Thursday, 26 September 2013

Religious Sneaks

Why is God suddenly so big in the schools we all pay for? Zoe Williams, The Guardian

This article by Zoe Williams (@zoesqwilliams) reveals how religions - for that read religious people - are using the underhand tactics of the sneak who has no regard to democracy and whose morals are those of the market place where the bottom line is all that matters, to force their religion onto the most vulnerable section of UK society - our children.

The degree to which this is driven not so much by a misguided humanitarian motive (to be charitable to them) but by the perceived need to maintain control of the people through established religion can be gauged by the way it is being actively facilitated and encouraged by the right-wing coalition government with its cabinet full of aristocratic multimillionaires and public school grandees.

As Zoe Williams points out:
..what we're watching is the steady takeover of provision by groups whose influence is the result of something other than majority support. A freedom of information request by the Guardian revealed that 25% of free schools were faith schools. The true figure is higher, since a free school can have a "faith ethos" without being declared a faith school. There is massive variation in how many non-faith pupils a school will take, and the processes are opaque.

<snip>

We are a largely secular country. Only a third of adults even approve of state funding for faith schools, over half actively disapprove, and no more than a quarter of parents would be happy to send their children to a faith school. Well, parents are pragmatic, and there is plenty of expedient religiosity, which then raises accusations about the sharp elbows of the middle classes – an attempt to blame individual parents for a dishonesty that is built into the system. – we are handing over to religious institutions the education of the children of people who don't believe in God.

<snip>

[Accord Coalition] research shows that where fair admissions are being compromised, and the school intake does not reflect the social profile of the area, faith schools are the worst – their ranks include 18 of the 20 least representative schools, and 70 of the top 100.

There are schools in that bottom 20 where only 6.3% of the pupils are on free school meals [a measure of social deprivation], against 48.7% in the local area. That area, incidentally, is Hammersmith and Fulham, which has a preponderance of highly selective faith schools. The disadvantaged kids there are being systematically concentrated into the remaining, non-faith schools. This is social apartheid – a paradox, given that church schools only sprung up in the first place to educate the children of the poor.


For those not familiar with the UK education system, the huge majority of children were educated until recently in schools run and regulated by the Education Departments of democratically-elected Local Authorities. Some of these were financed partly by Anglican and Catholic churches and Jewish communities as faith schools in which faith was a part of the daily life but the children were taught according to a national curriculum. A small number of children went to 'academies', which had started out as sixth-form colleges where children were prepared for A-level exams and then university. A small number, almost all the children of the rich, went to private schools confusingly and for historic reasons we needn't go into here, called Public Schools. A tiny number were educated at home under strict Local Authority supervision. It is a criminal offence in the UK to not send children to school or to provide them with an approved education between the ages of five and sixteen.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education
Recently spent taxpayers' money to provide a new Bible
for every state school
The Coalition Government has now encouraged a vast expansion of the academies to cater for all ages and removed them entirely from Local Authority (i.e., democratic) control and placed them in the hands of boards of governors nominally accountable to parents but in practice, accountable only to themselves and their financiers. The plan appears to be to eventually take all schools away from Local Authorities and remove all democratic controls from them. The Tories seem to have noticed that it is invariably the wealthy middle classes who participate as school governors and who bother to turn up for meetings. In effect, the plan is to give control of education over to local Tories without them needing to bother with elections and all that democratic unpleasantness.

Some of the Christian groups are little more than chapters of American neo-con creationist Christian groups and cults. Needless to say, religious groups have seen this removal from democratic controls as a golden opportunity to get access to our children at their most susceptible and to indoctrinate them with the fear, superstitions and distrust of science and real-world evidence which will be used to control them later on as adults.

The British Humanist Association ran a partially successful campaign to force the Secretary for Education, Michael Gove, to ban the teaching of creationism, including it's pseudo-scientific under-cover version, intelligent (sic) design in faith schools, some of which had been actively advertising the fact that they intended to lie to children and tell them it was a valid scientific theory of the origin of life, so helping cast doubt in their minds about the validity of the scientific method and the integrity of the scientific community.

Eventually we managed to get assurances that teaching creationism in any form as as science would not be tolerated and that funding would be withdrawn from schools which did so. See I Have Mail. Seeing this as a bit wishy-washy with nothing to say how these schools would be monitored I asked my MP, Nichola Blackwood, MP (Oxford West & Abingdon) a right-wing Christian Tory who narrowly beat the Atheist Humanist, Dr Evan Harris in the 2010 General Election, to take up these concerns with the Department for Education. The email exchange can be read in I Have More Mail.

But it seems the systematic teaching of lies in pursuit of a religious agenda is not the only problem faith-based schools present and which even this right-wing government has been forced to control. They are now giving free reign to their class bias and creating poor, deprived ghetto schools as dumping-ground for the children of poor parents and those who are not dishonest enough to pretend to be religious and stump up donations to the local church, synagogue, mosque or temple. In short, they are creating social apartheid, and see nothing wrong with it.

One lesson from all this is that faith groups cannot be trusted when freed from democratic controls and jump at the chance to be undemocratic, unaccountable, prejudiced, selective and autocratic whenever the opportunity arises. In short, the temptation to be anything but decent humanitarians, even in the matter of educating our children, is too much for them to resist.

Faced with the haemorrhage of membership and drought in the income stream in recent years, religions have fallen back on their basic instinct for the dishonest tactics of the sneak and the parasite again.

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