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Interesting that BBC Radio 4 is running a debate on The Morality of Faith Schools. In it they’ll be raising a series of moral dilemmas – it is an episode of The Moral Maze after all. I suppose. In it they’ll be raising the following questions, but they all seem to have such obvious answers I can’t see how it will last 43 minutes. I can speed it up for them if they like, by giving the answers in bold.
A long-running legal battle between Ofsted and the Al-Hijrah Islamic state school in Birmingham has reached the Court of Appeal. The principle at stake is whether segregating boys and girls – for all classes, breaks and trips – amounts to unlawful sex discrimination in a mixed-sex setting. Ofsted’s lawyers argue that it is “a kind of apartheid”, leaving girls “unprepared for life in modern Britain”. The school maintains that gender segregation is one of its defining characteristics and that the policy is clear – parents can make an informed choice. The case is based on the Equality Act, which means the implications of the ruling will be far-reaching and will apply to all schools, not just state schools. Should gender segregation be allowed in co-educational faith schools? No. If it is as abhorrent as segregating children according to their race, why is the great British tradition of single-sex education not the subject of similar scrutiny? Cultural inertia. The case also raises wider moral concerns about what we as a society will allow to go on in faith schools, whether they are publicly-funded or not. Is the promotion of one dominant world view – taught as “truth” – desirable? No. Are faith schools a vital component of multiculturalism or a threat to it? Threat. Should a truly integrated society be judged on the diversity within its schools, lest they become cultural or religious ghettos? Yes. To do away with faith-based education entirely would be to do away with some of the best and most over-subscribed schools in the country. Would that be a price worth paying for a more cohesive society, or a monstrous display of religious intolerance? A price worth paying. The morality of faith schools.
“Faith schools” is itself an oxymoron. You can’t claim to educate children while simultaneously lying to them, and teaching them that thinking should be subservient to belief. As I’ve said somewhere before, to teach children about faith is commendable, to tell them that you have faith is acceptable, and that’s the extent to which religion should play in education. To tell them that God exists (when he very clearly doesn’t) is an abuse of authority and banning people from doing that is not religious intolerance, it’s child protection. Every educator should be working as much as they can to oppose the continuance of this anachronism, or get out of the profession.