholic and ISKCON different to Swaminarayan.

      So I was trying to illustrate that even though this is touted as a Hindu school, there will be plenty of Hindus who feel it doesn’t represent their views.

      I’m trying to find a comment I made ages ago on Harry’s Place about how much I liked my ‘Christian’ school.

    13. El Cynic — on 26th December, 2006 at 2:30 pm  

      No worries Rohin, I just didn’t understand the point. Thanks for explaining it (since I’m not a Hindu, I didn’t appreciate the subtleties).

      Anyway, I have just read on the skynews website that an earthquake off Taiwan has sent a tsunami towards the Philippines. It’s Boxing Day and all; how creepy is that?

    14. Rohin — on 26th December, 2006 at 2:36 pm  

      Boxing day the year before the big tsunami was the Bam earthquake. Creepy indeed.

      That article you linked to is just too damn long. I got halfway and got bored. It’s more an attack on Dawkins – some of which I’m sure is justified. I haven’t actually read The God Delusion, I know him better as a scientist. Unfortunately, God said nothing in that article that shakes my views – and it was littered with errors!

    15. Kismet Hardy — on 26th December, 2006 at 2:37 pm  

      If you must teach children magic, buy them a derren brown dvd. If you want them to have any logical, sensible discourse in the way the world works, buy them the david attenborough one

    16. Rohin — on 26th December, 2006 at 2:40 pm  

      Here you go El Cid, I found my comment – made in PP’s first month!

      I wanted to challenge the defence that one must establish Muslim etc schools simply because Christian schools exist.

      Last time I checked, the monarch of this country was also head of the church. Whilst I’m very thankful Britain is not an overly religious country, I acknowledge the fact that it is a Christian nation (actually, I should say England) and I knew that when I arrived here as a bouncing heathen toddler. We have an Archbishop and an official church. Hence it is reasonable to expect Christian schools to exist – many of which are years old.

      The school I attended is called St. Paul’s, an old school rooted in Christianity, but no religion was rammed down my throat. Hence I had no problem whatsoever attending a school unrelated to my religion. Now Islamic/Sikh/Hindu schools may say they will accept anyone on paper, but of course no non-Muslim/Sikh/Hindu will attend because the very reason for the school’s existence is the emphasis of faith in the curriculum.

      On the subject of Jewish schools…well I’m opposed to them too. But as you say Luke many already exist. Then again over 100 Islamic schools exist, so perhaps what we should recommend is a cap on the numbers – I really don’t want to see this terribly divisive and damaging trend increase.

      It has been shown that mixed-religion schools are already divided along race and religion, so why on Earth would we want to encourage this by creating separate schools – to deny children socialisation with other types of people at the most formative time of their lives? Link

    17. El Cynic — on 26th December, 2006 at 2:50 pm  

      Reasoned argument is not God’s strong card! Vague calls on the spiritual hole within and miracles are more his/her/its style.
      But I’m sure you would agree that there’s room for compromise and mutual respect and people who bypass the state system in order to get their kids on to the fast-track of privilege have no right to tell others how to bring up their kids. :)

      P.S. Bam too! Jees, are the earth’s tectonic plates on some sort of timer?

    18. El Cynic — on 26th December, 2006 at 2:56 pm  

      Kismet, that’s very good. I like that. But my son is already aware that we evolved from primordial soup. I taught them that. My son assures me that most of his mates in class are probably aware of that too.

    19. Ravi Naik — on 26th December, 2006 at 3:14 pm  

      I think the main motivation to have faith-based schools is to protect children against secular values and from being corrupted by outside influences. This self-segregation is one example of radical multiculturism.

      Children should be exposed early on to diversity and to respect that diversity, not be protected from it.

      I also think that schools (the ones that teach science and maths) should make children think and challenge, which seems to be at odds with accepting sacred religious dogmas.

    20. El Cynic — on 26th December, 2006 at 3:34 pm  

      Ravi (et al),
      You may have a point there, but I don’t think it applies to native faith-based schools. After all, these have evolved over time and have been partly shaped by Britain’s wider secular society. Problem is, how can I tell a moslem he can’t have his school and insist on my catholic one? I can’t. It would be racist to do so.
      Hence, what we’re seeing now is an all-out attack by liberals on all faith-based schools. And I say bollocks to that. So what we have is a reservoir dogs/sergio leone standoff.
      The truth is, my kids’ school is much more multicultural than most schools in Britain, simply because of where we live. We have a strong success record of integrating new immigrants too — mainly colombians, poles, ecuadorians, nigerians, congolese, and a few sri lankans.
      If you want to chip away at the unproductive and radical elements of multiculturism, citizen tests, english language skills, and secular grammars are probably a better way to go.
      You still disagree with me? Ok, fair dos. But agree with me one thing: between them, moderate religionists and secular liberals hold the key to a better and more stable tomorrow. Divided we fall.

    21. Don — on 26th December, 2006 at 4:55 pm  

      As I have mentioned when this topic has arisen before, we are more or less stuck with some existing religious schools – some of them established for centuries and for all practical purposes secular aside from some traditions and quirks. No doubt many people have had excellent educations and fond memories. In other relgious establishments memories are likely to be less fond. Christian Brothers anyone? Of course, El Cid is right that the ‘level playing field’ argument is compelling, but what is wrong with a moratorium on new religious schools of any kind and a phased withdrawal of privileges and tax breaks until the state no longer gives religious belief a special place in education.

      It’s the new crop that is the problem. A long established CofE village primary is a different matter to a Vardy foundation school. For urban areas to have their education system driven by religious conviction is an appalling prospect.

      The idea that religious schools deliver better results misses the point that it is not the religious values that move them up the league tables, but the exemptions and special deals religion demands, not least de facto selection and deselection. Other schools pick up the slack. Nice middle class parents lie through their teeth and the religious gate-keepers wink at it while dumping the troublesome.

      Also, what Kismet said.

    22. El 100% Urban — on 26th December, 2006 at 5:04 pm  

      Don’t kid yourself Don. That’s a liberal myth.
      Religious schools do marginally better because the parents care more, pure and simple.

    23. El 100% Free School Dinners — on 26th December, 2006 at 5:09 pm  

      Faith schools aren’t the problem: private schools and patronising liberals are.

    24. Don — on 26th December, 2006 at 5:48 pm  

      ‘ because the parents care more, ‘ Actually my point. They care more so they buy into the system that privileges some over others, that excludes and defines. Who could blame them? The alternative may well be a problem-ridden comp.

      I’ve acknowledged that some, indeed many, schools which are formally religious deliver a good, inclusive, secular education. But my concern is that we are facing an explosion of religious schools which will come to define the education of the general population. An evangelical millionaire, a group of moslem businessmen, some fundamentalist x-ists, get to decide the ethos of a neighbourhood’s school?

      By the way, which part was the liberal myth? The last para?

    25. Sahil — on 26th December, 2006 at 6:13 pm  

      Maybe this music video, one on my favourites BTW, can add some insight, or maybe it’ll just be fun. I do love you tube:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Sm3trB1fe4

    26. William — on 26th December, 2006 at 6:25 pm  

      Kismet

      “William, far be it for me to force anyone into a tedious ‘justify thyself’ shpeel, if you do see the tosh our children are fed, would you as a religious man feel comfortable knowing your own children are being force fed it at school?”

      No I don’t mind being asked to justify myself that is what debate is all about so fire away. No I would not like my children being force fed that stuff. I would not object to them being taught religion however as long as it went along with other stuff. This includes how to question, how there are different religious beliefs and also the sources of those beliefs (scripture, revelation, insights) can be questionable and subject to interpretation. As just a couple of examples in relation to what I referred to. In some interpretations Hell was a place in the middle east or it can just mean being separate from God. One interpretation of sin was being off target. In connection with karma. Some ideas say that we don’t necessarily suffer because of bad Karma but do so in order to learn which may be just as bad depending on ones interpretation. Also some ideas on Karma say that it can be superseded by ones state of mind or doing good for others.

      Don’t get me wrong I struggle with all this stuff and have even considered becoming a militant rationalist at one stage.

    27. William — on 26th December, 2006 at 6:30 pm  

      Rohin

      “It has been shown that mixed-religion schools are already divided along race and religion, so why on Earth would we want to encourage this by creating separate schools – to deny children socialisation with other types of people at the most formative time of their lives? ”

      You may be right

    28. Thortz — on 26th December, 2006 at 6:52 pm  

      The expansion of state support for faith schools is Blair’s biggest disaster, second only to the almighty f**kup of his foreign policy adventures.

      Natural tendencies in adults to stay separate and wary of each other not good enough? I know, le’ts support segregation from birth. Apartheid nurseries keep your kid safe from meeting anyone not like them. Scripture lessons that tell them their values are written in books, not a matter for thought, discussion or negotiation. Point out that they are superior to other kids as their books that also claim to define values are really worthless. And above all, let’s stress faith -belief in whatever we tell you to believe regardless of any evidence- over reason, debate, learning, investigation, imagination, or self-expression.

      Of course there’s a historical asymmetry in funding as the history of this country is a Christian one. If schools for blonds were around brunettes would be campaigning for theirs too. The only answer is to demand that schools meet certain criteria in order to receive state funding. Schools could still be run by groups of any sort but they would have to provide a basic curriculum and not be allowed to discriminate on entry.

      Why allow schools to _explicitly_ select kids on the basis of their parents’ faith, any more than we allow them to select on the basis of _explicit_ criteria of race, political stance, wealth, or class?

    29. vt Das — on 26th December, 2006 at 8:47 pm  

      In Harrow, there’s a state funded jewish school even though jews amount to a less than a tenth of harrows Hindu community.

      What we are seing is the aspirational Hindu middles classes becoming more vocal and demanding rightly that they as tax payers should have choices that reflect their needs.

    30. Sahil — on 26th December, 2006 at 8:58 pm  

      AH HAH!, I need more economics, finance, citizenship,law, language development and philosophy at school, why am I not getting funding for that? I’m actually seeing cuts, why?

    31. Suresh Kumar — on 26th December, 2006 at 9:48 pm  

      Rohin,

      i think YOU are being predictably uncharitable about this noble cause.

      Why must everything that is related to ISKON be a bad thing? Perhaps you dont necessary believe in Vaishnavism or the Bhakti movement, but there is no need to give ISKON or anything remotely related to it a hard time.

      Let be clear the i-Foundation are promoting Vedantic ideals…. they have over 20 maybe 30 people on their advisory board… of which one of them is from ISKON…

      Stop making this into some conspiracy theory… its sad that we people tend to that to our own faiths…

      peace bro.

    32. John Barnes — on 26th December, 2006 at 10:23 pm  

      Not sure if this will add anything to the debate but the proposed school is about 30m away from my house.

      When the plans first came out the someone leafleted the entire area with material that had incredibly racist undertones (I know it was to do with religion but it seemed that is was specifically directed at “foreign” religions) stating that this group would encourage segregation and could asked if you would feel safe with your kids around a school like this (basically insinuating that this group had some sort of history of child abuse). There was a residents meeting and surprise, surprise no-one owned up to printing the material.

      Although I didn’t attend the meeting from what I hear (My mum went) it was fairly evenly split with the Asian residents for (this is very much an Indian-Hindu area) and the ‘White’ (lots of white second generation immigrants round here too, Irish, Italian, Greek) against. I think most peoples objections related to the extra traffic as opposed to the fact it was a Hindu school as there is another school within spitting distance of the proposed site.

      Personally I don’t have anything against faith schools but can understand why people don’t want them. Can’t we just do something similar to what Catholic schools do and have them part-funded by the diocese and part-funded by the government?

    33. John Barnes — on 26th December, 2006 at 10:26 pm  

      Also, I’m not sure what the picture is supposed to be off, Is it the proposed building (it doesn’t look like much like a school)? If its supposed to be the currently standing building, I have never ever seen anything like that in the area.

    34. Katy — on 26th December, 2006 at 10:47 pm  

      I think that faith should be something you teach your children at home, and that schools are for academic learning and not evangelism – but, having said that, academic standards in non-faith schools are now often so low that frankly if I couldn’t get my child into a good non-faith school I would put them into a faith school to safeguard their education, and do my best as a parent to make them understand that being of one faith doesn’t make you better than people of another. At the end of the day I would want my children to be able to read and write, and sadly you cannot guarantee that in many of the local schools in my area.

      Most of my friends with children – of all religions, and most of them are agnostic or atheist – had their children baptised in particular churches or started attending synagogues to try and give their children a head-start in the faith school stakes, simply because they can’t afford private schools and trying to get their children into faith schools because they want their children to be properly educated.

      I think it’s a terrible state of affairs, and that the answer ultimately is for the government to do something about the standard of secular comprehensive education. If I was confident about sending my child to a secular school in my area I wouldn’t even consider a faith school, for the very simple reason that I want to be in a position to control how much and what sort of religion my children are exposed to.

      Er, not that I have any children. But you know what I mean.

    35. Rohin — on 26th December, 2006 at 11:00 pm  

      Suresh, I didn’t make any comments about ISKCON other than saying it has an unusual history – and it does. Otherwise I have no problems with it, but I’m sure you’re aware many Hindus do.

      Not sure what you mean by ‘our own’ faiths. I don’t think we should hesitate to criticise anything because it is ‘our own’.

      John thanks for your comments. Didn’t realise a proportion of the population are Irish, Greek and Italian. Sorry, the building is the Bhaktivedanta Manor – the UK’s largest ISKCON temple.

      Katy – I was thinking about what you say. Of course the ideal answer is for the gov’t to improve state schools so that parents won’t have to feel as though sending their kids to state schools is a sacrifice.

      So if faith-schools do have a good academic record, what I envisage is a school overrun by non-believers who want a better education and eventually the religion will become a less important part of the curriculum until one day the only remnant of the faith will be the name. Hahaha!

      Maybe.

    36. Vikrant — on 26th December, 2006 at 11:43 pm  

      ” I love, but they wouldn’t be the first school in London to do that. St. James Schools have been teaching vedic maths for some years now.”

      Btw Rohin, Vedic Maths isnt really “Vedic”. The sutras date back to 17th century.

      As for ISKON, I dont consider them to be Hindus. Neeways who cah-urs….

      @El C: Cant help taking potshots at public schools ha? Some people like me (who’ve “No recourse to pub;ic funds” stamped on their passports) were forced go private! Neeways, i’m freakin posh ‘n i’m mighty proud of it..

    37. Rohin — on 26th December, 2006 at 11:46 pm  

      Vikrant, bona fide poshe people like me don’t say any of the following:

      i’m
      freakin
      Neeways
      isnt
      dont
      cah-urs…
      pub;ic
      Cant
      ha

      Just pulling your leg, how are you doing? In India?

    38. Kismet Hardy — on 27th December, 2006 at 4:18 am  

      Go suresh kumar! Smash rohin’s face in. Wedge your big toe up his crack hole. Kick him in the ear. Because it’s cold and it hurts a lot when you get kicked in the ear when it’s cold. GUT HIM LIKE WILD BOOR FROM NIPPLE TO BALL SAC WITH A RUSTY PARANG

    39. Sunny — on 27th December, 2006 at 7:48 am  

      On the ball as ever with the commentary Mr Rohin. I have much to add to this debate, but will do so in the new year with another post added to it. I don’t have the material with me right now.

      It’s funny though. The US has always had a separation between Church and state, and this has changed only recently (more explicitly) with Bush and his cronies massively funding Christian evangelical programmes. And the folks here (in the US), they ain’t happy about that I tells ya.
      In the UK we seem to be starting from the other end of the spectrum.

    40. Desi Italiana — on 27th December, 2006 at 9:07 am  

      Rohin, thanks for bringing this to attention. This post brings up multiple issues.

      1. “I think Hindus were just feeling left out.”

      No one has touched on this, but I think it is an important sentiment. As always, I’m speaking from my own personal experiences, mostly in the US, and I should say that often, I come across this feeling. Here, the feeling is, “The Jews do it, the Muslims do it”, etc. Personally, I’m sick of these competing multicultural nationalisms.

      2. Private, faith based schools vs public:

      I have several friends who attended private faith based schools. The parents’ justification was that these schools were much better than public schools. I’m a product of public schools– and my high school has been wreaked with several handicaps: lack of funding, sometimes NO BOOKS for students, outdated textbooks (the scarce supply that is), and even gang problems.

      My friends are also non Catholics who attended private Catholic schools. What’s disturbing to me is that the state of public schools is so awful, that you have to dish over money for private schools which are often faith based. However, what happens for those who do not have money to attend these schools?

      3. Religion and education: I am of the firm belief that religious instruction should be at home and left in the private realm. I am Hindu, and if I imagine myself as a mother, I can understand the desire to impart this heritage to my children. BUT AT HOME. I do think that we are lucky (in the UK and the US especially) that we are surrounded by and exposed to so much diversity, with people from so many backgrounds. This should be taken advantage of to expand our horizons (to put it in cheesy terms) rather than limit our experiences. Basing things on religion often has these confining and restricting effects.

      4. Hindu based instruction: here, we have Bal Vihar classes, at the local Radha Krishna mandhir ( http://www.radhakrishna.org/balvihar.htm ) , and they run a type of Sunday school Hindu equivalent. I have several friends who are in this. I’m also familiar with Hindu campus clubs and so on.

      I have always felt a little uneasy about the content of these classes. For one, it’s totally clear that a certain KIND and version of Hinduism is being propogated. More dangerous is the collapsing of Hinduism with India, and Indian and Hindu being treated as synonymous.

      Two, it seems so manufactured- and you can’t really blame the instructors, seeing that if you are going to implement instruction, in some way the subject that you teach will have to be codified and uniform. But rendering something like religion uniform and singular is kind of dangerous, since I am of the view that religion is often a social. Pigeon holding and classifying social dynamics is inaccurate in the face of realities.

      The thing I have the most problem with is the type of mentality that is then engrained. Several people I know have been so out of touch with their surrounding environment that is it kind of creepy. Again, I don’t think having knowledge about your background is negative; but I do think that once you treat your diversity as the overall defining factor of your social relations is negative. These guys simply do not see anything outside of Hinduism and Hindus; many of them are irked at the diversity they sometimes have to deal with. Some want to only be surrounded by Hindus and people like them.

      For the record, I do think that there are some positive things: instruction in a language (Gujarati, Hindi, whatever); instilling good values (ie plurality, knowledge, spirituality, etc). But these good values are often common sense, I think, and I see no reason why parents can’t teach their children this at home.

      5. “Let be clear the i-Foundation are promoting Vedantic ideals… its sad that we people tend to that to our own faiths…”

      Rohin was much more diplomatic in responding to this, but I’m not. So: Yeah, yeah, yeah, Vedantic ideals blah blah blah. I’m sick as hell of hearing about “Vedantic” principles and ideals, especially when they are preached by rabid ISKON types. My problems with ISKON could be a dissertation unto itself.

      And please, that is so backwards: people of a certain religious background can’t criticize what is being done in the name of the religion?

    41. Desi Italiana — on 27th December, 2006 at 9:19 am  

      Oh, forgot:

      “The US has always had a separation between Church and state, and this has changed only recently (more explicitly) with Bush and his cronies massively funding Christian evangelical programmes…And the folks here (in the US), they ain’t happy about that I tells ya. ”

      Er…. in all 50 states? And all 300 million people?

      Apparently, there ARE large numbers of folks who are really happy about the Church and the State being one. Many of these people exist in the vast stretch of land that often is often overlooked when people think of the US: the Midwest and the South (the US is not only the East coast and the West coast ;) ). Furthermore, you say that this is being done more so under the Bush admin. I’m not so sure about that. There have been plenty of moves that have smacked in the middle of seperation, such as teaching creationism in Kansas schools and etc that have taken place prior to Bush’s presidency. I just think that the problem is more under the limelight NOW, but it started well before.

      IMO, the US is an incredibly religious (Christian) country, and I dare say one of countries where religion matters the most.

      Also, even though in principle there is a seperation of the state and the church, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is being practiced like that (you guys have such sturdy faith in leglislation and the law that I admire it sometimes…)

      Anyway, I’m recovering from an overdose of besan laddoos.

    42. Desi Italiana — on 27th December, 2006 at 9:43 am  

      Also, re: Abrahamic religions vs. non:

      As far as I know, all religions- whether Abrahamic or not- are a partial effort at uniformity and codification of social, political, and economic rules that govern relations (and generally, a justification for the status quo).

      And there are positive things as well as negative found in all religions.

      I think I have veered off topic now.

    43. Desi Italiana — on 27th December, 2006 at 9:47 am  

      “The oft-misguided, but sometimes admirable Hindu Human Rights pressure group”

      “Oft-misguided”! That’s an understatement!

      They sometimes hold hands with the Hindu American Foundation (HAF): http://www.hinduamericanfoundation.org/

    44. El 100% Shite Comprehensive — on 27th December, 2006 at 9:51 am  

      Viks,
      There’s method to my madness. Some of my best friends are privately educated (and white, rugby-loving to boot). And they are some of the most well-rounded and interesting people I know. That’s what happens when you get a good education after all.
      We all have our biases in life, and mine is shaped by the fact that I went to the worst-performing school in the third-worst performing education authority at the time. I know first hand the damage that can be done when a naive, hopelessly dishonest, disgracefully arrogant liberal ideals are imposed on the frontline of multicultural, poor, rough as fuck inner-city Britain. If people haven’t been there, then they shouldn’t get on their high horses with their one size-fits-all theories (That’s not aimed at anyone particularly).

      Don,
      No, that’s not a myth — they really do care more. If you want to be cynical, you could point to the fact that they go to the effort of going to church occasionally, after all. On the other hand, you could check out how well-attended faith school summer fetes are relative to other schools. Funny enough, I haven’t heard you chat about your kids.

      To all,
      I hear what you are saying about new faith schools. But clearly, you all appreciate that it would be hypocritical and racist for me to oppose muslem or hindu schools. So you’re on your own. On the other hand, you could think about compromise (non-faith quotas, secular secondaries, joint-faith schools, etc). Or is compromise a dirty word for you wannabe social engineeers?

    45. Thortz — on 27th December, 2006 at 12:26 pm  

      El-whatever is absolutely right that the faith school parents do care more, but, as has been pointed out but needs re-emphasising, that’s exactly the problem.

      Over the years I have watched more and more friends start to show a sudden faked and hypocritical interest in Christianity in order to get their kids into the local CofE or catholic schools because of their better reputations. These schools then benefit from greater numbers of kids from families that value education, so of course they get better results. The remaining state schools then have to deal with greater proportions of kids from families that don’t care about education.

      Of course, selective schools are not the only segregating factor. Relocation is a major problem, where more affluent parents with young families move out of the cheap inner city areas to ones with safer reputations. This is the tragedy of inner city London boroughs such as Hackney.

      Parents with high expectations put pressure on weak schools to improve, so the schools without such parents have a double problem; the kids are harder to teach, and expectations are low with few pressures to force them to improve. Since the bright parents tend to do a runner from the dodgy areas we have a positive feedback loop that locks this cycle in place.

      None of this is about faith per se. It is about selection. The anomaly of faith schools is that they are allowed to receive state funding and operate selection masquerading as choice-by-faith.

      There are many other arguments against faith schools, Desi Italiana’s post 40 is excellent, but I think the selection problem is an important one. Just to be clear, I am against all faith schools, including existing ones.

      As an inner city Londoner I live in one of the most diverse locations in the world and the fact that we live together largely peaceably is, it sadly seems, no mean feat. There are already natural pressures for people to divide by class, income, ancestry and so on, but for people to coexist amicably we need greater contact and understanding between differing backgrounds not less. Faith schools are just one means to create separation, to build us-and-them outlooks, to grow what Sen describes as plural monoculturalism, and that is to the detriment of us all.

    46. El Cid — on 27th December, 2006 at 12:48 pm  

      For fucks sake Thortz
      Most parents at Catholic schools in innercity London are Paddy, Spic, Ity… ya get the picture?

    47. El Cid — on 27th December, 2006 at 1:00 pm  

      P.S. I live in Hackney and you’re precisely the kind of liberal I have in mind. As a second-generation immigrant and product of the welfare state, I believe you are the kind of person responsible for depriving Britain of the immigrant middle class that it deserves and perpetuating social immobility.

    48. ZinZin — on 27th December, 2006 at 1:01 pm  

      No need for that kind of language El Cid.
      Thortz made many salient points in #45.

    49. El Cid — on 27th December, 2006 at 1:02 pm  

      *signs off*

    50. Sahil — on 27th December, 2006 at 1:48 pm  

      “No need for that kind of language El Cid.”

      Tut Tut, ZInZin, Freedom of Speech and all that ;)

      Jesus El Cid, always angry, :) Have a beer on me *passes imaginary cobra bottle*

    51. Don — on 27th December, 2006 at 1:50 pm  

      El Cid,

      Confused now. I agreed that the parents you referenced cared more – cared enough to work the system and fake piety to give their kids an advantage. Thortz expanded on that pretty clearly.

      Since you ask, my own offspring attended the local comp. However, to be fair it is a highly rated one with results to match private/religious schools so I wasn’t faced with that dillema. If I had had to send any sprog of mine to the comp where I worked (the roughest on Tyneside)then I would probably have moved house.

      Social engineering? I would have thought that the explosion of faith schools was a clear example of just that. We tried non-faith quotas recently; the religious lobby flexed its muscles and squashed that. And it is the secular secondaries that are being closed down and re-opened under new management as faith based academies; almost the first thing they do is purge themselves of ‘malcontents’ who have to find a place in the remaining state schools.

    52. Thortz — on 27th December, 2006 at 2:24 pm  

      EL – “For fucks sake Thortz”. Oops, I thought this was a nice quiet thread.

      Perhaps I’m dense but I’m not sure why I am “perpetuating social immobility”.

      Is your argument that yes faith schools are a way of slipping in selection in the state sector, but that selection is a good thing? That the only way the “immigrant middle class” can be increased is by aspiring parents cocooning their kids in environments defined by their faith and so keeping them separate from the oiks who are by implication from the great unwashed other of the surrounding population? If in favour of selective schools, do these have to be tied to faith? Could you not just argue for selective schools like the old grammar system?

      Yes there are crap schools out there with low expectations. Surely this is the key issue; that these schools need to be revitalised, and not be abandoned in any and every way by the middle classes and others who are interested in education. Doesn’t this then give everyone, irrespective of faith, race, wealth, class, hair colour, or blood group a chance to be socially mobile?

    53. El Cid — on 27th December, 2006 at 5:46 pm  

      Thanks for the beer Sahil.
      I’m not always angry, honest, and after reading the stale and destructive, if well-meaning, reasoning by Don and Thortz, I’m satisfied that my aim is true. I’d cry if it wasn’t so comical.
      Post #51 was particularly bizarre. If you boil it down to its core essence, it seems to me that you care less about things like equality of opportunity and educational standards. You also seem determined to ignore that most Catholics in Britain are from immigrant groups, not least the Irish. Basically, it’s just the religion bit you don’t like.
      As for Thortz: Yes, I do mix up the grammar school question with the faith school issue. It’s because I sense the same people who go bang on against faith schools are the same people who wiped out grammar schools in the innercity. And guess what? He shoots he scores. That last para of yours said it all. What a joker. On behalf of all smart kids growing up in innercity Britain who have failed to hit their true potential since the 1970s, I thank you and your kind Sorry Zin Zin, but the profanities are building up. :)

      P.S.
      Don’t worry about me, I’m doing just fine.

    54. Don — on 27th December, 2006 at 6:41 pm  

      El Cid,

      You seem to be misreading my position. As you know, I’m in the education biz and I have fairly strong opinions on this, so allow me to expand;

      We have a large number of nominally or actually religious schools in this country, some of them ancient, and many of them delivering an education superior to that available in the state sector, often to parents who could not otherwise escape a sink school for their kids. Agreed.

      The downside of this is that very often access to these schools is not open to all, although they are largely public funded. So people need to know how work the system, when the system should work for the people. Can you imagine a publically funded hospital or fire station that operated on a religious qualification for service basis, albeit with some quota concessions?

      A large number of these schools are inclusive, essentially secular with some traditions attached. Their religious impulse has faded to a mass on founder’s day, or a genial vicar on the governors. Like Rohin, that is a process I would like to see continue. It is not possible simply to dissestablish these schools without massive disruption to the kids’ education and no realstic prospect of significant benefit to education as a whole. Personally, I would like to see a ten year period of grace for religious schools to become fully inclusive and unprivileged if they want access to the public purse. Of course that isn’t going to happen, because the opposite is happening.

      The opposite is that whole neighbourhoods are presented with a new breed of schools which make their own rules, dump the troublesome and work on the ethos decided by the suits who cut a deal with the government. You want a well funded disciplined school in Gateshead? Here it is, run by creationist fundies who teach that queers burn in hell. You want a school in Middlesbrough that isn’t falling apart? Sign up to the programme, which is whatever some ego-tripping millionaire says it is.

      Education as we know it started with the churches and gradually became secularised, but now the process is being reversed. Why? To let the state shed its responsibilities? To placate vociferous religious blocs? To get a few millionaire donors on board? If state schools are sub-standard, fix them, don’t just write them off as places for the kids whose folks weren’t savvy enough to work the system.

    55. Thortz — on 27th December, 2006 at 7:01 pm  

      Great post, Don. I couldn’t have put it better (I blame my education for this).

      And those ego tripping fundies & millionaires get their city academies for just a tenth of the start-up costs, with the State paying the rest of the bill. Grrr

    56. mrs. moore — on 28th December, 2006 at 8:45 am  

      i don’t see how the hare krishnas can be running a school with hindus in general. they don’t really like the worship of durga, siva, ganesh and so on.

      they don’t believe the ultimate goal is to merge into the impersonal brahman, like most hindus. i think you’ll find they’re only getting it together with the hindus so they can gradually bring more lost souls to the worship of krishna in their own particular way.

      and, so why do they call it the i-foundation, and not iskcon?

      this school will have to be handled reeeeealy carefully. be careful! i went to a catholic school, and it was nice. but this is different. hare krishna is a sect.

    57. William — on 28th December, 2006 at 12:18 pm  

      A couple of freinds and myself stayed a weekend at Bhaktivedanta Manor years in the 70′s. The one thing which was offputting was that during services women and children had to be at the back of the hall while men were at the front because they were considered more spiritual???. I sincerely hope this is not the philosophy now as the question would be would this be instilled into the kids???

      El 100% Shite Comprehensive

      “We all have our biases in life, and mine is shaped by the fact that I went to the worst-performing school in the third-worst performing education authority at the time. I know first hand the damage that can be done when a naive, hopelessly dishonest, disgracefully arrogant liberal ideals are imposed on the frontline of multicultural, poor, rough as fuck inner-city Britain. If people haven’t been there, then they shouldn’t get on their high horses with their one size-fits-all theories (That’s not aimed at anyone particularly).”

      I also have my biases in terms of experience and it does affect ones view. I went to a Secondary Modern. Four ex pupils of that school commited murders. There was a Catholic school up the road and it was obvious just by standing near to them at a bus stop that there were tremendous differences in behaviour and intellect. I am tempted to feel I would prefer any faith school than the one I went to. Of course as long as there was no Catholic guilt or any other negative indoctrination.

    58. William — on 28th December, 2006 at 12:24 pm  

      Oh just forgot. Last year I came accross the following. A Sikh guy was telling a group of us that some Sikh parents were threatening to send their naughty kids to the Sikh school as a way to get them to behave. The kids becoming scared wondering what this punishment must be. Much like some white parents used to threaten their kids with boarding school whether they could afford it or not.

    59. shiva — on 29th December, 2006 at 3:41 am  

      Desi Italiana,

      Hinduism is about appreciating, accepting and living with differences, and anyone who is lucky to have grown up Hindu in India (or Nepal, Guyana, Fiji, Indonesia) has imbibed a very rich and complex picture be it at the level of hard to understand philosophy or the popular bhakti. When Hindus try to teach children born outside India the elements of the Hindu dharma (Note I don’t use the inapt terms, religion, faith, etc to describe Hinduism) they are ill-equipped and cannot create even a pale imitation of the setting in which this happens in India. The colonial project has done enough damage to Hinduism conjuring out of thin air for it a “Holy Book”, a “Trinity”, a “creed”, Gods/Goddesses, Prayer, Worship, etc. All of which being alien categories have no parallel whatsoever within Hinduism. And well intentioned but poorly informed teachers create a bland smooth paste based on colonially imposed categories, and their own ignorance. To compound the error there is this misguided attempt to harmonise by seeking ‘common ground’ rather than identifying differences and learning to live with them.

    60. douglas clark — on 29th December, 2006 at 10:33 am  

      shiva,

      Could you write some more about this? It is very interesting. You say it is more a philosophy than a religion, right?

    61. El Cid — on 29th December, 2006 at 11:45 am  

      William,
      There’s nothing wrong with “Catholic guilt” — it’s called a conscience. We all have it. The Catholic act of confession merely encourages it. But we all essentially have it (don’t we?)
      That’s not to say that priests don’t generally make me edgy. But then so does my Auntie Carmen, a Francoist nun.

    62. Chairwoman — on 29th December, 2006 at 12:44 pm  

      El Cid – I have always been of the opinion that whereas Guilt is endemic to Judaism and Catholicism, probably because we are taught that The Almighty keeps a personal eye on us at all times, Protestants lacks the same type of personal relationship with Him, so they don’t do Guilt with a capital G, and therefore think it’s a Bad Thing.

    63. El Cid — on 29th December, 2006 at 12:46 pm  

      Don,

      Let’s set aside the glib rhetoric about an explosion in faith schools and about queers burning in hell. And just remember that you’re using a machine gun when you should probably be using a rifle. Neither of those two throwaway lines have any bearing with the reality I know doon sooth in the old smoke.

      “We have a large number of nominally or actually religious schools in this country, some of them ancient, and many of them delivering an education superior to that available in the state sector, often to parents who could not otherwise escape a sink school for their kids. Agreed.”

      Good.

      “The downside of this is that very often access to these schools is not open to all, although they are largely public funded. So people need to know how work the system, when the system should work for the people. Can you imagine a publically funded hospital or fire station that operated on a religious qualification for service basis, albeit with some quota concessions?”

      WTF?

      1) There are many ways to work the system Don. In fact, you have already said that you would have moved house to get your kids into a better school.
      2) Have you ever thought to yourself that faith-based education might deliver better results than a liberal secular education because it instills greater discipline for learning and fosters a greater collective pride? You still have to follow a national curriculum set by central government.
      3) And yes, it’s there for all to see. The same warped reasoning behind the great comprehensive experiment: make it all the same, regardless of the consequences for social mobility and educational standards.
      4) The fact that faith schools are state-funded is what deep down bugs you most, even though we all pay taxes, not just illiberal liberals? So it would be ok if the private system was expanded, would it? Of course you realise that that would boost the popularity of tax cuts and increase social polarity. Yes, I’m sure you do.

      Finally, how can I say this without sounding bitchy? I’ve noticed it before in some of your previous posts and…. well… I’ve struggled with the semi-colon myself. Grammar isn’t really taught that well in schools, as the success of Eats, Shoots and Leaves demonstrates. But I’m convinced that it’s a colon rather than a semi-colon that you want in your first para.

    64. Chairwoman — on 29th December, 2006 at 12:52 pm  

      Definately a colon, or even one of these :-

    65. El Cid — on 29th December, 2006 at 1:13 pm  

      Oh I see Chairwoman.
      I guess that underlines that I’m not a very good Catholic. The church and God are the last things I think of if I ever feel guilty. Value systems work in mysterious ways.

    66. Chairwoman — on 29th December, 2006 at 1:24 pm  

      Actually El Cid, me too. But I think the early conditioning leaves the propensity for guilt, which we then re-direct.

      Well, that really failed to adequately express my theory.

    67. El Cid — on 29th December, 2006 at 1:46 pm  

      But I think the early conditioning leaves the propensity for guilt, which we then re-direct.

      I like that a lot. It kinda ties in with my tentative idea of compromise with the liberal extremists — i.e. leaving faith-based primaries alone and reforming secondaries. Politics is the art of the possible and the more diverse a society, the harder it is to forge a consensus. But they don’t do compromise, so convinced are they of their position, unless it is with dodgy minority value systems (arrogance and cowardice — a very odd mix).

      Thing is, I sympathise with what the government is doing. I’m very New Labour me (I bottled out of doing a PHd under Professor Raymond Plant in 1987, but the subject I had in mind was…. dun-dun-daan.. A Third Way for the New Left….. *cowers in fear, awaits incoming rotten tomatoes*). But it is trying to raise educational standards by improving choice. I’m not sure they are doing it the right way in many instances — as Don alludes to — but things have improved noticeably since the nadir of the 1970s/1980s. I just wish the Old Left and Diehard Liberals would recognise that comprehensive schools as they were pre-1987 had let the common boy and girl and the nation down.
      Just as Blair should be ashamed of himself for the Iraq War, so they should too for the damage done to generations of this country’s kids.

    68. Sidhartha Claus — on 29th December, 2006 at 2:16 pm  

      Catholics do guilt. Jews do guilt. Muslims do defensive.

    69. Don — on 29th December, 2006 at 3:02 pm  

      El Cid, not bitchy at all; it should have been a colon. Lousy grammar school education.

      Explosion of faith schools refers to the 200 city academies planned for 2010. At around 1,200 to 1,500 pupils per institution that places over a quarter of a million pupils in institutions whose ethos is defined by the likes of Vardy and Laidlaw, which do push creationism, which preach the innate wickedness of homosxuality, which do not have to follow the national curriculum, and which exclude pupils at rates far above the national average.

      That may well not be the reality you know, of traditional church-linked schools, but it is the reality planned for the immediate future.

      http://education.guardian.co.uk/faithschools/story/0,,1544168,00.html

      As to your numbered points:

      #1. Yes, I would have worked the system had I been in that position. Who wouldn’t? But it should not be necessary.

      #2. Just possible, but I would put more emphasis on such schools tending to draw their pupils from families where education is highly valued – to the extent that parents are willing to lie about their religious convictions or move house – and where parents take an active interest in the school and are generally keen on discipline.

      #3. You’ll have to join the dots for me there. The trouble with being warped is that it’s hard to get a perspective on how warped one’s reasoning is.

      #4. Yes. And last year’s ICM poll found that around two thirds of the population feel the same way. However, because of the consequence you point out (as well as the fact that religious schools are at least kept within the system and are monitored) then I would have to agree with Harry Brighouse who presents ‘an unenthusiastic defence of a slightly reformed status quo’.

      The traditional, status quo type religious school, as I have said, at least offers practical advantages, although at a cost of letting the government off the hook for failing schools by allowing the parents who would otherwise be making the most fuss and exerting the most effective pressure to opt out.

      The new breed are the real problem, you haven’t really expressed a view on those.

    70. Bert Preast — on 29th December, 2006 at 3:19 pm  

      I fail to see what religion provides children that Aesop’s fables can’t.

      And they’re less likely to grow up basing their lives on some talking animals.

    71. El Cid — on 29th December, 2006 at 4:00 pm  

      Re #2. Yes, I know you would, even though most Catholic school kids in the big cities are drawn from certain Catholic-tending ethnic groups (shall I repeat them?) Still, why let the facts get in the way of an argument. It’s a bit like Jewish schools, which do best around here and in Barnet — surprise, surprise, they’re filled with jewish kids.

      200 City Academies by 2010. All faith-based? I didn’t know that. But then my starting position would have been to judge these on a case by case basis and to acknowledge first and foremost that the status quo had failed my constituency terribly. By my constituency — it’s a metaphor — I mean anyone regardless of race, religion, sexual persuasion or gender who went to an innercity comp — not people like you who went to a grammar or others watching on the sidelines who went to private school. Something has to be done to break the cycle of innercity failure. Do you get it Don? Nothing else matters as far as I am concerned.
      People like me will no longer accept self-interested teacher groups and local authorities imposing sub-standard services on us and are open to new efforts to revitalise the system. So I will give the govt’s city academy policies the benefit of the doubt for now because: 1) I have no doubt that any excesses or unsavoury aspects can be exposed by people like you and reined in; 2) because the old left’s comprehensive dream was a fucking nightmare; 3) the old left will not acknowledge their regressive cockup and want to make a bad situation worse by attacking faith-based state schools.
      Sorry, I am swearing again — must be my education.

    72. shiva — on 29th December, 2006 at 5:40 pm  

      Douglas,

      Thank you for your interest. Hinduism is most certainly not religion, a term that is specific to what could be called the Abrahamic faiths, as are practiced today in Europe and the Middle East. I am not sure if I can apply the term religion to the faith of my Indian friends in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, whom I have grown up with in India. M.J. Akbar (on NPR) talks of how his father hurriedly left Pakistan in 1947 after a few months, and returned to India, because he felt so out of place. I have Christian friends from India who talk of making a “pilgrimage” every year to India. In the classical Indian Hindu way one grows into the philosophy as one grows older and explores themes that are popularly known as “monism” or “qualified dualism” etc., I am not sure if I can call Hinduism more of a philosophy – but certainly presenting it without the philosophy is incomplete. Which is why quite a few Hindus – even orthodox Vaishnavas and Madhvas – feel uneasy with ISKCON because they find much missing in its message. At one time ISKCON in the US did actively express its dislike for many observances of Hindus from India (and probably knew almost nothing of the practices of the Hindus of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Caribbean, SE Asian, and the Pacific) But these days as the Hindus in N. America have become more affluent and other Vaishnava groups (BAPS) and Saiva groups (Saiva Siddhanta Church) have become better organised and more active; ISKCON too has begun to throw open its doors to the larger mass of Hindus, simply because that’s where the market is! Back in India the Gaudiya Vaishnava order (the parent order of the ISKCON’s founder) has distanced itself from ISKCON and the Madhvas in the SOuth (theoretically v.close to Gaudiya Vaishnavas) too have criticised the ISKCON on occasion. The problem agains is an inability to present a more complete and harmonious package, instead presenting a purely theistic account minus the philosophy, discussion, experiencing, and expressing.

      As for corporeal punishment how can anyone ever ever defend it? Especially in the land of Dickens.

    73. Desi Italiana — on 29th December, 2006 at 6:34 pm  

      Shiva, #59:

      Thanks for your comment. A couple of things:

      “When Hindus try to teach children born outside India the elements of the Hindu dharma (Note I don’t use the inapt terms, religion, faith, etc to describe Hinduism) they are ill-equipped and cannot create even a pale imitation of the setting in which this happens in India.”

      When you say “Hindus,” do you mean the parents or teachers at Sunday school type schools? Because as far as I know, my parents did a wonderful job of 1) instructing us about our sect and 2) exposing us to diverse religions that we have in the US. They never tried to shape our Hinduism into mirroring other faiths, but they did teach us that all religions carry the same message more or less (spiritually). This is why I think instruction of this kind belongs at home. Once it becomes a teaching tool, it becomes standardized; and thus in my mind, prone to constructed uniformity.

      “The colonial project has done enough damage to Hinduism conjuring out of thin air for it a “Holy Book”, a “Trinity”, a “creed”, Gods/Goddesses, Prayer, Worship, etc. All of which being alien categories have no parallel whatsoever within Hinduism.”

      I agree with you here. However, it seems as if you are attributing this tendency to folks outside of India. I’d argue that it happens in India as well. The most prominent example of this is the VHP and RSS. On the one hand, they have tried to “Semitize” Hinduism in more ways than one: insistence on a major doctrine (Mahabharat and Ramayana) similar to the Bible and Koran; the “Hindu Vatican” being Ayodhya, and so on. They have also priveleged a north Indian variant of Hinduism (Vaishnavite, centered on Ram). On the other hand, their depiction of Hinduism falls back on the British orientalist conceptualization (ie mystical, spiritual, opposite of “Western civilization,” etc).

      “But these days as the Hindus in N. America have become more affluent and other Vaishnava groups (BAPS) and Saiva groups (Saiva Siddhanta Church) have become better organised and more active; ISKCON too has begun to throw open its doors to the larger mass of Hindus, simply because that’s where the market is!”

      True.

      “You say it is more a philosophy than a religion, right?”

      Well, you could argue the same for “Abrahamic” religions; it depends on how one practices it and looks at it. I’d hate to think that you could pigeon hold and categorize religions. “Religion” as we use the word today might have different meanings in various languages, all of which in even Middle Eastern religions– Islam, Christianity, and Judaism– might not quite be the same as it is rendered in the English language and “western” philosophy.

    74. Desi Italiana — on 29th December, 2006 at 7:31 pm  

      Shiva:

      “anyone who is lucky to have grown up Hindu in India (or Nepal, Guyana, Fiji, Indonesia) has imbibed a very rich and complex picture be it at the level of hard to understand philosophy or the popular bhakti.”

      Er…you’re not making an “authenticity” argument, are you? It gets very sticky if you are (though I could be mistaken). Furthermore, the way I see it is that these are diverse VARIATIONS in Nepal, Guyana and etc. I don’t think it’s accurate nor fair to say, “In India, the faith is more ‘authentic’ and people know what they are following, as opposed to Hindus from outside who don’t follow the ‘authentic’ dharam and they are always trying to echo the Christians, Jews, and Muslims.” I’ve seen the latter tendency in Hindus from India as well as I’ve stated in my post above; and I know plenty of Hindus in the US who recoil from ISKON and similar variations.

      Even in Fiji, which you mention, the adherence of Hindus is mostly Sanatan and then Arya Samaj. Arya Samaj, if you recall, was born in pre Partition India and took on several philosophies that resembled Islam and Christianity (but which they claimed were consistent with the Vedas). This refutes your claim, unless you think that the Sanatan version and Arya Samaj are ‘authentic” and imbibe a sense of the “real” and complex thing.

      ” When Hindus try to teach children born outside India the elements of the Hindu dharma (Note I don’t use the inapt terms, religion, faith, etc to describe Hinduism) they are ill-equipped and cannot create even a pale imitation of the setting in which this happens in India.’

      You’re making sweeping generalizations way too easily. How many Hindus “outside of India” such as in North America have you had contact with?

      Now that I’ve re-read this comment, I hope you are not veering into a discourse which sets up “us vs.them” and that somehow all 700 million plus Hindus in India are more authentic than the others. It’s much more complex, variegated and blurred than that. It’s exactly this type of thinking that has led to a sort of schism in a very few places in the US between Black Muslims and Arab Muslims in the US, that somehow the version of Arab Muslims is more authentic and Black Muslims are not authentic (Arab Muslims who think this forget that even in Arab countries, practices differ from region to region and no one group can be totally representative of “Islam”).

      Anyway, I’m off to have some chai.

    75. shiva — on 29th December, 2006 at 7:48 pm  

      Desi Italiana,

      I do not know your parents, so comments are only about what I hear you say.

      The overseas Sunday school format has a few things going for it. Firstly the school can host experts, while parents may or may not be experts. Secondly learning about Hinduism in a group with other children and adults affords lets children feel that Hinduism is not only contemplative but also a group experience, and something to be talked about and lived out among the public. Thirdly learning in a classroom setting makes for a more methodical approach. I am familiar with the Bal Vihar format and a few other popular ones, and am not satisfied with them. But I am still looking for a classroom program. In the meanwhile a new overseas Hindu environment is already emerging and from what I read about Hindus in UK and Canada it appears that a more complete yet distinctive sampradaya than the present anemic ones in N. America will come to light. To some extent this seems to be on the same lines as the Hindu cultures of Mauritius, Fiji, and the Caribbean.

      Neither the RSS nor the VHP has a doctrine about Hinduism and if you asked them they would struggle. Just try it. They simply haven’t spent any time or resources coming up with one and they do not have the scholars to do the job. As for privileging “a north Indian variant of Hinduism (Vaishnavite, centered on Ram)” it is yet to happen. The RJB “movement” has had no effect on the bhakti practices of Hindus in India. The Ram Lila effigy burning ritual predates RJB and has continued all these years. In the South many still find the ritual repugnant because Ravana was a Shiva Bhakta, a master of the arts, a compassionate ruler of his people and a man of valour but for that one mistake of his. Many Vaishnava mahants/swamis in Ayodhya have always been criticised the “movement”. The colonials who have ‘religionised’ Hinduism came from outside >200 years ago. But the ones who have continued the project are all Indian. The “mystical, spiritual, irrational” characterisation of Hinduism is pretty much the dominant academic line in Western universities. Which is why when feted academics (the kind whom the Sepiamutiny and PP folks fawn over) write about “Hinduism” they leaf through easily accessible 20th century prose (and worse gibberish from the popular press) rather than wrestle with something like Gangesa’s 14th century Tattvacinatamani, a treatise on logic. As for the philosophy part Desi Italiana, if you read my post you will find that I said so, “I am not sure if I can call Hinduism more of a philosophy – but certainly presenting it without the philosophy is incomplete.”

    76. Chairwoman — on 29th December, 2006 at 8:17 pm  

      Desi Italiana and Shiva – Thank you very much for a most interesting debate. I knew little about Hinduism when this started, and now even less. I know one of my Hindu friends prays daily, because he tells me he does. If Hinduism doesn’t have prayer or gods, what does he do?

      As for the use of the word ‘religion’? Well, what does that mean anyway? As a Jew, I find that Judaism is a code to live by. Even though there are prayers to be offered daily to a deity, there is no injunction to actually believe, but just to follow the rules. Now I am sure that my co-religionist, bananabrain, will be on to contradict me after the Sabbath ends, but that is how I see it.

      I also agree that to live in an environment where one’s faith/philosophy/practice/way of life is endemic must promote a greater understanding of it than when practiced where it is an ‘exotic’ for want of a better word.

    77. Desi Italiana — on 29th December, 2006 at 9:01 pm  

      Shiva–

      Thanks again for your comment.

      1. “The overseas Sunday school format has a few things going for it.”

      Of course, and I stated in my post that for sure, there are some positive things. But the negative– for me at least– is the uniformity and codification (for lack of a better word) that is imposed, and this outweighs the benefits.

      2. “Firstly the school can host experts, while parents may or may not be experts.”

      Hmmm… I understand what you are saying, but I would want to ascertain what kind of an ‘expert” he/she is. In other words, I would want to be informed as to what kind of take and angle this person has, if they are to teach my children.

      3. “Secondly learning about Hinduism in a group with other children and adults affords lets children feel that Hinduism is not only contemplative but also a group experience, and something to be talked about and lived out among the public.”

      This is me personally, but I do not see religion as a group experience; I see it as something that is utilized by an individual, for the individual, for improving oneself. I realize that I am amongst the few who think this way, so I supppose that this is a personal preference.

      4. “Thirdly learning in a classroom setting makes for a more methodical approach.”

      This sits uneasy with me. Again, it’s a personal preference; and I see religion as something for spiritual attainment, not something reached “methodologically.” Furthermore, like the previous discussions on PP on rituals and such, I would prefer that the focus would be not on rituals, methology and whatnot in and of themselves, but more on individual improvement. I do agree with you that if a philosophy is to be learnt, instruction on the logic of that philosophy is not only beneficial but necessary. In that, I have no qualms. But, if certain kinds of things are taught and are justified, I would be miffed.

      5. “In the meanwhile a new overseas Hindu environment is already emerging and from what I read about Hindus in UK and Canada it appears that a more complete yet distinctive sampradaya than the present anemic ones in N. America will come to light”

      I do not see why it is negative that Hinduism overseas is becoming more distinct. And I cannot stress the fact that Hinduism even within India is highly diverse. It is true that there is uniformity within a given variation, but often those variations are highly localized and contained.

      6. “Neither the RSS nor the VHP has a doctrine about Hinduism and if you asked them they would struggle.”

      This is true, they do not have a “doctrine” so thanks for correcting me on that. But they DO have a certain vision of Hinduism, and that is what I was referring to.

      7. “The colonials who have ‘religionised’ Hinduism came from outside >200 years ago. But the ones who have continued the project are all Indian. The “mystical, spiritual, irrational” characterisation of Hinduism is pretty much the dominant academic line in Western universities. Which is why when feted academics (the kind whom the Sepiamutiny and PP folks fawn over) write about “Hinduism” they leaf through easily accessible 20th century prose (and worse gibberish from the popular press) rather than wrestle with something like Gangesa’s 14th century Tattvacinatamani, a treatise on logic”

      I agree with all of what you say here.

      7. “As for the philosophy part Desi Italiana, if you read my post you will find that I said so, “I am not sure if I can call Hinduism more of a philosophy – but certainly presenting it without the philosophy is incomplete.”

      Oh, what I said at the end of #73 was directed to douglas clark’s enquiry in #60. Sorry, I didn’t specify that.

      In the end, as I read my comments, I guess it is a matter of what an individual prefers. I myself do not like practicing religion in a community atmosphere. If I go to the mandhir, I try to go during the weekday when I know that there are not many people around. I see religion as an intensely personal thing, and whatever time I have with any higher being is mine and intimate. Also, there are times that I’ve seen way too many people do things for the “community” to see, and I vehemently disagree with that. My own parents are totally practicing “Hindus” (as in they follow the dharam that they have been taught, but you know what I mean), and they partake in “Hindu” community activities. But now that I am older, I have the choice to interact with my heritage the way I find most fruitful for my goals. I don’t think this is a sympton of being outside of India; time and time again I’ve been suprised to meet and know Hindus from India who seem much more lax, or different about things than their counterparts here.

      *****************
      Chairwoman:

      “I also agree that to live in an environment where one’s faith/philosophy/practice/way of life is endemic must promote a greater understanding of it than when practiced where it is an ‘exotic’ for want of a better word. ”

      I totally disagree. Again, I do not see why interpretations out of the the place of origin is negative. Furthermore, as I’ve stressed in my previous posts, I don’t think it is entirely accurate to say that practioners in the country of origin are doing it more authentically or better. The way religion is practiced is way too diverse, and it interacts with so many facets of life– language, society, history, literature and the arts, politics and regional influences, even within “Abrahamic” religions to varying degrees.

      When you say “exotic,” what comes to mind are converts who see Hindusim or whatever as something different and exotic. But that is not confined to the “overseas” community. In India, there are PLENTY of people who go on “spiritual tours” because they see Hindusim or whatever as “exotic,” “deep” and etc. And because of this spiritual market, there are many “gurus,”swamis,” and “babas” in India that accrue popularity and a following. Some Indians in India themselves become attracted this variant of Hinduism. So one can argue that something from the outside that is “exotic” has been brought to India, has taken root, and is plugged into various sections of the given location. On the one hand, I myself wouldn’t go visit these gurus, swamis and babas; on the other hand, I don’t see why this is fundamentally negative. You can’t stop mixing, and no matter how much some people dislike it, society is constantly evolving (and within society, I include religion). Also, I will go as far as saying that there is no such thing as “authentic” no matter what anybody says. Everything is mixed to variuos extents. And when we start trying to look for the more authentic version, there’s always the tendency of chauvenism and an effort to “purify” something; which means that standards are defined and criteria is set, and the desire to “weed” out those that do not meet the criteria crop up.

    78. Chairwoman — on 29th December, 2006 at 9:53 pm  

      Desi – When I said ‘exotic’ it was very much tongue in cheek. It was how I found myself viewed by my husband’s extended family when I first met them. Not how I see myself, nor anyone else from a purely cultural point of view.

      I also think I haven’t been expressing myself properly today. I’m not backtracking, just expanding. It’s not about a practice being more authentic because it is in the place where it originated or flourished, but about it being more natural, and that also isn’t the right word, when the majority of people around you are following the same path.

      That’s the nearest I can get to what’s in my mind right now. This is a subject for long, late night discussions and verbal exchanges of ideas. Sometimes cyberspace isn’t enough for me :-)

    79. Desi Italiana — on 29th December, 2006 at 11:02 pm  

      So to bring it up to the topic at hand– faith based schools:

      I wouldn’t want someone’s religious identity being priveleged over all of aspects. It shouldn’t be the sole defining factor of personhood. If I were ever a mother, I would want my children to rest not on the crutches of their religious identity, but on sound thinking, a critical eye, and the wealth of their knowledge. You can never de-tangle yourself from your religious heritage, and I myself would want to pass on that part of my identity to my children. But there are muliple layers in a person’s identity, or even multiples identities in a person. I wouldn’t want my children to be so unimaginative so as to view the world through one the prism- that of religion.

    80. Desi Italiana — on 29th December, 2006 at 11:03 pm  

      Please excuse the myraid of typos in my posts :)

    81. Katy — on 30th December, 2006 at 4:41 am  

      There is clearly a difference between the feeling of practising a religion or creed or philosophy or whatever you want to call it in a country where that religion or creed or philosophy is in the minority, and practising it in a country where that religion or creed or philosophy is shared by the vast majority of people and the rules and customs of that country are built on the premise that everyone practises that religion, isn’t there? It doesn’t mean that either version is less authentic, but in one place it is just what the vast majority of people do and there is nothing peculiar about doing it, and in the other place being a member or practitioner of that religion or creed marks you out as exotic or different.

    82. shiva — on 30th December, 2006 at 5:12 am  

      Desi Italiana,

      I am happy to see the new Hindu experience of Europe and the one emerging in N.America. Pardon me if I did not sound so. Vasudha Narayanan has studied the idea in depth and now heads CHiTra at the University of Florida http://tinyurl.com/yllxyo.

      Since so much of Indian philosophy is about making sense of our senses it is hard to see how we can move beyond a certain point without method and guidance. How much of that happens today? I am not at all sure.

      Now everyone has a vision of Hinduism. Isn’t it up to Hindus and their friends to wrestle with these visions?

      Katy,

      It – I really mean it! – depends how you mark out a majority or a minority. All politics is about cobbling out a majority where none can be seen. I am surprised that the self same people who can see no “Hindu majority” in India when it comes to society and philosophies suddenly find a “Hindu majority” when it comes to politics or economics. One popular know all is made a living out of this sort if equivocation.

    83. Desi Italiana — on 30th December, 2006 at 8:13 am  

      Shiva: Thanks for a very fruitful discussion! :)

    84. Desi Italiana — on 30th December, 2006 at 8:55 am  

      Shiva:

      “depends how you mark out a majority or a minority.”

      Yes. Also, if I’m not mistaken, even the conceptualization of “majority” and “minority”- ie the quantification of people and people’s religions- was crafted by the British in order to manage the empire.

      Even when this quantification emerged and solidified, it didn’t make matters any easier. The best example that I can think of is the process of Partition, particularly in the Punjab. There were several districts where the percentages of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs were roughly equal; nonetheless, they still were gutted, dissected, and then put back together along religious lines (I forget the specific names of the villages and districts; right now I’m suffering from an overload of caffeine via too many chai’s).

      Furthermore, even though I may be a “majority” in India in name as a Hindu, there are several layers that make me different. I would have more in common with, say, a Gujarati Muslim than I would with a Kashmiri Hindu. Or my family wouldn’t necessarily feel an immediate bond and/or identification with a Tamil Brahmin family. Of course, if I were to live in a community of pre-dominantly Gujarati Swaminarayans, then I’d be in a majority. But that is mostly confined to that community and region (Gujarat).

      So yeah, given my take on the whole issue of Hindu practices– that it’s vastly complex, too diverse, very localized and so on– I’d be hesitant to send my kids to Hindu based schools. In addition, too much of the subcontinent’s immensely rich and beautiful history would be trimmed down to speak overwhelmingly and solely about Hinduism. I would want my children to learn about Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Zoorastrianism, Buddhism, Jainism and etc as well. I certainly wouldn’t want to discount and discredit these layers of the subcontinent as well (since I see these strands as all intertwined in varying degrees).

      *****

      Chairwoman:

      “but about it being more natural, and that also isn’t the right word, when the majority of people around you are following the same path.”

      I understand what you are saying. But think of it this way:

      1. The majority of the adherents of Buddhism, which originated in the subcontinent, is now found in East Asia. While many of the monks study Sanskrit in order to follow the writings, these forms of Buddhism have taken on a very local taste. Or, to put it in another way, they have taken root and flourished in these lands.

      2. Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country; India has more Muslims than Pakistan; and India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh put together have more Muslims than the “Arab world” (22 countries, I think). Islam in the subcontinent is its own unique brand, as is Islam in Indonesia.

      And even in Arab Muslim countries, the local variations are endless. In Morocco, several Berber pre-Islamic currents are infused with Islam.

      Given the fact that these religions have taken root in lands that are not in the country of origin and have become its own local product, how could one speak of practices being more “natural” in the country of origin? It’s a genuine question. Should Japanese practicing Buddhists feel more of a connection to India and should India be regarded as the place to practice Buddhism?

      I’m also saying this because if this type of thinking were to be perpetuated, those who are not in the “majority”- like Muslims in India– then 1) Muslims in India would presumably feel more ties to Saudi Arabia and 2) they in turn would be treated as “external” or “foreign elements” in India. Neither one of these propositions is accurate, precise and true.

    85. El Cid — on 30th December, 2006 at 11:08 am  

      Desi Italiana,
      I couldn’t agree with you more re #79.

    86. Chairwoman — on 30th December, 2006 at 12:24 pm  

      Desi – I actually said country of origin or where it flourished. As a previous adherent to Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism which bears very little similarity to its original incarnation, I understand the difference between origin and flourishing.

      I think whenever you see my name, you assume prejudices and opinions that are not mine. Not all 60 year old women are the same. Set in my ways means I have developed a physical routine that suits my life. My brain has not yet completely atrophied.

      BTW I also agree with #79.

    87. shiva — on 30th December, 2006 at 4:08 pm  

      Desi Italiana,

      Re Buddhist and Hindu philosophy in the context of Eastern Philosophies, there is an excellent book by Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad http://tinyurl.com/ydyeu5. While the Indian philosophers were concerned with the metaphysics of reality, Chinese philosophers were concerned with the meta-’ethics’ of reality. One can examine thus Buddhist philosophy both from the Chinese and Indian perspectives; seeing how it and the Chinese and Indian approaches to reality influenced one another. In my limited understanding, while the Indian philosophers (Hindu/Buddhist/Jaina/Lokayata as we are talking of the ancient times) were trying to conclude how we must live based on what reality is; Chinese philosophers were trying to conclude what the world is given how we must live.

    88. Desi Italiana — on 30th December, 2006 at 4:37 pm  

      “I think whenever you see my name, you assume prejudices and opinions that are not mine. Not all 60 year old women are the same. Set in my ways means I have developed a physical routine that suits my life. My brain has not yet completely atrophied.”

      What the heck?

      I hate saying this, but give me a break. I told you that I understand what you are saying, and I gave you a sincere answer. Where on earth did you read such a thing on my part? My response to your post was in earnest dialogue.

      Perhaps everytime you see my name, you attribute to me attitudes that are not mine. This is not my problem, since I have 1) veered around your comments ever since you undeservingly slandered me as an anti-semite and 2) I have always been careful and mindful of what I write here. If you read some sort of “prejudice” on my part towards you, then this must be because you yourself feel paranoid about being percieved this way. I’ve said nothing to feed this perception. So if you want to continue reading into my comments whatever you want to see, go ahead. Remember that I’ve never thrown labels and names at you, as you have done to me– no matter how carefully I make my arguments. I for my part will simply go around your comments once again. I’m certainly in no mood to have catfights over the internet.

      ******
      Shiva:

      “In my limited understanding, while the Indian philosophers (Hindu/Buddhist/Jaina/Lokayata as we are talking of the ancient times) were trying to conclude how we must live based on what reality is; Chinese philosophers were trying to conclude what the world is given how we must live.”

      Yes, I’ve also gleaned that as well. But I also must admit that whenever I’ve gone to a Buddhist temple- whether it is East Asian or Indian– the feeling has more or less been the same :)

    89. Chairwoman — on 30th December, 2006 at 5:00 pm  

      Desi – I give up. When I enlarged on my point, I went out of my way to be friendly, partly because I wanted to close the antagonism between us, but partly because this was a subject that interests me intellectually, and I was eager for more knowledge.

      I think that young women sometimes appear more acerbic than they intend. It was certainly true of me. The beauty of sites such as this is that people of all ages, cultures and classes get the opportunity to debate in ways that daily life doesn’t bring us. It also gives us an opportunity to talk to each other in ways we wouldn’t if we were face to face. Therefore I am more likely to be outspoken when I feel that I’m being misunderstood, and you are more likely to respond sharply to what you see as a reprimand.

      Actually, I understand. I personally have always been impatient with older people, who get more difficult the older they get. Should I reach 80, I intend to be totally unbearable, but as I’m British, I will probably be euphamistically described as ‘eccentric’.

    90. Desi Italiana — on 30th December, 2006 at 6:10 pm  

      Re: faith based schooling, still a couple of things:

      1. I don’t want to offend the sensibilites of people who are religious, but I have often felt that many of the good things taught in religions are common sense. Sometimes I can’t understand why we would need a doctrine to justify simple good ethics. Take for instance compassion, fraternity, kindness, generosity, not to steal, not to kill, and to be a pure hearted person. These things are essential for good and healthy human relations and they are pretty much universal in all societies.

      And interestingly, in my experience, people who have attended faith based schools and are fervent about their religion spend way too much time reading about these things rather than putting it into practice. Again, I’m not knocking religion. I think that if there is a philosophy to help and aid you to understand something more, than so be it. (BTW, I think there is a distinct difference between being “religious” and “spiritual.” And a religious philosphy– if you are spiritual– is an AID for further understanding and self improvement, not a crutch to depend on to help you keep standing).

      One of the purposes of schools in my mind is to expose you to people who you would not otherwise meet out of your own free will or circumstance. Faith based schools surround you with people who are very similar to you. And this is an extension of one of the major problems I have with organized religion: the idea that you feel solidarity, fraternity, and a sense of community– but with your own kind. This is ridiculous, IMO. A sense of community with EVERYBODY should be inculcated.

      2. I remember a news item in Italy. The mayor of Milano wanted to open a “weekend” school for about 8 or 9 Egyptian Muslim girls who were prohibited by their parents from attending school with everyone else, the claim being that the classes were co-ed. I saw this news item with a couple of my friends who are Arab immigrants. They said, “Whaaaat?” That was exactly my thought.

      I am sorry, but I totally disagreed with the parents. You have to find a healthy balance in the society that you live in. Let me be clear and point out that I am NOT for total “assimilation” of diverse peoples. What I mean to say is that whereever you are living, you should be strong enough and be capable of living with people who are different from you, without compromising who you are and your integrity. Living in a cocoon existence is such a shame (BTW, this also goes for Western immigrants ["expats"]whose wealth, power, privelege and status allow them a carte blanche to live in their own little world while being completely oblivios to the society in which they reside in. Like the American expats I met abroad).

      I suppose this is connected to one of the cons of multiculturalism.

    91. Katy — on 30th December, 2006 at 8:36 pm  

      Aha, I take it you are also “veering” round my comments as well. I am surprised you “veered” round the olive branch that the Chairwoman just offered you, though.

    92. Katy — on 30th December, 2006 at 8:38 pm  

      Shiva,

      All politics is about cobbling out a majority where none can be seen.

      I know it’s wrong to say that things are “very” true – but that really is very true.

    93. douglas clark — on 30th December, 2006 at 9:26 pm  

      Shiva,

      I’d like to thank you for going to the trouble to give me quite a bit more background than I ever had before. And the discussion between you and Desi was illuminating too.

      Just like to say that Desi’s post (90) more or less summarises what I think the issues are.

    94. William — on 30th December, 2006 at 10:21 pm  

      Desi Italiani

      I suppose I would be ok with faith based schools as long as the pupils were taught that there are other people in the outside world and encouraged to get on with them.

      I agree with what you say about Western expats. An exammple of course would be the English in Spain. Also there was a programme on tv a while ago about English ex pats in Goa. They were setting up pubs. Then inviting other ex pats over to get drunk. At the end of the programme were loads of singing English drunks in a pub. The Goan band played western pop songs. The problem I have is why go and live in Goa just to act like the English in Spain??????? puzzled??

    95. William — on 30th December, 2006 at 10:27 pm  

      I enjoyed some of the discussion on Hinduism. It does seem that it can be difficult to define and can span the devotional/theistic to the philosophical. I suppose I see it as rizomeous with a capacity to be syncretic. That is having many types of roots which can all change and converge. I am sure that this statement can be unpicked however.

    96. El Cid — on 30th December, 2006 at 11:12 pm  

      rizomeous?
      syncretic?
      Jees… time to get the dictionary out

    97. Desi Italiana — on 31st December, 2006 at 1:57 am  

      Chairwoman:

      This is my last post on the subject, since I do not want it to turn into another discussion of I/P. This thread has been interesting on its own terms, so I don’t want to sully it with previous discussions.

      1. “I went out of my way to be friendly, partly because I wanted to close the antagonism between us”

      If I may correct you, that “antagonism” wasn’t between “us”, but more specifically antagonism from your part directed towards me. To refresh your memory, the discussion in question was when I pulled up various links re: Israeli ethno-religious myths.

      When you try to discredit and tune out what I am saying by throwing such an ugly accusation as I’m “trying to do you Joos down” by spending too much time reading to dig up nasty things to say about Jews, of course I’m going to steer clear of you. Why? Because it’s a waste of my damn time trying to say anything. Why would I bother getting into another fruitless discussion?

      Let’s say that Hindus from India went to Indonesia and drove out the majority of the population on the pretense that Indonesia was the sacred starting point of Hinduism and so on. Indian Hindu scientists in Indonesia come up with some study claiming that all Hindus are “racially” related no matter where they are found in the world, including Indonesian Hindus; yet that very research demonstrated findings proving otherwise. But the authors suprisingly conclude that indeed all Hindus worldwide are ethnically related, in face of the facts that they provide.

      If I brought this point up and talked about the political implications of such studies, I doubt that I would be branded as an “anti Hindu” by you. I doubt that if I were making a political argument and critique on Hindu nationalism AND I HAVEN’T SAID ANYTHING ABOUT HINDUISM AND HINDUS, you would stoop to saying that all I am doing is trying to dig up information to look “us Hindoos down.” Yet you felt free do so when Israel was in question.

      I have noticed that you are offering the “olive branch” so to speak. Well, to be frankly honest, you have reason to. Having a slur such as “anti semite” thrown at me by you when it is not due is not right.

      I have also engaged in dialogue with you, but you come up with something wacky like I’m reading prejudices into your comment. Like I said, this is your own self consciousness speaking, not me. I saw points in your post and I addressed them by providing the angle that I was coming from.

      2. “I think that young women sometimes appear more acerbic than they intend….I personally have always been impatient with older people, who get more difficult the older they get.”

      This has nothing to do with age. See above.

      ****

      Katy:

      “Aha, I take it you are also “veering” round my comments as well. I am surprised you “veered” round the olive branch that the Chairwoman just offered you, though.”

      Ok, let’s do this: I’ll start addressing your posts again; you can then get pissed off and accuse me of being a hysterical anti-Israel and anti-semite and then shut down the thread.

      Or, I start addressing your comments, and then you can start responding like you do to El Cid and tell me to fuck off.

      Shall we start again? Or do you prefer the we just ignore one another like you and El Cid do by now?

      Why the heck would I bother getting into another argument as before with you?

      *************

      If you both want to continue this discussion about olive branches, staying out of each other’s way, and etc, feel free to e-mail me.

    98. Desi Italiana — on 31st December, 2006 at 3:04 am  

      Oh, I forgot.

      “If Hinduism doesn’t have prayer or gods, what does he do?”

      IMO, it depends on whom you’re talking to. The fact that Hinduism is loosely held by general beliefs which allows micro-construction at both the social and individual levels is one of the beauties of Hinduism. There are many prayers, many gods, many rituals- or none at all except for the personal relationship between an individual and the larger being. It depends on the family, the individual, and surrounding society.

      This varies from region to region which is why I say that it’s hard to use the “majority” and “minority” discourse (especially in light of castes; so even if you are, say, Gujarati Hindu meaning in the majority, you might be of a different caste and subcaste; different sect of Hinduism and so on). It’s always been fascinating– and beautiful, I think– to see various beliefs from different doctrines bleed into one another. Take Sufism, for example. Though it originated in what is now Iran (according to my knowledge), Sufism in the subcontinent is a beautiful hybrid of other local influences. You don’t have to be Muslim to appreciate the messages of their teachings and songs, the spirituality touches a universal cord.

      Or some forms of Hinduism in Rajasthan, which has Islamic influences. Hinduism in Gujarat is deeply influenced by Jainism. And Sikhism– though a distinct religion– has things in common with Islam, and I have met Sikhs who still follow certain aspects of Hinduism (the Sikhs I know, at least).

      Basically, all these religions are distinct yet have been so intertwined that it is difficult to extricate one thread from another. Also, to try and do so would be to lose the beauty. (I’m sure there are those who will disagree with what I’ve said here, but this is what I think.)

      In the end though, I’d prefer a non believer or an athiest (sp?) any day over a very religious person if that person gives a critical analysis, profound insight, and an interesting and thought provoking take based on sound logic, rather than religious logic which often preserves and justifies the status quo and/or injustices, inequality, and etc. And anyway, often I’ve found religious logic to be too constrictive rather than liberating, when in my mind the whole point of knowledge is that it’s liberating. Which is why I am not down for faith based schools.

      There are two poets who wrote some gorgeous thoughts on spirituality and religion. My favorites:

      Rabindranath Tagore, “Leave This:”

      http://www.schoolofwisdom.com/gitanjali.html

      Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads!

      Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut?

      Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!

      He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground

      and where the pathmaker is breaking stones.

      He is with them in sun and in shower,

      and his garment is covered with dust.

      Put off thy holy mantle and even like him come down on the dusty soil!

      Deliverance?

      Where is this deliverance to be found?

      Our master himself has joyfully taken upon him the bonds of creation;

      he is bound with us all for ever.

      Come out of thy meditations and leave aside thy flowers and incense!

      What harm is there if thy clothes become tattered and stained?

      Meet him and stand by him in toil and in sweat of thy brow.

      *****
      Khalil Gibran, “Religion:”

      http://www.katsandogz.com/onreligion.html

      And an old priest said, ‘Speak to us of Religion.’

      And he said:

      Have I spoken this day of aught else?

      Is not religion all deeds and all reflection,

      And that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul, even while the hands hew the stone or tend the loom?

      Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations?

      Who can spread his hours before him, saying, ‘This for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?’

      All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.

      He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked.

      The wind and the sun will tear no holes in his skin.

      And he who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage.

      The freest song comes not through bars and wires.

      And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.

      Your daily life is your temple and your religion.

      Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.

      Take the plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute,

      The things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight.

      For in revery you cannot rise above your achievements nor fall lower than your failures.

      And take with you all men:

      For in adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower than their despair.

      And if you would know God be not therefore a solver of riddles.

      Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.

      And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.

      You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees.

      **************

      Whenever I’ve read these two poems, I feel like I’ve learned more than I ever have from various literature coming out of organized religion (Mahabharat, Ramayan, Upanishads, Bible, Koran, etc)

    99. shiva — on 31st December, 2006 at 5:34 am  

      Thank you very much Douglas. Hope we can pick up this thread on another post. and thanks to the PP folks for the bandwidth; to desi Italiana for the purva paksha

    100. El Cid — on 31st December, 2006 at 11:03 am  

      Desi Spaghetti,
      Me and Katy have made up. I hope you two can too.

    101. Katy — on 31st December, 2006 at 11:19 am  

      Desi, my post was months ago. Since then I have not raised I/P on any thread at all. I’m sorry you can’t get past it, and that you feel you have to ignore the Chairwoman and I on all threads relating to any topic because of it.

      I’m quite happy to stay out of your way if that’s what you want, but I haven’t been ignoring you, it just happens that I haven’t had anything to say to what you’ve posted recently.

    102. El Cid — on 31st December, 2006 at 11:26 am  

      Ah ha! Just spotted this:

      “In the end though, I’d prefer a non believer or an athiest (sp?) any day over a very religious person if that person gives a critical analysis, profound insight, and an interesting and thought provoking take based on sound logic, rather than religious logic which often preserves and justifies the status quo and/or injustices, inequality, and etc. And anyway, often I’ve found religious logic to be too constrictive rather than liberating, when in my mind the whole point of knowledge is that it’s liberating. Which is why I am not down for faith based schools.”

      It’s not that I don’t sympathise. I too would rather an atheist — a tolerant one that is — than a very religious person. The problem is Desi (can I call you Desi?), is that on the ground in the poorer parts of ye old England, patronising liberal and largely-atheist ideology has failed children, especially black and white-working class boys. Out has gone discipline, selection by aptitude, an emphasis on sports, collective pride, a sense of duty…. these ***** have let us down. Hence, social mobility now in the UK is as good as it was in the 1950a/1960s.
      Faith-based schools may not be ideal but they are better than the godless alternative which generally fails to deliver, unless it is private of course.
      The bottom line is that school is where you go to learn stuff that will earn you qualifications that will enable you get as far as you want to in life in a meritocratic society. It is about delivering equality of opportunity. Everything else is secondary.
      The problem with this debate is that too many people take their eye off the ball.

    103. Katy — on 31st December, 2006 at 11:42 am  

      The bottom line is that school is where you go to learn stuff that will earn you qualifications that will enable you get as far as you want to in life in a meritocratic society. It is about delivering equality of opportunity. Everything else is secondary.

      I think that’s absolutely right. But I wonder whether you only really start to understand that when you either have children of your own who need a good education or when you start to think about having them. I am no fan of David Cameron, but recently he was asked whether his children would attend state schools and he said something like “They’ll attend state primaries” (as most children do) and then basically ducked the burning secondary question. Now, I am pretty sure that unless educational standards are revolutionised in the next ten years his kids will be going to a grammar school, a good faith school or a private school, and I’m sure he’ll get stick for not supporting the state system, but personally I thought – good for him. Why should he mislead voters and sacrifice his childrens’ educational welfare by supporting something which at the moment doesn’t do its job and leaves his children educationally miles behind children of the same age on the Continent? If I had kids and I could afford to send them to a private school, that’s what I’d do at the moment if I couldn’t get them into a grammar school or a faith school. (I wouldn’t be able to afford to do that, I should say – but if I could I would.)

      Oh god. Oh god I think I am a conservative. oh god.

    104. douglas clark — on 31st December, 2006 at 12:31 pm  

      El Cid,

      Hi.

      I understand your points in post 102. But you seem to me to be trying to have your cake and eat it.

      I do not think that the problem is quite as you outlined it. Religious schools are selective on two criteria.

      Firstly, parental concern for a better education for their child, with the clear commitment that that implies. If the parents are willing to be hypoctites simply to improve their childs prospects, it is quite likely they have other tricks in the bag, like encouraging reading, etc, etc. So the motivation of the parents to the childs education is of a higher standard. With predictable results.

      Secondly, there is, as you say, a class based imperative. As a rule, schools of any stripe in middle or upper class areas have better educational achievements than schools in poorer areas. This is largely down to community support and the ethos of school boards and fund raising. And the ability to attract and hold more motivated teachers.

      The disgrace in our educational system is that money and intelligence is not being spent, in the significant manner required, to effect change, (rather than provide window dressing), to those that really need it. This is the true failure of liberal thought, in my opinion.

      Real equality of opportunity would see all additional resources pushed into the poorer achieving schools until they reached the same level as the better ones. If you really want to tackle deprivation for those that need it.

      The reason that I agreed so strongly with Desi’s post is this paragraph:

      “One of the purposes of schools in my mind is to expose you to people who you would not otherwise meet out of your own free will or circumstance. Faith based schools surround you with people who are very similar to you. And this is an extension of one of the major problems I have with organized religion: the idea that you feel solidarity, fraternity, and a sense of community– but with your own kind. This is ridiculous, IMO. A sense of community with EVERYBODY should be inculcated.”

      Which seems to be the baby that is being thrown out with the bathwater of results. Schools, along with adults, have a duty to ensure that children have a sense of community with everyone. A society at ease with itself would see that as a priority. It seems to me that this soft, and yes liberal, target is too important to simply dismiss.

      I have never understood the need for religious schooling. It is certainly not something the state should be encouraging.

      First a bit of perspective, in case that seems harsh, I live in the West of Scotland where we have had, colloquially, seperate Catholic and Protestant state schooling since the 1900′s. And I do know it is actually Catholic and non denominational. It is, frankly, an economic and social nonsense. Divisive and stupid.

    105. El Cid — on 31st December, 2006 at 1:58 pm  

      Douglas,

      And you — like Don and others — disingenuously ignore the conclusion staring you in the face because I reckon the truth hurts: and that is that a strong value system that fosters a collective identity and pride may have something to do with the slightly better performance of faith-based STATE schools — a challenge wishy-washy and vague liberalism can only dream of (unless, of course, it’s in a well-to-do or private context).
      Have you ever seen liberal methods of teaching on the frontline of a rough boys school? I have. It’s not a pretty sight.
      The other factor you purposely ignore is that Catholic schoolkids in the innercity are largely from Irish, southern and eastern European, Latin Amrerican, West Indian, and West African immigrant groups. There’s the odd Indian too. Obviously this is an inconvenient fact that blows apart the myth that Catholic schools do slightly better simply because middle class parents trick their way into they them but, again, the truth hurts, doesn’t it?
      As for western Scotland — well, yes, I can see how Catholic versus Proddie has a whole new meaning, given Ulster and the Celtic/Rangers thing. But what’s that got to do with London and its peculiar educational deficit. You’ve got Holyrood, so sort yourselves out and mind your own business.
      Do you think it’s acceptable for the world’s greatestand more diverse city to be saddled with an inner doughnut of educational failure and social apartheid? That’s what I’m talking about.

      P.S. I would never send my kids to private school. However, if my bitch of an MP can do it, then you kind of wonder whether you should join them if you can’t beat them.

    106. El Cid — on 31st December, 2006 at 2:11 pm  

      A sense of community with EVERYBODY also comes with the territory. This is London — a global city — not Blackburn or East Sterling. We do things differently from the rest of the UK and we grow up with a built-in thirst for knowledge of all things foreign – food, music, theatre, cinema.
      I also don’t see why liberal faith-based schools can help deliver a society at ease with itself. I really can’t.

      I am convinced that there are thousands of militant liberals out there who would be willing to sacrifice the career propects of hundreds of thousands of kids on the alter of their secular principles. You’ve lost the fucking plot man. Can you not see what your ideas on education as a tool for top-down social engineering did in the 1970s and 1980s?

    107. douglas clark — on 31st December, 2006 at 2:28 pm  

      El Cid,

      Thanks for the speedy reply! I can’t even type that fast.

      Two points in reply to your post 105.

      I am not ignoring the problem staring me in the face. I am suggesting that it could be corrected by spending additional resources on inner city schools. If you want to help the under achieving working class black and white boys (mainly) then it can be done. Spend Gordon Brown’s election war chest on inner city education, not on feel good things. I have no problem with instilling “a strong value system that fosters a collective identity and pride may have something to do with the slightly better performance of faith-based STATE schools” as you put it. Religion is not the only way of doing that. Some other prescriptions like games, decent English as a foreign language instruction, and community involvement by the school could do a lot. There would be much to be gained from discussing this.

      Secondly, I raised the West of Scotland point simply to say it is an experiment that has been tried, and, in my view, failed disastrously. It certainly did absolutely nothing for social cohesion.

      Your metrocentric attitude would, I suspect, go down as well in Leeds or Bradford as it does with me. The problem of working class boys being left behind is ubiquitous and needs to be resolved on a UK basis. Or do you want me to start prattling on about the ‘Best Wee Country in the World’, which is another self serving platitude?

    108. douglas clark — on 31st December, 2006 at 2:37 pm  

      El Cid,

      Anyway, you’ve got Ken Livingston and we’ve got Jack McConnell. So much for devolution ;)

    109. El Cid — on 31st December, 2006 at 2:48 pm  

      Metrocentric? Me? Yes, guilty as charged.
      But then that’s because the worst performing local education authorities are to be found in London. Just look at the UK league tables.
      Innercity London is also where you get the most social apartheid between kids who go to private school and those who go to state school.
      No disrespect intended, but I really couldn’t give a shit about Glasgow or Leeds. This is a problem that requires a devolved solution.
      As I said, you’ve got Holyrood and if Scotland becomes independent, then maybe we can rechannel more London resources towards London problems! (just kidding, partly ;) )
      Seriously, though, London is not the west of Scotland

    110. Chairwoman — on 31st December, 2006 at 3:56 pm  

      El Cid – Didn’t your middle class MP grow up in Stanmore and go to school with Michael Portillo and Clive Anderson?

    111. douglas clark — on 31st December, 2006 at 4:02 pm  

      El Cid,

      Well, if you think that, then you should be pushing for Education in London to become the direct responsibility of the Mayor.

      A quick trawl through the stats suggests that your best bet for educational achievement is to have girls and send them to girls only schools.

      You are quite right to say that London is not the West of Scotland – and we’d probably echo each other in saying ‘Thank God for that’ – but you are quite wrong to refuse to look at evidence, no matter where it comes from.

      Anyway, have a happy New Year, I’m away for a deep fried Mars Bar, a bottle of Buckfast and a wee fag. See stereotypes? See us? “Besht li’le, canny mind noo……”.

    112. El Cid — on 31st December, 2006 at 4:32 pm  

      Douglas,
      Happy new year to you too.
      I’m having a mixed paella for dinner tonight, with some Cava and then we’ll each eat the 12 grapes to go with the 12 bongs of Big Ben, as is the Spanish custom. Then the ol lady will get on the joanna to tickle dem ivories and we’ll all sing knees up muvva braaahn. That will be followed by a family dance off as I spin a few 80s groove and early electro classics on the wheels of steel.
      It’s the first time in 2-1/2 decades that I’m staying in, so it’s a night of stereotypical fusion at casa El Cid.

      P.S. I don’t really own a piano.

    113. El Cid — on 31st December, 2006 at 4:37 pm  

      Chairwoman,
      You could be on to something there

    114. Chairwoman — on 31st December, 2006 at 4:47 pm  

      El Cid – I have the Cava, all the ingrediants for Paella, and the grapes, all I have to do is persuade Katy to make it for me before she goes out.

    115. El Cid — on 31st December, 2006 at 6:07 pm  

      Ahem..
      #106 should be:
      I also don’t see why liberal faith-based schools can‘t help to deliver a society at ease with itself. I really can’t

      This is what happens when one insists on using double-negatives against the advice of one’s peers

    116. Chairwoman — on 31st December, 2006 at 6:18 pm  

      Funny tricks the brain plays. I read what you meant to say, rather than what you did say :-)

    117. sabinaahmed — on 31st December, 2006 at 9:20 pm  

      Hi Everybody

      Just to say a very happy New Year to you all. I somehow feel very positive towards this year. It will be too much to hope that there will be peace everywhere in the world but i hope and wish there will be less bloodshed in the world.
      Anyway whatever you all are doing have a great time and may the coming year bring you whatever it is that you wish for.
      Err, i ope i have written and puncuated everything correctly!

    118. Desi Italiana — on 1st January, 2007 at 1:02 am  

      Ugh- my mind is numb from the constant onslaught of Dial-E-Punjab, Dhol Wajda, gangsta bhangra music videos, and Zee TV.

      Anyway.

      El Cid:

      1. “I too would rather an atheist — a tolerant one that is — than a very religious person. The problem is Desi (can I call you Desi?), is that on the ground in the poorer parts of ye old England, patronising liberal and largely-atheist ideology has failed children, especially black and white-working class boys. Out has gone discipline, selection by aptitude, an emphasis on sports, collective pride, a sense of duty…. these ***** have let us down. Hence, social mobility now in the UK is as good as it was in the 1950a/1960s.
      Faith-based schools may not be ideal but they are better than the godless alternative which generally fails to deliver, unless it is private of course.”

      I understand what you are saying, but a couple of things:

      I think you mean “secular” as opposed to “athiest” ideology. It is definatley true that state/public schools are in demise in several ways, and that faith based schools are often better (see my post #40).

      However, what you have descibed seems to rest largely on socio-economic factors and policies. It’s not secular education per se that fails to educate and provide equal opportunities to low income students. The problem is deeply rooted, and it’s the allocation of resources, funds, and priorities that is the problem.

      This is why I disagree with your contention that since public schools suck (and they don’t suck in every way– there are some positives that faith based schools can’t provide) we should turn to faith based schools as an alternative. You can’t remedy a problem– especially when it is socio-economic– by replacing one problematic structure with another. The gap between the education access and opportunities between working class, middle class, and upper middle class should not be alleviate by religion. For socio-economic problems, you need socio-economic and political solutions. (Generally, I think a major reform of the education system needs to take place [I was a teacher for years, so I've witnessed first hand the issues in education]).

      Also, I agree with douglas clark #104.

      2. “that is that a strong value system that fosters a collective identity and pride may have something to do with the slightly better performance of faith-based STATE schools — a challenge wishy-washy and vague liberalism can only dream of (unless, of course, it’s in a well-to-do or private context)…

      A sense of community with EVERYBODY also comes with the territory. This is London — a global city — not Blackburn or East Sterling. We do things differently from the rest of the UK and we grow up with a built-in thirst for knowledge of all things foreign – food, music, theatre, cinema.
      I also don’t see why liberal faith-based schools can help deliver a society at ease with itself. I really can’t.”

      Yes, but that collective identity and pride is exclusive and confined within the realm that contains whoever is similar to you on religious terms. Imagine all the diversity that is lost if one were to do this. I am almost compelled to say that faith based schools can even be debilitating to a dynamic and vivacious society; it can stifle complexity, cork diversity, smother freedom of thought and vigorous engagement with all the complexities, diversity, and richness of life.

      Let me repeat what I said: I see schools as a democratic spheres of some sorts, whereby you come into contact with people from all walks of life. And to be sure, you don’t see this even in public schools all the time– for example, in wealthy districts, where their public schools are much better than the inner city ones (and entry into their public schools often get pretty exclusive, almost like private schools) you see the majority of students coming from a certain socio economic status and even ethnicity.

      To be clear, when I say inculcating values of solidarity, fraternity, and a sense of community, I certainly don’t mean it based on one factor- religion. And I also don’t mean flag waving, state worshipping, patriotic sense of community either. What I mean is the ability to understand and feel with those who are different from you, and the aptitude for solidarity with other people. This applies to a sense of community with your fellow countrymen, as well as across borders.

      I think that this can be achieved with public schools which, not with faith based class. It is far to exclusive.

      3. I understand your critique of liberalism (And for the record, I generally dislike liberals more than conservatives, as I’ve mentioned on PP several times).

      But liberalism is not the only alternative to conservatives, meaning we should not settle for liberals as the only other alternative. And furthermore, I’m not sure how helpful it is to talk about “liberal idealogy” vs. “conservative ideaology”. What’s important is to look at the content and substance of ALL educational policies and see what’s going on.

      So when you talk about how the “liberals” have left working class students behind, look at it this way: what’s so “liberal” about letting public schools go to shit? What’s so “liberal” about not equally distributing funds so that every students has access to the same opportunities and the best education?

      Re: “metrocentrism”: the majority of the world’s people do not live in big global cities :)

      ****

      Anyway, Happy New Year’s to everybody; drink lots of “laal paani” (“red water”= wine) as I am sure I will tonight with all of the unclejis, and have fun!

    119. Desi Italiana — on 1st January, 2007 at 1:25 am  

      “What I mean is the ability to understand and feel with those who are different from you, and the aptitude for solidarity with other people. This applies to a sense of community with your fellow countrymen, as well as across borders.”

      To expand on my comment, I also see the desperate need for reform of school curriculums. In the context above, this would refer to the “World History” portion of education, and not in the sense that “World History” basically means studying western Europe and North America and talking about the rest of the globe only when it is connected to western Europe and North America (ie Asia is discussed only in reference to the European empires).

      As you can see, I have a lot to say on the matter of education in general, and the discussion of public vs. private since I’ve been in education both as an instructor and student for a good chunk of my life :)

    120. douglas clark — on 1st January, 2007 at 8:41 am  

      Jeeso, Desi.

      You have so many neurons firing off in your brain, all at the one time, that no-one can keep up with you. If you did not come down on the right side, after a lot of stream of conciousness stuff, I’d worry about you.

      Perhaps you could engage your brain prior to posting?

      You end up agreeing with what most Pickled Politics people say, even me. Chill, babe, as I believe they say in California.

    121. El Cid — on 1st January, 2007 at 11:55 am  

      Desi,
      Some of your comments are very old school. I’m not surprised to hear that you are an ex-teacher.
      A few quick things — because I find long posts tend to stifle discussion and are filled with rambling prose about the world according to X.
      1) World history has long been part of the UK history curriculum. In fact the discussion here has gone full circle — people moan about whether UK history is being neglected. Honest, they do.
      2) Your ignorance of the UK education system is also revealed by the two-bob sociology o’level reference to socio-economic factors. Faith-based schools are part of the UK state system; they always have been. You find them in poor areas as well as well-off areas and their intake cuts across socio-economic classes. They get the same amount of money from the state as secular schools.
      3) I believe you will find that a majority of the world’s population DOES NOW live in major urban areas. Get with the programme.
      *kisses teeth*

    122. Jagdeep — on 1st January, 2007 at 1:22 pm  

      Let’s be honest, because it’s not really been said on the thread. The problem is not really with Hindu schools or Sikh schools, because of numbers and nature of things — how many Hindu schools will there ultimately be? five? six? How many Sikh schools? Seven? Eight? Is that going to make a difference to society, contribute in any real way to racial stratification? Given the high levels of pre-existing integration amongst those groups, the geographical dispersal and lower demographic concentration, it’s not going to be a problem. In highly segregated northern city and towns, in already insular communities, where there are already problems, lack of mixing, gender disparity in educational opportunity and achievment, racist suspicion, and pre-existing extremist elements, it’s going to be a different set of dynamics and issues all over vis a vis Muslim schools than Muslim schools in say, Wimbledon, or a Hindu school in leafy and prosperous Harrow.

    123. douglas clark — on 1st January, 2007 at 1:39 pm  

      Jagdeep,

      Thanks for a brilliant post. The problem with this idea, religious schools, is frankly that it is a twentieth century solution to nineteenth century issues. I stand by Desi’s post, para four. Which deserves respect:

      “One of the purposes of schools in my mind is to expose you to people who you would not otherwise meet out of your own free will or circumstance. Faith based schools surround you with people who are very similar to you. And this is an extension of one of the major problems I have with organized religion: the idea that you feel solidarity, fraternity, and a sense of community– but with your own kind. This is ridiculous, IMO. A sense of community with EVERYBODY should be inculcated.”

      Don’t you think?

    124. Jagdeep — on 1st January, 2007 at 1:43 pm  

      Wow Rohin, you think the Hindu Human Rights group are simply occasionally misguided? Those were the guys who campaigned against the MF Husain exhibition that ended with paintings vandalised and death threats all around, and their objection to the school is on the basis that they don’t like the ’school’ of Hinduism being promoted there by ISKCON, not that they don’t think there shouldnt be more Hindu schools, just that they should be run by them.

    125. Jagdeep — on 1st January, 2007 at 1:47 pm  

      Yeah I agree with that douglas clark. But the dynamics of a Jewish school in north London is not in the same pressure cooker atmosphere as say a Catholic / Protestant school in sectarianised west Scotland or Belfast. Those are good principles, but in reality the dynamics play out differently. So I don’t think they present the same problems.

    126. douglas clark — on 1st January, 2007 at 2:43 pm  

      Jagdeep,

      Would you care to expand on that? I am trying to follow your point of view. Which I suspect is different from my own. Don’t mean mine is right, quite the opposite.

      My own view, if you need a tag on it, is that the state should not allow religious schools of any persuasion.

      Am I wrong? If so, how?

      Cheers.

    127. Jagdeep — on 1st January, 2007 at 7:01 pm  

      In an ideal world douglas there would be no state funded religious schools — however, in the real world there are religious schools and they are not going to go away as much as you might not like that. So the discussion should revolve around how to minimise any deleterious effect they might have on society, how they can be managed, rather than bemoan them and tar them all with the same brush. In practise they are not all fosterers of division — if they were Jewish people would not be such a highly integrated community. In some contexts and parts of the country they may however be potentially a source of long term division.

    128. Katy — on 2nd January, 2007 at 12:14 am  

      Jagdeep! How was your new year?

    129. Tahir — on 2nd January, 2007 at 5:13 am  

      The purposes of school is to expose you to people who you otherwise wouldn’t meet with free will.

      Well in that case we should ban Eton – the point of such establishment is to surround yourselves with like-minded people.

      So for me this argument doesn’t serve to explain why we get rid of faith schools.

      If the real problem is fear that some faith schools will breed intolerance than bring these schools into the mainstream public system. The last time I checked in Tower Hamlets why so many young Asians were sending their kids to a relgious school they replied it’s because the comprehensive schools here are so bad. So another solution might be to boost the state system over-all so demand for faith school is reduceed.

    130. El Cid — on 2nd January, 2007 at 10:54 am  

      I’m not usually one to quote the Torygraph, but I saw this and I thought of you:
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/01/02/do0201.xml

      Glad to see Jagdeep back on the scene too.

    131. Tahir — on 2nd January, 2007 at 1:24 pm  

      Confused. This is the pro-vost of Eton arguing for more of the same.

      Seems to me his argument is mis-guided. Selection only helps clever poor students, but a state system should be set up to support the general population – not just the superstar performers. That’s why I don’t go for City Academies either. I’d rather see 100 poor kids with average IQ do well than 1 poor kid with super IQ. As a rule when we go on a trek we are told to go at the pace of the slowest walker – that way everyone makes it to the summit with a decent chance.

      I am slow at the best of times, but I hope you’re not implying I am a Torygraph – nothing wrote with it, but blue is not my colour!!

    132. Tahir — on 2nd January, 2007 at 1:32 pm  

      OK. Now get the point. Eton is taking in a few students means they are not surrounding themselves with the like-minded. Still not convinced. Point about going to MBA school is to meet like-minded and make contacts for relationships in the future so the game is replicated over and over again in life. It’s nice to see them making the exception, though.

    133. Jagdeep — on 2nd January, 2007 at 1:57 pm  

      Hi Katy! New Year was debauched. Christmas was fun. I am lucky enough to still have a few days off yet. Hola to El Cid too.

    134. El Cid — on 8th January, 2007 at 9:55 pm  

      Tahir.
      Just seen your comments. #130 wasn’t aimed specifically at you. For some reason — i don’t know why — i was mimicking a Royal Mail ad. You wasn’t you, if you know what i mean, but PP in general. Apols. I should have been clearer.

      I appreciate the honesty behind this:
      I’d rather see 100 poor kids with average IQ do well than 1 poor kid with super IQ. As a rule when we go on a trek we are told to go at the pace of the slowest walker – that way everyone makes it to the summit with a decent chance.

      Thanks for hitting the nail on the head. Mind you, I disagree with you enormously. And I think most people will to once you put it like that!

    135. El Cid — on 8th January, 2007 at 10:00 pm  

      .. will too…

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