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Friday, 5 June 2009

We need more religion in schools. Not!

The only way to get kids to be good people is through religion. And religion should be allowed to flourish in schools. At least that’s the view of the Catholic Arsehole-in-Chief for England and Wales, Vincent Nichols, the chap who’s just taken over from Cormac Murphy-O’Connor in that role.

The Telegraph tells us of how this frock-wearing nincompoop – whom, nonetheless, the Telegraph and other media seem to like to quote – says that treating students as “consumers” and neglecting their “innate spirituality” would damage society.

Well, he’s right. But we don’t need religion – a belief in six impossible things before breakfast – to instil into our kids ideas that are less consumerist and more spiritual (and regular readers will realise that I don’t mean spiritual in the sense of believing in spirits).

“The new head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales stressed that schools play a key role in developing virtues and a sense of civic responsibility,” says the paper

Yes, along with other factors in young people’s lives, they do, and should.

He then goes on to say that a tendency to view children in terms of their ability in exams rather than as people risks “polluting” their education.

I’m inclined to agree, Your Arseholeship. Exams have their place, but are not the be-all and end-all.

But we then get to why he’s spouting this wisdom.

“His comments”, says the paper “follow a growing call for acts of worship to be abolished in schools and accusations that faith schools are being selective in choosing children from affluent backgrounds.”

Faith schools, says Nichols, benefit wider society and religion must be freely expressed in schools.

Oh? Why? There’s nothing at all wrong with talking about religion in schools as part of an academic curriculum. We’d expect nothing less. It goes right up there with history – of which it's a part – geography, philosophy and a few others, no doubt.

But “expressed”? What does he mean by his choice of that word, exactly. Not taught, learned about, talked about, discussed, debated, you can bet. No, he means expressed in the way one might express liquid or air: exude, force out, give off, emit, ooze; in other words, radiate, display, exhibit, demonstrate.

I have no objection to someone who tells others he’s a Christian, or someone who in the course of conversation says she’s a Hindu. It’s part of the chatter that goes on among pupils and students. “I’m a Buddhist – oh, and, by the way, have you seen my Facebook profile”?

But I don’t think that’s what Nichols is talking about.

I think he means religion should be instilled into kids at every opportunity, that lessons should be taught within a religious context, that a religious service (at least one) should be held as part of school assembly every day. Or “continue to be held”, I should have said, because that’s the requirement in British schools now, but I suspect he would not want the limited opt-outs that are available for the more enlightened pupils.

I think he wants personal social and health education (PSHE) to say how bad it is for kids to be gay, and woe betide any teacher who suggests that it’s anything but a sin!

When are we going to stop putting these people on pedestals and listening to their words as if they were the very distillation of wisdom?

As you would expect, the National Secular Society has weighed in: Terry Sanderson, its president, says children are not interested in religion and should be allowed to be free of it in school.

“Religion already has a disproportionate amount of time and resources in British schools. The idea we need more of it flies in the face of all the facts that show it’s overrepresented and that children are not responding to it.”

1 comment:

Stuart Hartill said...

If faith schools are so keen on a rounded education, rather than pushing kids through exams, why do they cherrypick kids from wealthier homes and ignore poorer homes in the catchment area to push up their exam statistics?
Don't think my small kid is getting anti-materialist values from religious school visitors either. As she points out, all they want is money and they can never answer straight questions about how they help 'the poor', especially when the questions come from a kid who's been to the countries involved.
No wonder she asked, absolutely seriously, if it was OK to sleep through school prayers the teachers say it's 'inconvenient' for her to sit out from. As she pointed out, she knew the teachers did because she had her eyes open!