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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Religious schools: for and against

You might like to know about a programme on the UK’s Channel 4 this evening. It’s called The Faith Schools Menace and is presented by that arch atheist chappie Richard Dawkins. This is what the Channel 4 website has to say:

The number of faith schools in Britain is rising. Around 7,000 publicly funded schools – one in three – now [have] a religious affiliation.

As the coalition government paves the way for more faith-based education by promoting “free schools”, the renowned atheist and evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins says enough is enough.

In this passionately argued film, Dawkins calls on us to reconsider the consequences of faith education, which, he argues, bamboozles parents and indoctrinates and divides children.

The film features robust exchanges with former Secretary of State for Education Charles Clarke, Head of the Church of England Education Service Reverend Janina Ainsworth, and the Chair of the Association of Muslim Schools, Dr Mohammed Mukadam.

It also features insights from child psychologists and key players in faith education as well as insights from both parents and pupils.

Dawkins also draws on his own personal history as a father, arguing that the government must stop funding new faith schools, and urges society to respect a child’s right to freedom of belief.

It’ll be interesting to see both sides of the argument. I suspect those entrenched on both sides won’t be shifted, though.

So far, the only argument in favour of these institutions is that they seem to get better exam results. But if they fiddle the entrance criteria that’s only to be expected. And there have been many accusations that they do – that they find a way of choosing only from areas where the kids are likely to be high achievers to begin with.

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