Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Faith school menace?"

I watched the Dawkins program about faith schools last night, do I think they are a menace? Kind of, I would prefer to conclude that on balance we would be better off without them.

The program was reasonably made, mainly consisting of RD wandering around various schools and geo-political hot-spots talking to teachers, priests, politicians and children about issues surrounding faith schools and then back-filling this conversation with a voice over that articulated his own view. The format was a predictable one, and slightly "choppy", I would have liked to have let the debates run longer and presented the religious contributors with more awkward and difficult questions, Dawkins was too polite and respectful IMO.

There were two quite cringe-worthy parts to the program, the first came when RD was talking to a group of Muslim girls (why not boys?) about evolution, which none of them believed was true. The head-man (Governor?) of the school Dr Mohammed Mukadam (mentioned in the previous post) had introduced the segment by asserting that his school promoted critical thought and that every child was free to come to their own conclusions about any aspect of what is taught there; this sounds great, but unfortunately was blown out of the water when the science teacher revealed that of her 60 students none of them, zero, believed evolution was factual, even though it is part of the national curriculum (that's indoctrination plain and simple!) Later in the segment the science teacher was asked a simple evolution question, "if we evolved from apes why are there still apes?", she couldn't answer it. I felt sorry for those children, they are being groomed for a life of ignorance and servitude. The second awkward scene was Dawkins sitting in front of a group of 4 year old's explaining the importance of rational thinking and evidence, you could tell that they were far too young to appreciate what he was saying and what he was saying came across as woolly and idealistic (albeit true).

My take away from the program was that faith based education is a odious steaming pile of toadyism and indoctrination, it's an evil mash up of parental insecurity and religious megalomania, but I probably already thought that. On a more positive note however, we need to find better ways to captivate young children about how science and rational thought is capable of revealing the true wonders of our universe (and far greater wonders they are than the primitive barbarity of arks and Roman torture).

Religion latches onto natural developmental instincts of children in an insidious and parasitic manner. As our brains develop we cannot help but anthropomorphise nature and seek purpose and design where there is none, this is why all religions aspire to control the educational process so rabidly (the younger the better). In addition to distracting kids with their own brand of dogma and superstition they also divide and segregate children when there is no practical or rational reason to do so. Such divisions have proven to be problematic time and time again in many countries all over the world, bottom line, it's corrosive and we don't need it.

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