Saturday, July 23, 2005

Faith Based Education in Britain

The recent attacks on the London transportation system have led to calls for rethinking Britain's current education and social models as they have developed under New Labour. A serious attempt to emerge from the current crisis would require not only getting out of the bloody and pointless colonial war in Iraq but a reaffirmation of the Enlightenment ideal of a secular society.

Blair's government has for some time now pursued a policy encouraging religion to the point now where a third of all state schools in Britain are religious. Despite the fact that religion has been waning in Britain for some time now, he and his cabinet have encouraged the growth of single faith schools as an antidote to the shallow consumerism and anomie encouraged his own neo-liberal policies. Tariq Ali instead calls for "a moratorium on religion"--exactly the right response: "What is required is a high quality state education system which provides the same education to rich and poor, Christian or Jewish or Muslim children." In a similar vein Polly Toynbee in The Guardian calls for the ouster of all religion from public life and a return to Enlightenment values.
    "It is time now to get serious about religion - all religion - and draw a firm line between the real world and the world of dreams. Tony Blair has taken entirely the wrong path. He has appeased, prevaricated and pretended, maybe because he is a man of faith himself, with a Catholic wife who consorts with crystals. But never was it more important to separate the state from all faiths and relegate all religion to the private - but well-regulated - sphere."

Unfortunately, the US is already headed so far in the other direction that public discussion of such issues here is not possible.

Update: 8/23 Two thirds oppose state aided faith schools

    The survey reveals that following last month's terror attacks, the majority of the public are uneasy about the proposals, with 64% agreeing that "the government should not be funding faith schools of any kind"....Keith Porteous Wood, director of the National Secular Society, said the two thirds opposed to government funding for faith schools reflected the public's unease about the growing influence of religious organisations in education.

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