Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Faith in faith schools

Just before we get onto faith schools, I have to make a little comment about recent political events. Predictably a bunch of labour politicians last night demonstrated that "spinectamies" are still compulsory in order to enter government in this country, believe it or not Gordon Brown is still in charge this morning, "oy vey" sums it up for me.

Anyway, I feel the need to get back onto more solid ground, fortunately the Catholics have provided such an opportunity (as they do); this time the new Archbishop of Westminster is sounding off about faith schools with some predictably paranoid, inaccurate and narrow minded comments. A report of the comments he made at the University of London can be seen here in the telegraph and since stupid ideas seem to be the vogue recently lets look at some of Vince's ideas in a little more detail.

"Schools of a religious character are upfront, overt and very reasoned about the values that shape the education. Whereas I think often those that would claim to be neutral are covert in the values that they present to the children."

The schools themselves are clearly upfront about it once the children are behind closed doors; please be honest Mr Nichols, the main purpose of a religious school is to promote the interests of that religion and to ensure the continuance and growth of it by indoctrinating the next generation in the dogma. Why else would they exist and why else focus on children? It is disingenuous of the Archbishop to claim, as he does, that there is some grander purpose when such a purpose would by definition be free of the narrow interests of one single version superstitious belief. Then he steps onto firmer ground for the Catholic clergy, fear, he is trying to imply that there are mysterious secular figures lurking in the background covertly corrupting the values of kids, what a crock, the secular view is that comparative religion should be taught consistently, transparently and in EVERY school, I really wish people like this would address reality and explain why they object to this approach instead of inventing straw men to argue against.

"Schools are the places where such virtue is generated or where it is neglected."

What virtues are we talking about here, honesty, transparency and ethical behaviour or the Catholic virtues as demonstrated in schools around the world over the last 35 years i.e. secrecy, immorality, violence, perversion and dishonesty, I would love to ask this man why he thinks his organisation is in any way qualified to teach virtues to children, evidence? track record?

"In effect what is happening is that the patterns of the market are flooding over all aspects of life and we are finding ourselves considered as nothing more than consumers and suppliers."

Children should be consumers of dogma, supplied by one of the market leaders, would be the way I read this.

"Catholic schools have a crucial role to play in creating a society founded on values such as honesty, justice, compassion and courage."

  • Honesty – like admitting people in your organisation are perverted criminals
  • Justice – like coughing up decent compensation for victims of systemic torture
  • Compassion – like treating victims of abuse with dignity and humanity
  • Courage – like having the courage to admit the truth

I would love to see some evidence that these schools are actually providing such values, from the outside it looks a lot like they are failing to do so.

The Archbishop has led the Catholic Church's battle to maintain the freedom of faith schools. In 2006, as chairman of the Catholic Education Service, he provoked anger among ministers when he won his campaign against quotas for faith schools, forcing Alan Johnson, then Education Secretary, to back down over proposals to require them to accept more pupils from non-faith backgrounds.

One mans freedom is another mans tyranny; this is the politics of walled communities and razor wire, a philosophy of segregation, us and them, regardless of whether we believe the mythology of any particular section of society what are we saying about our confidence and security that we feel the need to put our children into little labelled boxes. Must we think of children as Catholic children or Muslim children, isn't this kind of indoctrination tantamount to child abuse?

How would history look back on us if we implemented such segregation along any other social fault line, for example, politics, Labour schools and Conservative schools anyone? how about sport, MUFC university or the Chelsea FC academy of science, even more relevant to the events at the weekend perhaps we should consider segregation along ethnic lines, black schools and white schools, the possibilities are endless.

In my opinion schools should be representative of society and our society is diverse, why prepare children for anything else, lets hope it stays that way.


Elizabeth said...

Go get 'em, Steve! We love it when you are angry.

Steve Borthwick said...

Angry, moi?