It’s been a struggle trying to hold out for an incipient signs of common sense on the part of the British public in recent weeks, but just when it seems all hope is fading, up they pop and announce that two-thirds of them oppose the state funding of faith schools.
I’ve long argued that state schools have no business being in the business of indoctrinating children into a particular religious faith and that its time that the requirement that state schools have religious assemblies and mandatory religious education lessons was consigned to the dustbin of history.
Religion still has its place in the national curriculum of course, as one component of the overall ‘humanities’/’social sciences’ curriculum – I’ve no problem with kids being taught about religions and being encouraged to understand them as one strand of ideology amongst many but I draw a clear line between such teaching, which teaches about religion in a secular context, and actual religious instruction, which is what you get in many Faith schools.
It’s time that RE was booted of the curriculum in state schools once and for all to be replaced with…
…well, at primary level I’d advocate the teaching of basic philosophy, logic and critical thinking for starters – lets enough kids to think for themselves not force-feed them ideologies which actively discourage such thinking in favour of ‘blind faith’. There’s no need to go overboard, I’m not expecting 10 years olds to produce critiques of Plato or Decartes, but at least they can be taught the basic successfully – as happens in, certainly, some schools in France. Religion would play some part in this new curriculum but you’d be teaching kids about the works of Aquinas, Augustine and Geoffrey of Occam, not ramming parables down their throats.
Once we get to Secondary level, the subject matter can be broadened out to encompass a wider range of social sciences but with a stong focus, especially from 14-16 in teaching civics and government – if we’re so worried than young people are turning their backs on their key democratic rights, such as the right to vote, then surely the answer must be to teach them those rights and their value while they’re at school. I would have thought completely obvious.
That leave only the question of what to do about people who would still want access to religious instruction through the state school system – who want their kids brought up in a specific faith.
Well on that score I have no particular objection to the state providing funding for such teaching as long its takes place outside the main school day and it become a matter of choice for parents whether to the take up such schooling or not for their kids.
That, for me, means that you don’t fund faith schools at all, what you fund is faith-based out of school clubs in local communities where there is a clear demand for such activities. If a state school wishes to provide a local venue for such a club, then fine, no problem with that, but it could just as easily be based in a community centre, Church, Synagogue, Mosque, Gurdwara, etc. as well – its up to the local community to decide whether there is a need for such a club for their particular faith and where best to base it, and up to parents to decide whether to send their kids along to it or give it a miss.
Ooh, looky here… that would be a bit of ‘parental choice’ wouldn’t it.