Well whaddya know, for once dear old Polly Pot has managed to write something which makes a bit of sense.
Admittedly the subject of state funding for faith schools is one of those rare topics in which she’s both consistent in her views and entirely correct in both opposing the overt influence of religion in state education and noting that most of the reputation that faith schools have for supposedly delivering higher standards comes at the price of using selection on the basis of faith as a backdoor means of cherry-picking better students – those that don’t use thier admissions policy in this way perform no better than the local comprehensive.
Ok, so this is Polly and that means that inevitably she manages to drift off the plot a little towards the end in talking about ‘charismatic’ leaders and some of the general wing-nuttery you can all too easily get at the margins of religious orthodoxy but her basic point is sound – we should be permitting religious groups to run schools within the state education system.
As I recall I’ve posted my full views on this before but as Polly brings the subject up I think it worth restating them.
First, not only should the state not fund faith school within the main state education system but the current legislation which requires schools to hold ‘broadly Christian faith-based’ assemblies and include religious education in the curriculum should also be repealed.
Anything which smacks of religious instruction should come right off the school menu.
In its place we should introduce a broad-based programme of social education with a strong focus on citizenship. This would certainly include some elements of religious education in terms of learning about different religions and comparative religious studies but that would only be one small component of a curriculum which would start, at seven, with very basic philosophy (the basics of logic and critical thinking) and work its way through a range of disciplines including; politics, philosophy, sociology, social/political history, basic economics and a bit of psychology, perhaps, before picking up a clear focus, from 14 onwards, on democracy, civics and government.
I have this simple idea, here, that if you want children to grow up with a clear understanding the importance of citizenship and democracy, of their rights and responsibilities as citizens and, most importantly of all from my point of view, of the value of being able to think critically and formulate your own idea, then that’s what you need to teach them in school.
Unlike Polly I’ve no fundamental objection to the state providing some small degree of funding to faith groups who want to offer parents the choice of having their child receive specific religious instruction providing that take place outside the state education system. Fund faith groups to run out-of-school clubs and religious study groups by all means, just get religious instruction out of state schools – it has no place being there and the time it takes up can be much better spent educating children in understanding the society in which they live and will be living as adults.
Anyway, before anyone gets an attack of the vapour and need to lie down at the though of Polly talking sense, let me direct you to posts from Tim Worstall, Devil’s Kitchen (here and here) and Chris Dillow which more than adequately show her on more usual form.
There little I can add to what’s already been said other than to note that a general distrust of politicians is an absolutely essential facet of a healthy democratic society. Distrust leads citizens to ask questions and demand that politicians provide evidence to back up their pronouncement – all essential elements of democratic accountability.
And with thjat in mind I’ll hand the last word over to Theodore Roosevelt, who’s word I can heartily endorse:
“To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”