Some strong reaction today from press commentators to the joint statement supporting more tax funded faith schools. It's not just me who thought the the joint statment to be intellectually weak so much so perhaps it deserves the modern tag of dodgy dossier?
As Thomas Sutcliffe in the Independent notes:
"...because their joint statement on the expansion of faith schools, Faith in the System, is strangely insistent on the ability of religious education to "promote community cohesion" . The phrase is used again and again throughout this flabby and abject document, as if sufficient repetition will induce a hypnotic state of acquiescence.
And I don't think you have to be a signed-up Freudian to wonder whether the reason it occurs so frequently is because the people who drafted the statement are uncomfortably aware that it's the very last thing that faith schools are likely to do. Indeed, if they didn't believe that then, why did the Government attempt (unsuccessfully) to impose regulations about the admission of other or no faith pupils? It's axiomatic: if faith schools increase in number and if more parents choose them, then the consequence will be community dis-integration.
Faith in the System doesn't actually include a single piece of hard evidence that faith schools will "promote community cohesion". Nor does it seriously address any of the important issues about conflicts between religious teaching and the National Curriculum, or between employment rights and doctrinal prejudice. It simply offers a number of anecdotal examples of faith schools which attempt to redress their own cultural homogeneity with exchange visits, comparative religion studies and outreach programmes.
Bizarrely, these schools are actually commended for adopting corrective measures to deal with a problem – ignorance of other cultures and faiths – that they have themselves aggravated. Instead of studying alongside children of different faiths and cultures, experiencing from day to day the countless things they have in common, pupils will be introduced to other faiths as part of the curriculum – effectively as an exercise in comparative anthropology. And, as I say, not one hard fact that supports the case – just a string of bland truisms and pious assurances. I suppose we're just meant to take the rest on faith."
Francis Beckett writing in the Guardian draws our intention to the sad hypocrisy of the church leaders who pay lip service to cohesion, but have other, much more selfish intentions, in their drive to take over our community schools:
"Faith schools, we're told in the document released today, Faith in the System, have "a long and noble tradition", and predate state education. There's a subtext here. Churches were once the gatekeepers for education, and the state had little involvement. Having made a compact with the state in 1944, they are now trying to claw back that power - but using public money, not their own."