The recent furore around the Islamist “takeover” of schools in Birmingham, UK has resulted in several schools being put in to Special Measures by OFSTED. There have been calls for action and there has been a spat between the Home Office and the Dept for Education over who knew what and when. Emotive language has been used, quoting staff as saying there was a “culture of fear” in the affected schools. There are also reports that the original letter raising these concerns was a fake and sent to stir up racial hatred!
However, even if it is true are we all getting hysterical because they are Islamic schools? What about Christian schools and other faith schools who teach their particular beliefs to impressionable and vulnerable children as though it is the only way?
In fact, why do we allow faith schools of any denomination at all?
Children should be taught a balanced curriculum agreed by experts to be what is required for the present-day. It should be based on facts and where it is not, it should be explicitly stated that this is what SOME people believe. Fine, teach the major religions, their origins and beliefs and allow children to experience the various facets and diversity that they bring. But do NOT portray what is being taught as fact because for every person who believes it there is at least another who believes something completely different.
This is where I have a problem with faith schools and I stress I am no expert on the school system but this is how it seems to me; they do not offer a balanced curriculum, they teach their view of religion – probably – to the exclusion of anything else. In fact I doubt very much that their pupils are told that many millions of people in the world do not follow any religion at all as they don’t believe in it.
They are effectively brainwashing children into their way of thinking. I am firmly of the view that, if religion has to be taught and I am not convinced that it does, then it is presented neutrally across the whole range, covering the major religions in equal measure, so that those receiving this education can assimilate knowledge and when they are old enough to make a decision they can do so with all the relevant information. I wonder if that happened, how many people would grow up choosing to have nothing to do with it!