Weaning kids off the opium of the people

Today – well yesterday now – my esteemed blogging colleague PoliticalHack wondered whether, having laid into fundamentalist Christian movie reviewers, I also noticed the bunch of nutballs who now claim that there were dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.

Oddly enough I had noticed and commented on it here not least noting the extreme lunacy of the guy who wrote a 298 page book purporting to show exactly how Noah managed to get dinosaurs on the ark…

… which is actually a fascinating argument in the sense that it shows just how desperate the ‘fundies’ are to try and justify their creationist position in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary that they go to the lengths of trying to work out how to get dinosaurs on the Noah’s Ark rather than play the much simpler line that they all died out in the flood which is why they’re all fossilised.

Of course that’s bullshit as well but at least its bullshit that consistant with the concept of parsimony, otherwise know as Occam’s Razor.

Hack also highlights the case of City Academies which, by bringing in money from the private sector have also, in some cases, allowed fundamentalist christians like Sir Peter Vardy to influence the curriculum, allowing creationism to be taught as a ‘faith alternative’ to Darwinian evolution. Where I stand on this should be pefectly obvious when I say that when the BBC Today programme were asking us to vote, a few years back, for the most important Briton of the last millennium, I was a staunch supporter of Darwin’s nomination.

When it comes to state education, my position on religion has always been very clear. Religion has its place, when taught in a secular context within disciplines such as history, sociology, philosophy and politics but state schools should not be in the business to providing religious instruction to children – the whole business of mandatory religious education and ‘broadly Christian’ assemblies should go. Hoever, recognising the cultural importance of religion to those who believe I have no objection whatsoever to the provision of state funding of religious instruction through Church/Mosque/Synagogue/Gurdwara, etc – based out of school clubs and activities. If parent choose to have their children educated in such a context on their own time then that is their choice and they are free to make it.

What I don’t accept, however, is that the state, through state-funded schools and the national curriculum, has any business in instructing children in the matter of religion. It’s time we dumped mandatory religious education in schools and replaced it with something far more useful to society as a whole; the study of civics, government, politics and philosophy, especially critical thinking.

During my school years, religious education served only to highlight and raise awareness of the hypocrisy which runs through this nation as a consequence of it having an established state religion.

It is almost axiomatic that RE teachers are, theselves, religious and but for the odd inner-city school in which Muslims or Sikhs are in the majority, that also means that they are going to be Christians who are, therefore, permitted by law to try to indoctrinate children into their own faith. By contrast, when at sixth form college – now more than 20 years ago – I recall that one particular sociology teacher who was known to be a Marxist, was not permitted to teach his ‘A’ or ‘O’ level sociology classes when the time came to study Marx and Marxism for fear that he would indoctrinate his students – the College actually put in another teacher for those lessons, so paranoid where they that they would be seen to be a recruiting station for the SWP if they allowed a Marxist to teach kids about Marx.

Religious instruction has no place in state schools, but then in this day and age there is also no rational reason for having an official state religion either.