Questionable Motives

February 23, 2010

Religious Education: Isn’t that an oxymoron?

It most assuredly is in England and Wales, where a third of all schools are faith-based but state funded. To add insult to this travesty of a public policy – one that directly undermines the principle of a common education for all children regardless of their parent’s superstitions, bigotry, and gullibility – the catholic church will receive a special exemption from having to teach any parts of the public curriculum that in any way conflicts with their “religious character.” From the Guardian:

It was a source of relief when, rather than receiving the extensive opt-outs that many feared, the bill introducing compulsory sex and relationships education (SRE) for all children, made it clear that state-funded “faith schools” would have to follow the same principles as all other state-funded schools. By those of us who had feared much worse, these general principles – though not perfect – were considered an acceptable minimum.

Now, with parliament on holiday and late in the day, Ed Balls has tabled an amendment to his own bill, which would exempt state funded faith schools from even the modest requirements that it currently proposes to place on them and the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales have proudly announced that it was their lobbying that won it. We should not be surprised. This is just the latest in a 12-year catalogue of concessions and exemptions made to state-funded faith schools, from a widening of their ability to discriminate on employment, to their continuing discriminatory admissions practices.

The most shameful consequence of the amendment is that it would shift the focus of the law as it applies to faith schools away from the needs of children, towards the religious prejudices of the school, as if this is what the law should really be protecting. Who is education supposed to benefit – the child or the church?

Obviously, the church. And isn’t that a sad state of affairs? Parents who support this exemption out of some sense of loyalty to their religious beliefs above and beyond the education of their children are selfish abject fools. Unfortunately, it is their children who, with no say in the matter, will pay the price. When an organization presents educational ignorance as a virtue, we should recognize that as a clue that something is not quite right. And what is not quite right is simple: religious belief and an informed education are polar opposites.


  1. This has absolutely caused a massive storm in the UK – I was listening to BBC radio 4 this morning, and John Humphreys was ripping strips off Ed Balls right left and centre (worth listening to if you can get it)… it is total madness and just shows how out of touch the government is with society…

    (Around 0:14:00 mins)

    (Around 2:20:00 mins):

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — February 23, 2010 @ 7:56 pm | Reply

    • The muslim in the first podcast keeps saying that the amendment to allow the teaching or non-teaching of curriculum deemed contrary to “religious character” is a good law that allows these faith-based “schools” to provide the ‘full range’ of information that the original curriculum apparently fails to provide.

      The question was not raised about how homosexuality as being taught as morally wrong in religious terms is any kind of ‘information’ whatsoever. It’s simply an odious unjustifiable viewpoint taught to children using public money as if it were ‘information’ similar to and as legitimate as any other religious viewpoint. How the legal dignity to those who have same-gender sexuality is some other religious viewpoint proves just how the muslim abuses the language to present religion in the most favourable light. This is a travesty. The defense given by the muslim was that by teaching such tripe, homophobic, iron-age bigotry against valid medical and human rights information, the children would have more “choice,” which supposedly enhances rather than diminishes a liberal secular democracy.

      Comment by tildeb — February 23, 2010 @ 9:32 pm | Reply

  2. Yup – and it doesn’t end there, we have problems with employment law, policing and security, education and medicine all because of silly religious mumbo jumbo. For example – I can not ride a motor bike without a crash helmet – it is illegal, but if I were a Sikh then I would be exempt if I worn a turban.,_UK_Legislation_Regarding_its_use_by_Sikhs

    The problem I have with this, is that suppose the Sikh wearing a turban got struck on the head by a stray stone, or cats eye or piece of junk, while riding his motor bike on the motorway and as a result crashed into a car – then this could have been avioded. We have sensible laws in place for sensible things – and now the religious can undo these things because of some silly out of date voodoo.

    We are making a rod for our own backs by allowing religious exemption.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — February 23, 2010 @ 9:49 pm | Reply

  3. “Unfortunately, it is their children who, with no say in the matter, will pay the price.”

    Well its more than that, it’s far wider than those directly involved. Society promotes ignorance at its peril.

    Hardly surprising that this is happening in the UK, they have already embrassed aspects of Sharia law.

    Comment by Richard Christie — February 24, 2010 @ 10:35 pm | Reply

    • I think peril is exactly the right word, RC, one that captures the sense of doing something now, for whatever the well-intentioned excuse may be, that will create more significant problems as yet unknown for more people later.

      Comment by tildeb — February 24, 2010 @ 11:50 pm | Reply

  4. How can you disagree? People choose to put their children in the Catholic schools or any religiously based school. If they don’t like the teachings, then take them out and put them in public school. No one is making them attend!

    Comment by 4amzgkids — February 28, 2010 @ 9:01 pm | Reply

    • The parents make the children attend! And why should parents be able to promote superstitious nonsense in place of knowledge on the public dime? It is public education that has raised literacy and numeracy levels to allow for an educated population as a whole. It is public education that exposes children to the Other, where – lo and behold – common humanity can be discovered. Religion has nothing to teach children except memes that are toxic to the enlightenment values of reason and respect for human rights and dignity.

      Comment by tildeb — March 1, 2010 @ 5:09 pm | Reply

  5. The parents are making them attend – that’s the point, it is indoctrination. No children should be forced to belive anything until they are old enough to know what they believe.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 1, 2010 @ 6:48 am | Reply

  6. What? It’s a Catholic school isn’t it?

    Comment by 4amzgkids — March 1, 2010 @ 11:48 pm | Reply

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