That Humanist

Faith Schools
February 4, 2008, 4:35 pm
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Faith schools (Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, and now Hindu, Jewish), paid for in the most part by British tax payers, are growing stronger and more isolated. Imagine a Jewish faith school in the heart of London, which shields its trusting students from the rest of society so much that the students have heavy Jewish accents, without a trace of that London cockney. Schools where children are taught evolution, but where most students don’t end up “accepting it” (in the words of a teacher at said school). Or a similar faith school, that teaches Noah and the ark together with lessons in science. How is this anything other than miseducation, under the guise of “faith education.”

The BBC has an interesting article about how Faith schools are to get their own vetting. Moreover, this body has been set up in the name of “community cohesion.” Why should “some private Muslim and Christian schools in England” have their own joint inspection body? What is so special about these schools?

Will this joint inspection body overlook the teaching of science and creationism in the same class, overlook those students that don’t “accept it” because of a dogmatic bias in the education, but now do so uniformly across two religions and with a better understanding of why said schools have such a bias? And how does this contribute to community cohesion? When you don’t even have the accent of the country in which you are born, how can we really expect cohesion? How can we expect integration, feelings of shared welfare?

Here‘s a story of a Jewish school reprimanded (by the “powerless ombudsman”) for not taking on a non-Jewish student. Their rules of admission state that the “school gives preference to Jewish children, then siblings of pupils, and thirdly to ‘children of families not of the Jewish faith demonstrating particular moral and/or religious strengths which are not likely to conflict with the Jewish ethos of the school’.” Perhaps their idea is that they’ll accept students outside of the faith if there’s a good chance of converting them to the faith.

The British Humanist Association web site has some great information about faith schools, which I won’t repeat here. As humanist though, surely these faith schools demand our attention. These schools are teaching ignorance to the young – to those that aren’t in a position to know otherwise. Many would I find this repugnant, immoral, and an abuse of authority.

Post Script: The Telegraph has an article on how Female Muslim medics ‘disobey hygiene rules’. Apparently the medical students are not washing their hands properly because the indecency of exposing their arms appears to outweigh their knowledge of science, bacteria and the spread of diseases. So strong is their sense of morality, that they’d rather indirectly spread disease (and perhaps death, albeit inadvertently) – quite contrary to their chosen station.


5 Comments so far
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Arguably, there are plenty of schools in London where the pupils don’t sound like Londoners (e.g. private schools) so I wouldn’t worry too much about accents. However, the idea that faith schools may be exempt from the standard educational regulation I find absolutely abhorrent and unacceptable. Every child in the UK should be allowed access to a decent education regardless of the beliefs of their family or carers.

Comment by Clare

Also… tag!

The 123 Rules:

1. Pick up the book nearest you with at least 123 pages. (No cheating!)
2. Turn to page 123.
3. Count the first five sentences.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five other bloggers.

Comment by Clare

I was very struck by the phrase “Schools where children are taught evolution, but where most students don’t end up ‘accepting it’.”

We are taught many things in school that are subject to interpretation – many of these are taught as facts. How do we separate those from the things that are true.

Even outside of school – a great deal of Americans believe that we were right to go into Iraq because they attacked us on 9/11. In the scheme of things we accept and don’t accept – why does evolution bother you than many of the other things a child doesn’t accept.

It sounds as if evolution is being taught in these schools. If you take a child with a very religious home life and teach them evolution in a heterogeneous public school – is this child any more likely to “accept” it.

Finally, when you say “Many would find this repugnant, immoral, and an abuse of authority.” do you mean to say “I find this …”


Comment by Daniel

Clare: you are right about the accents of course! I had never thought of that (duh).

Daniel: Yes, evolution is being taught, but it is being taught alongside fables from a religious text about creation. This is what I object to. Your question strikes at the heart of my discomfort.

Children are greatly aided in learning to differentiate facts from fiction by their peers and elders. Here we have authority, the teachers, intentionally blurring (I believe this is substantiated by the documentaries and curricula I have seen) the difference. By teaching Noah’s ark and evolution in the same class, both are presented on equal footing. However, evolution is simply not open to interpretation in the same way that Noah’s ark is. In other words, the presentation is so skewed that the child will easily end up not accepting it.

Yes, you are right about “I find this” 🙂 I was sloppy. I’ll fix the text!

Comment by Jon

I’m wondering, though, about your choice of words. At what point are children ready to really understand evolution. Adults who believe literally in fables worry me – children, not so much.

For example, we teach kids “you can’t take the square root of a negative number.” We don’t explain to kids who are just grasping the idea of the infinite that some infinities are bigger than others but that 5 + infinity is just infinity. We spend an endless amount of time teaching them to factor quadratic equations when almost all quadratic equations cannot be factored.

We teach many things in school which aren’t true or aren’t complete. So my question isn’t why you and the rest in your religion object to how evolution is not being taught – but why this is the issue that is more important to you than so many others?

Suppose a student understands and “accepts” evolution but finishes high school and never reads another book and can not do any math other than simple arithmetic – that to me is a bigger tragedy (and a more common one) than a student who graduates from high school and is well rounded and understands the arguments in favor of evolution but just doesn’t accept them.

I may not be expressing myself well here – I am not anti-evolution or religious – I just wonder why this is more important than other issues.

Comment by Daniel

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