Some things for the weekend, including ‘No to Faith Schools!’
Did you watch More4 TV last week, when Richard Dawkins launched his attack on faith schools? Were you horrified by some of the things that were going on, such as those girls in a Muslim school, who thought the Qur’an’s version of our origins was true, and didn’t believe in evolution? Tom Sutcliffe wrote an excellent review for the Independent (and yes, I’m biased). If you’re a BHA member, you should have had an email from Richard Dawkins today, appealing for funds for the BHA’s campaign. If you didn’t, here’s what he wrote:
I am writing to you today to ask for your help in fighting the expansion of state-funded faith schools. This is not a campaign against religious education (teaching about religion) but against faith schools, which teach a particular religion as the one true faith (indoctrination in religion).
There are nearly 7,000 state-funded faith schools in England. These schools have many special privileges â€“ they can select pupils on the basis of parentsâ€™ religious observance, discriminate on religious grounds in the employment of teachers, and teach their own RE syllabus, free of Ofsted supervision and free of any National Curriculum. By the way, RE is the only subject (together with religiously â€˜sensitiveâ€™ subjects like Sex Education) for which there is no National Curriculum.
Some faith schools, as I discovered while making my recent television documentary, use their state-subsidized freedoms to undermine the teaching of science. It should be unthinkable in the 21st century to have a state-funded school whose science teachers believe the world is less than 10,000 years old, yet that is what I found. And at a school that is little short of a flagship for state-funded Muslim education, I found the pupils regurgitating the Koranic claim that salt and fresh water do not mix. Once again, with the blessing of the teachers, a Holy Book takes unquestioned precedence over scientific evidence â€“ as the pupils could have discovered for themselves in a trivially easy experiment.
As you know, the British Humanist Association has for many years challenged the spread of these divisive and discriminatory schools. For the past three years they have employed the UK’s only dedicated campaigner against faith schools.
The campaigner (at present James Gray) makes sure that the voices of all those who oppose faith schools are heard â€“ by supporting local campaigns against new religious schools, representing the secularist view in the media, and lobbying government to reform the laws that entrench religious discrimination in our education system. James also works with the Accord Coalition, an alliance of religious and non-religious groups for the reform of faith schools, chaired by Rabbi Jonathan Romain.
With the recent introduction of religious free schools, the power and influence of religious groups in our schools system will increase significantly in the next few years. That’s another reason why it’s so important that the BHA’s campaign against state-funded faith schools should continue to grow louder and stronger.
This work is difficult to fund â€“ and the BHA has this week launched a major new fundraising appeal to ensure that this important post is supported for another twelve months. To find out more and to join me in making a donation, please visit www.justgiving.com/nofaithschools and follow the instructions. British taxpayers might consider filling in the Gift Aid form, which will enable the BHA to collect back tax and increase the value of your gift at no extra cost to you.
Chairman, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
Vice President, British Humanist Association
There’s some good news: New Humanist magazine is now much easier to find. It’s on sale in newsagants across the UK. New subscribers can learn about a special offer on the New Humanist website. Laurie Taylor interviewed philosopher Mary Warnock, who says:
Hume was absolutely right when he said that it’s only when you think of things from a steady and general point of view that that particular pleasure we call moral pleasure comes into operation. There’s a generality about what one thinks is right or wrong, a capacity to think not only about how you’d feel if this or that happened to you, but what society would be like if this was generally done and permitted.
Perhaps we might apply this principle to our behaviour in relation to the environment. Our profligate use of energy is causing climate change, which in turn has led to the recent floods in China and Pakistan. William Dowell, in Global Post, writes about the floods with a warning that more is to come:
Pakistanâ€™s floods, the worst natural disaster in recent memory, have the potential to spark a series of crises that could affect large parts of the world, illustrating perhaps better than ever the political and economic consequences of climate change, analysts and international aid groups say.