Thursday, February 8, 2007

Faith Schools

For those who favour a return to traditional, authority-based religious schooling of the sort that predominated in the West up until the 1960s, here is a challenge.

It is taken from my book The War For Children's Minds.

Suppose political schools started springing up – a neoconservative school in Billericay followed by a communist school in Middlesbrough. Suppose these schools select pupils on the basis of parents’ political beliefs. Suppose they start each morning with the collective singing of political anthems. Suppose portraits of their political leaders beam down from every classroom wall. Suppose they insist that pupils accept, more or less uncritically, the beliefs embodied in their revered political texts.

If such schools did spring up, there would be outrage. These establishments would be accused of educationally stunting children, forcing their minds into politically pre-approved moulds. They’re the kind of Orwellian schools you find under totalitarian regimes in places like Stalinist Russia. My question is, if such political schools are utterly unacceptable, if they are guilty of educationally stunting children, why on earth are so many of us still prepared to tolerate their religious equivalents?

Why, if we cross out "political" and write "religious", do these schools suddenly seem entirely acceptable to so many of us?

(note that this is not an objection to faith schools per se, but to a certain traditional sort of faith school)

For a longer article containing this challenge, go here.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

i heartily agree. rationality seems to be scarce. thank you for your voice, you inspire me.

Brentson said...

I'd argue that at some point, when an individual matures, that they must come to their own conclusions as to what to believe in. And for those who never reach said maturity level... what's wrong with them being indroctrinated with a reasonably "moral" standard, rather than them not being taught any morals at all?

Ben Fisher said...

I would just like to say that i have argued this many times with friends of mine who have visited religious secondary schools. They become entirely uncritical of what they are taught is 'good' and entirely too critical of those thigns which they havent been taught, that is any religious thought outside of their own. When asked why they can often give no response other than that it is what they have been told. Im a student at Dr Law's University, it is run by jesuits but fortunately i have witnessed no such activity there but i would agree with the point on the whole.

stephen wallace said...

brentson seems to have something, but it lacks diversity.

Rob Spence said...

Why does brentson sem to think that the only morality a school can teach is via religion?
Surely a secular education would place good citizenship at the heart of the curriculum?

Anonymous said...

Educated people until the sixties were much better educated than they have been since. Religious or not the schools of those days must have been doing something right, but since then, not.

Whether the schools stuff Father Molina or john Dewey down our throats, they tend to do so dogmatically.

Teaching children what are personal pronouns and past participles, will do them much more good, than the polemic Stephen Law is engaged in, over whether they should be indoctrinated into the religion of a Conservative Party, or the ideology of a Democratic faction.

Anonymous said...

I went to a 'political school'. No one actually called it that, but it was obvious to all that the dominant political philosophy was Conservative with a capital C. In fact the headteacher once sent a letter to all parents to remind them that if they voted Labour in a forthcoming general election some of the perks the school was enjoying under a Conservative government would be taken away - and advised against it. The school was a private Church of England school. As I look around, there are very many schools like this. In England the majority of 'independent' schools are actually politically right wing and everyone knows it. They may not have the political party's logo on the school crest, but they imprint it in the pupils' lives just the same. Contra Stephen Law, parents often like this kind of school and are not offended by it. A far cry from outrage. Just look around.