Religion should not dominate in our schools

Mar 13, 2015

Photo: Flickr/mrgarethm

By Graham Walker

Many will remember the education scandal associated with the so-called ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ in 2014. A letter was given to the authorities which purported to be evidence of a plot by hardline Islamists to replace leadership in Birmingham schools with a high proportion of attendees from Muslim backgrounds, in order to instil a much more religiously conservative ethos and curricula. Though the letter was widely suspected to be as a hoax, it triggered several investigations into 21 different schools in Birmingham.

This triggered at-the-time Education Minister, Michael Gove to demand that we must start teaching ‘British values’. There was much controversy at the time of what constituted British values, and for some these questions have not been satisfactorily answered. In its response to Mr Gove’s consultation, while remaining generally positive towards the proposed requirements, the British Humanist Association (BHA) pointed out that ‘none of the values listed are uniquely British’. It is interesting to reflect with this that David Cameron, also in 2014, called England a ‘Christian country’, which many saw as an archaic view of the country not acknowledging the cultural diversity of the UK, nor the fact that 48% (later that year revised to 51%) of the British population identified as having ‘no religion’.

These points raise serious questions about the role of religion in school. In a multicultural and pluralistic British society, can we identify the country as having one religion? Is it worth stating a religious identity at all? And either way, what does this mean for our education system?


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85 comments on “Religion should not dominate in our schools

  • Religion by definition is claims without evidence. That sort of thing should not be taught as truth. You might do it as a class in comparative superstition and myth.

    Parents want their kids indoctrinated with the same nonsense they were. Perhaps small private schools where student go a couple of hours a day might mollify them. However, it is not a good idea for example to fill young minds with the idea they are god’s chosen ones, and their rivals are unspeakably wicked. That is just encouraging strife. Teaching people that a deity will provide discourages thrift.

    Given you can count all all religions to fight about what should be taught, atheists can suggest nothing as a way of keeping the peace.



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  • Good article but hardly a surprise to find that this would be happening in religious schools, what do people expect is the motivation for a religion to spend many millions of dollars building a school?

    This is the thing that upsets me most about most Western governments, and most citizens of Western Democracies. We are so phobic of paying taxes that governments are forced to adopt user pays models, need a road? Private – public partnerships will fix that. Users will pay every time they drive over the road. That the users don’t seem to notice that this is a tax is beyond me. Need more hospitals, simple cut funding to the public system and try to force everyone into private hospitals who has hundreds of millions to spend on that? The churches of course because they don’t pay any taxes! Terrific so if you are unfortunate enough that the only hospital near you is a Catholic Hospital then better not get an ectopic pregnancy, or need an abortion or want family planning that doesn’t involve trying to fool god by not having sex when you think your wife might be ovulating. Too bad if you have a grapefruit size tumour pressing onto a bundle of nerves you’ll just have to spend you last months writhing in agony. Education – don’t want to pay for your citizens to be educated, let the private schools take over. What educational standards are slipping? No-one understands evolution anymore? Science, maths and literacy standards are dropping? How shocking!

    What do we bloodly expect. Demand government take some responsibility, and that means be prepared to pay for what they need to bloodly do on your behalf. Only then will we have a society that is truly secular and not dominated by corporate greed on one hand and religious fundamentalism on the other. IMO of course.



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  • Why no full time faith based schools?

    unless you really ride herd on them, they don’t teach the basic curriculum you need to participate in modern society. They waste time filling kids up with religious myths, creationism, and various woo.
    In Canada we have had a problem with schools teaching subversion and violence.
    They teach students to be gullible twits, hardly the skill you need to function as an adult.
    these are dead end training for scientific occupations. Parents are greatly limiting the employment lives of these kids. They kids get no say in this.
    The state should not be funding brainwashing in any religion.

    It should be done by “Sunday” schools.



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  • 5
    peter.smith7 says:

    The 3 young women that travelled from Britain to join the Islamic state were indoctrinated by their families and religious teacher not the police or their school so why try to put the blame on others. The blame is on the teaching of religion as truth. These young women would not have become radicalised if they were not indoctrinated at an early age by religious teaching in the first place. One way to help stop the brainwashing of children with religious superstition may be to only encourage secular schools and to recognise that religious indoctrination at an early age is tantamount to abuse.



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  • A lot of parents in Britain choose faith schools for their children. Shouldn’t that be their choice?

    Ewan,

    Let me re-word your statement and see how it sounds afterwards.

    A lot of parents in Britain choose to cut of the genitalia of their girl children. Shouldn’t that be their choice?

    A lot of parents in Britain choose to beat their children. Shouldn’t that be their choice?

    A lot of parents in Britain choose to give their children alcohol . Shouldn’t that be their choice?

    A lot of parents in Britain choose not to send their children to school. Shouldn’t that be their choice?

    See the problem? Parental choice should only be an option when the choices being made are going to not cause harm to the child. Once they do cause harm then parental choice is rightly out the window, because the child has rights too. The argument falls entirely on harm. In this case do children in religious schools get the same benefits of education as those in comparable secular schools? That is the question.



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  • 7
    Miserablegit says:

    Not only should religion not dominate, it should have no more than a small part of school life and have to be an opt in subject. Faith schools? Get rid



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  • See the problem?

    What’s fascinating, for a believer, about a website like this is to see how people like me are viewed by some non-believers. Over the past few days on various discussions, I have seen believers likened to cancerous growths, to pollutants, to child abusers. And these references weren’t to believers who had done some appalling act, but to believers in general. It’s the sort of language which would be described as hate speech if directed at some other groups in society

    In your post, Reckless, you compared parents who send their children to faith schools to parents who commit a wide selection of illegal acts with regard to their children. Is it any surprise that believing parents might prefer their children to be taught by people who have a respectful, rather than a bigoted, approach to their faith?



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  • …can we identify the country as having one religion?

    NO! Why would any country be identified on religion basis? Religion views are personal views, they are not views of society. In my opinion it is wrong to consider religion views as part of human identity, since they are based upon lies and dishonesty. If someone chooses to do so that is their problem, and freedom. But they can do so in privacy of their own home.

    Is it worth stating a religious identity at all?

    NO! Why? What for? Why would those “identities” be important? It is sad enough that anyone should identify their self being, their essence as human being, with religion.

    …what does this mean for our education system?

    As far as I am concerned, any religion should be banned from schools. Religion views are not some universal qualities worth of knowing and having. They distort healthy and progressive growth of human being. Religion classes should be excluded from schools, and states should not support religious conducts.

    I do not see why would any religious views be considered as positive for societies. Do religious views make some positive difference? No! As enemies of reason and science they actually undermine positive social movements towards healthy societies.



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  • In my opinion it is wrong to consider religion views as part of human identity

    So would you like references to religion to be removed from, for instance, The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights?



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  • Bloody right. Fairness (and compassion) need to be built into societies and not left to the whim of others, and subvertible by the selfish.

    Us’n’them groupings are not for kids. They will solve our/their problems better without fatuous ideas about what “must be”. We should learn to trust them more.



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  • Ewan Mar 14, 2015 at 4:31 am

    In my opinion it is wrong to consider religion views as part of human identity

    So would you like references to religion to be removed from, for instance, The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights?

    The declaration of human rights has nothing to do with supporting insistence in the indoctrination of children in the discriminatory dogmas of a single religion in schools. On the contrary – it prohibits some aspects of this.

    http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

    Article 12.

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

    . . . . So preaching against atheists, other denominations, sects or religions, disparaging their reputations looks very suspect.

    Article 7.

    All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

    So preaching discrimination against gays, unmarried couples, or atheists, is in violation of this.

    Article 2.

    Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

    So teaching children to discriminate is in violation of this.



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  • 13
    Lorenzo says:

    I wonder how anyone would feel if someone decided to open a fascist school, or a communist school. I would imagine that every sane person would jump on their chairs, and then form a very healthy mob.
    There’s little need of explaining why having schools deliberately partisan to those ideologies -up to the point that they use the adjective to define themselves!- is a really bad idea. Ideologies are a dangerous thing to handle and, if misused, they can kill humans by the millions. And they did (and do), even if the two mentioned above have very different principles encoded into them.

    And yet, ideologies are rather dull toys compared with institutionalized religions (or simply: religions): while ideologies, at best, cast their spell on peoples for tens of years at best, religions manage to do that for millennia. And, in that time, they managed to prove just as lethal -in a relative scale!
    They are encoded with the same foul principles we despise in, say, fascism -namely: they mandate death penalty for “opinion crimes”, they segregate humanity into superiors and inferiors and support annihilation wars against those “inferiors”. So they shouldn’t come across as any less obnoxious as, say, fascism.
    And yet, faith schools are not only tolerated, but very often very well founded by the community.

    That is terminally incoherent -to use the very nicest characterization of the phenomenon.
    There is a space for religions: in history books, together with past (and present) ideologies. They should be studied as cultural aspects of civilizations, as they are. But to allow them out of that context, thus teaching them as practical way of life, is a very bad idea. Because religions are very dangerous to handle and, if misused, they can kill humans by the millions. And they do, no matter how much sugar is poured onto the various holy books.



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  • Exactly, Allan4discussion! There is this nice rights for children, and if you see for example at a article 17 which say:

    You have the right to get information that is important to your well-being, from radio, newspaper,
    books, computers and other sources. Adults should make sure that the information you are getting is not harmful, and help you find and understand the information you need
    “,

    and article 19: “You have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, in body or mind“.

    Anyway, I do not see how would teaching religion improve educational system of ones society, …and why. There is nothing that religion has to offer that humanism, common sense, or science can not.



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  • Ewan,

    I have had a problem with some of the name calling on this site and have argued it should stick to religion as a whole and not the individuals. The parasite phrase, I think, can be used for those in stupid robes, who have trouble fitting into normal society because of their ‘faith’ (although most use it as an excuse to get out of the society they cannot cope with). Having said that, I questioned the reason why you are here and I think my hunch was right and we now have the answer. You came here to show the inhumanity of atheist by being nicer nicey and crying rape when you are accused. If you had not ducked out of conversations that became too hot for your belief and showed some understanding, then your ploy might have worked. You have been evasive in the face of facts and stir things up with what you see as clever remarks. There are a dozen or more conversations that you have cut short because too much sense was being made. If you had been honest and open then your accusation here would have some meaning but it has been ruined by a dishonest attempt at discrediting atheism. You are not the angel that you portray yourself to be. You have every right to be here but you are sussed.



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  • 17
    Lorenzo says:

    A lot of parents in Britain choose faith schools for their children. Shouldn’t that be their choice?

    Not only in Britain. And my answer is: we can talk about it, as long as they pay for themselves.
    Since education is a fundamental right, the State must grant universal access to the best quality education possible, on a cost-free basis -or, if money is an issue for the Community, a contribution proportional to the family’s wealth may be asked for.
    The “best quality education” is secular, there’s no getting away from it.
    Furthermore, there’s no space for teaching faiths as a viable way of life for a huge variety of reasons -for example, the huge variety of faiths present in society.
    A secular approach to religions, in the History classes, is therefore recommended. Curiously, though, the clergies are always very much against such an unbiased outlook on faiths, because then they would show as they actually have been (and are) throughout the history of humanity -and that’s really bad, bad publicity for them.



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  • Ewan Mar 14, 2015 at 3:08 am

    In your post, Reckless, you compared parents who send their children to faith schools to parents who commit a wide selection of illegal acts with regard to their children.

    Children could be taught respect for the civil law rather than by bigoted organisations which teach Sharia law or Cannon Law trump civil law. (See Trojan Horse schools discussion)

    Is it any surprise that believing parents might prefer their children to be taught by people who have a respectful, rather than a bigoted, approach to their faith?

    In UK LEA schools children are taught to respectfully think ABOUT various the religions of the world, unlike establishments which teach uncritical bigoted adherence to one set of dogmas, which are claimed to trump all religions and science as well!

    159. Faith and science: “… methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.” (Vatican II GS 36:1)

    Scientific methodology, (carried out in a truly scientific manner – not a TRRrrrooooly pseudo-scientific manner), does however regularly produce evidence, refuting miracle claims, and the fudged pseudo-science of “Theistic Evolution”! – So this pronouncement is simply a lie based on addled “faith-thinking”!

    As is the following denial of science AND reason!

    “9. Hence all faithful Christians are forbidden to defend as the legitimate conclusions of science those opinions which are known to be contrary to the doctrine of faith, particularly if they have been condemned by the Church; and furthermore they are absolutely bound to hold them to be errors which wear the deceptive appearance of truth.” (Vatican Council I)

    “10. Not only can faith and reason never be at odds with one another but they mutually support each other, for on the one hand right reason established the foundations of the faith and, illuminated by its light, develops the science of divine things; on the other hand, faith delivers reason from errors and protects it and furnishes it with knowledge of many kinds.” (Vatican Council I)



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  • Not only in Britain. And my answer is: we can talk about it, as long as they pay for themselves.

    Parents who send their children to faith schools in Britain do pay for it; indeed they pay rather more for their children’s state education than those choosing non-faith schools.

    The “best quality education” is secular, there’s no getting away from it.

    What are you basing this on?



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  • In this last two paragraph is clearly demonstrated how faith is opposite of reason. So even here Vatican claims that they prefer lies over truth. Reason is not illuminated by religious faith.



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  • I think the real question is: What would qualify as a ‘religious class’ in the eyes of people clamoring for a course promulgating their specific values? If it’s simply a class that tells children that their way of thinking (however unevidenced and non factual) is right and others are wrong they are doing the children a disservice by not presenting either the actual facts, or the complexities of the position itself. It is simply licensed proselytizing, which may comfort the parent but hurts the child. If you never give the child the chance to learn about all facets of a given position, you destroy any chance they have of being informed about the world around them.

    If, on the other hand, you present this as a history of religion, or a comprehensive course on religions of the world, It really is the only way I see the idea having any use. Major religions are important to cite when informing about the history of certain events (negative and positive) but it would actually offer context to the theistic point of view as opposed to simply regurgitating the same texts repeatedly in hopes that it makes more sense through the ritual of repetition.

    The purpose of education for children is to inform them about what we know of the world and to prepare them for the rigors of functioning in society. Reading, Writing, History, Mathematics, Science, Economics… these are tools we all need to better understand our world. Implicating that a specific ‘value’ needs to be taught begs the important question of why? And more importantly, what makes your religious ‘value’ more important than someone else’s?

    Religions have churches for this purpose, and set up their own schools and camps to reinforce their doctrines. Do not attempt to make schools for the whole public complicit in pushing religious ‘values’.



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  • 22
    Lorenzo says:

    Parents who send their children to faith schools in Britain do pay for it; indeed they pay rather more for their children’s state education than those choosing non-faith schools.

    They pay for it, but not for the whole of it: just a tiny part. The point I’m making is that, if you want to append the “faith” (or “private”) adjective to a school, you shouldn’t see a single penny from the State. In Britain, in Italy and everywhere else.

    What are you basing this on?

    Facts. For example: explain how a satellite navigator works -or even a humble magnet- with a deity and a holy book of your choice. And then build one based on your holy explanation.

    Less speciously: civic education, if present, is more than enough to raise moral, responsible and law-abiding citizens, without the need of any faith prescription. Practical examples: you don’t cross the road with a red light because you don’t want to be run over by a car and you pay taxes because you are ought to participate in maintaining the public facilities you use.



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  • And more importantly, what makes your religious ‘value’ more important than someone else’s?

    To many individuals, their faith is an important – possibly the most important – aspect of their lives. And they choose faith schools for their children so that an effective education can be provided in the context of that faith. There are many people who don’t respect faith, who indeed denigrate and dismiss it. It’s surely understandable that believing parents might prefer their children to be taught by teachers who respect their faith?

    The purpose of education for children is to inform them about what we know of the world and to prepare them for the rigors of functioning in society. Reading, Writing, History, Mathematics, Science, Economics… these are tools we all need to better understand our world.

    I agree; and good faith schools provide this. So why is that a problem?



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  • Ewan,

    Did I accuse you of these crimes? No. I was making a point that there is a limitation as to what freedoms parents can be granted. Yes I’ve included one example that we only see from the religious FGM but the other 4 are secular issues (that is problems for every member of society not just religious). Are you choosing not address my criticism? I’ll give it again and would be keen to hear your reply.

    Do you see that parental preference does not and can not trump the right of the child? If it helps ignore the first FGM and its obvious religious connotations (I apologise if you felt that was directed specifically at you – it was not – but it is something that fundamentalist religious people do to their children using similar excuse to what you have – freedom of religion. If you felt that was directed specifically at you then I genuinely apologise – unless of course you have had your daughters circumcised or believe the practice to be legitimate under the banner of religious freedom, in which case it stands and I frankly don’t care if I have offended your religious sensibilities).

    So to be as clear as I can, I believe that your preferences as a parent should stop at the point that what you do causes harm to the child.

    Now I have used extreme examples assuming you would see that point. Using your wording and grammar but inserting things that I am assuming you would find as horrifying as I. I’m assuming therefore that you would support laws to limit those parental choices in defence of the child. Am I wrong so far?

    So if you are with me so far then my point is you cannot use personal preference as an argument, you must look at the degree of harm being committed. At some threshold you need to say yes we allow religious schools or no they are harming the education of a generation of children. Do you get that point?

    Of course you may just be playing the hurt feelings card (I genuinely can’t tell from a post) if this is the case it may make you feel better but it won’t convince many here. Most here are interested in having a debate. I want to debate points with the religious especially. Please disagree with me, if I’m wrong correct me. But I hope you are not deliberately attempting to distort my argument.

    Hope to hear a reply

    Regards.



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  • They pay for it, but not for the whole of it: just a tiny part.

    What a bizarre idea. In Britain, parents who send their children to state faith schools pay for that education through their taxes in the same way that parents who send their children to state non-faith schools.

    Facts. For example: explain how a satellite navigator works -or even a humble magnet- with a deity and a holy book of your choice. And then build one based on your holy explanation.

    An even more bizarre idea. I happen to be working on magnetism with my faith school class of 7 and 8 year olds at the moment. The topic is taught mainly through giving the pupils lots of hands-on experience with magnets and encouraging them to plan and carry out their own investigations into the subject. Just as would happen in an equivalent non-faith school, I suspect.



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  • Thank you for your thoughtful response, Reckless. Apologies if I seemed oversensitive to the comparisons you made.

    So if you are with me so far then my point is you cannot use personal preference as an argument, you must look at the degree of harm being committed.

    I agree. If parents are behaving towards their children illegally and causing them harm then the children’s safety must be paramount.

    Is it your argument that parents who bring their children up in a particular faith are behaving illegally in some way?



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  • 27
    Lorenzo says:

    To many individuals, their faith is an important – possibly the most important – aspect of their lives. And they choose faith schools for their children so that an effective education can be provided in the context of that faith.

    To many individuals, their ideology is an important – possibly the most important – aspect of their lives. And they choose ideology schools for their children so that an effective education can be provided in the context of that ideology.

    So, shall we open a fascist school?



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  • So, shall we open a fascist school?

    I’m not sure which country you’re from, Lorenzo, but in Britain parental and other groups are able to put together proposals to create state funded Free Schools. There are many hurdles to jump before such a school would come into existence, including satisfying the Secretary of State for Education that the school would meet a genuine need in the community. Proposers for fascist schools might struggle to do that.



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  • I agree; and good faith schools provide this. So why is that a problem?

    The problem is the degree to which and proportion of faith schools that are in fact good schools and not just places of indoctrination. Are you prepared to concede that some faith schools are trying to avoid teaching the science curriculum because it conflicts with their religious beliefs?

    Then if you are as a government going to make policy then you need to know not that there are few doing a good job but that all schools are meeting the basic requirements. If it is found that religious schools cannot be trusted to run the curriculum. They need to be re-absorbed into the state system.

    It’s surely understandable that believing parents might prefer their children to be taught by teachers who respect their faith?

    Yes understandable, and potentially harmful to the child depending on the level of and nature of the beliefs of the parents. Some parents particularity in the US refuse to send their children to schools on the basis that even the religious schools in their areas are too evil. These kids end up with very limited education. The state has the right and responsibility to ensure that every citizen gets a good education. That is part of the social contract. So having a preference is nice provided it does no harm to the child. Your religious school may in fact be an excellent school but if the majority are not…

    In the UK many of these schools are state funded. Thus are you going to open up an ever increasing number of smaller and smaller schools all funded by the state, to cater for every religion, every sect of every religion, every sub category of those sects? Clearly not. So you need to understand then that the state providing just one school in an area may well be forcing say a Catholic child to attend a Mormon school or a Jewish child to attend as Muslim school, see any potential issues there? Instead governments can support secular schools for all, in which no one religious dogma is pushed down every child’s throat, in which all races and religions meet on the playground an in class and learn to get along together. That is more important for society as a whole than any parents feelings.



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  • 30
    Lorenzo says:

    What a bizarre idea. In Britain, parents who send their children to state faith schools pay for that education through their taxes in the same way that parents who send their children to state non-faith schools.

    I understand that state faith schools, in Britain, have some rights to discriminate teachers and pupils on the base of “their” faith -or rather, their parent’s faith… But that’s not my point anyway. I find the concept of “faith-flavored” education the real bizarre thing around here. If education is a fundamental right, the State must provide the best possible sort to everyone. Given this premise, public funding to a particular flavor of faith (even to all of them separately) is defeating the whole point of public education intended as the best one there is.
    If you want education within a particular faith, God created afternoons and evenings -did he not? You can do whatever you want with your own time and money.

    An even more bizarre idea. I happen to be working on magnetism with my faith school class of 7 and 8 year olds at the moment […]

    Funny that you concentrated on the specious part of my post. Really. You never cease to amaze me, Ewan.
    Do you read the Bible to them to explain how natural occurring magnets work? Did you mention any deity while explaining? I don’t think so… and that was my point: you effectively went all secular while explaining something that the doctrine simply wasn’t aware of -or didn’t care about.

    Of course, if you push on with the study of naturally occurring magnetism, you’re bound to bang your nose onto the fact that the Earth is orders of magnitude older than what the preferred holy book states. And that’s gonna be a problem: either you say the holy book is wrong (you go all secular) or you say that a pile of quantitative and rigorous studies are. If you choose to do the latter -and in a faith school that’s likely to happen!- you’re defeating the purpose of public education and you should really be doing that in private, on your own time and without a single penny from the Community.



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  • Instead governments can support secular schools for all,

    In these secular schools, will children be taught that in believing families “religious dogma is pushed down every child’s throat”



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  • Then if you are as a government going to make policy then you need to know not that there are few doing a good job but that all schools are meeting the basic requirements.

    Isn’t that the job of the school inspection system? There are poor schools of all sorts. Those that can’t get their act together get closed down.



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  • Ewan Mar 14, 2015 at 9:33 am

    The purpose of education for children is to inform them about what we know of the world and to prepare them for the rigors of functioning in society. Reading, Writing, History, Mathematics, Science, Economics… these are tools we all need to better understand our world.

    I agree; and good faith schools provide this. So why is that a problem?

    So how do they teach science, reasoning, and history, in keeping with these “infallible” Vatican edicts?

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/03/religion-should-not-dominate-in-our-schools/#li-comment-172296



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  • 34
    Lorenzo says:

    […] Proposers for fascist schools might struggle to do that.

    I shall hope so -and I hope that there would be some substantial indignation from the Community if those proposers should ever exist. But that was not my point.
    My point is: why faith schools yes and fascist schools no? It should be a no in both cases. To the adjective bit, not to the school bit.



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  • To many individuals, their faith is an important – possibly the most
    important – aspect of their lives. And they choose faith schools for
    their children so that an effective education can be provided in the
    context of that faith. There are many people who don’t respect faith,
    who indeed denigrate and dismiss it. It’s surely understandable that
    believing parents might prefer their children to be taught by teachers
    who respect their faith?

    Why does the religion of the parent have to be passed on to the child? Loving a child does not infer that you must raise them in any given faith.

    And as it is possible to teach a course without actually either insulting or in many cases even mentioning a specific religious choice, going to a school where education is the focus and not one’s religion works better for all children. No one is being forced to think about anyone’s faith and children can actually think for them selves.

    It may be understandable that a parent may wish to give their child a religious education, but what of the child? What if it’s something the don’t want? When is the child given agency in this equation?

    I agree; and good faith schools provide this. So why is that a
    problem?

    Education with bias is not education. That applies to any sort of bias, religious or otherwise. If the lens by which you receive education is skewed by faith, then it distorts both the message and the recipient of said message.

    If my explanation of the origin of the universe, for example, favors creationism with absolutely no proof of creationism, how am I providing education and not just forcing a religious position? You can’t teach Adam and Eve as being the first humans as fact if science has already demonstrated such a notion as being patently untrue and still expect one to take this as education.

    Now is it possible to get an education at a religious school that focuses on the essentials and doesn’t make religion the focus overall? Certainly, but what is the point of sending a child there if they can get that same education elsewhere without the religious overtones? The parent can teach the child about their beliefs and why they think they’re important, and the child can decide what to do with that information.

    The problem is choice. You maintain that parents have the ability to choose the type of education children should get. I say the child has a right to a factual education free of bias and should be free to choose what values they hold dearest based on their education and their home environment. Children should understand religion in context to other religions to better tolerate other people that think differently than they do. Is the faith school going to provide that?

    Are you willing to hold the ‘bad’ faith schools up to proper scrutiny, or are you going to give them a pass because the parents want to force the ‘bad’ religious values on have the same right as those that wish to pass on the ‘good’?

    You also say ‘good’ faith schools, which infers that you know ‘bad’ ones exist. What is the criteria by which we determine these? What organization is responsible for making certain that the ‘bad’ faith schools become ‘good’ faith schools? What rules are they capable of enforcing to see those changes through?

    I know of no such institution for religious schools, and I certainly know of no examples of the more bizarre faith schools being made to straighten up because an outside force made it happen.

    Ultimately this is why I care far more about education than the faith of a given family. We let far too many people get away with doing horrible things to children for the sake of their faith.



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  • What’s fascinating, for a believer, about a website like this is to see how people like me are viewed by some non-believers. Over the past few days on various discussions, I have seen believers likened to cancerous growths, to pollutants, to child abusers.

    Why fascinating? Did you think non-believers were automatically nice people who would never dream of attacking religious people? Are there significantly less of these types of comment (aimed at atheists) on religious web blogs?

    And these references weren’t to believers who had done some appalling act, but to believers in general. It’s the sort of language which would be described as hate speech if directed at some other groups in society

    Did you listen to Richard Dawkins reading some of his hate mail? Do you think those, mainly Christian, believers reserve such hatred for Richard Dawkins alone? Or, as is suggested in many of the emails, to atheists and non-believers in general?

    In your post, Reckless, you compared parents who send their children to faith schools to parents who commit a wide selection of illegal acts with regard to their children.

    Yes, that seemed unfair but I see Reckless has clarified his intentions. I think he was trying to point out that the parents choice is not necessarily the deciding factor regarding the raising of children.



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  • It may be understandable that a parent may wish to give their child a religious education, but what of the child? What if it’s something the don’t want? When is the child given agency in this equation?

    What of the child who doesn’t want to be educated at all? Is that child given agency in the equation?



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  • Did you listen to Richard Dawkins reading some of his hate mail? Do you think those, mainly Christian, believers reserve such hatred for Richard Dawkins alone? Or, as is suggested in many of the emails, to atheists and non-believers in general?

    Christians can behave very badly – we give evidence of it on a daily basis.

    But, to me, there does seem to be an uncomfortable similarity between the hate mail received by Richard Dawkins and the some of the anti-theism venom that appears on his website.



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  • Really that’s the only response you have for this lengthy post?

    And are you honestly equating a willful child that say doesn’t like going to school to willful parents that are interested in perpetuating a faith system with no basis in fact?

    And are you honestly assuming children lack the ability to see issues with religious positions and question them rationally? Are you assuming children should have no choice as to whether they remain in a family’s religion?

    As the only member of his family to be an atheist (that he knows of) and one who never felt completely comfortable with the numerous issues I had with Christianity (and religion in general) as far back as childhood, I find that notion more than a little offensive.



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  • But, to me, there does seem to be an uncomfortable similarity between the hate mail received by Richard Dawkins and the some of the anti-theism venom that appears on his website.

    Similar to the hate mail! Please point to some of this venom.



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  • 41
    abusedbypenguins says:

    I was sent to catlick school at the age of 5. At 7, I realized that the easter bunny, tooth fairy, santa clause, witches, spirits, god, jesus, mary, joseph, angels, devils, etc., etc., etc. were all IMAGINARY. I let the pedo in the large black dress know that when he opened his mouth to speak that he had nothing to say that was worth listening to. So, at the age of 8 the penguins told my parents to take me away and not bring me back and from that point to high school graduation with no religion to rebel against, I was a good student. Children are never asked if they want bullshit pumped into their minds in the form of religion and they should be.



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  • Ewan, the whole philsophy that parents have a right to decide what their children are taught is wrong headed for two reasons:

    Parents are not educational experts and do not understand what facts
    and skills are good for preparing a child for their future careers.
    A child is an autonomous individual with their own rights – the parents have no right to close down academic or career options the child may in future want to pursue.

    So in the case of state controlled faith schools I would probably agree that neither of these problems are significant. State faith schools have to follow the same subjects as their secular counter-parts and many score highly in Ofsted inspections.

    Free schools however, do not follow the national curriculum, nor do they have to employ teachers who even have degrees let alone teaching qualifications. People are being employed purely because of their standing in their religious community regardless of whether they have the right skills and qualifications to teach. What we are seeing now is the inevitable consequence of this ill thought out government policy as Ofsted is brought into conflict ( very ugly legal conflict in this case) with schools they recognise as being below par.

    But there is a third objection recognised by many to faith schools of any kind. They insulate children from different view points and polarize society into different faith groups. The long term effect of this cannot be good for anyone – the divisive nature of in-groups and out-group psychology has been the cause of strife and violence all over the world. You need to look at Northern Ireland to see text book example of this in action.
    Once people get meet people of different faiths or none they break down their prejudice and begin to see these other groups as fellow humans and not as people not to be trusted.
    If you read this article you will recognise that this is precisely the thing that the Ofsted inspectors were complaining about in their report.



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  • I just wonder if the “good” faith school in Ewan’s mind, prefers the myth of the Virgin Mary, to the myth of Mohammed riding to heaven on a winged horse ?

    Is the Catholic hell more fiery than the Islamic one ?

    Teach myths as myths and what is known as factual.

    (I see Holy Jo in the Vatican has hinted of an early retirement, like his predecessor Holy Joe. Has the former bouncer been too “progressive” for the Vatican Foreign Policy makers ? Has he kissed too many sinners’ feet. Has he even had some praise from some posters on the Dawkins’ website ?)



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  • @Ewan

    Thanks for the reply,

    Is it your argument that parents who bring their children up in a particular faith are behaving illegally in some way?

    No not at all and as I don’t live in England any specific problems I address are based largely on my knowledge of the Australian system in which I work. My argument is that a parents rights only extent to the point at which they are causing harm to the child. Governments are free to interfere with those rights at that point. The example of illegal acts is to show that using free choice does not work as an argument because one persons free choice can and does often impinge on another’s (in this case the childs). This does not have to always apply to illegal activities governments regulate all the time without banning options.

    For example Coke is full of sugar and should be used in moderation. It is not illegal to give Coke to your child and I would not wish it to be made so. However I would fully support a government regulating that it should not be made available in school at cafeterias (tuckshop in Australia), I’d also be supportive of governments applying a tax on sugary drinks (It should not be cheaper to buy unhealthy foods than healthy foods IMO). None of this makes it illegal to drink or even give your children coke, it is just a recognition that for the child’s rights governments can make policy in their favour knowing that the parents may make choices sometimes that are not in the best interests of the child or society as a whole.

    So I am not blaming religious parents for sending their children to religious schools, I even know of religious schools here that genuinely do a good job. But what the government is doing here and more so in the UK is picking winners. They are privileging some religions by allowing them to take over the role of government (that is educating their citizens), while allowing them to proselytise to their captive audience – along with anyone of another religion who can not get their child to a non-religious school in their area or a religious school of their own religion. At the same time the more fundamentalist schools are refusing or slyly avoiding teaching the science curriculum or teaching it and then adding their little comments “we have to teach this but of course our Holy book gives a much better explanation….”.

    So a responsible government would be looking towards future high education standards, a cohesive multicultural society and therefore allowing religious schools to be funded by the state at the same time allowing them to indoctrinate students, encouraging in and out groups is counter-productive to that goal.

    Thus parental choice should be in this case – if the evidence is that religious schools are not doing their job, they should be shut down and re-opened with secular staff (that is all religions and none welcome to teach and administer) and teaching only secular curriculum (including comparative religious studies).



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  • Hi Ewan,

    No not at all I should emphasis what I mean by secular – secular is often connected to athiesm. I am an atheist but that has nothing to do with my secularity.

    Secular is freedom of and freedom from religion. It means simply that religion has nothing whatsoever to do with it. The it, in this case being education. I have taught science among other subjects although at the moment I largely teach ICT’s (no science this year). I have never told my kids about my atheism in or out of class. They have no idea of my religious convictions and when asked I would simply tell them that as a science teacher I want them to pay attention to the science and question the science based upon the evidence I give them and that when it comes to any human knowledge they should learn as much as they can about it, and expose themselves to the arguments for and against it. It is not my job to proselytise my personal beliefs on my students it is my job to teach the curriculum to the best of my ability, period. Even if arguing against a senior student of 17 years old I still have a significant advantage as any well read adult over these kids if I chose to use it. How many could I make question the religion of their families by doing nothing more than reading directly out of their own holy books? But I don’t because I know that is not my job and that I as a representative of the government, standing with the trust of the parents to teach the curriculum to their children. I take this role very seriously so any student who thinks they know I am an atheist is guessing. Now don’t get me wrong I have the same right to tell my students what my personal beliefs are, I have the right to even have a discussion or argument with them (if they bring it up with me) but I personally believe that in doing so I damage the secular values of state education so I choose not to.

    By contrast however religious schools run profitable businesses in which they receive public money (my money too whatever I think about it) to teach their religion to a new generation of Catholics, Anglicans, Muslims, Jews etc. They not only demand the right to indoctrinate these children including children who belong to other religions or no faith at all, but they pay no taxes on their profits (private schools with no religious affiliation must pay tax in direct competition to religious schools which directly impinges on student fees and therefore my right to a secular private education). They take time out of the curriculum which they are charged to teach to do a significant amount of direct preaching worships, mass etc. They can exclude whom ever they like based on behaviour, poor performance, mental of physical disability (one private religious school my sister in law sent her children to kicked out a grade 2 child because they didn’t have the resources to fund a special needs program! And this is with charging $7000/year + the same government funding the child would receive from the state school-I should note this has nothing to do with religion but more to do with reputation and how they go with standardised tests, private schools religious and not often exclude student who will bring their averages down) wrong religion etc. They can choose to ignore the discrimination act and hire only staff of their religion, they can fire a staff member if they find out they’ve been divorced etc.

    My position is that allowing religious schools is counter to secular education and that can lead to the mess you see in the article above. Not in all schools, but in many. Better to keep it secular.



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  • In your post, Reckless, you compared parents who send their children to faith schools to parents who commit a wide selection of illegal acts with regard to their children.

    The problem is the acts of Christians that would normally be illegal, like withholding medical care, are often considered legal when Christians do them. Christians as the majority have given themselves a get out of jail free card.

    Faith schools are not illegal, but they are harmful to children. Obviously Christians would not agree, but that does not change the fact they are harmful. Similarly many Christians think it would be a good thing if everyone were forced to publicly pray to Jehovah each day, though not many others would agree.

    Get Out Of Jail Free Card

    Religious people often demand special privilege, simply because they belong to a certain religion. They demand a get-out-of-jail-free card. For example:

    Sikhs demand an exemption to bicycle helmet laws.

    Muslims demand the right to cover their heads in court.

    Christians demand the right to home school their children and fill their heads with medieval superstition instead of the skills needed for life in the current century.

    Muslims demand the right to stay home from work and still be paid on their holy days.

    Christians demand the right to force non-Christians to join in Christian prayers.

    Christians demand the right to beat their children with sticks.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses demand an exemption to the draft.

    Sikhs demand the right to carry daggers on airplanes.

    Jews demand the right to ignore humane slaughter laws.

    Christians demand the right to spread contagion by refusing to vaccinate their children.

    Christians demand the right to bully, persecute and even kill homosexuals.

    Christians demand the right to kill their children by withholding medical treatment.

    Muslims demand the right to kill apostates (people who leave the faith).

    Muslims demand the right to kill anyone who fails to show sufficient respect for their religion’s customs.

    Of course not all members of each religion make such demands.

    My thinking is, if there is to be an exemption, everyone should get it. It should not just be the privilege of a single religion. For example, I think everyone should be permitted to cover their heads in court, not just Muslims. We should not even consider an exemption when it would result in the harm of third parties. Religious exemptions should never bestow the right to harm others, only one’s self.



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  • I just wonder if the “good” faith school in Ewan’s mind, prefers the myth of the Virgin Mary, to the myth of Mohammed riding to heaven on a winged horse ?

    In my mind, a good school – whether faith or non faith – should have characteristics such as a clear philosophy, consistent behaviour management, a challenging curriculum, high quality teaching, active parental involvement and a focus on basic skills.



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  • Isn’t that the job of the school inspection system? There are poor schools of all sorts. Those that can’t get their act together get closed down.

    Hi Ewan,

    Yes that is their job, and yes they should, but imagine the cry among the Christian, Muslim, Sheik, Jewish et. al. communities when you do? Imagine the disruption to learning while this transition is in progress.

    Let me use a zoo analogy you could cage the lions or you could let them loose into the zoo to walk around the patrons to protect the patrons you then have staff with tranquilliser guns for each lion of tiger ready to shoot them the moment they take a swipe at a patron. Exciting, yes but dangerous. Secular systems have their own built in system in that other staff will to some degree keep track of other staff stepping over the lines.

    I’ll give you a quick example we have social skills lessons every week in which things like bullying, career options, health information is divested to the students. Now we are as a year level given materials to help us teach this stuff. I was looking through the drugs information and noticed it seemed overblown, a better look and I saw it was utter bullshit. I then googled the publishing information and found out the site was an offshoot of the Church of Scientology which has all sorts of bias against any form of mind influencing drugs. I immediately let the powers that be know, found more appropriate content. Now lets say I was at a school run by the church of Scientology? Who is going to perform that job?

    Do the inspectors see every lesson? Do they inspect every lesson plan? Of course not! You’d need almost as many inspectors as teachers. Schools could get away with murder for years before being detected. The reality is you are waiting for a disaster and then mopping it up. Why make additional problems for yourself in the first place, you are trusting people who’s number one, two and three priorities are to their own religion, they genuinely believe they are saving souls, they genuinely believe that they are doing the right thing by steering students away from evolution and big bang cosmology. As such their motivation backed up by Heads of Departments and Administration with the same group think they will be motivated to not fully teach facts that disagree with their sacred texts. Add to that the general run of the mill incompetence of any other system and you are headed for disaster.

    This works against secular principles and thus should not be allowed. Parents and Churches have plenty of time in which to attempt to indoctrinate their children with their chosen dogmas, the state should not be expected to fund it at the cost of secular education.



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  • Really that’s the only response you have for this lengthy post?

    Apologies, it was a brief post written as I was heading out the door.

    Why does the religion of the parent have to be passed on to the child?

    For some parents, I suppose because they believe that their child is loved by God and denying children access to that love is unlikely to benefit them.

    It may be understandable that a parent may wish to give their child a religious education, but what of the child? What if it’s something the don’t want? When is the child given agency in this equation?

    In my experience, parents tend to make educational decisions on behalf of their children when it comes to pre-school and primary education. The children are encouraged to look at the options and have their opinions taken into consideration with regard to secondary education. And it is mainly the child’s decision when it comes to further education. Though, of course, other people may have other experiences.

    Education with bias is not education.

    Surely all education has a bias of one sort or another? Curriculums are almost always biased towards the culture, history and language of the country providing the education. The important thing, in my opinion, is that a school has a clear philosophy which parents, children and staff understand and accept.

    Children should understand religion in context to other religions to better tolerate other people that think differently than they do. Is the faith school going to provide that?

    Rather better than non-faith schools, in my opinion. Faith schools teach religion as the beating heart of people’s lives rather than a theoretical academic discipline.

    What organization is responsible for making certain that the ‘bad’ faith schools become ‘good’ faith schools?

    In Britain, OFSTED.

    What rules are they capable of enforcing to see those changes through?

    It can and does close schools – whether faith or non-faith – which are shown to have serious weaknesses.

    Ultimately this is why I care far more about education than the faith of a given family.

    Its possible for families to care both for their faith and for their children’s education.



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  • Ewan,

    I know I am harping on you, it isn’t meant aggressively although as a teacher I care a great deal about this issue.

    I agree with most of what you say here its a good synopsis of what makes a good school. However, what if the clear philosophy includes a belief that women are only half as valuable as men? What if they believe that girls should be veiled from head to toe (in my country this often means in temperatures above 40 degrees C and high greater than 80% humidity)? What then? Who decides? Do you agree society has the right to decide against the wishes of the devoutly religious?



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  • Let me use a zoo analogy you could cage the lions or you could let them loose into the zoo to walk around the patrons to protect the patrons you then have staff with tranquilliser guns for each lion of tiger ready to shoot them the moment they take a swipe at a patron. Exciting, yes but dangerous. Secular systems have their own built in system in that other staff will to some degree keep track of other staff stepping over the lines.

    Are you suggesting that faith schools don’t monitor the performance of staff?



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  • Do you agree society has the right to decide

    In a democratic society, the people get to decide things through the democratic process. Though there are basic human rights against which those decisions should be tested.



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  • Ewan.

    Point 1. Why do the Jesuits say, “Give me the boy till 8, and I will give you the man.” What do the Jesuits know, that you don’t know. What did the Jesuits discover.

    Point 2. Evolution. If children evolved to disagree with their adult peers, what would the survival rate be. If you said to a child, “Don’t go into that river, there are crocodiles.” and the child disobeyed you, what would happen. Children will believe anything adults say to them, especially their parents. They have evolved this survival trait. When a parent yells out, “STOP”. The child stops.

    Point 3. Brain plasticity. It was previously thought that you couldn’t change the wiring in a brain. It has been found to be wrong. A person who goes deaf in adulthood, rewires their brain, atrophying the hearing section and building extra neuron connections in other sensory areas to compensate. They can see it happening in scans. If you practice any activity, the brain will grow neurons to support that activity. Piano. Sport etc.

    Now join the dots. A child’s brain is a blank white board. An adult can write anything they like to that brain and the child will believe them. If the adult writes, and rewrites and rewrites over and over again, the same message, the brain will grow neurons in support of that message. The Jesuits knew that if they could do this to a child up until 8 years old, the child would be theirs for life.

    Back to parents and education. If the parents and the selected religious educators write, rewrite and rewrite, over and over again the same religious message, what have they done to the child. What have they done. They have trapped that child to that particularly brand of religion for life. It is almost impossible to escape.

    What if a parent and school did the same to a child as above, but the message was it is OK to sexually abuse children. Would this be OK. What about you can do anything you like to get rich. And hundreds of other sundry examples. What have you done to the child.

    You’ve abused the child. No physical injury, but mental injury. You have taken away that child ability to live a normal happy adulthood. You should be prosecuted. When you take a blank white board child and drill religion into them, you abuse that child. The child at around 18, can make up their own mind if they want to believe, but only if they are left alone until their brain matures enough to be able to critically deal with an issue.

    To teach a child religion is child abuse. Religion should only be practiced by consenting adults in private. It has no place in education, except in comparative religion studies.



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  • Why do the Jesuits say, “Give me the boy till 8, and I will give you the man.”

    They don’t; they never have; and the age usually quoted is 7.

    If children evolved to disagree with their adult peers, what would the survival rate be.

    In my experience, children don’t have a problem with disagreeing with parents and adult peers.

    They have trapped that child to that particularly brand of religion for life. It is almost impossible to escape.

    Are children made to practise the piano regularly trapped into that for life?

    To teach a child religion is child abuse.

    If you really believe that, it’s your duty to report the abuse to the authorities. Put your money where your mouth is.



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  • Hi Ewan

    Parents want …

    This goes to the heart of the matter because, of course, the children cannot choose.

    I wanted many things for my Daughter that are actually not even offered by any schools (as far as I know) such as critical thinking training in pre-High-School.

    Unfortunately for me, other adults decided the curriculum. I did not argue, I did not protest.

    Two things:

    The child comes first.

    Education is an element of the social fabric.

    The child comes first because s/he has no power, and is vulnerable – yet s/he has all the potential and most of the future. The children have no power but they still have human rights. Our rule of thumb should surely be: First, do no harm.

    Parents cannot choose in isolation. Society has the right, and the obligation, to decide the rules because it is Society as a whole that has to deal with the consequences.

    At first sight this may appear to be Hobbes’ Leviathan – an overbearing State oppressing individuals. But consider … many parents will choose foolishly, even dangerously. Still others will be bamboozled and misled. Most of us never actually see the inside or our child’s school during lessons. Who among us that is a parent cannot feel the pain of those who’s children have run away to some ideological war. Yet this is what comes from parental choice.

    So long as we have democracy and discussion – just as we have here – in which to freely challenge the rules we do not live in a Leviathan State. What we have is society that attempts to bring everyone into a big tent, and so far we have supported religious education.

    We have supported religion-based education and the experiment has blown up in our faces. If society is to be more of the kind of place where we all want to live – all in the same tent – then parental choice must be seen for what it is: A very bad idea – anti-social, anti-child, anti-peace, anti-prosperity … in short, anti-human.

    Parents cannot be trusted to make a decision that supports civilised society. If they don’t like it they are free to leave the big tent, but they cannot take their children with them and remain in the same country as if they were still a full member of society. Democracy means compromise, there are many decisions made by society that I abhor. I try to bend with the wind.

    Nevertheless, enough is enough. The evidence is in: It’s time to end religious management of schools.

    Peace.



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  • They don’t; they never have; and the age usually quoted is 7.

    Seven. Even more abominable.

    Every research source I can find indicates “Give me the child…” is a Jesuit motto. I can find no denial or dis-ownership by any authoritative source. It doesn’t even matter if they didn’t say it, the science contained in that statement is still true. If you brainwash a child, you abuse them.

    In my experience, children don’t have a problem with disagreeing with parents and adult peers.

    Everyone. It’s OK. Ewen’s anecdotal experience trumps peer review neurological research. I wish I could come up with trump arguments like this instead of relying on science.

    Are children made to practise the piano regularly trapped into that for life?

    Yep that’s fair. Comparing the playing of a piano with a religious straight jacket for life. That’s another zinger argument.

    If you really believe that, it’s your duty to report the abuse to the authorities. Put your money where your mouth is.

    Oh I have and I do. I contribute funds to legal challenges that try to inject this very brainwashing into secular government schools. This recent Australian High Court decision for instance.

    http://highcourtchallenge.com/

    Hitchens argued forcibly that to brainwash a child into religion, before they can think for themselves, is to imprison the child’s mind for life. A child who has no say over what happens to them.

    You can hear his far more eloquent argument than mine that indoctrinating children into religion is child abuse at this wonderful Hitchens speech.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6n62z0NM7kc



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  • Are you suggesting that faith schools don’t monitor the performance of staff?

    Hi again Ewan,

    I’m suggesting the secular schools have a mix of staff and admin with different beliefs. If I as an atheist at my school started promoting atheism (let’s say advertising to student about the upcoming Unholy Trinity Tour, or tearing down biblical beliefs in my science class, then other religious staff would have a word or two to say to me, or if that wasn’t fruitful they’d have a word or two to say to my principal and my job would be at risk. If every teacher was an atheist and the principal was also an atheist how many checks and balances would be in place internally. All the groups act as a control on all the others and everyone recognises that whatever their particular beliefs they are personal and not their place to push on the students of parents who do not hold the same beliefs. Religious schools have no motivation to ensure that facts that contradict their beliefs and that may threaten the belief of their students if taught and understood well. Evolution for example clearly threatens the biblical belief in creation. So religious biology teachers in state schools know they are being measured against other secular teachers no matter how uncomfortable they are. It is understandable that religious schools would be tempted to behave in this manner and no surprise that we find in fact that that is exactly how many have been behaving. So no their self check mechanisms (in general) are hardly up to scratch.

    How comfortable would you as a Christian parent be sending your student to that school? What if your tax money was going towards paying for atheistic indoctrination of your children? What if the only school your kid could go to in your area was a Atheist school? What if that school because it paid no taxes and all religious institutions were forced to pay taxes meant that to provide the same services a religious school would have to charge higher fees and was therefore uncompetitive or simply didn’t exist as a result? Now try to imagine that and what you are imagining is exactly what is happening to us. Do you really think that is fair?



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  • It doesn’t even matter if they didn’t say it, Oh I think it does, David.

    Have you noticed that Ewen’s debating style is to always dodge the substance of the argument put to him. Instead of addressing any of the issues raised by posters, this is typical of his response above. It is a common debating style I’ve encountered often.

    Can you find Ewen disproving the science of brain plasticity. Can you find any negating reference to children’s brains during development being open to any input, unquestioningly. It is not until puberty that this evolutionary trait disappears. What is Ewen’s answer. Can you find any reference to Ewen defending the inculcation of faith into prepubescent children as being a fair thing to do to a child before they can think for themselves. Has Ewen admitted that he knows that without this grasping of the children’s brains in early childhood, that religion would die out. Does Ewen defend this practice, knowing that the end result at the extreme is children condemned to a life of religious slavery, and potentially death defending a non existent god.

    Ewen doesn’t have the courage to defend any of these points. He will type a glib one liner as scurry away, hiding both physically and mentally from the matters put before him.

    The children of the world should be a religion free zone until they reach 18. At that time, when they can make up their own mind in the free market of ideas. If they want to become religious, so be it. Its time the religious had their hands removed from the children of the world.



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  • 61
    Lorenzo says:

    Earlier on I was arguing with our resident Catholic about natural magnetism and how, to teach it, you turn to a state of practical secularity because religion’s doctrine doesn’t bother with magnets -until you have to make a choice between doctrine and empirical, quantitative and rigorous evidence when the study of natural magnetism leads you to the conclusion that the Earth is orders of magnitude older than any given holy book ever stated.
    That’s big stuff. So big that it’s specious to talk about it: my opinion of humans is too high to think that a nutty teacher at school can damage a child enough to make her believe that the Earth is 6000 years old. You need other, violent factors at work there. Like a bag of nuts for a family.
    Also, I think that the majority of faith schools don’t indulge too much in bluntly stupid denials of rock-hard scientific results. At least if they don’t want to be laughed at publicly.

    The dangerous stuff is, I think (and I know, even though the environment is different, since I live in a different Country), the sneaky stuff. And you aren’t going to find it in science or math classes. You’re going to find it in literature classes. In history classes. And in the total absence of sexual -or erotic- education.
    What flavors education as “faith” is, I think, this: the relentless smuggle of faith derivatives like the well known christian erotophobia, slight distortions of historical facts, subliminal moral judgment on cultural material -I’d so love to see Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” as a suggested reading in a faith school of any sort.
    Also, one of the faith derivatives that’s very likely to be smuggled in humanities’ classes is the fact that some feelings should be taken in higher consideration than everything else, even in the face of physical, quantitatively measurable reality -and we do have an example of this attitude from our resident Catholic:

    Ewan Mar 14, 2015 at 9:33 am
    To many individuals, their faith is an important – possibly the most important – aspect of their lives.

    Thus making the (specious) blunt face denial of some scientific truths not even necessary. If faith is taught to be so important, the denial can very well come from inside.

    There is no more dangerous bias than the one that’s concealed. That is why faith schools, with all their claims of being “just as good, just as impartial” as public schools are outright dangerous. And that’s one reason reason more why they really should not see a single penny from the Community: a tainted education is, by definition, not the best sort there is.

    ~~~

    So, why is the above said smuggling of questionable morals something that hasn’t to happen?
    Whether we like it or not, school, especially the earliest ones the child attends, is not just a dispenser of notions and an instruction manual to use modern tools. School plays a freaking big role in the formation of the individual and the citizen: it has a leading role in defining her behavior in social congregations, in her ability to actually follow the rules, it shapes her relationship with authority and, most importantly, it’s provides a very large contribution to her Weltanshauung.
    Bad ideas smuggled in the first classes are gonna stay there almost lifelong and the individual might not even be aware of them -and, if she becomes so, she’s gonna have to override them willingly for a preposterous amount of time.

    That is the reason why religions are so eager to append the faith adjective to as many schools as possible, defending the practice with the universal argument of “freedom of choice” and “a place where parent’s faith is not taught, but treated with respect” -which means the smuggling I’ve been talking about.
    Faith schools are a black market of medieval morals and society models.



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  • That's good we have reached a consensus on both of those points.

    So the hard bit, and I think you're most of the way there with me. Do you think that religions even if they are in the majority should not impose their wishes upon the whole of society? To give an example if society was 90% atheist should we attempt to inflict that on the rest of society, close the churches, teach atheist propaganda to our students in class etc? Or should we seek to protect the minorities and give freedom of choice of religion (including freedom to not be religious) and run a truly secular society?

    If you are with me so far then in-spite of your religious motivations you would support secular education, secular hospitals and social services and support religious organisations not being tax exempt except under pure charity work (that is charitable works with no strings attached, none of this soup kitchen but before you eat you need to listen to a sermon – you'd be free to do that by the way but not get tax exemption if you did). If you can agree to all of this then we can I think make common cause. If not then I hope our too's and fro's today have at least given you some food for thought – at least you know where most of us stand.

    I'm off to bed back to work tomorrow but I will do a quick check in the morning before work. Regards



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  • If you are with me so far then in-spite of your religious motivations you would support secular education, secular hospitals and social services and support religious organisations not being tax exempt except under pure charity work (that is charitable works with no strings attached, none of this soup kitchen but before you eat you need to listen to a sermon – you’d be free to do that by the way but not get tax exemption if you did).

    In my opinion, these are all matters which society should decide for itself. Like most people living in a democratic society, I disagree with some decisions made by my government. But I accept them because they were arrived at democratically, and I recognise that there are channels through which I can express my disagreement and work to have those decisions changed if I so choose.

    With regard to minorities; I see one of the defining characteristics of a civilised society as being that of tolerance. Individuals and groups should be allowed as much as possible to live out their lives in the way that they choose.



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  • For some parents, I suppose because they believe that their child is
    loved by God and denying children access to that love is unlikely to
    benefit them.

    Context of the question in this case is important. I said why does the religion of the child have to be passed on? It is far too typical to label a child with the expectation of the parent in most religions and give no consideration to the idea the child may not ultimately be accepting or interested in said faith. This site has its share of those children.

    And if the argument is to seek God’s love then simply speaking if god doesn’t love them for not having arbitrary rules followed then honestly what is the point? Why does it take a declaration of any sort for an all loving god to acknowledge you?

    In my experience, parents tend to make educational decisions on behalf
    of their children when it comes to pre-school and primary education.
    The children are encouraged to look at the options and have their
    opinions taken into consideration with regard to secondary education.
    And it is mainly the child’s decision when it comes to further
    education. Though, of course, other people may have other experiences.

    That does very much vary from culture to culture. You’ve mentioned you’re from the UK. I’m in the US and from much of my experience the effort to keep children within line of the parents brand of religion last far beyond pre-school and primary education, both by sending them to private or charter schools where the ability for educational bodies to have any sort of influence is not as strong as it would be in public schools. There are many religious schools (evangelical, in particular) in the US that operate either with little supervision or by sidestepping laws already in place to give students a chance at a full curriculum of education without the evangelical bias.

    But even from a cultural standpoint what you’re describing doesn’t apply the same across our respective ponds: It is not uncommon in various communities to be completely exiled from your community for lacking belief or declaring that you lack belief. And more extreme examples of this are visited by death depending on what flavor of Islam you follow (as apostasy is punishable in said fashion)

    So if you see an innocuous version of a ‘faith school’ in your community, all well and good, but my questions regarding good and bad faith schools was there for a very pointed purpose. Your position does not hold across the spectrum.

    And children deserve a better chance than that.

    Surely all education has a bias of one sort or another? Curriculums
    are almost always biased towards the culture, history and language of
    the country providing the education. The important thing, in my
    opinion, is that a school has a clear philosophy which parents,
    children and staff understand and accept.

    And the worst offenses of bias occur when cultures try to whitewash history with their version of things in schools. I said this applies to religious institutions and otherwise. Once again, in the US people have been trying to (and in some parts of the country succeeded in) changing the history books to paint the US in a better light regarding the Tribal Native Americans, Slaves, and a whole hosts of nasty things the US has done. Any bias is bad as it distorts the facts.

    Now does information get distorted through language barriers and lack of information on cultures? Certainly, but that’s not automatically from purposeful bias and very often there is an attempt to provide the best facts available. However situations like that are when you give students the best tool of all: critical thinking. The ability to examine facts and ideas and draw conclusions based on the information. Religion does not aid in that endeavor, more often than not it hinders it in its favor.

    I highlighted the last section to mention that everyone having a clear philosophy that everyone accepts is not the same as providing an education. Nothing in the statement your provide says anything about providing a curriculum that reflects our current and most factual understanding of the world and things in it. You could have parents, staff and children agree on a lot of dangerous things that don’t teach students anything useful and lead to more harm than good. Education is about the facts, not about the parents opinion on what the child should know.

    Rather better than non-faith schools, in my opinion. Faith schools
    teach religion as the beating heart of people’s lives rather than a
    theoretical academic discipline.

    Religion shouldn’t be taught as the beating heart of a person’s life in a school. This is the actual heart of the problem both when I say there is a religious bias and how that distorts how people see themselves and others as a result.

    The responsibility of teaching what religion is goes to the parent, and in church, the pastor. Not the school. The school is there for that necessary academic discipline. That academic discipline will actually offer a far more nonpartisan perspective than an institution trying to push religion on the student.

    The fact that you personally have no problem with religion does not mean you should have the right to force that on a child in a school whose design is to prepare them for responsibilities to society and not to your preferred god. Your use of terms like “beating heart of religion as opposed to academic discipline’ tells me you favor exactly what I’m railing against here: forcing faith on the child in the school. That is not the school’s responsibility, and should never be. And it doesn’t offer the child a choice.

    In Britain, OFSTED.

    It can and does close schools – whether faith or non-faith – which are
    shown to have serious weaknesses.

    Not in Britain, to go back to my earlier point. And many religious schools in the US are privately funded as to let them get away with rather insane thing for the purposes of trying to brainwash children. You should allow for the possibility that not everything runs the same way everywhere in your ideas about what faith schools actually are. It’s not uncommon for me to have conversations with people from different countries here but most of the time when I present the reality of life in another country dealing with issues most aren’t as eager to stick to their guns when they see how different things are.

    Its possible for families to care both for their faith and for their
    children’s education.

    It has been mentioned here in response to your previous remarks, but it bears repeating: Parents are not the best arbiters of the child’s education unless they themselves are teachers and can do so without bias. Schools are not in place to do the will of the parents, they exists to give the child the benefit of a proper, useful education to prepare them for the world. Not to reinforce a parent’s religious preferences. That is the parent’s duty, and even then not something that should be forced.

    If the only concern parents show is to perpetuate unprovable theistic ideas and call it education and try to force it on them in schools then they are not in fact interested in their child’s education; only their compliance to doctrine.



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  • I’m suggesting the secular schools have a mix of staff and admin with different beliefs.

    As do all the faith schools I have worked in and have knowledge of.

    Religious schools have no motivation to ensure that facts that contradict their beliefs and that may threaten the belief of their students if taught and understood well.

    I don’t understand. Faith schools have the same motivation as non-faith schools to provide their pupils with an effective education which delivers the published curriculum. Individual members of staff at both will generally wish to do a good job as a matter of professional pride; and the schools as a whole will need to perform (with regard to the educational progress of their pupils) in a way that compares favourably with competing schools.

    What if your tax money was going towards paying for atheistic indoctrination of your children?

    I have no objection to charities – atheist or otherwise – being supported by my taxes.

    What if the only school your kid could go to in your area was a Atheist school?

    My main concern would be that it was a good school.

    Do you really think that is fair?

    We live in a democracy. Parents who have concerns about the quality of education provided in their local area have a whole bunch of options available.



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  • @ Ewan,

    ” Is it any surprise that believing parents might prefer their children to be taught by people who have a respectful, rather than a bigoted, approach to their faith?”

    Why should we as non-believers have any respect whatsoever for your faith? You believe in things for which there is no evidence and in fact what evidence does exist completely rules out your belief. We simply choose to believe in that for which there is evidence and not believe in that for which there is none. This is the logical and rational approach to any evidence.

    In my opinion belief in invisible sky pixies is a mental illness, one which is normally transmitted from parent to child down the generations. I can understand how gullible children below the age at which they can differentiate between fact and fiction can be brainwashed into believing such things but I find it harder to understand how adults can continue to believe in that for which there is no evidence. I rejected such nonsense very easily after consideration of the facts at an early age.

    IMO this planet and its people will never be able to call itself rational until belief in the supernatural is eliminated. I don’t think anyone who believes in gods should be able to hold public office. I further think that religion is the single most dangerous force that has ever existed in mankind. It is responsible for more harm, wars, discrimination, human suffering and bigotry than any other single thing.

    Religion has fought and restricted science for a thousand years. Mankind made little progress in science, maths and astronomy between 700AD and 1700AD. Two thousand years ago the Greeks and Persians were making great progress in most of the sciences and medicine. Then religion came along and stopped everything dead for a millenium. We put a man on the moon in 1969 but it could have been in 1069 without religion. By now we might be travelling the stars. Your people deny science, cosmology, evolution, global warming and think the universe is 6000 years old. Religion has persecuted people of science for centuries. Galileo was subject to house arrest for the last ten years of his life and Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for realising that the stars were suns like our own, just unimaginably far away. The catholic church finally apologised for Galileo after 300 years but has never done so for Bruno.

    I don’t respect your beliefs and think you are mad to hold them.



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  • Two thousand years ago the Greeks and Persians were making great progress in most of the sciences and medicine. Then religion came along and stopped everything dead for a millenium.

    Actually, the Greeks and Persians back then were deeply engaged in religious belief while they were making their admirable progress in science and medicine.



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  • I’m suggesting the secular schools have a mix of staff and admin with different beliefs.

    As do all the faith schools I have worked in and have knowledge of.

    That may indeed be the case for all you have direct dealings with, however what inspectors have found is a large number of schools where this is exactly the problem, having the ability to hire and fire staff on the basis of their faith is a big problem in this regard. It means everyone is operating on the same filter.

    I don’t understand. Faith schools have the same motivation as non-faith schools to provide their pupils with an effective education which delivers the published curriculum.

    No they don’t. Are you telling me that a fundamentalist Muslim sect, or an Fundamentalist evangelical Christian sect which sets up a school will have the same approach to teaching evolution as a secular school? Or Cosmology? Muslims believe that the Quran is the perfect word of god. How do you suggest they square the circle in science class when the Quran says that fresh and salt water don’t mix or that sperm comes from the spine. They can’t one has to give, which one is going to win? You may well belong to a moderate, religion in which you do not have much of a conflict with basic science but any fundamentalist is going to come face to face with science directly challenging their faith. Do you as a Christian surrender your beliefs wholly to science when the bible is contradicted or have you ever been guilty of trying to twist what the bible says or deny that the scientists might be right? You may be admirable in this area but many are not.

    schools as a whole will need to perform (with regard to the educational progress of their pupils) in a way that compares favourably with competing schools.

    No they don’t, they are tax free therefore they can afford to be significantly worse compared to a secular private school. In addition to this my understanding of the government faith schools in UK is that there may be no other choice in that area.

    *What if your tax money was going towards paying for atheistic indoctrination of your children?

    I have no objection to charities – atheist or otherwise – being
    supported by my taxes.*

    But that isn’t what I asked. I asked if I ran an atheist school, by exclusively atheist teachers and staff and used school time to teach your children about atheist principles and directly argued against religion and your Christian was forced to go there because there was no other school in your area how would you feel?

    My main concern would be that it was a good school.

    What if the school due to the bias implicit deliberately misrepresented your religion lets say the atheist school started to accuse all religious people of being terrorists and paedophiles (not that that is very likely). Would you have a problem then?

    We live in a democracy. Parents who have concerns about the quality of education provided in their local area have a whole bunch of options available.

    No they often don’t and this is my point. Often the choice made on their behalf is to drive their children every morning to another town. For poor families this may simply not be possible.



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  • there is something a bit odd about this debate. ie there is a negative view toward faith schools -fair enough

    however, what you are really saying, i think, is that schools should teach atheism and look down on religion as obsolete and superstitious and having no more value in the world. ie have your view on religion made the official one.

    religions are not as stupid as that, it is perhaps your own demonised representation of religion you are attempting to refute.

    i dont think religion should dominate social life, but it also has a part in society and life.

    parents are not going to teach their children about all religions equally if they in fact believe a particular religion is true, and good, as they want what is good for their children.

    you just have to accept that. parents are responsible for their children, and many good religious people are teaching their children their religion for the best motives. it is wrong to pretend otherwise.



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  • Mike Mar 15, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    there is something a bit odd about this debate. ie there is a negative view toward faith schools -fair enough

    The dangers of removing LEA supervision for ideological reasons, are well illustrated in the “Trojan Horse” incidents.

    however, what you are really saying, i think, is that schools should teach atheism and look down on religion as obsolete and superstitious and having no more value in the world. ie have your view on religion made the official one.

    You simply can’t bunch all religions together collectively like this. They are very diverse and frequently in conflict with each other.

    religions are not as stupid as that, it is perhaps your own demonised representation of religion you are attempting to refute.

    There is no “representation of religion”. Each religion has its own features, but irrational thinking based on “faith” is common to many of them, as is bigotry against other views, including other religious views.

    i dont think religion should dominate social life, but it also has a part in society and life.

    But it does in “faith-schools” where one religion is allowed to dominate.

    parents are not going to teach their children about all religions equally

    That is why impartial public education has to take responsibility, if conflicting sectarian ghettos are not to be produced.

    Just as the separately “educated” Northern Irish are moving towards peace, I see the “religion of peace” is bombing Xtian churches again in Pakistan!

    Two bomb blasts have killed at least 14 people near two churches in a Christian neighbourhood of the Pakistani city of Lahore, local officials say.
    More than 70 people were hurt in the explosions,

    if they in fact believe a particular religion is true, and good, as they want what is good for their children.

    you just have to accept that. parents are responsible for their children, and many good religious people are teaching their children their religion for the best motives. it is wrong to pretend otherwise.

    Divisive dogmas have caused civil unrest, bigotry, and religious wars for centuries. Why would sane or rational people who have a wider view, wish to perpetuate this by segregating children into religious camps?



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  • It has been mentioned here in response to your previous remarks, but it bears repeating: Parents are not the best arbiters of the child’s education unless they themselves are teachers and can do so without bias. Schools are not in place to do the will of the parents, they exists to give the child the benefit of a proper, useful education to prepare them for the world. Not to reinforce a parent’s religious preferences. That is the parent’s duty, and even then not something that should be forced.

    A well reasoned post. A good summary in this paragraph.



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  • what inspectors have found is a large number of schools where this is exactly the problem, having the ability to hire and fire staff on the basis of their faith is a big problem in this regard.

    I guess different countries deal with these things differently. But I’m not aware of the inspection systems in Britain finding this issue a problem in a large number of faith schools. Out of curiosity, is it normal for secular schools to require members of staff to provide details of their religious or other beliefs? That seems odd to me.

    Are you telling me that a fundamentalist Muslim sect, or an Fundamentalist evangelical Christian sect which sets up a school will have the same approach to teaching evolution as a secular school?

    Again in Britain, maintained schools are obliged to teach Evolution at primary level and are precluded from teaching Creationism as scientifically valid.

    No they don’t, they are tax free therefore they can afford to be significantly worse compared to a secular private school.

    OFSTED, the English School’s Inspectorate, compares the performance of schools with that of equivalent schools elsewhere. If their performance compares poorly, the roof falls in.

    I asked if I ran an atheist school, by exclusively atheist teachers and staff and used school time to teach your children about atheist principles and directly argued against religion and your Christian was forced to go there because there was no other school in your area how would you feel?

    I would feel that I was glad that I lived in a country where parents had the right to withdraw their children from RE lessons and collective worship.

    What if the school due to the bias implicit deliberately misrepresented your religion lets say the atheist school started to accuse all religious people of being terrorists and paedophiles (not that that is very likely). Would you have a problem then?

    My problem would be that it didn’t sound at all like a good school.

    Often the choice made on their behalf is to drive their children every morning to another town. For poor families this may simply not be possible.

    Might they consider applying for free school transport?



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  • however, what you are really saying, i think, is that schools should teach atheism and look down on religion as obsolete and superstitious and having no more value in the world. ie have your view on religion made the official one.

    Wrong in so many ways. Religion, like all cultural heritage should be taught in schools in a comparative way. There are thousands and thousands of religions. Compare and contrast the major religions. Delve into the history. But never teach the doctrine. That is not the place of schools. Acromatt666 above has written and excellent piece on the role of schools in a childs development above. I commend it to the readers.

    have your view on religion made the official one.

    A rational evidence based person can make up their own minds about god. A non belief in god cannot be mandated or made “Official”. The religious have tried mandating a faith countless times and it always fails. A rational evidence based person would know this. So no, there is no agenda. There is no conspiracy. Just a desire to see decisions made on the basis of the prevailing evidence at the time. The decisions to be changed in the future if the evidence changes, something religions cannot and will not do. And finally, to remove the most vicious cause of conflict on the planet. Note the word vicious. Nothing more righteous than a true believer with a gun and god on their side.



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  • Ewan

    With regard to minorities; I see one of the defining characteristics
    of a civilised society as being that of tolerance. Individuals and
    groups should be allowed as much as possible to live out their lives
    in the way that they choose.

    Written by a person who has never experienced racism surely. By a person who is not fearing the backlash against people of a different faith even though they no longer have a faith and..because they have no faith. Removing the faith aspect from your children will ensure they will see no difference of faith and remove the need for them to make that choice. Remove one more item that separates us and makes you feel pious by saying you are tolerant. Stuff your tolerance. If I were equal in your faiths eyes then I would not need your tolerance.



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  • there is something a bit odd about this debate. ie there is a negative
    view toward faith schools -fair enough

    however, what you are really saying, i think, is that schools should
    teach atheism and look down on religion as obsolete and superstitious
    and having no more value in the world. ie have your view on religion
    made the official one.

    Please go back into any of these posts and quote where anyone has said that atheism should be taught in schools. Moreover consider your position: That we’re saying a negative position should be taught about something none of us believe need to be in a standard curriculum. Exactly how much sense does that make?

    Atheism is not a religion. Religious people seem to have rather huge problem comprehending a negative (or neutral) position on religion as being identical to it.

    What pretty much everyone here is actually saying is that the responsibility of teaching your personal religious values are not the job of your child’s school. It is the up to the parent to give the child their view and why they hold it. No one else’s.

    religions are not as stupid as that, it is perhaps your own demonised
    representation of religion you are attempting to refute.

    So far we have argued against any unprovable position presented as part of a child’s education. Religion most certainly falls on that list, but in the US lots of people are trying to get wholesale fiction passed off as fact. As I’ve said earlier: Education with bias is not education. It is propaganda. It is indoctrination. And it is dangerous to misinform children before they have a chance to form their own judgements about the world and their place in it.

    i dont think religion should dominate social life, but it also has a
    part in society and life.

    And that part is not in school. It is in churches and in homes. Communities can celebrate a mutual inclination toward a given faith, but forcing it into a classroom is not offering the students a choice. Give them a factual curriculum free of theistic bias and let their families talk to them about what they believe.

    parents are not going to teach their children about all religions
    equally if they in fact believe a particular religion is true, and
    good, as they want what is good for their children.

    Exactly, which is why they need to be able to find that information on their own. Putting a specific faith in all schools not only robs students of their ability to understand how other cultures work, it robs them of being able to function in their own culture outside of their faith.

    The parent may believe their ideas are based in truth, but they don’t have the right to inflict that on children in schools. simple as that.

    you just have to accept that. parents are responsible for their
    children, and many good religious people are teaching their children
    their religion for the best motives. it is wrong to pretend otherwise.

    You assume we don’t know religious people that don’t have the best interests of their children at heart. You are generalizing. And it’s beside the point.

    Parents want to pass on whatever they think is good to their kids. That takes place in the home, and in church. And even in those places children should be allowed to decide what they think as opposed to having a parent tell them what they should think. Which is why a unbiased, factual education is key to letting the child see the world and question it.

    Children should be encouraged to think freely and critically. Parents can give them what they feel is right from a religious and social viewpoint, but over time it is the child that has to live with the choices.



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  • “Education with bias is not education. It is propaganda. It is indoctrination” – achromat666

    firstly, it is not possible to have education without bias. that strikes me as impossible. i dont think there is a neutral position ie a gods eye view on things. the government in any country funds certain schools and disciplines and neglects other because it has its bias, which may be to have more doctors and engineers rather than theologians or philosophers because thats what the economy needs. I dont see any ‘value free’ position, and I hardly think the New Atheist position is ‘value free’ either. its just impossible to be neutral as we are all situated in a particular country, culture, language, history etc.

    you also say: ‘Children should be encouraged to think freely and critically.’

    i think critical thinking is good, but not for children. it is for a higher and older stage of development. children need to have certain values instilled in them, although they are free to criticise and reject these values at a later age. critical thinking is for mature people, not for children. i suspect the subtext behind what you are saying is that ‘ when someone thinks critically, they become atheists’. that may or may not be true.

    i think likewise education has to a sense always been propaganda. we dont mind if its propaganda we like and agree with, but if its not, then thats too bad. you use the term ‘indoctrination’. i wonder if you’ve looked at that word, in and doctrination. ie teaching something that is internalised. this is something that happens all the time, according to a particular bias. both racism and anti racism are to an extent biased and completely ideological. we’ those under a certain age, have been indoctrinated to regard racism, sexism, homophobia etc as wrong. older people, such as my grandad, had a different indoctrination.

    thus, i have no particular problem with faith schools, but i do have a problem with Islamic schools, not so much based on faith, but based on different racial and religious groups seperating and living in the same country, and the obvious dangers of this.

    i dont think atheism is a religion, but it is a political movement. not in the sense of party politics, but in the sense of controlling and dominating various spaces such as the academia and schools, and effectively trying to expel certain views based on religion. you may not regard it as that, but it is already regarded as that by others. ie a certain ideological position, not a ‘neutral’ position at all.



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  • firstly, it is not possible to have education without bias. that
    strikes me as impossible. i dont think there is a neutral position ie
    a gods eye view on things. the government in any country funds certain
    schools and disciplines and neglects other because it has its bias,
    which may be to have more doctors and engineers rather than
    theologians or philosophers because thats what the economy needs. I
    dont see any ‘value free’ position, and I hardly think the New Atheist
    position is ‘value free’ either. its just impossible to be neutral as
    we are all situated in a particular country, culture, language,
    history etc.

    It is possible to have education without blatantly unproven bias (i.e. distorting historical fact, adding nonfactual data to the narrative) and the goal of any culture should be to the truth. It is not for the purpose of having a neutral view, but a useful one. Knowing what is true about how something works or what something is is far more useful than the what a theologian has to say about something he likely knows nothing about. There are cultures where theology is not part of the educational narrative.

    Additionally you are still assuming this is about atheism. It is not. It is about education. A value free position is a non sequitur, as I am not posing atheism as a factor in education. Merely the absence of willful and misinforming fiction being forced upon children.

    i think critical thinking is good, but not for children. it is for a
    higher and older stage of development. children need to have certain
    values instilled in them, although they are free to criticise and
    reject these values at a later age. critical thinking is for mature
    people, not for children. i suspect the subtext behind what you are
    saying is that ‘ when someone thinks critically, they become
    atheists’. that may or may not be true.

    And there you go again assuming what I think or subverting my words with an imagined agenda. Critical thinking is something you instill in children to help develop as they grow. Parents will instill their values regardless, bearing in mind values does not equal religion. Values are what the parents believe to be the things important for the child to understand to grow as a person. Religion never even has to factor in.

    Having the parents to help the child understand the importance of critical thinking is vital. And critical thinking does not equal atheism, it equals being better informed. Indeed there are reasonable and intelligent people that are religious, and don’t force themselves on others. I know plenty of religious people that don’t feel the need to force their kids into religious schools.

    i think likewise education has to a sense always been propaganda. we
    dont mind if its propaganda we like and agree with, but if its not,
    then thats too bad. you use the term ‘indoctrination’. i wonder if
    you’ve looked at that word, in and doctrination. ie teaching something
    that is internalised. this is something that happens all the time,
    according to a particular bias. both racism and anti racism are to an
    extent biased and completely ideological. we’ those under a certain
    age, have been indoctrinated to regard racism, sexism, homophobia etc
    as wrong. older people, such as my grandad, had a different
    indoctrination.

    Indoctrinate: to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle

    While the word has not always carried that connotation, common parlance of it refers to the definition above. So yes, I have looked it up and use it in that context.

    And if you’re point is that personal bias can affect both how we deal with each other and consequently how children can potentially be taught, then that is something that can be controlled by the Board of Education. that is in fact part of the reason they exists, to make sure teachers are competent and providing a quality curriculum.

    thus, i have no particular problem with faith schools, but i do have a
    problem with Islamic schools, not so much based on faith, but based on
    different racial and religious groups seperating and living in the
    same country, and the obvious dangers of this.

    If you have a problem with Islamic schools, then you have a problem with faith schools. I at no point ever said faith schools were only referring to one faith. The danger of forcing religion on a child in school is just as real regardless of what faith it is.

    What I find fascinating is that you continue to distrust my position yet grant theists a pass unless they’re Islamic and don’t see a problem. Faith is for churches and whatever environment the child grows up in. School is for practical knowledge and vital information.

    i dont think atheism is a religion, but it is a political movement.
    not in the sense of party politics, but in the sense of controlling
    and dominating various spaces such as the academia and schools, and
    effectively trying to expel certain views based on religion. you may
    not regard it as that, but it is already regarded as that by others.
    ie a certain ideological position, not a ‘neutral’ position at all.

    It would be more accurate to say you think that atheists are engaging in social and political actions to ‘expel’ religious dogma from academia. And there are certainly atheists doing that, but I suspect not completely in the way you think.

    Religion has been important historically and students obviously need to understand religion in that context. There are a multitude of religions around the world and to better understand the nature of religion it is important to see it comparatively. None of these things automatically make people abandon their respective religions and none of them preach a specific dogma to them. And most atheists would likely have no issue with religion in school in that context.

    It is when you attempt to force demonstrably false information about history, science and civics that you invade the nature of what education is. And it doesn’t matter if the people doing it are religious or not: misinformation is dangerous. Any rational person should be against it in schools.

    But, to your other point, atheism is in fact a neutral position, and not every person that is an atheist even pushes their lack of faith so far as to debate it or even concern themselves with what theists do. Atheism merely indicates a lack of theistic faith. Atheists come in a variety of forms and if you read threads on this site alone you’ll discover that it doesn’t automatically mean everyone agrees or draws the same conclusions on a great number of things. You are conflating what atheism is with what some or many atheists might think. there is a big difference.



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  • thus, i have no particular problem with faith schools, but i do have a problem with Islamic schools, not so much based on faith, but based on different racial and religious groups seperating and living in the same country, and the obvious dangers of this.

    I was reading your views and while not agreeing with all of them, I turned off when I got to the above paragraph. I hit the dismiss button. You made an eloquent argument that rational evidence based people (some label these as atheist) have an agenda and an ideology, but then in the above paragraph, you used your own arguments to defeat yourself.

    “Faith based schools are fine, but not those Islamic ones because they push an agenda.”



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  • We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.
    And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

    This “creed” represents the confession of faith indispensable and mandatory to the religious belief of Christians. Read it over carefully several times. I would argue that the confession per se has no intellectual or moral content. The Muslim will tell the Christian that this confession commits blasphemy for attributing divinity to Jesus and affirming divisibility of God through the trinity. There is no God but God he will insist. There exists only the true God called Allah who revealed his literal word to Mohammed in Arabic, which found its way into the Qur’an, in a mountain cave outside Mecca. The bitter disagreement over these vacuous words have left many infidels on both sides lying in a pool of blood and perpetuates such crimes to this day.

    The “FIRST COMMANDMENT” of religions inclines believers to fight over opposing confessions of faith, gibberish imbued with ultimate meaning worth fighting and dying over. If you can put your arm around a guy and say “I love ya man; we both believe in the same God” when you’re drunk, why can’t you do it when you’re sober? Just dispense with the pharse “in the same God’ for “in the same aspirations for human flourishing.” Secular schools already teach the moral and social imperatives of human compassion and empathy. Teaching Christian religious beliefs in one school and Muslim religious beliefs in another school across the street will only ignite a Holy War. “ecrasez l’infame “ (Crush the infamy = [superstition]” – Voltaire.



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  • Hi Ewan,

    is it normal for secular schools to require members of staff to provide details of their religious or other beliefs? That seems odd to me.

    By secular I mean state schools, schools run by the government with no religious affiliations. So the make up of our teachers is representative of our population. Our students are also representative of our population, religion simply does not come into activities like hiring and firing, and there are non-discrimination laws that in any other workplace would stop an employer asking the faith of a job applicant, not so the private system where if you are a religious school you get a free pass on that one.

    But I’m not aware of the inspection systems in Britain finding this issue a problem in a large number of faith schools.

    wasn’t that the whole point of the article?

    Again in Britain, maintained schools are obliged to teach Evolution at primary level and are precluded from teaching Creationism as scientifically valid.

    Obliged to, yes, but that is just a bit of paper, a directive that could be and apparently has been ignored in a number of faith schools. There are both subtle and obvious ways of doing this from, this is the science that the UK government makes us teach you, of course as good Muslims/Christians etc. we know this is not the only explanation, to all sort of twaddle about teaching the controversy and then misrepresenting the actual science. That is the danger. A danger not present to the same extent in non-religious schools.

    OFSTED, the English School’s Inspectorate, compares the performance of schools with that of equivalent schools elsewhere. If their performance compares poorly, the roof falls in.

    for one I was referring in that case to religious private schools in Australia, my point being that the school that doesn’t have to pay tax has 30-40% more funds for the same school fees to throw at better computers, better facilitates, more staff. The state then is picking winners. Their motivations is to increase the amount of Catholics, etc. Thus the state is paying to increase bums on pews. It is easier to get better results if you can exclude those who don’t measure up, anyone difficult and any staff who don’t meet your religious biases.

    I would feel that I was glad that I lived in a country where parents had the right to withdraw their children from RE lessons and collective worship.

    And what do they do while their peers are wasting time at worship? I struggle to get through the content in the curriculum its a constant struggle. Wasting time like that is counter productive to education. They should be learning. As a parent you are free to take your children to mass every afternoon after school, the tax payers should not be fronting the bill for hours a week wasted on your chosen dogma.

    My problem would be that it didn’t sound at all like a good school.

    But that is exactly what many faith schools are doing, and if you are too poor to drive your kids to another alternative then you are stuck with it.

    Might they consider applying for free school transport?

    Have a think about that. Some of these parents Tax payers, might have had a perfectly good government school around the corner, and then because you want your faith subsidised, and the indoctrination of your children into your faith paid for by the government, someone who doesn’t belong to your religion, or someone of no faith at all is being asked to catch a bus every day and you want the government to pay for that too? Please can you try to see this from another’s point of view? In no way can this be considered fair. All I can say is you’d better hope the British humanist association or Dawkins.net don’t decide to set up an atheist faith school in your neighbourhood.



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  • both racism and anti racism are to an extent biased and completely ideological. we’ those under a certain age, have been indoctrinated to regard racism, sexism, homophobia etc as wrong. older people, such as my grandad, had a different indoctrination.

    Mick, opposing racism, sexism and homophobia isn’t some new age ideology, inaccessible to any bigoted parents or grandparents who were biblically indoctrinated.

    Not behaving like an ignorant arsehole isn’t an ideology or political correctness gone mad. It doesn’t require doctrine, just some rudimentary education. Oh, and critical thinking doesn’t mean what you thought it does. Did you attend a Catholic school?

    critical thinking is for mature people, not for children.

    Teachers in faith schools don’t understand critical thinking and consequently can’t teach it. If they possessed the faculty they wouldn’t be teaching in faith schools.



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  • Mike Mar 15, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    I dont see any ‘value free’ position, and I hardly think the New Atheist position is ‘value free’ either. its just impossible to be neutral as we are all situated in a particular country, culture, language, history etc.

    The New Atheist position is that teaching the science of reality is neutral and based on the science.

    On subjects like evolution, faith-schools usually comply with the letter of the UK law in teaching the science of evolution and cosmology in science lessons, but then have Religious “Education” classes, where the children are taught “god-did-it-by various miraculous interventions” which trump the science!

    you also say: ‘Children should be encouraged to think freely and critically.’

    i think critical thinking is good, but not for children. it is for a higher and older stage of development.

    It is true, that the formal operations of rational deduction do not develop until the teens, but scientific concepts such as conducting “fair-tests” to make discoveries, followed by thoughtful reflections, can be learned at a much earlier age.

    children need to have certain values instilled in them, although they are free to criticise and reject these values at a later age.

    The problem is not per se in learning values (many of which are taught by example from adult role models), but the indoctrination in, and glorification of, flawed thinking processes and the denial of the value of evidence based thought.

    critical thinking is for mature people, not for children.

    Critical thinking does not “drop out of the sky” at a certain age! Some people never achieve that capability at all, and hence, are not suitable role-models.

    It needs to be built up by a process of stages of education, which should be conducted by people who themselves are competent at evidence-based, reasoned, critical thinking. – Not befuddled super-naturalists, who have heads full of prejudgements based on ancient unevidenced dogmas, fallacies, and circular thinking which they are dedicated to propagating.

    thus, i have no particular problem with faith schools, but i do have a problem with Islamic schools, not so much based on faith, but based on different racial and religious groups seperating and living in the same country, and the obvious dangers of this.

    This is bias-blinkers operating –
    You are opposed to ghetto-forming faith cultures isolating children in one-faith groups, UNLESS they are YOUR ghetto-forming faith culture isolating children in YOUR one-faith group.



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  • Is there anyone on this segment who has actual knowledge of how many hours are spent in madrassas teaching children to memorise the Koran, that would otherwise be spent teaching history, math, science etc . ? I believe I have read that is a major part of the education of muslim children, and at some point there must be a reckoning, like entrance tests for university. I seem to remember making a suggestion some time ago, that students from those U.S. states where creationism had been taught throughout high school, should have to undergo remedial science courses before full acceptance into biology at university.



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