Nick Clegg’s son to go to state secondary school

It’s just been announced that Nick Clegg and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez have decided to send their son Antonio to a state Catholic secondary school. He’s been attending a Catholic Primary near his home.

Antonio will attend the London Oratory school. Nick and Miriam expressed the wish that now their decision has been made public, the privacy of their son will be respected.

Nick has previously said that he doesn’t believe in God, but his wife Miriam is a practising Catholic. He recently said:

I’ve never made my kids an issue in politics. My kids are more precious to me than anything else in the world and the fact [is] that my wife is Catholic, I married in the Catholic church and my children have been brought up by Catholics and go to a Catholic state primary school. It therefore shouldn’t be entirely surprising that we might consider as parents sending our children on to a state-funded Catholic secondary school

I suspect there will be a little disquiet in the party because of this choice of a faith school. Let’s have a look at what our manifesto (page 37) said in 2010, though:

Allow parents to continue to choose faith-based schools within the state-funded sector and allow the establishment of new faith schools. We will ensure that all faith schools develop an inclusive admissions policy and end unfair discrimination on grounds of faith when recruiting staff, except for those principally responsible for optional religious instruction.

David Laws wrote about the Party’s position on this site in 2010.

Choosing the right school for your child is enormously stressful. There are so many things to weigh up and if you get it wrong, the consequences can affect the child’s whole life. I’m an atheist and my daughter goes to a Catholic school simply because it was the place where my husband and I felt she’d be happiest. We made our decision for a whole variety of reasons, none of them to do with religion.

Nick and Miriam’s decision is entirely consistent with their previous actions and with the party’s position and I hope that we’ll all just wish Antonio well and leave it at that.

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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280 Comments

  • Paul Pettinger 4th Mar '13 - 3:15pm

    I could happily marry someone religious, but never surrender my child’s autonomy because my wife’s religion demanded it. Party policy is not against faith schools, but is opposed to many of the policies employed by faith schools like the London Oratory – religiously selective pupil admission and staff employment policies, instructional RE and compulsory religious worship. Clegg’s appeal as a metropolitan liberal is looking vulnerable.

  • Simon Beard 4th Mar '13 - 3:22pm

    As far as Antonio goes, he is just a child and should be allowed to be educated anywhere that any other child is allowed to in this country. That anybody sees the children of politicians as somehow different in this respect is totally disgusting in my opinion.

    However, on that point, why oh why is this information even being made public. I realize that Clegg may feel he is doing the right thing by his family and his party, but publicizing where your children go to school is, I think, wrong. Its up to the children whether they want this to be public knowledge and given the potential enormity of this being in the public domain on him and his classmates I just don’t think an 11 year old could really make that decision. We should not be prying into children’s lives in this way, whatever their parents might do for a living, and its not up to the media, our party or even Antonio’s parents to say otherwise.

  • I’m sure the Oratory is a fine school – due, no doubt, to the fact that it still appears to be exactly the same as the Boy’s Grammar School it once was.

    What a shame that, just as the best State Schools are limited to those who can afford to live in catchment, entry is limited to those who’s parent(s) are practicing Catholic.

    Far more equitable to make such schools open to all on the basis of ability, don’t you think?

  • @Simon Beard

    I agree, a child’s education should not be made public. The problem is it became a public talking point, which to his credit Nick did not invite. As such, the news was going to come out anyway, so it seems reasonable that it is announced and the story eneded. This should now be the end of a minor (no pun intended) story.

  • Whilst I can understand that he has had to make this public, it really is none of our business and a testament to the “quality” of our press and media that it has been made so…..

  • That is not the point. You cannot have one approach for your children and another for the rest of the country without being accused of rank hypocrisy (Blair, Abbot and so on). This is a body blow to everyone who believed in the Lib dem policy of promoting inclusiveness in taxpayer-funded faith school admissions. It is not fair in today’s Britain to grant or deny children a good state-funded school place simply on the basis of their parents’ religious practices. And it is definitely not on for the Lib dem leader to personally benefit from this unfairness. I am ashamed to be a Lib dem today.

  • Stuart Mitchell 4th Mar '13 - 6:24pm

    That would be the same school the Blairs sent two of their children to – and received endless stick for.

  • The Guardian describes the school as just over 2 miles away and not “Nick Clegg’s local school” (and then goes on to explain how expensive the houses that it does regard as local are). I would have thought that was a fairly normal distance for a secondary school. 2 miles is walking distance and no sweat on a bike.

    Since the school has already coped with Blair’s boy they will have experience of providing suitable care and protection.

    Not that I approve of RC schools, the very idea makes me wince. Needs must when the devil drives I suppose.

  • Tony Dawson 4th Mar '13 - 6:56pm

    I think that this is not a sensible subject for this Forum.

  • Actually my main concern for the Cleggs is the level of language tuition in the school. Will the school work with Clegg junior or will it try to force him into pointless low level language classes?

  • @ Paul Pettinger

    “Clegg’s appeal as a metropolitan liberal is looking vulnerable.”

    I don’t want my Liberals to be “metroplitan” particularly, just liberal.

  • Richard Church 4th Mar '13 - 9:32pm

    At least Nick hasn’t lied, as many parents do to get their kids into a faith school. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/9904282/The-parents-who-cheat-at-school.html. We continue as a country to give priveleged access to education to those children whose parents claim to have a religious faith. That’s not liberal.

  • Simon Shaw

    I don’t see much in the Catholic church that is liberal!

    Why do you consider those points listed as being liberal? Compulsory worship? Selection on faith? Seems decidedly medieval to me

  • Everyone is missing the point here. The Oratory is as close to being a boys grammar school as you can get in the state system without it actually being one. Its a typical British hypocritical fudge, creating something for which there is a clear demand by the back door, rather than being upfront and, more to the point, fair and meritocratic, about it.

    It allows people who either want to salve their conscience the fig leave of being “state”, or who have to go “sate” for expedient reasons, to do so in such a way that they don’t have to go to a real comprehensive.

  • “Everyone is missing the point here. The Oratory is as close to being a boys grammar school as you can get in the state system without it actually being one.”

    I don’t quite follow that. Do you mean it selects on academic ability, or on some surrogate for academic ability?

  • Chris – I mean the following:

    - its single sex
    - it has a house system, a proper uniform and strictly-enforced discipline
    - it teaches academic subjects and fosters a culture of excellence
    - it has a choir
    - I don’t know for certain, but I would imagine it has prefects and a Head Boy

    Its as far removed from a comprehensive school as you can imagine. The only thing it doesn’t do (because it can’t) is select pupils by ability. It uses the next best thing, however, on the basis that parents concerned enough about education are likely to have children in the upper range of ability, and selects by parental involvement.

  • Kirsten de Keyser 4th Mar '13 - 10:17pm

    “Nick Clegg’s son to go to state secondary school”
    The headline that finally removes all doubt about the objective of Liberal Democrat Voice.

    …state secondary school … it would be a hilarious description, if only it wasn’t so profoundly depressing.
    Bye Bye LDV

  • Simon Shaw

    Pardon?

    So I as am atheist cannot send my child to that school as I am not a believer in the sky fairy. My wife, a teacher, could not work there as she also does not believe in the sky fairy and all the children have to be indoctrinated in compulsory worship.

    All this is done under the protection and funding of the state.

    You have a strange concept of liberal I must say.

    So, opposing indoctrination of children by a church under the guise of state education is socialist whilst supporting it is liberal. Is that what you are saying?

  • Simon Shaw

    How can a single sex school be described as comprehensive?

    State school yes but comprehensive no.

  • Simon Shaw – none of the schools where I live currently have those attributes, nor where I grew up and attended (comprehensive) school. Nor where my parents, sibling and friends live.

    What’s the difference in you area?

  • Tabman

    Southport!

    Not your normal North Western town. I used to live there, thankfully for a short time, and glad to go back to inner city normality lol

  • South central England. And you?

  • And I don’t count a tatty sweatshirt, trainers, polo shirts and a tie with an over-large knot as a proper uniform. I mean trousers/skirts, badged blazers and a properly-tied tie.

  • Simon Shaw

    I come from Birkenhead and studied in the North West. Lived in a few places in Lancs and Cheshire and I can tell you Southport is not representative of that part of the world. Couldn’t stand the place but that is my opinion and I expect you disagree.

    Anyway enough about Southport. Can you tell me what is liberal about a religiously selective state school with a controlled admissions and recruitment policy and why opposing such is socialist?

  • bcrombie – nothing as far as I can see. Nor is selection by catchment/house-price liberal, either.

  • @ Tabman

    - its single sex
    - it has a house system, a proper uniform and strictly-enforced discipline
    - it teaches academic subjects and fosters a culture of excellence
    - it has a choir
    - I don’t know for certain, but I would imagine it has prefects and a Head Boy

    Except for the single sex that description would be how all the schools in my home tow would describe themselves. Also I don’t know what subjects you think a school could teach that would exclude them from point 3?

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Mar '13 - 11:03pm

    bcrombie

    So, opposing indoctrination of children by a church under the guise of state education is socialist whilst supporting it is liberal. Is that what you are saying?

    Saying children must be forced to attend schools where they will be indoctrinated in the state’s view of religion, and banning parent from bringing up children with their own cultural practices seems to me to be very much something associated with socialism, including the national socialism form of it.

    These schools do not receive extra funding compared to other schools, in fact a proportion of their capital funding has to come from their religious foundation, so how can they be called “privileged”? If they waste all this time on “sky fairies” and what you would call “indoctrination” rather than teaching children useful stuff, then surely they should be worse rather than better than other schools.

    It seems to me the argument that these schools are wretched places because they spend all this time on “mediaeval” practices, and the argument that the religious aspect is just a ruse to enable them to select better performing pupils are contradictory.

    I feel the compromise whereby religious education is done in these state schools is a good one. It means the religious education is done in the open under state scrutiny by state approved teachers. Given what I said previously, I would not want all religions to be forced to work in this way, but a voluntary acceptance of this in return for the support of the state in running these schools seems to me to keep the religious education in them on a moderate and liberal level. Despite the presence of large numbers of Catholic schools in this country, we do not have a big problem with Catholic extremists in this country using their religion as a reason to act in an illiberal way or acting in an intolerant way towards others. I wonder if the word should be “Because” rather than “Despite”. If religious education were forced underground, done behind closed doors by people with a strong motivation because they are at the extremes of their religion – which is in effect what is being called for by people who oppose state funded religious schools with the argument “that should be done privately” – I think it would result in more of what those who oppose it dislike about it rather than less.

  • Simon Shaw – for various reasons I wish to preserve my anonymity.

    I’ve googled your local schools; that is atypical for my area. Most are of the sweatshirt variety; some have no uniform at all. One has blazers, but the look is usually like this: http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/images/45046000/jpg/_45046162_4650e408-b757-4919-8719-16cb5a1e448f.jpg

  • Psi – how many teach Latin to A level? How many offer competitive matches in sports other than football?

  • Simon Shaw – I’ll bet the single sex ones are ex Grammar schools. From what I see of the five schools in my home town, none of them match this description and the one I attended certainly didn’t. It was a graveyard of aspiration.

  • Matthew Huntbbach

    Religion should be taught as part of the curriculum, just as other subjects. A state school should not be defined by its religion and the children of parents of a certain faith should certainly not be given access to it.

    As to you comments on ‘state view of religion’ I find these quite offensive. In what have I written that people should have their children indoctrinated by the state and not be able to bring them up under their own cultural influences?

    What I object to is the idea in the 21st century we still have a religious aspect to the running of our schools, one where the fact that a school is Catholic ( linked to a church which is the epitome of non-liberal) in name will surely send a message to the children.

    I fail to see where I have suggested indoctrination by the state. Can you tell me where I suggested this and why I am a National Socialist?

    Religion is a private matter and not one for the state. Religion should not have any place in state schools apart from a social science subject. What people do in their own time is up to them but I would hope they allow the children to make up their own mind.

    I like your comment about driving underground religion, is religion so to be feared that we should pander to it in this way? Perhaps we can have other schools that pander to activities that may be driven underground?

    By the way I take it you are a practising faith person and why is the sky fairy not an accurate depiction. He lives in the sky and has about as much proof as the fairies sitting at the end of my garden!

  • @Tabman
    “How many offer competitive matches in sports other than football?”
    Well they must be playing against someone else or it wouldn’t be very competitive!

  • There is a lot I do not like about religious schools, I do not like single sex (having had it inflicted on me until i was 21), but “teaching academic subjects and fostering a culture of excellence” is something to promote rather than disparage.

    Most if not all schools will have a head boy (and head girl if mixed). Schools think it looks good on UCAS applications.

    What is wrong with a choir? The only people that I am aware of who are opposed to music are, ironically enough, religious extremists.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Mar '13 - 11:25pm

    Tabman

    Chris – I mean the following:

    - its single sex
    - it has a house system, a proper uniform and strictly-enforced discipline
    - it teaches academic subjects and fosters a culture of excellence
    - it has a choir
    - I don’t know for certain, but I would imagine it has prefects and a Head Boy

    Its as far removed from a comprehensive school as you can imagine.

    There is nothing to stop any comprehensive school from having any of these. It is not an intrinsic aspect of a comprehensive school that it should not have such things. It is a matter for the school management: its head and its governing body, it is not something the local authority has any control over.

    It is not an intrinsic aspect of Catholic schools that they should have such things either. Most Catholic state secondary schools are not single sex. I’m not aware that there is any particular tendency for Catholic state secondary schools to have house systems and strict uniforms and the like more than other state secondary schools.

    If these things are good then there’s nothing stopping any school from having them. If there’s a big demand for schools which have them then perhaps other schools should pick up on this and introduce them.

  • I am not sure where this “proper uniform” obsession is supposed to fit with ANY sort of a liberal belief.

    Many other countries turn out students with better educational rankings (as measured by international studies such as PISA) than the UK without using any form of uniform whatsoever. Hence, uniforms of any sort, aren’t an essential component of a “good education”.

  • Matthew Huntbach – demand for those things is usually limited to a minority of the population; in any single school there will not be sufficient to attain their wishes. Only if that minority bands together will it be possible.

  • My Grandmother, who finished her schooling just after the First World War at the ripe old age of 13, learnt enough to teach me that the person who descends into insult or swearing in an argument has lost already.

    Referring to a God that someone else believes in as a “Sky Fairy” is just as bad as those who use insulting language to refer to scientific theory because they believe their faith is at odds with it. Insulting someone’s belief in either is childish, try rational debate.

  • Paul R

    I have lived on the continent ( as well as Southport lol) and they are intrigued by uniforms in schools there. I have always found it an odd concept but beloved of Tories for some reason. It is a bit like the concept of the church in education. Another concept countries that are far more ‘religious” as ours find quite strange that state schools are defined by their religion.

    I am not sure why we have these beliefs on what makes a good education. We like to set ourselves into teams – uniform to confirm identity and houses within schools to do the same. A bit like football really. We like our tribes but I am not sure it is always for the best

  • Steve Way

    Oh get a grip please!

    There is not one God as each religion has a different concept. I choose to use Sky Fairy as it is a reasonably accurate definition and I am sorry if those of faith are offended but I think they should be a little less sensitive.

    No argument with someone of faith can be rational as the whole concept of faith is irrational – this is not meant in the pejorative sense.

    I have yet to hear or read a reason why the state should support religious schools apart from Matthew’s suggestion that if we don’t have them then we will risk a n explosion in the number of fundamentalists. Not convincing

  • Uniform provides the following:

    - eliminates the clothing arms-race
    - eliminates distraction and inappropriate dress (in all senses) for school and in school
    - provides a clear demarcation between “on” and “off” duty.

  • Oh and we are talking about a school that brands itself Catholic here.

    Remind me but is this a non-sexist, non-homophobic, non-abusive, non-wealth accumulating, pro-choice liberal version of the church or the other one?

  • {Tangential point !] So Nick has effectively declared his main place of residence for the next 5~7 years is Putney, London and not Sheffield; I expect switched on journalists (as should HMRC) will be monitoring his expenses…

  • I have to say that the comprehensive school I went to satisfied most of Tabman’s criteria, but it’s so long ago that it’s probably not relevant any more.

    I don’t think any of those things is intrinsically bad. I think it’s academic selection that is the key question, partly because that’s something Nick Clegg has expressed definite opposition to. In that respect this London Oratory makes me a bit uncomfortable, in that it doesn’t sound very socially “inclusive”. But if there is really no academic selection (or academic selection “by the back door”), then there can’t really be any complaint on that score.

    As for the religious aspect, I don’t really think the state should be funding schools that encourage religious segregation. But as far as I know that’s not against Lib Dem policy.

  • @bcrombie
    I said “a God that someone else believes in” not “The God”, and your original comment stated “that school” as the thread is about a specific Catholic School then clearly you referred to “that God”. As for rational debate surrounding religion, I have heard many including the recent one between Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams. It is perfectly possible to debate something rationally with someone you do not believe has an argument without a rational basis.

    As for telling people they should be less sensitive, why ? we live in a society where we are allowed to have deeply held beliefs. I am sure there will be issues that you feel passionately about that others will care little for. If they are adult in their dealings with you, they will not insult them for childish effect.

  • @Roland
    You would only have him see his children at weekends (which he will have few of as a Minister) and when Parliament is not sitting ? I am far from his biggest fan but surely we can allow everyone a family life…

  • Steve Way

    I did not insult you, in any way.

    You are allowed to believe in what you wish and that is for you and you alone. I am totally for people to believe in what they want.

    I do, however, have the right to challenge their beliefs. Why is me calling something a Sky Fairy so problematic to you? To me that is what this concept is.

    I can tell you I am offended by the illiberal ism of most churches, the blatant sexism, homophobia and greed that is shown. The abuse of power and all in the name of God.

    You belief system to me is no different from your political views and the concept of God is not different in my view to the political concepts of liberalism, communism, capitalism etc. I have seen plenty of here ridicule the strongly held political beliefs of others in far stronger terms than I have.

    I reserve the right to do the same with religious belief when it impinges on the state .

    If the church was disestablished, schools were secular and God played no part in my life then fine. Unfortunately, that is not the case and so I will continue to comment on cases such as this. A school linked to one of the most illiberal institutions in history being legitimised by the state is not to me a liberal concept.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '13 - 12:06am

    bcrombie

    Religion should be taught as part of the curriculum, just as other subjects

    Yes, in other words in the way the state says it should be.

    As to your comments on ‘state view of religion’ I find these quite offensive.

    Well, snap. I find the way you have phrased the points you want to make to be offensive.

    I fail to see where I have suggested indoctrination by the state. Can you tell me where I suggested this and why I am a National Socialist?

    As I have just said, you are insisting that children must be taught the state approved view of religion. I am not saying you are a National Socialist, but I am saying that a desire to impose uniformity on ideological teaching is associated with socialism of the National as well as the Leninist sort.

    Religion is a private matter and not one for the state. Religion should not have any place in state schools apart from a social science subject. What people do in their own time is up to them but I would hope they allow the children to make up their own mind.

    Yes, so would I. However, I think it is inevitable that people will want to bring up their children to have a particular knowledge of their own culture. Jewish parents, for example, are likely to want to bring up their children to know about Jewish history and culture, and to have them involved in various Jewish family practices. Would you call this “indoctrination”?

    Catholic schools do a pretty rubbish job at “indoctrination”. In Catholic circles you will find one of the biggest topics of conversation is the way children of Catholic parents grow up and “lose the faith”. Mostly these schools teach a pretty liberal form of Catholicism. I think this is good, that is a point I was trying to make.

    If you were really interested in taking an objective neutral view on these issues, you would avoid inflammatory and derogatory terms. However, you seem to delight in doing so. You have made your own views on these things clear. That is fine, you are entitled to them. Having taken this position, however, you are not entitled to claim that you are an arbiter on neutrality, that people like you can exercise a fair judgment on what would be fair teaching on these subjects rather than indoctrination into one particular viewpoint.

    It seems to me that the very idea there can be a neutral unbiased position is suspect. Everyone tends to think they are the neutral and unbiased one, and it is everyone else who has a bias. I would prefer to tolerate a variety of views rather than attempt to impose mine as the one everyone should take, or even myself suppose I can be a fair judge on what would be the neutral point.

    By the way, you are a typical Protestant atheist. Your view and attacks on religion are very typical of those who come from a Protestant cultural background.

  • Robert Hamilton 5th Mar '13 - 12:07am

    bcrombieI
    “choose to use Sky Fairy as it is a reasonably accurate definition and I am sorry if those of faith are offended but I think they should be a little less sensitive.”
    Not offended. Amused, perhaps. Disappointed that your god is so vague and like a tooth fairy. Your rationality sounds like positivism. If it is, we can discuss the pro and cons of that. Instead of sky fairy, if you describe god as the ground of our being you will find lots things to discuss about that.

  • Okay I am getting tired of this now

    Matthew Huntbach, my religious views are based on the fact that until something is shown to exist it doesn’t.

    The philosophical side of religion is one thing that is both interesting and engaging. Unfortunately though we have this concept of God and the bible ( for Christianity). To me it is a myth and I have no belief in the Trinity and so I will listen to the philosophical side but when people mention the concept of an omnipotent being and his son then I am completely turned off.

    All I ask is that religion buts out of my life. That is stops trying to play an institutionalised political role and stands on its own . That means no state religion, no state religious schools and no charitable status unless they are a charity and not a cult! I have no desire for a state sanctioned view on religion, I would be quite happy if the state had no view on it at all.

    I still raise the point that the institution of the Catholic Church is corrupt and illiberal. You have not reflected on that point. How can a liberal support that church is beyond me but there you go. If you look though at Ireland that church has been hugely successful at indoctrination for generations and we have seen the effect. I am not so sure it has been as benign as you say.

    My atheism ( or more accurately incredibly sceptical agnosticism) is based on the fact that I have no belief in a God. Nothing to do with Protestantism ( I am not one of those either) but scientific belief in the concept of hypothesis, theory, law and axiom. At the moment God is merely an unproven hypothesis and there, I believe, he will stay.

    The philosophy bit is really interesting

    Robert Hamilton,

    My ‘God’ is not vague but non- existent.

    I am sorry if I offend but to me a religious belief is no more sacrosanct than a political belief and we see many robust political challenges here but with less sensitivity.

  • Julian Critchley 5th Mar '13 - 12:27am

    @tabman

    “its single sex
    – it has a house system, a proper uniform and strictly-enforced discipline
    – it teaches academic subjects and fosters a culture of excellence
    – it has a choir
    – I don’t know for certain, but I would imagine it has prefects and a Head Boy

    Its as far removed from a comprehensive school as you can imagine. ”

    Wow. My school has all those things too. But it’s a comprehensive. There must have been some mistake.

    My tip, as ever, is that if you don’t actually know what you’re talking about, it’s best not to talk about it.

  • @bcrombie
    You ask why using the term sky fairy is insulting. You have no religious faith so a direct comparison is difficult. You mentioned a wife earlier, I imagine you love her and feel passionate about her. I also imagine that if others who had never met her were to use a term to describe her that you, or her, found insulting you would not be happy. You would not care that they were comfortable with term, or that they may not even believe she existed. For some people their belief in God is as tangible as yours in your wife. You disagree, and I would passionately support your right to do so. I do however feel that in some matters we should disagree without insult.

    As for the Roman Catholic Church I have no axe to grind. I find a number of their views questionable and believe their corporate complicity in a number of issues is scandalous.

  • Last word

    Looking back on Matthew’s last post I come to his question on indoctrination. Of course in a mono cultural environment there is a risk of indoctrination. It can be also religious or political. Both are beliefs and as I have said are, to me, very similar.

    In religious families I would say there is a significant percentage where children are indoctrinated. I am sure there will be literature on that and sending them to a school that is defined by its religion will surely not help that. I know people brought up in central Scotland who are still defined by their religion and school even after 30 years. What school did you go to. Oh St Mungo’s that will mean you are a XXX then

    I really fail to understand why we should have state schools defined by religion and linked to a church. Why is secularism such a bad concept. Schools should be politically neutral so,why not religion neutral.

    Matthew, I detect you are someone of faith which is why you clearly are not neutral in this debate. I am not neutral either but from the view of non-belief. Not believing in something is not a belief in itself

  • Steve Way

    The difference is my wife is a person not a belief. She is there. I can see her, speak to her and see her emotions. I am rather offended that you compare my wife. A caring person who I see do,great things with children every day (she is a teacher) with a non proven concept. Offence can cut both ways

    If you want to call her something feel free, you will be able to see her emotions.

    God is a belief I don’t see how I can insult him as I do not believe he exists. If he does give me his number and I will apologise for not believing in him.

    You are proposing that I do not insult your belief. Well I insult lots of people’s beliefs every day. My mate believes Chelsea will win the league and I tell him to stop being silly. I have friends who are Tories who believe in trickle down economics and the Laffer Curve. I disagree with then and challenge their beliefs. Voodoo economics in my view.

    I am sorry that I don’t take you belief particularly seriously. In any way how do you know I was talking about your vision of God. I may be talking about Odin who I assume you do not believe in. I think Valhalla is in the sky as well.

    If you want to criticise my beliefs then feel free. They are just that – a belief

  • Steve Way “You mentioned a wife earlier, I imagine you love her and feel passionate about her. I also imagine that if others who had never met her were to use a term to describe her that you, or her, found insulting you would not be happy. You would not care that they were comfortable with term, or that they may not even believe she existed”

    But presumably his wife is not invisible and her existence can be proved, even if only by showing you their wedding photos – so I think your analogy is a bit far-fetched. If she was invisible, however, and no-one had ever seen her or any evidence of her existence, then people might well say that she was ‘a figment of his imagination’ (which is pretty well what bCrombie is suggesting by the use of the word ‘sky fairy) and some unkind people might even call him a fruitcake or worse. He might even be sectioned, depending on how much he insisted that this invisible wife existed.

  • Thank you Phyllis

    I thought I was on my own in a sea of irrationality tonight!

    I would also like to challenge Steve Way on his view of the Catholic Church. A power abuser, homophobic, misogynistic, torturing, executing , anti-Semitic organisation but no axe to grind because they happen to believe in God to?

  • Paul Pettinger 5th Mar '13 - 12:56am

    @Simon Shaw
    “Are you quite sure about that, Paul?”

    Quite sure.

    @Matthew Huntbach – you seem to be ignoring what is a vital issue for many of us, protecting the autonomy of the child. Should the aim of state funded education about beliefs and values be to inculcate one particular belief system, whether religious or non-religious, or develop pupil’s analytical tools and human sympathies needed to appreciate and understand different beliefs and values, while developing and adhering to their own life-stance? If we followed your train of thought then we would still be voting however our parents did. Should confessional education really be the job of the taxpayer funded school system, rather than civil society? Parents do not have a right the state fund confessional religious teaching or ‘faith’ schools for their children.

  • Julian Critchley “Wow. My school has all those things too. But it’s a comprehensive. There must have been some mistake.

    My tip, as ever, is that if you don’t actually know what you’re talking about, it’s best not to talk about it.”

    Your school – as in where you teach or where you are a current pupil?

    Having been to a comprehensive qualifies me to talk about them. Having parents and friends in the profession of teaching also qualifies me to talk about them. I would suggest your school is in the exception and I doubt it has quite the same attitude amongst all it pupils towards learning and celebrating individual academic achievement than you seem to believe.

  • @ Tabman

    “How many offer competitive matches in sports other than football?”

    All, I remember Hockey, Netball and Rugby as well. There were competitive athletics as well, but it isn’t a “match.”

    “how many teach Latin to A level?”

    None. But then again they don’t teach any subjects to A Level as none of the schools had their own Sixth form, you had to go to different sixth forms or an FE college.

    But if your concern is that the school offers Latin I can’t really take your argument seriously. There seems to be a hatred of Latin from certain quarters (I have never studied it) which I don’t understand. It often comes with a sense of a very nasty brand of reverse snobbery.

    “From what I see of the five schools in my home town, none of them match this description and the one I attended certainly didn’t. It was a graveyard of aspiration.”

    I sense an opportunity for you to volunteer as a governor and sort it out. Solutions are much more satisfying,

  • @brcrombie
    Firstly, when I said I have no axe to grind I meant that I do not support the organisation that is the Catholic Church, I agree they have been at fault for many of the things you list. But individual Catholics are not ALL at fault in the same way that individual English people were not all at fault for our part in the slave trade. Therefore I do not hold that their individual belief in God is the problem.

    For someone of no faith, their close family is about a good an analogy as I could find. To a person of faith their God is as real to them as your wife is to you. That may very well be irrational, but it do not feel that using the language you did was appropriate. My was, and is, that you can make your point rationally without recourse to insult. As to why it was clear it was not Odin, look again at the context and wording of your first comment using the term.

  • Psi – do governors have any real power, or are they just a talking shop? Ultimately schools are constrained by the regulations placed on them by government.

  • Peter Watson 5th Mar '13 - 8:31am

    From this thread and similar discussions in the national media, I get the impression that the only religion in this country is Roman Catholicism and the only faith that people are happy to criticise is christianity. Even Richard Dawkins recently failed to include the god of Islam with his criticisms of the god of Christianity and the god of Judaism.
    Is this lack of consistency due to political correctness or self-preservation?

  • Steve Way

    I never said all Catholics were tarred with that brush. I know many and, like most people, they are good and kind people. So are many of the atheists and secularists I know. Being good is not a monopoly of the religious. The institution though isn’t so benign and it is the institution that is involved in the school and which is a decidedly illiberal organisation..

    I repeat that I find it strange that someone who would define themself as liberal would link themselves to such an organisation (as I would with other churches and political organisations such as the BNP). I am not saying that you are a Catholic (I don’t know) but if you are then surely you are, at least partly, defined by the church of which you are a member?

    As to your second point, I take no responsibility for what people believe in but I defend my right to challenge, and sometimes ridicule it. As I said I could also find offensive that you compare my living wife to a mystical being who doesn’t exist.

    I don’t because I am tolerant and have evidence for my wife’s existence. If you are so confident in your God’s existence be content that I will live out eternity in Hell and ignore me. I try to refrain from insulting people (although I cross that line sometimes) but I will not refrain from mocking concepts, especially those that try to link themselves to the state.

    I also mock the Scientologist concept of Thetans etc. Completely ridiculous but not so much different from the God concept. Scientologists are easier to ignore though becausen they are less involved with the state; in the UK at least.

    It is a bit like the monarchy – I will not personally insult the Queen as she is a person who exists and who I admire to a certain extent, but I will mock the concept of a Monarchy. As you can imagine I am not a fan of ‘God Save the Queen’ – not believing in either institution,

    At the end though, I am engaged with religious philosophy and have respect for some of the teachings from a variety of religions. I have no problem with having that as a moral code and which is why I would never prevent anyone from having religious freedom. I do though have some problems with certain of the institutions.

    Is this illiberal, perhaps in some people’s defintion but I personally see nothing liberal in organised religion

  • Simon – regardless of where I do or don’t live, we all know that the option for selective schooling based on ability is denied the majority of parents who might wish to send their child to such a school. Its only available to those living in a few areas or who can afford to pay fees. Effectively the state has determined that this option should not be available to the majority with the effect as descrobed here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/04/comprehensive-schools-failed-working-class

    It doesn’t strike me as a Liberal approach; if parents really are against selection by ability, then they will choose mixed ability comprehensives over such schools (which is fine). The evidence from counties that still have selection suggests otherwise.

  • @Steve Way
    >but surely we can allow everyone a family life…

    I’m did not say that he was not entitled to a family life. However, by this action he has effectively declared his main family residence to be London and hence I would expect to see this reflected in his future House of Commons expense claims and dealings with HMRC.

  • Julian Critchley 5th Mar '13 - 11:19am

    @tabman

    You need to differentiate between anecdote and evidence. Even the article you quote is simply another anecdote, it’s also rather badly damaged by it’s bizarre claim that more students at Oxford in the 1960s came from state schools than in 2011. This is a classic example of how evidence is ignored by those whose beliefs it contradicts. So, the stats are :

    Year %state school undergrads
    1939 24.2%
    1961 31%
    1990 42%
    2011 58%

    What can be seen is a clear growth in the number of state school pupils at Oxford which has taken place as the number of academically selective schools has declined. Terrible business, evidence. But at least your quoted article author didn’t let such inconveniences as facts stop him. Nor should you.

    So let’s play the anecdote game : I went to a comprehensive too, and I teach in one. One sent me to Oxford, and I send students to Oxford from the other. So all comprehensives, including the ones I don’t know about, are highly academic havens of higher learning, with every child shiny-eyed and keen, and every teacher carries a doctorate. And if anyone points out an exception, then I’ll just say I don’t think it’s representative, and my prejudice (sorry, belief) remains true.

    See, I can do it too !

    The BTL sections of national newspaper are full of people who froth on about how wonderful grammar schools were, and how all comprehensive schools are dens of feral knife-wielding children and useless teachers. They’re talking out of their backsides. I’d expect better from this site, to be honest. The LibDems used to be a party in which rational people used evidence to base their decisions. The concept of faith-based policy-making always had a home elsewhere.

  • @Tabman
    re: selective schooling based on ability
    “Effectively the state has determined that this option should not be available to the majority”

    I think many would also implicate the ‘teaching profession’ in blindly promoting the ‘virtues’ of the comprehensive system over the previous system out of naive political ideology rather than evidence based research into child learning and development.

  • Julian Critchley 5th Mar '13 - 12:16pm

    @roland

    “Tabman
    re: selective schooling based on ability
    “Effectively the state has determined that this option should not be available to the majority””

    Do I have to point out that by definition, the grammar school system could not under any circumstances be offered to the majority ? On the grounds that if the majority were educated in selective schools, then they wouldn’t be selective ? So much ridiculous nonsense written about grammar schools.

    “I think many would also implicate the ‘teaching profession’ in blindly promoting the ‘virtues’ of the comprehensive system over the previous system out of naive political ideology rather than evidence based research into child learning and development.”

    I think many would. Including much of the readership of the Daily Mail, and other fantasist rags. Because lets face it, who’s most likely to know and understand evidence-based research into child learning and development : education professionals who work in the education system and research it, or people who haven’t been inside a school since they were 18, pontificating about how it was all better in their day ? Clearly the latter, in my view.

    So we know, for example, from academic research, that selective schooling has no significant impact on the outcomes for students. There’s lots of evidence out there, but just to point to one, here’s the much-vaunted PISA survey of international education systems, which right-wingers often try to use – inaccurately – to “prove” that British education is always declining. If you have a look at chapter 4, but particularly p54, you’ll find the following :

    “Selective education systems aim to improve the quality of educational outcomes by grouping students of similar academic levels together. Using the mean student performance in reading literacy from PISA 2000 as a measure of quality, Figure 4.6 displays the average realised quality for the three groups of education systems. There are clear differences between the three groups of education systems, but the direction of the relationship is opposite to the one that is usually asserted by proponents of grouping students by level of performance. In the OECD countries, mean performance in reading literacy is highest in systems where 15-year-olds have not yet been selected (517 score points on average) and lowest in countries where selection starts before the age of fourteen (476 score points on average). This difference of 41 score points in the PISA assessment in reading literacy is quite significant.”

    http://www.oecd.org/education/school/programmeforinternationalstudentassessmentpisa/34668095.pdf

    So what PISA discovered is that overall, selection by school has a negative impact on outcomes. This isn’t the only study to show this.

    For a more accessible look at the evidence, have a look at this link from the FT (you need to register, but it’s free)

    http://blogs.ft.com/ftdata/2013/01/28/grammar-school-myths/?infernofullcomment=1&SID=google

    Here, Chris Cook analyses the data from England’s selective regions, and concludes that :

    “Grammar schools are a part of many people’s identities: having won admission to a selective state school plays an important role in the story of their life, especially if they came from a less privileged family. But, as a way to raise standards or to close the gaps between rich and poor, it is hard to find evidence that they are effective.”

    Neither the OECD nor the FT are known for being part of “the teaching profession”, with “naive political ideology”.

    Belief in the efficacy of selective education is just that : belief. It is not evidence-based, but anecdotal. The evidence is really quite clear that systems of selective schooling do not produce better outcomes.

    So, ironically on a thread which largely concerns the role of belief and faith in education, we have unearthed another, equally powerful belief, which is nevertheless as lacking in any evidence base as that of the catholic church.

  • Julian – “lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

    Firstly – can you break down your proportions into 1) Comprehensive, 2) Grammar and 3) Independent, and then reflect Oxford entry as a proportion of these cohorts (eg if grammars represent 10% of all pupils, what is the proportion in Oxford entry terms?)

    Secondly – the number of places at all Universities had increased dramatically over that time frame. It would be interesting to see the actual numbers as well as the relative proportions; I suspect the absolute number of independent pupils has remained similar and the slack has been filled by state schools (and of that 58% in 2011, what proportion came from grammars?)

    Thirdly – I went to Cambridge from a Comprehensive (clearly a more difficult achievement than merely getting into Oxford), but I was extremely fortunate to have pupil/teacher ratios in the 6th form of <10:1. The sixth form has since gone as unviable. The point being that it was a lottery that the school I happened to be at had this provision. Lower in the school was pretty dreadful.

    Fourthly – if you want evidence, you might like to try this: http://www.suttontrust.com/research/evidence-on-the-effects-of-selective-educational-systems/ and many of the other excellent pieces of independent research from the Sutton Trust.

    Thirdly -

  • Julian: http://www.ox.ac.uk/about_the_university/facts_and_figures/undergraduate_admissions_statistics/school_type.html

    AcceptancesTotal % Total %
    Comprehensive 3,359 28.4 703 26.1
    Grammar 1,948 16.5 495 18.4

  • Julian: http://www.ox.ac.uk/about_the_university/facts_and_figures/undergraduate_admissions_statistics/school_type.html

    AcceptancesTotal % Total %
    Comprehensive 3,359 28.4 703 26.1
    Grammar 1,948 16.5 495 18.4

  • Julian – apologies for the double post – what the evidence shows, is that there are 2/3 as many grammar-educated pupils getting into Oxford as Comprehensive-educate pupils (and Independent schools beat both), whereas there at least ten times as many Comprehensive schools as there are Grammars.

    Quod et demonstrandum (as I wasn’t taught at school)

  • Julian “Do I have to point out that by definition, the grammar school system could not under any circumstances be offered to the majority ? On the grounds that if the majority were educated in selective schools, then they wouldn’t be selective ? So much ridiculous nonsense written about grammar schools.”

    You can, but I wouldn’t advise it, because as you well know the point I was making is that the option of trying to enter a selective school is unavailable to most. Those not getting into a selective school have the same option available to them as before. Those denied entry don’t.

  • Julian – “So we know, for example, from academic research, that selective schooling has no significant impact on the outcomes for students. ”

    No – we know from academic research that it does have an effect: http://www.suttontrust.com/research/evidence-on-the-effects-of-selective-educational-systems/

  • Julian – for completeness, here are the equivalent Cambridge stats: http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/publications/docs/admissionsstatistics2011.pdf

    They are in line with Oxford’s.

  • @ bcrombie

    “If the church was disestablished”

    Just for clarity. Incase you were unsure, this is a discussion about a catholic school. The Established church is the Church of England (wich is not a catholic church, if you were unsure).

    I hope that helps.

  • Peter Watson 5th Mar '13 - 1:14pm

    @Tabman
    The report to which you link concludes, “Overall, therefore, we find that although many of our analyses identify a small positive advantage in GCSE achievement for pupils at grammar schools, there are good reasons to be cautious of describing this as a grammar school ‘effect’. At least a part of this difference is likely to be a result of inadequate data and bias in the evaluation designs available to us.” That doesn’t sound like an overwhelming endorsement of selection and segregation by academic ability at 10-11.
    The whole debate also seems to ignore the vast majority of children who do not go to Oxford or Cambridge: what is best for them? And what about those in the middle who fall in the gap between grammar school and secondary modern? I doubt that it is being told at age 11 that they’ve blown their one chance to get on in life.

  • Julian Critchley 5th Mar '13 - 1:15pm

    @tabman

    The pointlessness of noting that grammar schools send proportionately more students to Oxbridge than comprehensives is breathtaking. Of course they do – they’re selective !!! By definition, all of their students are theoretically higher ability, whereas comprehensives are not. It would be a sign of utter failure on the part of grammar schools if they did not send proportionately more students to Oxbridge. Blimey, isn’t that obvious ?

    In addition, you’re making the assumption that the university admissions process (and the decisions of hundreds of thousands of students) are so flawless that the few thousand students who enter Oxford and Cambridge each year are always the best students at the very top of the tree. Do you not concede that it might be possible that there are many thousands more students who don’t apply to Oxford or Cambridge ? Or indeed who don’t get through the interview process ? If one took the Russell Group of universities, would one find that the statistics are rather less skewed ? Or perhaps if one looked at absolute A-level results ?

    In addition, there are barriers to entry which are not ability-related. For example, in some subjects at Oxbridge, state school pupils are a much higher proportion of undergraduates than private school pupils, whereas in other subjects (eg : classics), private/grammar school pupils are a much higher proportion. Is that because each of those classics undergrads is cleverer than every state school student who didn’t go to Oxford, or is it because some courses essentially exclude great tranches of the student population, whereas more competitive courses such as the sciences and humanities, see comprehensive school pupils doing rather better ?

    Finally, you’re citing the Sutton Trust report. Let’s take some quotes from that :

    “Although these analyses indicate that grammar school pupils appear to make greater progress
    from KS2 to KS4 than other pupils, we also find that these same pupils
    were already making more progress from KS1 to KS2 (ie in their primary
    school). This suggests that there may be important but unmeasured
    differences between grammar and non-grammar school pupils and
    somewhat undermines our confidence in these estimates of a ‘grammar
    school effect’ (section 8.4, p220).”

    “Overall, therefore, we find that although many of our analyses identify a
    small positive advantage in GCSE achievement for pupils at grammar
    schools, there are good reasons to be cautious of describing this as a
    grammar school ‘effect’. At least a part of this difference is likely to be a
    result of inadequate data and bias in the evaluation designs available to
    us.”

    “The view that, atleast for certain subjects, learning is best when pupils are grouped by ability
    seems to be widely held by teachers and others, as is evident from the setting
    that takes place within comprehensive schools. The fact that such an
    arrangement can easily be accommodated within a comprehensive school,
    however, somewhat undermines this as an argument for selection into
    different schools at 11. We may also note that despite widespread belief in the
    benefits of setting, it is not a view that is really supported by research
    evidence (Mosteller et al, 1996).”

    There’s a lot more, and it is indeed a good piece of research, but as Inigo Montoya said to Vizzini the dwarf “You know, thees does not mean what I theenk you theenk it means.”

    Here’s something else you may wish to think about. Whenever the grammar school brigade swing into town and start banging on about parental rights, the whole debate is phrased as if all children are higher ability, and all parents will automatically get their child into a grammar school if one is available. Yet most children did not ever go to grammar schools, as you’ve already accepted, selection produces far more loser than winners. Most children will lose. Now if you’re a selfish, Tory sort, then you don’t give a stuff – your child is all that matters and the rest can go hang. But how many times have you ever heard a parent from a lower socio-economic background, with less able children, demanding the return of secondary moderns, so that her child can be educated in a school in which all more able, better supported, more aspirational students have been stripped out ? How many parents campaign for their children to be denied access to more privileged peers who might act as positive peer role models ? Yet the absolute certainty of any return to widespread selection would be this outcome. The evidence that selective systems increase socio-economic differentiation between schools is unchallenged even by grammar school enthusiasts.

    So, any party supporting a return to widespread selection is essentially taking the view that most people don’t count. Most children can be discarded. Only those who already have advantages should be targeted for further advantages. Even if there’s frankly no evidence that this has any significant positive impact.

    Is that the LibDems ?

  • Julian – ” It would be a sign of utter failure on the part of grammar schools if they did not send proportionately more students to Oxbridge. Blimey, isn’t that obvious?”

    Proportionately, yes – but that much better? Given that in the majority of areas (at least 10-1) there aren’t grammar schools to cream off the most able state-educated pupils? I’m not sure you’ve got a good grasp of the numbers here.

    “But how many times have you ever heard a parent from a lower socio-economic background, with less able children, demanding the return of secondary moderns, so that her child can be educated in a school in which all more able, better supported, more aspirational students have been stripped out ? How many parents campaign for their children to be denied access to more privileged peers who might act as positive peer role models ? ”

    This argument is fallacious. The simple fact is that childen from lower socio-economic backgrounds are corralled into schools where the “more able, better supported, more aspirational students have [already] been stripped out” because their parents can afford to live in the catchment areas of better schools. There are no privileged peer role models in these sink schools, and you seem happy to see the more able children from these poor backgrounds abandoned in conditions that are not suited for them, do not respect their diverse needs and aspirations and, ultimately, leave their lives unfulfilled.

    Is that the Lib Dems?

  • Julian – “So, any party supporting a return to widespread selection is essentially taking the view that most people don’t count. Most children can be discarded. Only those who already have advantages should be targeted for further advantages.”

    So, any party opposing a return to widespread selection is essentially taking the view that bright but poor people don’t count. Most of their children can be discarded. Only those who already have the advantage of beign able to afford to live in affluent catchment areas should be targeted for further advantages.

  • Peter – “And what about those in the middle who fall in the gap between grammar school and secondary modern? I doubt that it is being told at age 11 that they’ve blown their one chance to get on in life.”

    So simple to fix:

    - different types of schools that cater for different specialisms
    - annual or biennial testing to allow transfers for late developers/those finding the pace too much/changed their mind

    Easy.

  • Julian – “Now if you’re a selfish, Tory sort, then you don’t give a stuff – your child is all that matters and the rest can go hang”

    Indeed – grammar schools were abolished by the affluent middle class who didn’t like poorer children taking “their” places at nice schools. They’re quite happy with the present status quo where they can buy their way into the best catchments. A position you seem quite happy to support. Now, who’s the selfish Tory?

  • Julian Critchley 5th Mar '13 - 2:03pm

    @tabman

    Your zealotry for selective education is noted, but you’re simply making assertions. Grammar schools are not a means of social mobility. Their intakes in areas where they remain include far fewer pupils from lower-socio-economic groups than other schools. The idea that by reinsttaing nationwide selection, you’d help poor-but-bright children is simply unfounded. The evidence from where grammars exist, and from the period in which they existed more widely, is that the reverse is the case. Grammar schools make it less likely that poorer children will mix with more affluent children, whatever their ability.

    “So, any party opposing a return to widespread selection is essentially taking the view that bright but poor people don’t count. ”

    No, because the great majority of students at university went to comprehensive schools. The majority of students at Oxbridge went to state schools. There are thousands of students every year who go to comprehensives and go on to top universities with straight A grades and fulfilling careers to come. You talk, on the other hand, as if this is not happening, and only grammar schools can make it happen. It IS happening. It happens. The students exist. They are real. This idea that somehow poor-but-bright students are failed by the comprehensive system is simply nonsense. Anecdote. Assertion. Even your own anecdote is that you managed to get to the second best university in the country from a comprehensive you use to support the argument that comprehensives everywhere don’t work. This isn’t a logical line of argument. It is, I’m afraid, a nonsense.

    You’re also falling for part of the Big Lie about the way state educaton is presented in the media. The fact is that London education is different from most everywhere else. In certain parts of London, you do get selection-by-house-price. That’s certainly true. As a result, some comprehensives are de facto grammars, while others are de facto secondary moderns. This is why, in part, some London schools struggle with very high levels of FSM, EAL and SEN. However, to extrapolate from this to the failure of the comprehensive system is bizarre at best. In much of the rest of the country, children go to their nearest comprehensive with none of the angst or nonsense which takes place in London. In fact, in much of the country, the real discriminating factors are religious, and have nothing to do with quality of education at all. Yet even to impose an unevidenced selective system on London would merely cement in place social divisions which have emerged through marketisation, while creating those unhelpful divisions in places where they don’t exist at this time. Where’s the benefit ?

    I’m sorry, but you have elevated a belief in selection based on anecdotal experience, into a faith which is not supported by the evidence. I’ll return to that dastardly lefty, Chris Cook for my concluding comment on this :

    “Grammar schools are a part of many people’s identities: having won admission to a selective state school plays an important role in the story of their life, especially if they came from a less privileged family. But, as a way to raise standards or to close the gaps between rich and poor, it is hard to find evidence that they are effective.”

  • @Julian

    I think you are actually arguing for selection, however, not the simple one-off pass/fail of the 11-plus and the old grammar, comprehensive, secondary modern rigid banding of schools, but a more nuanced approach within a single school or federation.

  • Julian – by definition the majority of University students will be comprehensive educated – we have nearly 50% of each cohort at University, after all. But the competition for the best Universities is disproportionately dominated by the selectively educated – and this is the key to unlocking future success. Go and look at the tops of professions, FTSE companies, Government, the media etc and I will show you a near monopoly by the selectively educated. Competition for places earlier in life is bred into these children and by the time they leave University they leave those who haven’t been forged in this crucible way behind. The ONLY time this hegemony was challenged was in the last 20 years as the grammar school cohorts of the 50s and 60s came through. Their time has now passed and we are back to domination by the privately-educated.

    If that’s the sort of world you want to live in, one where privelege is ossified into a self-perpetuating elite who can afford it, then fine. But its not one I want to live in.

    “second best University”: http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/league-tables/rankings

    2013
    1 Cambridge 593 4.2 2.98 84.4 1000
    2 London School of Economics 526 4.0 2.96 87.8 996
    3 Oxford 572 4.2 2.96 79.8 995

  • Simon – thames valley

  • Julian “You’re also falling for part of the Big Lie about the way state educaton is presented in the media. The fact is that London education is different from most everywhere else. In certain parts of London, you do get selection-by-house-price. That’s certainly true. As a result, some comprehensives are de facto grammars, while others are de facto secondary moderns. ”

    This is true in any locality that has two or more schools. Its not just London.

  • Re: Faith schools

    We’re starting out on the initial secondary school review and short listing process and the thing that got me about our local state-supported ‘faith’ school was that the criteria was all about the parent’s faith and practise (and it being within certain established mainstream norm’s) and not the child’s.

  • Julian “Their intakes in areas *where they remain* include far fewer pupils from lower-socio-economic groups than other schools. ”

    And therein lies the problem (my highlight). Because so few of them remain, they select from a far wider catchment than if every locality had a grammar school. As a result, children travel from up to 30 miles away for such schools meaning that only one or two children form a primary school class get in as opposed to the 10 or so you would expect. That is a problem of created by there being too few grammars.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '13 - 3:55pm

    bcrombie

    In religious families I would say there is a significant percentage where children are indoctrinated. I am sure there will be literature on that and sending them to a school that is defined by its religion will surely not help that. I know people brought up in central Scotland who are still defined by their religion and school even after 30 years. What school did you go to. Oh St Mungo’s that will mean you are a XXX then

    Yes, but to what extent is this really a matter of religious belief and/or practice rather than just tribalism?

    As I have already said, the majority of overtly religious schools in this country are Catholic (and by “this country” I mean England, since it is my country and I appreciate things are different in Scotland which is a different country I don’t have much familiarity with). So if what you were saying held, one would find large numbers of extremist indoctrinated Catholics around. One doesn’t. Not even in Catholic churches, where I find the sort of extremist head-banger type is a small minority. So it seems to me the system of Catholic religious education we have in this country has actually worked to create a liberal integrated Catholic community. Whereas it seems to me the approach to religious education that you are advocating is how it is done in the Muslim community and in the Evangelical/Pentecostal community, and has resulted in more extremist and isolationists tendencies developing.

  • @Psi
    “wich is not a catholic church, if you were unsure”

    The C of E is very much a catholic church. See, for example, the Nicene creed of the C of E: “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '13 - 4:19pm

    Paul Pettinger

    @Matthew Huntbach – you seem to be ignoring what is a vital issue for many of us, protecting the autonomy of the child. Should the aim of state funded education about beliefs and values be to inculcate one particular belief system, whether religious or non-religious, or develop pupil’s analytical tools and human sympathies needed to appreciate and understand different beliefs and values, while developing and adhering to their own life-stance? If we followed your train of thought then we would still be voting however our parents did. Should confessional education really be the job of the taxpayer funded school system, rather than civil society? Parents do not have a right the state fund confessional religious teaching or ‘faith’ schools for their children.

    Does the state have the right to break the agreement made with the Catholic Church here many years ago, when in effect it agreed to take over the schools that had been built up by the donations of the Catholic community in return for a degree of autonomy in the way those schools are run?

    I agree there is an issue, but I think there are two sides to this issue. To what extent should the state have the right to force its own ideas on children? Let’s take one extreme – I’m not saying anyone is advocating this here, it’s just pushing the line that is being advocated to its extreme – the state snatches children away from their parents at birth, sends them to be taught in state education camps, which the state says are guaranteed to deliver a fair education in which all is considered equally and objectively, people like bcrombie in charge to make sure of that – and when they reach adulthood they are let out and are free to chose. One could say this is the only way to guarantee the autonomy of the child because otherwise how can we know what biased opinions the child is getting from his or her parents?

    I have put it in terms of Judaism because there are historical reasons to be sensitive about this. Should Jewish parents
    be banned from bringing up their children in the Jewish faith on the grounds that interferes with those children’s rights to autonomy? Should there be police bashing down doors at Passover to make sure no children are being “indoctrinated” by being made to attend Seder meals?

    If you accept it would be wrong to do this, then the line you have put has already crumbled, and we are quibbling about details.

    As I have already said, Catholic state schools are not funded any more than other state schools, in fact they are funded less as the Catholic Church has to pay a portion of capital expenditure. So your claim that there is state funding of religious education is wrong because there is no extra funding. There is no extra money that would not be spent were there not the religious aspect. If the religious teaching were done at the expense of other teaching, then those schools would perform worse than other schools, and you would say more fool the parents for sending their children to schools that waste their time on this stuff.

    You and others may be shocked that I dare stand up and put the other side to what you were saying, to the smug consensus that was being pushed here. Well, tough, if you don’t like hearing both sides of an argument, don’t call yourselves “liberals” because you are not deserving of that name if you can’t stand the thought of someone disagreeing with you and actually arguing against you.

  • Julian Critchley 5th Mar '13 - 5:03pm

    @tabman

    I’ve given up. I think I’d have more success persuading someone to abandon their religious beliefs.

    @Roland

    I’m not arguing for selection at all. I think there’s certainly scope in some subjects for streaming, especially in primary schools, where it happens least due to logistical issues. But as a teacher, I’ve seen very real advantages to students of all abilities from mixed ability classes at KS4 and KS5, and there is evidence to support that which I find persuasive. A lot depends on individual children in a certain cohort, and whether the ability issues in question come along with behavioural issues (grammar school apologists usually conflate the two, but there are plenty of perfectly-behaved low-abiilty students and disruptive high-ability students). It;s important to note that what works for one cohort may not work for the next, if it has a different range of abilities or a different make-up of characters.

    What there absolutely is no case for is social apartheid, in which more able, more affluent children are physically and institutionally separated from their less able, less affluent peers. I’d never argue for that.

    Like most people who work in education (as opposed to those who pontificate about it), I take the view that in any institution which deals with children, one has to be flexible about how one approaches things, and open-minded about evidence, even where that evidence conflicts with personal prejudices or anecdotal “common sense”.

  • psi

    I am perfectly aware that the Established church is the CoE. The fact is though that a Catholic school is still linked to the state and it is that which is the issue.

    Religions are at perfect liberty to do what they want within the law (and that should include equality law by the way) but should be no more part of the state than the Communist Party, the Tories or the LD should be.

    Matthew Huntbach

    Is your argument that we should have faith schools to stop religious types becoming fundamentalists? A rather strange reason. Perhaps we should have Communist schools to stop them becoming like Stalin!

    I have yet to see a good argument as to why religion and the state have to be so entwined

  • Julian – “I’ve given up”

    That’s a shame, we’ve barely started! And you still haven’t come up with a convincing refutation of why the current “selection by house price or by school fees” oligopoly should be allowed to continue.

    You’re rather reinforcing my sterotypes about Oxonians :)

  • Julian “What there absolutely is no case for is social apartheid, in which more able, more affluent children are physically and institutionally separated from their less able, less affluent peers. I’d never argue for that.”

    You don’t need to argue for it – its already happened!!!!! An if you abolished private schools tomorrow I predict the house prices around Eton would hit stratospheric levels.

    With selection solely based on academic ability you would at least go some way towards levelling the very tilted playing field we have currently.

    “but there are plenty of perfectly-behaved low-abiilty students and disruptive high-ability students”

    Yes. Usully because they’re bored to death in a mixed ability class where the teacher spends all their time helping the less able kids, whilst the more able ones teach themselves (or get disruptive sue to lack of stimulus).

  • @Julian

    To me selection (on academic ability) and streaming within a school are pretty much the same thing – at my secondary school a selection process determined which stream pupils initially got placed into and then over a 1~2 years there was a steady flow of pupils between streams, so a few terms before the end of KS3 pupils pretty much knew whether they were going to be doing O-level or CSE’s in their core subjects.

    >I’ve seen very real advantages to students of all abilities from mixed ability classes at KS4 and KS5
    I must admit I’m sceptical (particularly with respect to KS5), even though two of my subject classes consisted of both O-level and CSE students, which didn’t seem to stop me from gettings A’s.

    “What there absolutely is no case for is social apartheid, in which more able, more affluent children are physically and institutionally separated from their less able, less affluent peers.”

    I would remove the references to ability, as this really has little to do with it (and the point is better made), although with the league tables the private sector has become much more interested in keeping the more able’d children rather than just those on full fee’s. Some of the research based findings of Dr’s. Christakis and Fowler presented in their book “Connected” make interesting reading in this (social apartheid) context.

  • Julian Critchley 5th Mar '13 - 9:04pm

    @Roland

    “To me selection (on academic ability) and streaming within a school are pretty much the same thing”

    They’re really not. Streaming might involve students being grouped together in certain ways, but that has to happen anyway – most classrooms can only fit 30, and students will know and befriend a lot more students than those of them in any given class. At breaktimes, at form time, during non-streamed lessons, students will mix and associate. Selection into separate schools is the physical separation of more affluent and more able students from less affluent and less able students. That’s a huge difference. My top academic students have schoolfriends who are from very different backgrounds and have very different abilities.As a result, they understand each other, and to a certain extent empathise with each other. The lower ability students know full well that there are higher ability students around, but they don’t see that as a condemnation of them as failures (not least because the school works quite hard to try and provide more meaningful, useful practical courses for them to follow – or did, until Gove’s blooming Ebacc). To separate them into a different school, literally telling them “you’re not good enough to even go to the same building, or worthy of the same teachers, as those kids over there”, is just obscene.

    I guess that explains two things : firstly why you don’t get many adults waxing lyrical about ow great it was to go to a secondary modern; and secondly, when we hear people who did go to grammar school talking about those who didn’t, and wouldn’t today, as if they’re a separate species, with no understanding of them and their lives and issues at all. Well why would they understand them if they didn’t go to the same school ? You can trace a lot of the appalling policies of the Tory party back to the fact that most of these jokers never spent any time with people less privileged than themselves in those formative years. As a result, they are oftencontemptuous of those whose lives may not be as gilded as their own. God forbid the LibDems should ever support policies which make such segregation more, rather than less, likely.

  • Julian “At breaktimes, at form time, during non-streamed lessons, students will mix and associate.”

    Who are these students you’re talking of? What happened to the pupils? No matter – I think you underestimate the degree of self-segregation that goes on.

    “firstly why you don’t get many adults waxing lyrical about ow great it was to go to a secondary modern; ”

    You certainly don’t get many adults waxing lyrical about how great it was to go to a Comprehensive.

    “no understanding of them and their lives and issues at all. Well why would they understand them if they didn’t go to the same school ? ”

    Why would they understnad them if they do go to the same school? And what about those who don’t “fit in”, because they’re interested in art or literature or poetry or maths or science, who are labelled a swat and have their dreams and aspirations crushed? Who are unable to express themselves because of the pervasive, stifling anti-intellectualism of the average comprehensive?

  • @Julian, I agree with you mostly, except that mixed ability classes in comprehensives are a policy that makes segregation (i.e. parents pulling kids out of the whole school) more not less likely to happen.

    @others
    The reason why religion is incompatible with education (and I mean actual education rather than the zero-sum game of coaching kids to beat other kids in exams) is that in every other subject, whether science or social science, positions have to be backed up with argumentation from evidence – not with faith or canned answers. No religious school can teach this kind of mental discipline and add the rider “with the exception of religion”, so the temptation not to teach that kind of mental discipline is overwhelming.

    It is mentioned earlier that religious worship is compulsory at the Oratory. So what is actually supposed to happen if a pupil gets to the age of 15 says “You know what, thanks to the critical thinking skills I have acquired here in this school, I have realised that there is no more reason to believe in the Catholic god than in any other current, historical or future gods believed in around the world, and I was previously a Catholic simply because most other people around me, particularly in my family, were Catholics.” ? Is the reply of the school: “Well sorry, but religious worship is compulsory here, so you have to either go through the motions or restart your GCSEs elsewhere?” If that isn’t the reply then what does “compulsory” mean?

    By the way, I don’t consider any of this to be the biggest problem in the school system, it’s just the topic everyone is talking about today.

  • Richard S – do mixed ability classes still happen? Has nothing been learned in the last 40 years?

  • @Julian

    Just to correct a possible misunderstanding, the context I was using for comparing selection and streaming was within a single school/campus. Yes I agree selection pupils into different schools is very different to streaming within a school or between schools on a shared campus.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '13 - 11:14pm

    Richard S

    The reason why religion is incompatible with education (and I mean actual education rather than the zero-sum game of coaching kids to beat other kids in exams) is that in every other subject, whether science or social science, positions have to be backed up with argumentation from evidence – not with faith or canned answers

    Well, we’d better ban poetry, art, literature, etc then.

    Much of what is being said about Catholicism is here is rather like an argument about the Liberal Democrats based on what people know about the party from reading the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and THE Sun. Indeed, being a Liberal Democrat and being a Catholic feel much the same right now – one grumbles at the leadership, feels they are going down the wrong path at times, but in the end it;s one’s tribe, the sense of community and common purpose when mixing with one’s fellow members is good, and one is FED UP TO THE BACK TEETH at the way coverage of the organisation in the media is ignorant and always biased to the most negative interpretation it can find of everything it says and does. Except that there is rather more freedom to do one’s own thing in the Catholic Church. And its leader has just resigned …

  • @brcrombie @bazsc (as you seem to be interchangeable)

    I never said good was exclusive to religious people, I have seen good and bad in those of all beliefs and none. I am not associating myself with the Roman Catholic Church, I abhor some of their activities and if you search through this site you will find me critical of their approach to many issues, most recently equal marriage which I enthusiastically support. I did not compare your wife to any deity, I used an analogy to show that different people hold different people, entities, beliefs to be sacrosanct. If you ignore the straw men you have set up and go back to my one and only point which was your use of a term that was derogatory and unneeded and therefore only there for the effect of insult.

    I also do not believe in the continuance of the established Church or any form of compulsory worship, But I would play the ball not the man and take issue with the organisation, and it’s involvement in education not the honestly and deeply held beliefs of the many Roman Catholics.

  • Paul Pettinger 5th Mar '13 - 11:58pm

    @Matthew Huntbach

    “Does the state have the right to break the agreement made with the Catholic Church here many years ago, when in effect it agreed to take over the schools that had been built up by the donations of the Catholic community in return for a degree of autonomy in the way those schools are run?”

    Why can’t faith schools provide confessional RE outside of the normal curriculum, for those parents (and children of sufficient maturity to decide for themselves) who want it, but only once it is sure that pupils receive RE that teaches them about the range of life stances held in the society they live in?

    “I agree there is an issue, but I think there are two sides to this issue. To what extent should the state have the right to force its own ideas on children?”

    I am talking about the state respecting the autonomy of children and not aiding in inculcating particular life stances, not the state trying to prevent parents inculcating belief in their children.

    “Let’s take one extreme – I’m not saying anyone is advocating this here, it’s just pushing the line that is being advocated to its extreme – the state snatches children away from their parents at birth, sends them to be taught in state education camps, which the state says are guaranteed to deliver a fair education in which all is considered equally and objectively, people like bcrombie in charge to make sure of that – and when they reach adulthood they are let out and are free to chose. One could say this is the only way to guarantee the autonomy of the child because otherwise how can we know what biased opinions the child is getting from his or her parents?”

    I think an education probably should challenge ways of thinking that may be held in the home and put forward by popular culture, but am not taking about the state trying to prevent parents inculcating belief in their children.

    “I have put it in terms of Judaism because there are historical reasons to be sensitive about this. Should Jewish parents be banned from bringing up their children in the Jewish faith on the grounds that interferes with those children’s rights to autonomy? Should there be police bashing down doors at Passover to make sure no children are being “indoctrinated” by being made to attend Seder meals?”

    That would be illegal as parents have an explicit right in the European Convention of Human Rights to bring up their children in the religion or belief of their choice without interference from the state.

    “If you accept it would be wrong to do this, then the line you have put has already crumbled, and we are quibbling about details.”

    No it hasn’t. I am talking about whether the state should help in inculcating particular belief systems in its young people, not about parents or religion or belief groups doing so.

    “As I have already said, Catholic state schools are not funded any more than other state schools, in fact they are funded less as the Catholic Church has to pay a portion of capital expenditure. So your claim that there is state funding of religious education is wrong because there is no extra funding.”

    I didn’t state that there was extra funding for faith schools, and faith schools do not have to pay for any provision of confessional RE, so confessional RE is state funded. The faith school sector also meets less than 1% of its costs.

    “There is no extra money that would not be spent were there not the religious aspect. If the religious teaching were done at the expense of other teaching, then those schools would perform worse than other schools, and you would say more fool the parents for sending their children to schools that waste their time on this stuff.”

    Pupils can take RE GCSEs that compliment confessional teaching.

    “You and others may be shocked that I dare stand up and put the other side to what you were saying, to the smug consensus that was being pushed here.”

    I wasn’t shocked.

    “Well, tough, if you don’t like hearing both sides of an argument, don’t call yourselves “liberals””

    I wasn’t offended.

    “because you are not deserving of that name if you can’t stand the thought of someone disagreeing with you and actually arguing against you.”

    I wasn’t shocked or offended.

  • Roland – we already have selection. Its just not performed by the school, but by parents with their housing choices and the knock on effects into the housing market.

    Surely it would be better to make the process open and transparent and, more importantly, accessible to those who’s parents don’t have the wherewithall to afford to move into catchment? And, more importantly, to enable the less affluent to challenge the near-monopoly on the top positions in Universities and many professions held by the privately educated?

  • Matthew Huntbach Much of what is being said about Catholicism is here is rather like an argument about the Liberal Democrats based on what people know about the party from reading the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and THE Sun.

    Ok, so enlighten us then:
    Would you be able to stand in front of the class and teach them that when searching for the truth, questions have to be answered dispassionately without regard for personal feeling about what we want to be true, and say “but religion is an exception”? How would you run a lesson looking objectively and dispassionately at the evidence for and against the existence of god – at which the conclusion was fixed in advance because compulsory prayers are the next thing on the timetable? Or would you avoid any mention of critical thinking at all? Isn’t critical thinking the basis of any kind of education other than the parroting kind? If you would teach critical thinking skills, but with religion as an exception, then I would say that the inherent contradictions in your approach would be only too obvious to the students, which probably explains why you have a big problem with people losing the faith (as do other churches).

    To put it another way, why is “because Joe Bloggs has faith that the theory that the dinosaurs were killed by meteors is correct” a less valid argument in Catholic schools than “because John Bloggs has faith in the nicene creed”? Given that both the beliefs are intended to be true generally (i.e. they are not claimed to be part of some DIY personal truth, they are claimed to objectively true), why should they become more true when “Joe/John Bloggs” is replaced by the word “I”? By what means is that explained to the students in the Catholic teaching methods of what you describe as your tribe? Ok, I admit that I am uninformed about Catholic schools. Please inform me/us.

    How would you deal with a student who refused to worship as he no longer believed in God? Were we not informed above that worship is compulsory at the Oratory school, and presumably other many Catholic schools? Please inform us.

    With poetry, art and literature (and also foreign languages) students are learning a skill through exercising it and getting advice and feedback on their efforts – however that feedback is itself based on some kind of objective facts, such as “the French verb aller is irregular”, “Those two words don’t rhyme”, “You can get more control if you hold the brush like this”, “I have heard that simile used 100 times before, it’s a cliche”. If you mean those things as fields of study (i.e. learning about other people’s poems, paintings and books), then it is evidence based not feeling-based, albeit on incomplete evidence often – for example the proposition that “Shakespeare wrote Macbeth to be performed in front of Elizabeth I” is false, even if you may have faith that it’s true.

  • Matthew Hutbach

    You seem to be putting words into other people’s mouths here.

    I have never said that the state should intervene in the religious upbringing of children. I think you will probably find that I am more tolerant of people’s religion than religious people are to those of another religion to be honest.

    What I object to though is religion having a ‘special place’ in the state. They are seemingly automatically given cheritable status, are exempt from equality rules and can influenece the teaching of children within the state sector.

    If the concentrate themselves on trying to convince people to believe in God then that is up to them, or Thetans or whatever they want.

    Are you denying that the Catholic Church is a patriarchal organisation? Can you show me the female members who are voting for the new Pope this week? Are they pro-choice, tolerant of homosexuals,? I think we know the answer to that. Is such an organisation suitable to be involved in the upbringing of children santioned by the state?

    Steve Way,

    I didn’t play the man, I played the unprovable figment of someone’s imagination – different I think!

  • Steve Way “your use of a term that was derogatory and unneeded and therefore only there for the effect of insult.”

    I understand your position absolutely but I have a great concern about individuals being told they cannot ‘insult’ a religion. You see, I remember the fatwa being issued against Salman Rushdie for insulting a religion and his books being burnt etc. I remember Christians being offended by The Life of Brian and other films.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '13 - 10:10am

    Richard S

    Would you be able to stand in front of the class and teach them that when searching for the truth, questions have to be answered dispassionately without regard for personal feeling about what we want to be true, and say “but religion is an exception”?

    Well, I would be able to do that, but it is not what I would do. Nor is it actually what religious education in Catholic schools tends to do.

    How would you run a lesson looking objectively and dispassionately at the evidence for and against the existence of god – at which the conclusion was fixed in advance because compulsory prayers are the next thing on the timetable?

    Very easily. One can talk about prayers as a cultural experience. One can talk about God as a cultural construction and prayer as a way we adjust our own minds towards troubling things. If one does not experience such things how is one to know about them and how they feel?

    Or would you avoid any mention of critical thinking at all?

    No, see above. Discussions on these lines are commonplace in Catholic theology.

    Isn’t critical thinking the basis of any kind of education other than the parroting kind?

    Yes. I would regard it as essential in religious education.

    If you would teach critical thinking skills, but with religion as an exception,

    But I wouldn’t.

    then I would say that the inherent contradictions in your approach would be only too obvious to the students, which probably explains why you have a big problem with people losing the faith (as do other churches).

    Teenagers, of course, knowing everything, and having a greater store of wisdom than generations of philosophers.

    I should hope that whatever happens to them they would be better people for having had an insight and experience of a different sort of manufactured god than the gods of what is today’s modern religion, the cult of celebrity, and its priesthood of PR people and money-men instilling in us that the greatest virtues are elf-promotion and greed, and we must bow in adoration to those icons they put in front of us in the mass media. That is, that the study of a different set of cultural values and practices from those that are now dominant in our society may aid them to a little more critical thinking about those values and practices than I observe in most teenagers.

    Now I think you very much illustrate my point, since the lines you are putting are so full of suppositions which simply are not true, and reveal very much that your attitudes on these issues are based mostly on prejudice and ignorance.
    You may be surprised to find that religious education in Catholic Schools these days is not learning the Penny Catechism parrot fashion, and actually involves a great deal of critical thinking.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '13 - 10:25am

    Phyllis

    Steve Way “your use of a term that was derogatory and unneeded and therefore only there for the effect of insult.”

    I understand your position absolutely but I have a great concern about individuals being told they cannot ‘insult’ a religion.

    I am not saying that, andI don’t think Steve is. The point Steve is making, and I agree with him, is that the arguments here from the anti-religion side seem to be made more on the basis of taking pleasure from saying things they think will be insulting than arguing one’s case in a liberal way. At the heart of my liberalism is the idea that one must respect all people, which does not mean one musty agree with them; one must value open discussion, but that discussion must be on the basis that one makes some effort to understand the position of the person one is arguing against rather than dismiss them without bothering to t ry and see things from their side or make some attempt to check the realities rather than relying on one’s own prejudices.

    I remember Christians being offended by The Life of Brian and other films.

    I think it would be useful to have added here “some” in front of “Christians”. Personally I don’t even like using the word “Christian” because of the way it has been hijacked by the Protestant evangelicals, so that people who have no knowledge of the great variety of things and people that come under that label just suppose anyone who is a “Christian” falls into that sort of belief and practice and attitude.

    In fact Life of Brian is a great philosophical work, underneath the humour it’s very thoughtful. It would be a good film to show in a religious education class and have a discussion afterwards on some of the issues it raises.

  • @Matthew Huntbach,

    In which case how does religious education in Catholic schools differ from Religious Education in secular schools, which also teach RE basically as a branch of anthropology rather than philosophy?

    Also, you don’t answer the question of what a school with compulsory prayers is supposed to do with students who refuse to take part. Would they potentially have to restart their GCSEs at a secular school? If so then it is hard to justify state funding of religious schools.

    “Teenagers, of course, knowing everything, and having a greater store of wisdom than generations of philosophers.” – That is just an appeal to authority rather than an argument. I certainly hope that the products of critical thinking training at Catholic and other schools would reject it.

    I agree about vacuous mainstream celebrity culture, although I wouldn’t see it as a religion – nor as especially threatening given that the main conduits for it, TV and newspapers, are in steady decline.

  • Matthew

    You seem to be coming from the premise that I am anti-religion.

    I am not – I think religion and belief is part of the human make-up. It is a philosiphical concept though and I would not differentiate it completelyfrom political views. I am a liberal left-winger who has certain beliefs in what society should look like that are completely different from a conservative right-winger.

    The issue is religion is not just your own personal belief. In the case of most churches, the Catholic being a good example, they are strong political organisations who focus on power.

    Also, the churches themselves follow a certain belief – and I am sorry to say this is often at the detriment of women and homosexuals. As a liberal I find any involvement of thes church in the state to which I belong wrong!

    I also find it difficult to understand this concept of insulting religion. This is based on me calling God a ‘Sky Fairy’ – well I have taken his name in vain probably but as an insult I think it is a pretty mild one.

    I have been called far worse on here and I am a real person rather than a supernatural being for whom their is no proof of existence. I am sorry if you are offended but us atheuists have had quite a hard time from religion in the past and, in some countries even now, we see the real impact of persecution of the non-religious or those of different faiths

    Perhaps instead of taking offence at puerile comments that I make, focus on ensuring your religion matches good intent with good liberal values

    We could start by calling for all religions to be subject to the equality act and not be able to discriminate on the basis of race, gender and sexual inclination (perhaps we can accept that they can be biased on the suject of religion but then that should exclude them from being involved in state schools etc)

  • Me: “If you would teach critical thinking skills, but with religion as an exception,”

    MH “But I wouldn’t.”

    So then ‘liberal’ Catholic Education would include training in the concept that individual faith is not a valid means to determine general truth, including about religion? In which case why have separate schools? How do they differ? What does it mean to say such schools are part of bringing up children in the faith?

  • Matthew Huntbach – you make a very good point about Life of Brian but you see this is a film which sets out to be “irreverent’ , to ‘ insult one third of the world’ (Christians). There is absolutely no doubt it sets out to offend – many people said ‘gratuitously ‘ . So this is no different from what you are accusing Brombie of doing, in my view.

    39 local authorities imposed an outright ban on it and the BBC and ITV would not show it for fear of offending (some?) Christians. Cinemas in New York were picketed and bless her even Mary Whitehouse wanted it banned. So I come back to my original point.

  • To be plain, I have never said people should be banned from insulting religion, I would fight against any such rule / law. What I said is that it is childish to do so in any debate. Free speech is important, but if you cannot go through life objecting without insulting you allow the debate to descend to the childish manner of the playground.

    I am not a Muslim, but out of respect I took my shoes off and followed the other norms when visiting a Mosque, I visited St Marks Basilica in Venice with some friends who are at most agnostic if not atheists, but the lady covered her bare arms to respect those whom worship there.

    It is not illiberal to show respect for peoples views where you do not share them, it is the behaviour of well mannered adults. That does not extend to supporting the organisation that is the Roman Catholic Church (or any other religious group) when it fails to act in a reasonable and responsible way.

  • Steve Way

    you are comparing apples with pears

    If I choose to visit a place of worship, I will respect the rules that allow me to enter. If I do not or cannot accept them (ie perhaps there is a rule that my wife would not be able to enter) then I will not go in.

    I wouldn’t dream of forcing my views on them in their place of worship.

    It is a little different, however, on a forum when I described a non-specific concept in terms I feel are appropriate to the concept. I do not see how I can insult a concept as if it was a real person – really I can’t.

    Do you believe like me, that all churches and religions should be subject to equality law interms of race, gender and sexual orientation?

  • @Tabman
    “we already have selection. Its just not performed by the school, but by parents with their housing choices and the knock on effects into the housing market.”

    Which came first the ‘good’ school or the expensive housing?

    Yes we already have various forms of selection (of which academic ability is probably the most visible and easily measured) and parents will always flock to well regarded and desirable schools.

  • Roland “Which came first the ‘good’ school or the expensive housing?”

    Well – its clearly a chicken and egg question, but the net effect is that in some cities (such as where I live, for example), very similar houses in terms of build quality, age, size etc will have huge price differentials (2-3 times) related to the school that they feed into.

    We end up with positive and negative reinforcement effects on house prices that mean, ultimately, that the less well off are priced out of “good” schools.

  • Bcrombie and Steve Way – ok one of you calls God a Sky Fairy and the other calls you childish and bad-mannered. Can we call it quits now? ;)

  • Yeh

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '13 - 1:58pm

    Richard S

    In which case how does religious education in Catholic schools differ from Religious Education in secular schools, which also teach RE basically as a branch of anthropology rather than philosophy?

    Clearly it is given with a particular emphasis on explaining and experiencing the Catholic viewpoint, rather than equal coverage of all religious viewpoints. In my experience, however, it is not done in a way that is insulting or derogatory to other religions. Indeed in many cases Muslims are keen to get their kids into Catholic schools because they feel the coverage of religion in these schools is more supportive of their culture than the coverage in secular schools.

    Also, you don’t answer the question of what a school with compulsory prayers is supposed to do with students who refuse to take part. Would they potentially have to restart their GCSEs at a secular school? If so then it is hard to justify state funding of religious schools

    I hated sports at school but was made to attend compulsory sports days. I hated English literature, but was made to attend compulsory English literature classes. Actually I am glad I was made to attend the English literature classes, now I am older and more mature I appreciate that sort of thing much more than I did as a geeky teenager. I still hate sports, mind you.

    Look, I’m not coming here to defend every aspect of the Catholic Church or everything every Catholic school does. As it happens in the Catholic schools I’m aware of there are facilities for these who do not want to attend liturgy not to do so. I only looked at this thread because I had contributed to an earlier thread about the possibility of Clegg sending his children to a private fee-paying school, and was interested from the title of this one to see he had decided not to.

    However, when I looked at it I was, to be honest, quite appalled at the anti-Catholic mentality that was being displayed here. I don’t mean disagreement with the position and practice of the Catholic Church, but rather views being expressed as if they were unarguable facts which I know from my own experience are very arguable, views which I knew to be based on prejudice and ignorance rather than knowledge. The account of how religious education is given in schools by so many contributors here was form my direct experience VERY different from how it actually is. The supposition about what motivates people who have a religious practice and how they think of that religious practice was also VERY different from the reality of how it is for most such people.

    So, what am I to do? For the sake of a quite life, just ignore it? Am like that, someone who will see people spouting prejudiced and ignorant stuff and let them get on with it because it’s too much effort to jump in and put the other side? No, I’m not like that. I’m the sort of person who, on seeing what I think is a debate which is unfair because one side is saying a lot of dubious things and there is no-one on the other side to counter them, will jump in and argue the case for the other side, particularly if I have some information on the point of view of the other side which I think needs to be considered and hasn’t been or isn’t known by contributors. I will quite often do that even when I don’t myself particularly agree with the position of the other side. This is all part of being a liberal.

    I am sorry to say that the level of anti-Catholic prejudice amongst on-line Liberal Democrats now is so high that most people who are Catholics or have some sort of Catholic background are afraid to jump in and put the other side. I know from experience that to do so means one has to start from the very basics and explain the simplest things to people who are closed-minded, believe a whole load of things about it which are factually wrong, don’t want to hear anything else, don’t want their prejudices to be challenged, and will twist everything you say to try and make they most negative interpretation they can out of it. So actually, very much like canvassing for the Liberal Democrats.

    I wish there wasn’t this negativity so that one could say what one wants to say to correct misunderstandings and that is it. But it isn’t like that. As soon as one “comes out” as someone who is prepared to say something on the Catholic Church which isn’t “nah nah nah nah nah, sky fairies and paedophiles”, one is instantly expected to mount a detailed defence of every aspect of the Church put to one in an aggressive manner. If one does not respond, if one backs out because of the time it takes, the conclusion will be “we’ve stumped him, he doesn’t have an answer, nah nah nah nah nah nah, sky fairies and paedophiles”.

    Is that ok, or am I now going to be denounced as a coward and runaway if I don’t next mount a detailed defence of Humanae Vitae?

  • @brcrombie

    Regarding equality law, churches are given protection I believe to be wholly unwarranted and have stated so many times on this site. Have a look through some of the threads on female bishops / equal marriage as the arguments are too numerous to re cast here. Unfortunately, to give more ground than is currently given would require changes to international agreements which protect the freedom of religious expression. Trying to move outside of these would give the Tories an early election present as they would use such an excuse to water down all sorts of human rights – something they are already mooting as a vote winner for 2015.

  • Steve Way

    In certain areas we are in agreement in others not

    I apologies for any offence you have perceived and I think we should get back to politics!

  • Martin Huntbach

    I just want to understand how to reconcile liberal thinking with a Church that prevents the ordination of women and is against the use of contraception (although this is starting to change) and abortion?

    I am truly interested to know as I see no difference between the pronouncements of the Catholic Church leaders and socially conservative reactionaries?

    Noone here has mentioned paedophiles in the church – it is not something that is only linked to the Catholic church but is indicative of power held over people in different institutions.

    I do confess to the ‘Sky Fairy’ thing but you will be relieved to know it is not just your God who I refer to as that – it also includes the other supernatural beings from Odin and Osiris to Mithras and Allah! Including even the Ainur!

    It is also not anti-catholic to oppose the number of faith schools – in some authorities there is only faith schools as an option.

    I have posted before, and repeat, that the philosophy of belief around religion is similar to political belief. I would equally be against a Communist school, or a Liberal school as I am against religious schools. This is one of the reasons I an so against the ‘Free School’ concept.

    Just a last point, in one of you posts you were quite deprecating of evangelical protestants and made comments about their ‘attitudes’ – surely you believe in the same God?

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '13 - 3:17pm

    Phyllis

    Matthew Huntbach – you make a very good point about Life of Brian but you see this is a film which sets out to be “irreverent’ , to ‘ insult one third of the world’ (Christians). There is absolutely no doubt it sets out to offend – many people said ‘gratuitously ‘ . So this is no different from what you are accusing Brombie of doing, in my view

    Yes, and so? Is there a conclusion you are trying to draw from this? I only said I found what bcrombie was saying to be “offensive” because he said he found what I said to be offensive. No doubt he did, and so? I am not saying I should be banned from expressing my opinion and I am not saying brcrombie should be banned from expressing his opinion.

    I think however there is a difference between a forcefully expressed opinion with which someone else strongly disagrees but is logically argued and based on facts, and an opinion which is based on things which are not facts or which persistently insists on seeking the most negative possible interpretation of things without bothering to do the slightest research into them. For example, bcrombie and others here have launched an attack on religious education based on an assumption of how it is that isn’t true now and hasn’t been for decades. The term “sky fairy” which bcrombie uses actually involves an assumption about religion and religious belief and religious practice that I have characterised very simplistically as “Protestant”. It is actually my being thought of as having a Protestant model of religion that most offends me, the offence not coming form a bitter hatred of Protestants, but from the way it does feel offensive if people make assumptions about you which are wrong, and from that build a whole collection of false assumptions.

    On “Life of Brain”, one reason while I feel it is not as offensive as many who condemned it without seeing it supposed it was is because it is actually very thoughtful. Its authors have actually gone to the lengths of thinking through historical and philosophical issues and put then into comedy which makes us think. A comedy which just set out to offend on the basis of whatever would offend and without any deep consideration into the topic it was working with would have taken a very different form.

    You might also consider the “Father Ted” television series. You might suppose Catholics would consider it offensive. Actually most Catholics I know find it hilarious, and you can even find “Father Ted” tours of Ireland advertised in Catholic newspapers. The humour comes from it being a grossly exaggerated version of reality. We all know priests where the Father Ted caricatures are just their characteristics taken to absurd limits. The series has many in-jokes which I doubt anyone who was not a Catholic would really pick up. And underneath it doesn’t actually set out to offend religious belief, merely to mock the frailty of some of those involved in it. An acceptance of such human frailty is a big part of Catholicism anyway.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '13 - 3:33pm

    Richard S

    I agree about vacuous mainstream celebrity culture, although I wouldn’t see it as a religion –

    My feeling is that it HAS taken the place that what we call “religion” traditionally has as a source of myths and stories, of guidelines about how to conduct one’s life, of a way of occupying one’s time, as a creator of unrealistic expectations, as a shared base we all have when interacting with neighbours, as a promoter of the ideals of the ruling class, as an opium for the people.

    nor as especially threatening given that the main conduits for it, TV and newspapers, are in steady decline.

    So why then do you seem so threatened and concerned by old-style religion which seems to be even more precipitously in decline?

  • MH So why then do you seem so threatened and concerned by old-style religion which seems to be even more precipitously in decline?

    I personally am not threatened, because I am not a teenager enrolled in a school with compulsory worship but I have empathy with those who would be in that situation, as Antonio will be. Actually the compulsory worship aspect is the main thing I object to and if I understand correctly we are in agreement about that aspect. The philosophical/objective logic stuff is probably taught equally badly if at all pretty much everywhere, so my perception that in a stricter Catholic school they would seem to have to give up before they start probably makes little difference anyway.

  • Helen Tedcastle 6th Mar '13 - 5:41pm

    @ Paul Pettinger: ” I didn’t state that there was extra funding for faith schools, and faith schools do not have to pay for any provision of confessional RE, so confessional RE is state funded. The faith school sector also meets less than 1% of its costs. ”

    Confessional RE is state RC schools does not exist – fact. RE is education about religion, with much of its content related to Catholicism but with substantial chunks concerned with ethical, moral issues and other religions.

    As a Lib Dem of long duration and as a former Head of RE in a Catholic school, responsible for writing schemes of work, etc.. I know the difference between education and indoctrination.

    BCrombie and others clearly have a personal axe to grind about the place of religion and indeed culture in schools.

    Matthew Huntbach is absolutely right – secular neutrality is a myth – being ‘secular’ is a position, a perspective on living, so no lectures (or insulting comments based on ignorance) from secularists please – critical thinking is taught and indeed, encouraged, in RE in KS3, GCSE and A Level.

    The real scandal is Gove’s omission of the subject from the EBacc performance measure due his obsession with British History – he is terrified that RE is too popular so he is forcing the more able students to choose between the new curricula of ‘our island story’ History and ‘the glorious cartographers of our oceans’ Geography. I have no objection to these important subjects but RE should be in the mix.

    Back to Clegg – I have no problem with him sending his child to a Catholic school but it’s curious that it is one for the ‘elite’ in London. Mixing with a truly comprehensive Catholic intake, clearly not good enough for Clegg junior.

    Social mobility policy is wearing pretty thin…

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '13 - 5:57pm

    Richard S

    I personally am not threatened, because I am not a teenager enrolled in a school with compulsory worship but I have empathy with those who would be in that situation, as Antonio will be. Actually the compulsory worship aspect is the main thing I object to and if I understand correctly we are in agreement about that aspect.

    I don’t think we do. In what way is this a threat to Antonio? He sits there, words are said, actions are taken, which may be regarded as more poetical than having any supernatural effect if one likes. If it’s all meaningless mumbo jumbo, how is Antonio going to be harmed by it? How is this any different from me being forced to watch other kids running and jumping when I couldn’t care what they were doing and which one did it first or the most times or whatever one is supposed to do in the sport concerned? He thereby learns about the culture of his parents (or one of them), who hope by doing this he will come to value this sort of thing. Just as any of us who like some particular practice may probably want to encourage our children to try it out. There are plenty of things that one isn’t going to pick up and understand to the point of knowing properly whether one appreciates them or not until one has had a fair amount of experience with them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '13 - 6:13pm

    Helen Tedcastle

    Back to Clegg – I have no problem with him sending his child to a Catholic school but it’s curious that it is one for the ‘elite’ in London. Mixing with a truly comprehensive Catholic intake, clearly not good enough for Clegg junior

    It’s a neat step out of the dilemma. Whatever its actual intake, it IS a state school, its admissions policies do not require that you have money. The Clegg family do not live so far from it that it’s obvious they are stepping over other schools which are nearer and meet the criterion of being state schools and being Catholic schools. So far as I am aware, the school in question is no different from other state Catholic schools in having adherence to the religion as the only criterion for acceptance beyond those which other state schools have. Sure, it has a reputation for being very strict in its Catholicity and seems to attract a high class intake, but can you prove it exercises class-biased discrimination in its admissions? I am pretty sure it would claim it doesn’t.

    It would be nice if having made this decisions Clegg would have the guts to defend it against the vocal opponents of voluntary aided faith schools in the party. As this thread has shown, those of us who do stand up to defend their existence are often left feeling very isolated, and met with accusations that we don’t belong in the party and should get out of it. I jump into a lot of debates in this party, and often don’t take the majority position, but why is is that it’s this one which always ends up draining me and making me so doubt the liberalism of other party members more than any of the others?

  • Helen Tadcastle

    I have no axe to grind with religion per se – I have never said it should not be taught but I do not believe, either, that there should be an compulsion to worship/study RE and no state school admissions policy should be based on religion. When I was at school RE was compulsory, and science wasn’t, as was a daily act of worship.

    That is pretty much my position

    I am a non-believer as is clear but respect other people’s right to religious expression as should all people. As I have said before the main problem for religious people tend to now be from other religious people and not from secularists or non-believers.

    The point which is being ignored by the religious on this board is the link between religion and Church.

    For the third time can someone explain why I, as a liberal thinker,, should in any way respect the institution of the Roman Catholic Church – in what respect is the institution and the way it conducts itself liberal? It is this institution that has links to schools.

    I also would like to say that in some areas secularists go too far, for example in the French state

  • Helen Tedcastle 6th Mar '13 - 6:52pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach: “… can you prove it exercises class-biased discrimination in its admissions? I am pretty sure it would claim it doesn’t.”

    The London Oratory does not select now, although I believe it used to. I agree that the choice of this school ticks a lot of boxes for Clegg – it’s not selective on academic grounds, although it does favour Catholics, for obvious reasons in that it wishes to maintain a Catholic ethos.

    However, we all know that this school attracts the children of millionaires and the metropolitan elite, like the Blairs and now the Cleggs – this is no accident ie: these groups do not apply to the school by chance. Its reputation as a High Church conservative Catholic school in a millionaire’s area, goes before it.

    ” It would be nice if having made this decisions Clegg would have the guts to defend it against the vocal opponents of voluntary aided faith schools in the party. As this thread has shown, those of us who do stand up to defend their existence are often left feeling very isolated.”

    I couldn’t agree more but the type of liberalism which has gained ascendancy in the party in recent years (under Clegg) creates the conditions for a ‘liberal-type’ intolerance, which favours secular so-called neutrality and redefines the philosophy into a form of libertarianism – it drains culture of meaning and bleaches diversity – quite unpleasant.

  • Helen Tedcastle 6th Mar '13 - 7:14pm

    @bcrombie: ” When I was at school RE was compulsory, and science wasn’t, as was a daily act of worship.”

    Science has been compulsory since 1988 (the National Curriculum) and as a core subject with maths and English, has taken up one third at least, of the entire curriculum since then. All the other subjects fight for the remaining space – it’s going to get worse under Gove’s EBacc. RE is compulsory in every school, although outside of faith schools, worship in assemblies is a very patchy affair. RE in community schools again ranges from outstanding to patchy, depending on the will of the Headteacher to comply with the law, the availability of specialist teachers, resources etc…

    RE teaching has improved greatly in the last thirty or so years – improved curriculum content – out with the confessional RI – and in with critical thinking and learning about other faiths and moral perspectives, improved training and education of RE teachers – when I was at school the person who taught RE was normally a non-specialist with a free period.

    However, the bad news is that under Gove, teacher training places and all bursaries for prospective RE teachers have been cut , even though nationally, RE is a shortage subject- this means that less specialists will feed into the system and more non-specialists will teach RE – this is very bad for the subject in the long run.

    So much for Gove’s mantra that he wants more high quality teachers – only in the subjects he favours, it seems.

    The Roman Catholic Church is made up of 1.2 billion people – there is a lot of diversity, so to condemn an entire denomination is not wise – in England and Wales, the Church makes a very positive contribution to society – through its excellent (on the whole) schools, its work with the poor and marginalised etc..

    Catholics used to be persecuted in this country – it’s a mark of true liberalism in my view, that Catholics, Jews, atheists can now live in the same community, tolerate and respect each other and not rush to judgement over poor headlines in the media – the good outweighs the bad massively in my experience – just as in any institution made up of fallible and weak human beings.

  • Helen Tadcastle

    So if you were a Catholic then I assume you can rise to the top of the organisation if you have the capability and the spirituality necessary? I take it that the Catholic Church encourages women to have control over their own bodies and shows a tolerant attitude to sexual orientation?

    In fact the Catholic Church and the leadership sounds like a socially conservative UKIPer – this is why I ask why someone who has a liberal attitude would be a member of such an organisation? There are also some very pleasant members of UKIP but I would never be a party member as I find the views they espouse to be abhorrent.

    If you had read my posts you would see that I have never challenged the goodness and kindness of individual Catholics, or any other religion for that matter.

    I again come back to my point that religion is like politics – a belief in a way we should behave and to help define our values. That is not something we should ever suppress. At the same time it shouldn’t be put on a pedestal as something that is beyond criticism, challenge and even, if appropriate ridicule (come back to those Scientology Thetans again) and denounced (racist evangelicalism such as the Westboro Baptist Church).

    The other think I feel sad about religion is that we feel we have to make allowances in order to prevent extremism. Note the point that Matthew made above when he said that one of the benefits in having faith schools is that it stops it going underground and becoming extreme. Why does he feel religion has this tendency towards extremism? Is it that religion, especially the institutionalised kind, is all about power over others?

  • Helen Tadcastle

    Just to continue – I was at school in the early 80s and the RE was terrible!

    There is no justification for compulsory RE as a separate subject – it is just part of the cultural and society education that it is imperative our young are taught. The legal requirement for an act of worship should also be dropped – it is an anachronism in 2013 and is shown by the lack of observance.

    I take your point that churches are heavily involved in providing help to the poor and disadvantaged – they should be encouraged to carry on doing so, just the same as those who have no religion. Religion has no monopoly on goodness. This good charitable work should not automatically be linked to be allowed to run faith schools under the state.

    The final point, do you feel comfortable that churches are excluded from equality legislation? Political parties have to comply now and it is this point that religion is allowed to avoid some of the advances we have made over the lat 40 years, without any real logical reason for doing so.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '13 - 9:41pm

    bcrombie

    For the third time can someone explain why I, as a liberal thinker,, should in any way respect the institution of the Roman Catholic Church – in what respect is the institution and the way it conducts itself liberal? It is this institution that has links to schools

    No, I can’t be bothered. You have show you are driven by ignorance and prejudice and I have spent far too much time already trying to correct the misassumptions and bias you have giv n here.

  • Matthew Huntbach ” I am not saying brcrombie should be banned from expressing his opinion.”

    Well that’s all I was asking for.

  • Helen Tedcastle 6th Mar '13 - 11:37pm

    @bcrombie: ” There is no justification for compulsory RE as a separate subject – it is just part of the cultural and society education that it is imperative our young are taught. The legal requirement for an act of worship should also be dropped ”

    You are entitled to your opinion of course. I wonder how religion and spiritual and moral development are to be taught in a school if not as a discrete subject? The ethos of a school is very much driven by its priorities and objectives, so it strikes me that a community schools could not transmit knowledge of religious beliefs in that way – at the end of the day, unless there is a slot in the week for it to be taught, it won’t get taught – unfortunately, then we would have generations of rather uninformed young people living in a pluralist society but no knowing much about their neighbours – we could leave it all to chance I suppose.

    ” just the same as those who have no religion. Religion has no monopoly on goodness.” maybe not be they have proven through history that they are the main groups who actually do something and act on the impulse to do good – they have quite well-worked out principles and motivations to do so and they belong to a network, normally global in scale (ie: The Catholic Church) in which to act internationally as well as locally.

    If the Churches, the Mosques and the Synagogues didn’t do this work, should we just hope that others are motivated by civic spirit to do it? Some will but most won’t .

  • Helen Tedcastle 6th Mar '13 - 11:52pm

    @bcrombie: ” I again come back to my point that religion is like politics – a belief in a way we should behave and to help define our values.”

    That’s where I disagree – it’s not just about principles but a way of life – your point about rising to the top of the Church as a woman or not – you are viewing the Church as a political party – I don’t see like that. It is a very ancient institution – if it moves slowly, I can live with it because other issues are more pressing – consumerism, rampant individualism, isolation and alienation, poverty and marginalisation of the poor and vulnerable, education etc… The social teaching of the Church is founded on the Gospel – it is bold, radical and life-changing – much of this is perfectly compatible with traditional radical Liberal values.

    Anyway, I don’t expect we are going to agree – we know where each other is coming from, so I’m going to leave it there.

  • Paul Pettinger 7th Mar '13 - 2:12am

    Helen Tedcastle wrote:
    “Confessional RE is state RC schools does not exist – fact. RE is education about religion, with much of its content related to Catholicism but with substantial chunks concerned with ethical, moral issues and other religions.

    As a Lib Dem of long duration and as a former Head of RE in a Catholic school, responsible for writing schemes of work, etc.. I know the difference between education and indoctrination.”

    Why does page 16 of ‘This Is Our Faith: Guidance on the teaching of religious education in Catholic schools in Scotland’, published in November 2011 by the Scottish Catholic Education Service, state that “… Catholic religious education is ‘confessional’ in nature. In particular, teachers should avoid taking a phenomenological approach, thus presenting all denominations or faiths as equally true. While respecting pupils’ opinions and faith backgrounds, teachers must propose Roman Catholic beliefs and values as objectively true and eminently relevant.”?

    The guidance, produced on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, also notes that:
    “The central purpose of religious education in the Catholic school is to assist learners to make an informed, mature response to God’s call to relationship.” P9
    “As the focus of learning and teaching will be, above all, on Catholic Christianity, the proportion of time allocated to learning about other world religions will be limited.” P17
    “… explicit phenomenological study of stances for living which may be independent of religious belief will not form part of the content of religious education in Catholic schools.” P18

    Show me any secularist who thinks state funded schools should teach about non-religious life stances, but not religious ones, and I will gladly join you in panning them. Most secularists think schools should teach RE, just not seek to inculcate belief in children.

  • Matthew Huntbach

    None of your posts have given me any insight into why I am wrong, just that I am ignorant and you are in receipt of more wisdom than I. In fact, the same story that religions have ben peddling for centuries. It doesn’t really matter that religious teaching in schools is getting better (it was actually RI when I was in school – not education but instruction) as that is not the point I am making

    Helen Tadcastle’s responses are far more informative of yours – I don’t agree with her but at least I know where she is coming from

  • MH – In what way is (compulsory worship) a threat to Antonio? He sits there, words are said, actions are taken, which may be regarded as more poetical than having any supernatural effect if one likes. If it’s all meaningless mumbo jumbo, how is Antonio going to be harmed by it?

    Well that is the approach most non-believing children would take. In their case the only problem is that it is a waste of their time, but that applies to a lot of what they do at school anyway. What if they actively refused to go however? What should happen to them? It depends on the type of atheism they have, if they have an alternative philosophy at all, but certainly Objectivists are supposed to call out instances of irrationality and not just play along.
    I wonder if you would take the same approach to a child who converted to Islam or Buddhism, who would also presumably also think the Catholic service was meaningless mumbo jumbo. And would you have no problem (other than the waste of time aspect) with compulsory lectures in Objectivism at the start of the school day, because Catholic students would be able to ignore what they think is mumbo jumbo?

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 11:06am

    @ Paul Pettinger: It seems that the Scottish Catholic Church is making the point that the role of a Catholic teacher is not to treat all religions as the same in Catholic schools – as a Catholic school has a particular ethos and culture this is not that surprising. This is not the same as indoctrination or instruction – the religions taught are all worthy of respect and dignity in their own right but in a Catholic school the catholic faith is taught and lived – no one is forced to believe but when a family send their child to a Catholic school they know what they sign up to – a Catholic education for their child.

    However, it does not appear that the Church is doing a very effective job in turning out Catholic drones who unthinkingly repeat the mantras of the catechism does it, judging by Church attendance among young people . I think the secular culture is quite strong in the UK, even overwhelming.

    ” “As the focus of learning and teaching will be, above all, on Catholic Christianity, the proportion of time allocated to learning about other world religions will be limited.” P17

    Yes, I already explained that in my first comment – hardly surprising in a Catholic school, that the Catholic faith is taught? Units on Judaism/Islam/Sikhism are taught but as I stated, they do not make up the bulk of the syllabus – they are treated with respect and dignity – and good teachers bring in visitors, go on visits to places of worship etc..to enrich learning.

    “… explicit phenomenological study of stances for living which may be independent of religious belief will not form part of the content of religious education in Catholic schools.”

    Of course – in a Catholic environment you would not expect that the approach would be phenomenological as this is a rather relativistic approach. Of course that approach is one among many angles one could take to the study of religion.

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 11:19am

    @ RichardS: ” What if they actively refused to go however?” In law, parents have the right to withdraw their children from acts of worship in school. In practice, very few do because most recognise the lack of harm in taking part – after all, who knows what goes on in a child’s mind? Some pay attention, some switch off – it’s up to them what they get out of it – it’s open-ended.

    “I wonder if you would take the same approach to a child who converted to Islam or Buddhism, who would also presumably also think the Catholic service was meaningless mumbo jumbo”

    As an RE teacher, I would be very interested in their conversion and would hope they would speak about it in class – it would generate and interesting and thoughtful discussion. One tends to find that those who take on a religious discipline don’t have the very negative view you put forward – in fact, Muslims, Sikh parents in my experience want their children to attend a faith school because of the high value given to spiritual, moral development – unlike many community schools.

    Objectivism? Depends on the angle you take! If you are a secularist, your understanding of ‘data’ may be from a positivist or purely empirical angle. I might look at the data and evidence and make a different conclusion to you eg: on evolution – I don’t find it incompatible to Christian faith although some atheists may not understand that, because of their own presuppositions about religious belief and scientific enquiry.

  • bcrombie

    “So I as (sic) am atheist cannot send my child to that school as I am not a believer in the sky fairy. My wife, a teacher, could not work there as she also does not believe in the sky fairy and all the children have to be indoctrinated in compulsory worship.”

    Why would a self confessed atheist want to send their child to Catholic school or indeed work in one? You choose to send your child to such a school so that you can be assured that your religious and moral beliefs are upheld through the appointed guardians of your child’s education. Nick Clegg has stated that he is not a practicing Catholic but his wife is and that they have chosen to bring their children up in that way. I imagine that your experiences with RE teaching during your education on The Wirral has led to your belief that children are “indoctrinated into compulsory worship” but I personally would feel much happier knowing that my children are being educated in the very many religions that are now part of our multi-cultural society so that they can begin to understand why there are such significant differences in opinion that can lead to potential conflict. Are you proposing that children are shielded from gaining this knowledge? Oh and whilst I don’t take offense to the “Sky Fairy” comment, I do however find it somewhat disrespectful and unnecessarily inflammatory and indeed out of tone with the proposed nature of these message boards. Respecting the views of others was taught during my Religious Education and I am grateful for that.

  • Paul Pettinger 7th Mar '13 - 12:11pm

    Helen Tedcastle wrote:
    “It seems that the Scottish Catholic Church is making the point that the role of a Catholic teacher is not to treat all religions as the same in Catholic schools – as a Catholic school has a particular ethos and culture this is not that surprising. This is not the same as indoctrination or instruction”

    So why does ‘Christ at the Centre: why the Church Provides Catholic Schools (second edition)’, by the Catholic Education Service, published in January, 2013, set out an explicit evangelising role for Catholic schools: ‘The Catholic ethos – and its concrete expression in liturgical prayer, assemblies and the teaching of religious education in accordance with the Religious Education Curriculum Directory among other things – is fundamental to our schools, giving them true and lasting value. It should be incarnate in all aspects of school life, so that they may be effective instruments of the New Evangelisation.’ P4

    “However, it does not appear that the Church is doing a very effective job in turning out Catholic drones who unthinkingly repeat the mantras of the catechism does it, judging by Church attendance among young people . I think the secular culture is quite strong in the UK, even overwhelming.”

    If secularism is a strong feature of UK culture, why can’t pupils at UK state funded Catholic Schools be taught about it? Why should they be kept in ignorance in this way?

    “Yes, I already explained that in my first comment – hardly surprising in a Catholic school, that the Catholic faith is taught? Units on Judaism/Islam/Sikhism are taught but as I stated, they do not make up the bulk of the syllabus – they are treated with respect and dignity – and good teachers bring in visitors, go on visits to places of worship etc..to enrich learning.”

    Why does the ‘Religious Education Curriculum Directory for Catholic Schools and Colleges in England and Wales’, published by the Department of Catholic Education and Formation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in June 2012, provides very little insight into non-Judaeo-Christian belief, with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism only getting one reference on page 42 (of 73)?

  • Paul Pettinger 7th Mar '13 - 12:25pm

    Helen Tedcastle wrote:
    “In law, parents have the right to withdraw their children from acts of worship in school. In practice, very few do because most recognise the lack of harm in taking part – after all, who knows what goes on in a child’s mind? Some pay attention, some switch off – it’s up to them what they get out of it – it’s open-ended.”

    If it okay for schools to provide compulsory religious worship (unless parents choose to opt out their child, or children in sixth form opt themselves out), would it be okay for a state funded school to put forward explicitly non-religious views in assemblies, such as holding lectures based on assumptions that religious belief is silly?

    I don’t think that would be at all acceptable, yet why is worship based on a range of assumptions about the validity and truthfulness of particular religious beliefs, okay in schools that admit children from many different belief backgrounds, and children who hold a variety of beliefs, both religious and no-religious? It seems to that promoting mutual respect should be a corner stone of state education, yet I don’t see how compulsory worship in school helps enforce this.

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 12:27pm

    @ Paul Pettinger: You are presenting document issued by Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Education Service as if they should be the same as a document from a secular organisation. That’s like me asking a question of the NSS, why aren’t there explicitly religious aims and objectives in your documents and reports? I think you are trying to generate more heat than light with this line of questioning.

    ” If secularism is a strong feature of UK culture, why can’t pupils at UK state funded Catholic Schools be taught about it? Why should they be kept in ignorance in this way?”

    This is a meaningless comment – are you expecting Catholic schools to promote the celebrity culture, rampant consumerism and market-driven neo-liberalism? I think you are confusing the wider meaning of the term secularism with the term used to describe that small band of secularists who pop up and argue against the voice of religious belief in the public square. They believe that those who express any opinion other than theirs ie: their very narrow and frankly stifling view of the secular, should do so in the privacy of their ghetto.

    ” Why does the ‘Religious Education Curriculum Directory for Catholic Schools and Colleges in England and Wales’, ”

    You do realise that the Curriculum Directory is a list of units to be studied – it is not a scheme of work but a syllabus.

    As such, it contains reference to other religions and it is up to departments to write their schemes of work and generate materials. It is a guideline – that’s what teachers of RE are told – how do I know ? I attend the training conferences. Of course the Bishops issue clear statements – should they be nuanced or vague to please the NSS? No.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '13 - 12:47pm

    bcrombie

    None of your posts have given me any insight into why I am wrong, just that I am ignorant and you are in receipt of more wisdom than I.

    Sorry, I have a job to do, deadlines to meet, a family life. I don’t have time to sit down and write a long essay on Roman Catholic theology, what exactly is taught in modern Catholic state schools, my own take on these issues. All I can say is that from my own experience of these things, what you write is naive and prejudiced. As I said, it is rather like arguing with someone about the Liberal Democrats when that person’s only knowledge on the issue comes from reading the Daily Mail and THE Sun, and when that person has already demonstrated a deep prejudice so you know they will twist anything you say out of context to derive the most negative interpretation of it they can, and then expect you to devote more hours of your time painstakingly explaining why what they are saying is just so – well I won’t write “wrong” because everyone is entitled to their own view, but let us just say very distorted and ill-informed.

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 12:48pm

    @ Paul Pettinger: ” would it be okay for a state funded school to put forward explicitly non-religious views in assemblies, such as holding lectures based on assumptions that religious belief is silly?”

    You’ve given the game away there by the last remark about religious belief – I don’t think any school should allow someone to stand up in an assembly and trash, mock, deride the sincerely held beliefs of billions of people – some of whom would be present in the room – this is very poor educational practice .

    However, if someone came in from the BHA and gave a talk on their beliefs, showing due respect to those who have religious beliefs, I can see merit in that in an RE lesson, certainly. I have met Humanists who do take that approach and frankly, I have more time for them than those who deride and mock the views of others in the name of ‘tolerant and secular liberalism.’ Of course, that approach is anything but liberal upon examination.

    On compulsory worship in schools – in community schools ‘worship’ in the sense I would understand it doesn’t happen – you might have a prayer and a talk on a moral theme with religious views taken into account. The picture you are painting is that some kind of sinister indoctrination takes place – the reality is the opposite . If anything it is vaguely religious. In faith schools, there are acts of worship which are more explicitly denominational and of course parents know this on application and could withdraw children if they felt it wasn’t right for their children – the fact that most don’t withdraw shows that the fear you clearly feel is unfounded.

    I don’t see hoards of indoctrinated people swarming though our society reciting the catechism- do you?

    As I said before, parents who really object to this can have their children withdrawn – in practice, the only parents I have ever come across who have exercised this right are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '13 - 12:50pm

    Richard S

    I wonder if you would take the same approach to a child who converted to Islam or Buddhism, who would also presumably also think the Catholic service was meaningless mumbo jumbo.

    No. In fact parents of other religions often want to get their children into Catholic schools because they believe an education which takes religion seriously is better than the sort of education that is given in secular schools.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '13 - 12:55pm

    Helen Tedcastle

    On compulsory worship in schools – in community schools ‘worship’ in the sense I would understand it doesn’t happen – you might have a prayer and a talk on a moral theme with religious views taken into account. The picture you are painting is that some kind of sinister indoctrination takes place – the reality is the opposite .

    Indeed, this illustrates why arguing with the people is like bashing your head against a brick wall, and I can’t be bothered to carry on. They are just SO full of prejudice, leading them to have notions about what happens in thing like modern school religious education of how people who follow some sort of religious practice think and act which are laughably wrong.

  • Paul Pettinger 7th Mar '13 - 1:39pm

    Have to write, I don’t think you are debating fairly Helen. My comment wasn’t ‘meaningless’, and you don’t seem to be representing Catholic policy completely accurately, such as claiming RE isn’t supposed to be confessional, when I have shown that it is, and over playing the study of other major world faiths at RC schools.

    I didn’t write that schools should ‘promote’ secularism, only that if it is a strong current of the religion and belief landscape in the UK that schools should teach about this, thereby helping pupils understand others better, and may be also themselves.

    You seem more interested in using the NSS as a bogey/ straw man, than focusing on issues such as schools’ contribution to the promotion of mutual respect, preparing children for life in our diverse society, and respecting children’s autonomy – shouldn’t autonomy of the individual be of vital importance to a liberal?

    Matthew Huntbach wrote:
    “In fact parents of other religions often want to get their children into Catholic schools because they believe an education which takes religion seriously is better than the sort of education that is given in secular schools.”

    ‘Daybreak survey on religion’ for ITV by YouGov (September, 2010) suggests that only 9% of parents considered the religion of a school to be one of the three most important aspects when choosing a school for a child, yet over a third of state schools in England and Wales have a religious character. Aren’t faith schools popular because they tend to admit more pupils from more aspirational backgrounds?

    Matthew Huntbach wrote:
    “Indeed, this illustrates why arguing with the people is like bashing your head against a brick wall, and I can’t be bothered to carry on. They are just SO full of prejudice, leading them to have notions about what happens in thing like modern school religious education of how people who follow some sort of religious practice think and act which are laughably wrong.”

    Single faith schooling, combined with the provision of confessional RE, seems to me to run the risk of helping create communities where mistrust can more readily grow, than say mixed belief schooling. Surely mixed belief schools are better placed to help promote mutual understanding and combating prejudice, which seem important to us both?

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 2:01pm

    @ Paul Pettinger: ” My comment wasn’t ‘meaningless’, and you don’t seem to be representing Catholic policy completely accurately, such as claiming RE isn’t supposed to be confessional, when I have shown that it is, and over playing the study of other major world faiths at RC schools.”

    I was describing the outcomes of a catholic school embracing a secularist agenda in the widest sense, rather than acting as a counter-cultural critique of prevailing norms, which are harmful or harmless depending on your viewpoint.

    I think ‘confessional’ is a term with several meanings – in the history of Religious education ‘confessional’ is aterm used to describe pre-1960s RE or even 1970s ie: Religious Instruction, which left little room for debate outside of the context of biblical study.

    The Catholic Bishops employ the term confessional to mean several things – firstly, the teacher of RE must be a Catholic, someone who knows and understands the Catholic faith to the point that they can teach about it. Second, their example should be a model to their pupils. Thirdly, they should be able to explain the faith accurately and convey its meaning – from this a child might be brought into a relationship with God ir it might leave them cold – the Bishops see the Catholic faith as one with a mission for evangelisation- of course it has been since the days of Christ – but this is not the same as indoctrination – you could tell someone about atomic science

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 2:01pm

    @ Paul Pettinger: ” My comment wasn’t ‘meaningless’, and you don’t seem to be representing Catholic policy completely accurately, such as claiming RE isn’t supposed to be confessional, when I have shown that it is, and over playing the study of other major world faiths at RC schools.”

    I was describing the outcomes of a catholic school embracing a secularist agenda in the widest sense, rather than acting as a counter-cultural critique of prevailing norms, which are harmful or harmless depending on your viewpoint.

    I think ‘confessional’ is a term with several meanings – in the history of Religious education ‘confessional’ is aterm used to describe pre-1960s RE or even 1970s ie: Religious Instruction, which left little room for debate outside of the context of biblical study.

    The Catholic Bishops employ the term confessional to mean several things – firstly, the teacher of RE must be a Catholic, someone who knows and understands the Catholic faith to the point that they can teach about it. Second, their example should be a model to their pupils. Thirdly, they should be able to explain the faith accurately and convey its meaning – from this a child might be brought into a relationship with God ir it might leave them cold – the Bishops see the Catholic faith as one with a mission for evangelisation- of course it has been since the days of Christ – but this is not the same as indoctrination – you could tell someone about atomic science

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 2:11pm

    @ Paul Pettinger – the last bit of my previous comment has been missed off! The analogy with atomic science is to point out that you can teach people principles about how things work etc.. but it is an open question whether they become atomic scientists or in the case of Catholicism, become Catholics or even stay as Catholics, on the basis of what they are taught or experience.

  • Paul Pettinger 7th Mar '13 - 2:44pm

    Helen, how would you feel if a large proportion of state funded schools operated on these lines?

    Firstly, the teachers of education about religion and beliefs must be an atheist – someone who knows and understands humanism, scepticism and rationalism, to the point that they can teach about them. Second, their non-religious attitudes should be a model to their pupils. Thirdly, they should be able to explain humanism, scepticism and rationalism accurately, and convey what it means to hold naturalistic, unspiritual and irreligious worldviews – from this a child might become affirmably non-religious, or it might leave them cold – the atheist sponsors of schools see their school as on a mission of evangelising for atheism, as it has always been since the enlightenment – but this is not the same as indoctrination.

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 3:19pm

    @ Paul Pettinger: It is not a question of how I would feel – I understand that some not all Humanists have a problem with any kind of faith school but the fact is these schools are here because of the way that the history of education has unfolded – it was the Church that provided education to the children of the poor and they were brought into general education in the late 19th century. The state recognises the excellent education these schools provide.

    The schools do not indoctrinate but it is explicitly clear what the ethos is and it is clear that RE teaches about the Catholic faith. Unlike in the past, other religions are taught, moral issues debated. RE is a popular subject at A level where it is taught to its potential – if it was like what you think it is like, it wouldn’t be popular but would be dropped like a stone. Not all Catholic school are in leafy suburbs, some are, like community schools. Not all children are aspirational, I can assure you – they take more than their fair share of challenging children – many of whom do not qualify for free school meals. Their problems are not poverty but behavioural or emotional for example.

    ” evangelising for atheism, as it has always been since the enlightenment” – I think atheism goes back before the 18th century and I’m not sure one can evangelise as it doesn’t subscribe to any set of beliefs which all atheists share in common – atheism is really an individual statement and means different things to different people. After all, successive Roman Emperors accused Christians of ‘atheism’ as they refused to offer sacrifices to the deified Emperor and the Roman gods.

    Of course, the Enlightenment developed out of Christianity and the exploration of the boundaries between faith and reason – Kant for instance was a Christian, the great pioneer of Genetics was a Christian Monk – some of the great scientists were Jewish and still are – it’s not as cut and dried as you might imagine.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '13 - 3:27pm

    Paul Pettinger

    Aren’t faith schools popular because they tend to admit more pupils from more aspirational backgrounds?

    Er, doesn’t this contradict the previous line that faith schools spend too much of their time “indoctrinating” their pupils with beliefs that any intelligent person would reject? Surely if faith schools are the sort of wretched places their opponents have descried them as here, they would be the last places aspirational parents would sent their children to?

    What you seem to be saying is “We reject your religious ideas as useless, what you do as a waste of time, we regard it as damaging to children – oh, and we want a bit of it as well as it seems to turn out better educated children than our secular schools”.


    Surely mixed belief schools are better placed to help promote mutual understanding and combating prejudice, which seem important to us both

    Er, yes, (sarcastic tone on) what a WONDERFUL example of mutual understanding and opposition to prejudice you are showing (sarcastic tone off).

    I actually think people who have been educated in a liberal and tolerant way about the principles and practices of one religion are going to have MORE understanding and tolerance towards those of other religions rather than less. This idea that religious education causes discord stems from an idea you and others seem to have had that it is all done in a rigid “we are right and everyone else is wrong” manner, which it is not. Someone who has experience of attending their own religious ceremonies, keeping to tradition, saying prayers and the like is more likely to understand someone from another religion doing like wise than someone who just dismisses it all in pejorative tones which completely miss what those of us who appreciate these things find of value in them. Now that actually IS why it is common for parents of other religions to want to get their children into Catholic schools – I am writing here who has close relatives who have been governors of such schools and involved in their admissions process, so I do know what I am talking about.

    People like to raise Northern Ireland and Scotland as examples of where religious schools seem to lead to division and hatred, but they don’t consider the Netherlands where there is a very strong tradition of separate religious schools for each denomination, yet also a very liberal and tolerant attitude – Dutch Catholicism is notorious for being at the liberal end of interpretations and practices, for example.

    Meanwhile it seems the superficial and emotionless way in which aspects of religion are taught in secular schools here does not engender a tolerant attitude towards it because it does not get across what it is that some people value in it.

    For myself, it’s been a long slow journey coming to see that what outsiders see as the authoritarian centralised nature of the Catholic Church is actually a guarantee of its moderation. The crucial thing which has led me to see this is seeing how without a central authority who can say “You are wrong, your interpretations are not in the true spirit of our religion”, extremism does seem to flourish and push out moderation. I can see this happening in Islam and in the Evangelical Protestant world. Yet when I try to explain this and why I feel the system of open religious education in state supported religious schools works to encourage moderation, all I’m met with is scorn which misses my points, because it seems those I am arguing with only want to demonstrate their own superiority as enlightened people who don’t need all this religion stuff, so it is beneath their dignity even to look beneath their own extremely superificial understanding of it.

  • Paul Pettinger 7th Mar '13 - 3:57pm

    Helen Tedcastle wrote:
    “It is not a question of how I would feel”

    I can assure you it was – how would you feel if you were barred from teaching RE in a large proportion of state funded schools because of your religious beliefs; how would you feel if your children didn’t get into a local school because they were considered to be of the wrong faith; how would you feel if your children had to sit through specifically humanist lectures in assembly every day?

    You seem to be viewing current arrangements through the prism of the formal policy of your Church, rather than attempting to find an equitable outcome that society at large might be able to buy into.

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 4:54pm

    @ Paul Pettinger: ” I can assure you it was – how would you feel if you were barred from teaching RE in a large proportion of state funded schools because of your religious beliefs…”

    That would be against the law as it stands. Some of the best RE teachers I know in state schools are atheist or agnostic, so I don’t know why you think anyone is barred – they’re not. Why would an atheist want to teach RE in a Catholic school? Atheists can teach other subjects in Catholic schools and former colleagues of mine are examples of this – they were required to subscribe to the ethos of the school but not the articles of faith. I presume in a Humnaist school, the same thing would occur but the other way around.

    “how would you feel if your children didn’t get into a local school because they were considered to be of the wrong faith; ”

    I don’t think that is the criteria – preference is given to those of Catholic faith in applying to Catholic schools – other faiths are represented and those of no faith are not barred. There is a difference between preference and stating someone is wrong.

    “how would you feel if your children had to sit through specifically humanist lectures in assembly every day?”

    That would be unusual – in a faith school, children are not required to sit through lectures on faith every day – they are educated in RE, have assemblies on topics arising from the day or on a particular point eg: kindness – not the same as a lecture except you might get that at a private school I suppose. If my child had to listen to a Humanist lecture, I would discuss it with him when he got home. It is highly unlikely I would choose a Humanist school though.

  • Our children’s School has Ethics and Philosophy now instead of RE. My daughter, although atheist, loves the EP lessons and it is the one subject in which she is an A* student.. Our experience is that most of our children’s year hated RE with a passion. However, I am shocked that those teenagers have no knowledge of what I would think most educated people would know. For instance they didn’t know understand the reference to Salome and the dance of the seven veils. Today we came across ‘in the beginning was the Word….’ And none of them recognised it or knew how it continued. I’m not saying that the Bible should be studied at School but these are cracking good stories and allusions so I do regret that our young people are missing out on aspects of literature.

  • Matthew Huntbach

    You seem to under the misapprehension that you answer the points but in fact you write long posts whilst avoiding saying very much – you are a true politician

    As a non-believer I do not give religions, especially the big organised one the benefit of the doubt. I will give you some idea of the ideas of certain people and I, again ask the question, why should I respect an organisation that they lead. I have no particular bias against the Catholic church. I am sure many of the other ones are the same but we were talking about the subject of the thread.

    I don not show any deference to any church – I just look at the messages they send out and what their leaders say. That is without looking at the historical behaviour

    “The empirical evidence is clear, same-sex relationships are demonstrably harmful to the medical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of those involved, no compassionate society should ever enact legislation to facilitate or promote such relationships, we have failed those who struggle with same-sex attraction and wider society by our actions.”

    Speaking at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, the cardinal urged decision-makers to stop supporting what he labelled an “unspeakable crime”.
    And he called on voters to reject candidates who defend a “social evil”.
    Cardinal O’Brien said: “We are killing – in our country – the equivalent of a classroom of kids every single day.
    “Can you imagine that? Two Dunblane massacres a day in our country going on and on. And when’s it going to stop?”

    I am also still confused as to why RE is compulsory but History isn’t – why can it not be part of a cultural studies lesson which could cover morality? I do not think linking morality to religion is right

    If we also look at the historical contexts, saying that in the past scientists were religious (perhaps because atheists would not have been admitted to university) then can we should touch on the repression of the religious by the religious! You mentioned earlier Helen that until recently Catholics were discriminated against in Britain. I totally agree and don’t think it is over yet either. Can you tell me who it was who repressed them though – I can tell you it wasn’t the non-religious. Even now our Head of State is controlled by religion – no Catholics permitted there! Would an atheist be elected President of the US?

    I would like to see complete religious freedom (and the freedom to have none) with no discrimination but it is being stopped – by the people of other religions! All I want is that religion is not treated as though it has special rights such as running state schools

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 7:02pm

    @ Phyllis: EP instead of RE – my guess would be that this is a change in name and brand as it were – there probably isn’t a great deal of difference in content from RE. The reason I say this, although obviously I don’t know the type of school you allude to, is that each RE department (except those in faith schools) is required to follow the Locally Agreed Syllabus drawn up by the LEA in conjunction with faith groups, teachers, advisers etc.. The Government has also issued non-statutory guidance on RE whichan LEA would refer to in drawing up their syllabus.

    In my area, my nephews attend a community school and have RP (religious philosophy) but in actual fact they’re following the RE Agreed Syllabus. There is more of an – emphasis on enquiry, philosophical and moral questions, and world religions, than in previous eras, although teachers are supposed to teach Christianity and its beliefs – and it would be hard therefore to avoid the Bible completely – very different in approach from my school days.

    At GCSE level , where two exam papers are taken, it is possible to examine biblical texts in the context of one paper on Christianity and the second paper on Christian ethics, although some schools opt to teach another world faith in one paper – perhaps Sikhism in a school with a high population of Sikhs. It depends on the area – it’s an exercise in localism really.

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 7:21pm

    @ bcrombie: ” I would like to see complete religious freedom (and the freedom to have none) with no discrimination but it is being stopped – by the people of other religions!”

    The problem with religion is that it’s populated by people! The same is true of any organisation, especially when power is involved – the key thing is to look beyond the leaders to the actual message of the Gospels – that is the key thing. The fact that people manipulate and control for their own ends is a human failing not just a failing in religious organisations.

    “All I want is that religion is not treated as though it has special rights such as running state schools”

    I’m afraid this is contradictory your first statement, above` – if complete freedom from discrimination is your aim, then you would respect the wishes of religious communities such as Jews and Christians to organise and run their own schools, which follow the national curriculum, by the way, but express their distinctive ethos – true freedom allows religious diversity – it doesn’t suppress it.

    On your point about cultural studies and RE – the former is essentially sociology which positions religion and describes it using sociological criteria – RE treats religious belief as living and attempts to treat them on their own terms – while also discussing the moral and philosophical issues involved. As religions are ways of living and organising truth claims, it needs its own discrete lesson to be properly understood. it also needs well-trained specialists with good subject knowledge.

    Would you like History to be taught from a purely sociological angle? I doubt it. Let the young people decide for themselves whether they choose to follow a faith or simply study it, because, frankly, it’s fascinating.

    BTW History is compulsory to 14 and it is very popular at GCSE.

  • Helen

    It is not contradictory – freedom to run their own schools but I said ‘state’ schools. In fact I oppose private schools which would cover them but that is another argument and nothing to do at all with religion.

    Surely religious organisations should be above human failings seeing that they have the omnipotent other behind them. The problem with religion is the concept of a God but without that they become just another belief system, similar as I have said before to political belief. The two are very similar from what I see. Political Parties are like the Organised Church .- interested only in power, where the actual philosophy is much more interesting.

    If the gospels are not the word of God then what gives them more relevance than any other philosophy?

    As to the second part, you are religious and so believe this message to be shared as a compulsory subject in school. I see religion as no more important as the study of the beauty of language, the wonder of scientific thought, the joy of music and the delight of philosophy (sorry for the pomposity but once I got going….) – all of which are not given the same prominence.

    I just want to emphasise I am not anti-religion per se – I don’t make any judgement based on people because of their religion as a rule – but I just don’t accept its sense of entitlement to be part of the state without being subject to any democratic process (faith schools, bishops in the Lord’s, established church, automatic charitable status,). It is also not to undermine the good works that are done by religious organisations but non-religious people also do good things and sometimes with a better motivation

  • and Helen

    I would also like to say in general I agree with your posts on here and I respect your views and also I admire your passion for your subject as a teacher

    It shows that non-religious and religious people can have similar values.

    I know that some of the exchanges have been a little testy (especially with Matthew) but I do not believe religion should be treated with kid gloves or out of bounds for discussion, but I apologise if I have caused any offence.

    I think I will leave this thread and start be showing my ignorance elsewhere on the site lol….

  • Bcrombie – could you please go on the secret courts thread and take on Richard Dean? Thanks!!

  • “@ Phyllis: EP instead of RE – my guess would be that this is a change in name and brand as it were – there probably isn’t a great deal of difference in content from RE. ”

    Seems to be more about debating the ethical issues around contraception, abortion, euthanasia, etc etc. it does cover each religion’s angle on this various issues but not exclusively. The students enjoy debating.

    In KS3 our son had pretty well two years of studying Judaism (teacher was Jewish) and they wre heartily sick of it by the end. Anyway that teacher left. KS4 EP seems more interesting and engaging .

  • Phyllis

    lol – I know when I am up against the mater of ignorance!!

  • *master – even

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 8:26pm

    @bcrombie: ” Surely religious organisations should be above human failings seeing that they have the omnipotent other behind them.”

    It depends on whether they practise what they preach as recent events have shown! Hypocrisy does not respect boundaries – an interesting take that you have on God – that he somehow controls humans and we are the puppets – Catholic philosophy teaches free will and personal responsibility – however, I won’t go on!

    ” If the gospels are not the word of God then what gives them more relevance than any other philosophy?”

    I’m not a Marxist so what gives it any relevance than any other and why should I study it in History and Politics? Possibly because of its impact on the world and its massive influence especially in the 20th century? There are any number of other examples of things to study which could be dismissed as not relevant .

    ” I see religion as no more important as the study of the beauty of language, the wonder of scientific thought, the joy of music and the delight of philosophy (sorry for the pomposity but once I got going….) – all of which are not given the same prominence.”

    RE in state schools ie: non-faith takes up about one hour a week, if that. In some schools, where RE is not valued as an academic subject by the Headteacher, it is on a carousel with other subjects like PSHE and gets a block of time before students move on to another topic – this is not a good way to gain any depth in the subject though other subjects like Science, maths and English take up vast acres of curriculum time and RE is squeezed – so much for prominence.

    In Catholic schools, RE is part of the core curriculum so gets more time (2 lessons a week) and the departments are well staffed and resourced (in comparison to non-faith schools) but even here Science gets around 12% of time and is well-resourced – it’s a myth that RE gets more prominence than science – schools follow the national curriculum in every subject.

    I appreciate your comments in your second post – I doubt we will agree but the conversation has been civilised.

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 8:40pm

    @ Phyllis: ” In KS3 our son had pretty well two years of studying Judaism (teacher was Jewish) and they wre heartily sick of it by the end. Anyway that teacher left. KS4 EP seems more interesting and engaging .”

    Yes. I’m surprised the teacher concerned was allowed to get away with teaching two years of Judaism in KS3 when she should be following the syllabus (unless it’s a Jewish school of a particular kind?) – I’m not surprised the students would be sick of the subject by the end – I would be! I’m pleased that the department has changed things round and engaged the students – that’s as it should be.

    No doubt, the young people in non-exam RE at KS4, will look at ethical teachings and examine all sides of the debate (so to return to an earlier point, I would expect they would examine some biblical teaching related to Christian/Jewish views on life etc.. although they’re not doing a systematic study).

  • Richard Dean 7th Mar '13 - 8:47pm

    bcrombie – I guess you send a lot of time arguing with yourself in the mirror then! :-)

  • Richard Dean 7th Mar '13 - 8:47pm

    send -> spend !

  • Helen

    I will break my promise to leave the thread alone

    I am a scientist and the teaching of science frustrates me and I would support a reduction in the teaching of facts about science in order to promote more the rigour of the scientific method, which is essentially the art of scepticism and experimental proof. The teaching of Pythagoras’s Theorem is more interesting when you understand how the Pythagorean’s approached learning would add interest to what looks to be a simple theorem – linking it also to the superficially similar Fermat’s Theorem would surely be a good use of effort. The Pythagorean’s were a bit mad and so could also spike some interest into Greek Philosophy, and then into democracy and then into the impact on Roman culture and finally to Christianity!

    There is not enough teaching of philosophy in general, if people could grasp how to think and learn then it will open up the world of knowledge – facts are easily learnt at leisure. The focus on facts without context is stale and I am not surprised that it turn people off. I think, looking at some of my niece’s work, that progress has been made since the 80s and I think you and I agree that our mutual bête noire at the DoE is not going in the right direction to say the least

  • Richard Dean 7th Mar '13 - 8:58pm

    Religion is a natural human activity, and certainly not something a state should outlaw. Indeed, the education provided by religious bodies in Europe was what brought us out of the Dark Ages and gave rise to many of the freedoms and technical advantages we experience today. Today’s society is very open, with information and challenge everywhere, and much religious teaching is about as far away from “indoctrination” as you can get. Simon Shaw has got it absolutely correct: “A liberal allows others to make choices with which s/he may personally disagree”.

  • Richard Dean

    Who has talked about ‘outlawing religion’ – a straw man if every I saw one

    Of course religion has played a part in developing our culture but I am not so convinced as you as to it being so positive.

    What I say is that religion has a freedom of expression as any other philosophy but should not be given privileges not given to others. I think you will find that the majority of the suppression of religious thought is by other religions

    If you read around the posts that Simon Shaw made you will see that his comment is of no relevance to any of the arguments being discussed

    It does seem you deserve your title as you seem to have misread everything and set up some straw men

  • Richard Dean 7th Mar '13 - 9:23pm

    Hello, bcrombie. I am happy that you agree with me. I am a little bit worried about your tendency to say anything you disagree with is irrelevant, but I am confident that, given time, I will be able to correct your errors. :-)

  • Ladies please ! There appears to be a lot of argument for the sake of argument by certain people on here who seem intent on using multiple aliases, being selective about who they respond to and who insist on raking over the same old ground for their own twisted gratification.

  • Mozza

    ?

    Noone asked you – I keep responding to people who are wilfully misinterpreting what I say

    ‘outlawing religion’
    ‘anti-Catholic’
    ‘illiberal’
    ‘National Socialist’

    or perhaps you are referring to them?

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Mar '13 - 9:29pm

    @bcrombie: ” There is not enough teaching of philosophy in general, if people could grasp how to think and learn then it will open up the world of knowledge”

    I agree which is why I’m so passionate about RE – it teaches critical thinking. A level is particularly exciting and you would be pleased to learn that analytic philosophy ie: the philosophy of positivism and empirical sense data as the only meaningful knowledge, is covered – and contrasted with philosophical positions from religious belief – it makes for stimulating thinking.

    ” The focus on facts without context is stale and I am not surprised that it turn people off.”

    I agree to a great extent. One needs to get across principles and in science, processes yet facts cannot be disregarded completely – in the Humanities there is a certain body of content which is necessary for a debate or enquiry to be had. The problem with the current Sec. of State is that he is going too far down the route of hard and vast quantities of facts which I fear, will be a turn off to a great number of young people.

    Pleased you share the general scepticism about the current DoE set up!

  • I thought forums were an open platform for conversation and debate? I didn’t realise I had to be “asked”?!?
    I’ll await patiently for my invitation to join in with this repetitive nonsense…….

  • Mozza

    So what is your comment then – I didn’t realise that it was compulsory for you to read the debate?

    I have been interested in Helen’s replies and Paul Pettiger’s comments have also been illuminating.

    Matthew H and I disagree fundamentally but I feel he is misrepresenting what I say.

    At the end the refs can stop the discussion or we could get bored and stop posting

    Until then we can carry on if we want – I am not sure who appointed you as being the arbiter of what we should discuss.

    If you want to post something then do and I will reply, if not then why not leave us to it. I think we are coming to a natural end anyway

  • ARealScientist 7th Mar '13 - 9:39pm

    bcrombie
    A friend of mine pointed me to this blog, because he thought it was interesting that there is someone called ‘bcrombie’ who is from Birkenhead and is a Scientist. Well, there are only two ‘bcrombies’ on the Wirral. and only one of them is a scientist (unless my Dad has a secret career). Also, I see that ‘bcrombie’ also poses as ‘bazzasc’ and bazsc’ who by some pure cosmic conincidence (just to keep the topic relevant), is also the name of one of my best mates!!

    So I fear that ‘bcrombie’ is not only not who is says he is, but as he appears to be posing as me, he is actually causing me some discomfort because he clearly cannot make a coherent argument about what is a very complicated issue. I suspect it wouldn’t have mattered one jot whether the school ‘bcrombie’ went to was Religious or not, because it didn’t appear to teach some critical skills when interpreting the difference between The Smiths lyrics and reality.

    I am not coming on here to air my Political or Religious views, other than to say that all attempts at building a better world have to be underpinned by good caring people and if ‘bcrombie’ ‘bazzasc or ‘bazsc’ wants to try and influence that debate good on him. But not under my name.

    Anyway, whilst I was here, very good site, well done to all. Might come back again.

    If all the religions of the world paid for all the schools, does that mean we could afford free University places for all. Maybe study subjects like Geometric Theology. Don’t answer that. ‘bcrombie’ PLEASE do not answer that. And stop using my name.

    B Crombie (an actual scientist who used to live in Birkenhead)

  • Some people are away with the “Sky Fairies” !

  • So I take it you are a religious person who disagrees with what I say?

    What particularly?

  • Not what you say, the manner in which you say it and the amount of times you repeat it and what is with the multiple aliases??

  • Helen “No doubt, the young people in non-exam RE at KS4, will look at ethical teachings and examine all sides of the debate (so to return to an earlier point, I would expect they would examine some biblical teaching related to Christian/Jewish views on life etc.. although they’re not doing a systematic study).”

    What is “non-exam RE at KS4″? I thought all subjects apart from PE are exam subjects at KS4??

    Our School has a half GCSE module they call EP and the option of studying ‘extra EP’ after School to make this into a full GCSE. It is this that our daughter is following. It’s the Welsh exam board I believe. Anyway the kids love it but nowhere in this, in previous RE lessons or in Eng Lit/Lang do they seem to pick up references such as the ones I quoted earlier. I do think their education in a broad sense is the poorer. I actually blame the National Curriculum for making things sp prescriptive from a young age.

  • ARealScientist 7th Mar '13 - 11:26pm

    bcrombie (or whoever you may be…)

    If all the main religions in the UK could fund all of our schools, which in turn could enable free student places at University, would that be an acceptable and legitimate triumph of practicaility over unempirically proven beliefs? Just interested to see where the fulcrum of your argument is?

  • Paul Pettinger 8th Mar '13 - 1:11am

    Helen, you keep offering me answers to questions I haven’t asked. You seem concerned that your Church’s schools should keep their special privileges, and in time I think that will prove a cul-de-sac.

    Phyllis – RE is compulsory until the end of KS4 – if a child doesn’t do RE GCSE then pupils are still supposed to be taught it.

  • Mozza

    Give me some specific examples of how I have said things wrong!

    Multiple aliases – one post from a different computer where it had stored an old email address/username. Your username is linked to email so I cannot change it. Simples

    I only repeat things because they get misrepresented and certain points are never answered – instead someone attacks me for something I have never said e.g. Richard Dean and ‘religion should be outlawed’ and I again have to go over what I really said

    The main things I would like to see answered to be clear – perhaps you can do it for – are

    i. Why is religion given a privileged position in our state school system – compulsory worship, ability to run schools and control admissions and compulsory education? If okay for a religion to do it why not a political party – what is the difference?

    ii. I have posted the position of the one specific church mentioned above, the Catholic one, and its policies towards abortion, same sex relationships, women. I am curious to know why liberals are so keen on supporting an institution with such positions. All I have heard is that I am ignorant and thick but really nothing apart from invective. The person who has reacted the worst to this would never support a political party with these official policies

    iii. Are some religions ‘better’ than others and why is that?

    Some people have got offended by the ‘sky fairy’ thing but I personally do not see how I can insult a concept that, to me, is a figment of imagination. I also believe the Thetans from Scientology are nonsense. Do I have to pretend that I don’t and keep quiet about it just because some people believe in it? Do I have to defer to L. Ron Hubbard and Joseph Smith as well as Jesus Christ?

    I understand Helen Tadcastle’s points as she has explained her position and I can see where she is coming from. I cannot agree on everything but she is clearly a thoughtful and intelligent person who carries a deep conviction.

    It is difficult as a non-believer to debate these things as I have no issue with some of the basic tenets of religion at all and would not argue against them. It is also easy for people who believe to brush the difficult questions under the carpet of ‘it is only a metaphor’ or ‘you can’t understand if you don’t believe’. In some ways the fundamentalists are easier to challenge as they are quite clear in what the believe and they treat their religious texts as a textbook rather than a metaphorical treatise. Sometimes talking to believers is trying because when you say – but in the bible it says that – it is dismissed as a metaphor and is saying something else.

    I understand that theologians are continually reinterpreting the bible but that seems to me just to be a way to get round the inconsistencies and problems with it rather than because there is any hard data to say it is wrong – like say an historian and scientist would update a theory based on evidence. I would, at least, have hoped that the people with insight into the mind of God who wrote the text would have known how our solar system and universe was constructed! Why did it take 1600 years after the death of Jesus for someone to point out that it was an error – and then find himself locked up by the Church. What would have been truly interesting was if the bible had said the Ptolomeic view of the universe was wrong and it was actually something else – but it didn’t it just supported the earth-centric model that was the truth at the time – and was wrong!

    There will be an answer, there always is, but is is an interpretation from the standpoint that there is a God and all we learn is a test. That is why for an unbeliever it is difficult because it is all based on the premise that there is a deity – and we all know you cannot prove a negative.

  • MH – No. In fact parents of other religions often want to get their children into Catholic schools because they believe an education which takes religion seriously is better than the sort of education that is given in secular schools.

    That might be the case generally at schools which allow exceptions as you have described because the other religions are based on the same kind of faith-based reasoning that could never be attacked at a Catholic school, but I find it hard to believe that those parents want their children to “play a full part in the liturgical life of the school” (from the Oratory website), as is compulsory at the school we are talking about.
    In any case, my example is of a child (presumably from a Catholic family) registered at the school who converted to Islam, Buddhism or Atheisim so the views of the parents are irrelevant. Forcing such a student out of the school community, potentially wasting a year of their life for them to restart GCSEs, is incompatible with continued state funding in my opinion.

    @Helen Tedcastle, the more you try to convince us that material is taught no differently in Catholic schools to elsewhere, the more you are inadvertently arguing for the view that there is no reason (other than ethnic separation) for the schools to exist. If you would have a discussion in an RE lesson about why a student had made the interesting choice of converting to Islam or Buddhism, would you also have an equally balanced discussion about someone’s interesting choice to stop believing in Catholism? How would it play out differently in a Catholic school and a secular school?

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Mar '13 - 11:09am

    bcrombie

    Speaking at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, the cardinal urged decision-makers to stop supporting what he labelled an “unspeakable crime”.
    And he called on voters to reject candidates who defend a “social evil”.
    Cardinal O’Brien said: “We are killing – in our country – the equivalent of a classroom of kids every single day

    If he were a vegetarian saying “meat is murder” would your regard him in the same way? Vegetarians extend the idea of protecting human life to animal life, anti-abortionists extend it to unborn human life. Why is one generally considered progressive and the other regressive?

  • ARealScientist 8th Mar '13 - 11:42am

    bcrombie

    Can you read back to my previous posts please. I don’t want any responses to my points. I just want you to stop using my identity. On this blog and others. I take my on-line presence very seriously, particularly as your view appear to be less than clear and somewhat more contrived than me.

    Simples?

  • ARealScientist

    What on earth are you on about?

  • Helen Tedcastle 8th Mar '13 - 1:02pm

    @ RichardS: ” the more you try to convince us that material is taught no differently in Catholic schools to elsewhere, the more you are inadvertently arguing for the view that there is no reason (other than ethnic separation) for the schools to exist.”

    I haven’t been trying to do that. Of course the material is different in substantial ways as I have explained in earlier comments. However, other religions are taught, ethical and moral issues are debated. My main point has been to counter misapprehension amongst some, that RE is not education but indoctrination.

    In community schools, the approach normally is to teach Christianity as a world religion with other religions, with attention to the pupil population to reflect the local area.

    “If you would have a discussion in an RE lesson about why a student had made the interesting choice of converting to Islam or Buddhism, would you also have an equally balanced discussion about someone’s interesting choice to stop believing in Catholism? How would it play out differently in a Catholic school and a secular school?”

    It’s funny you mention that but there have been students who declare lack of belief and we discuss it – I’m interested in their reasons and one can’t help but respect young people who have thought it through and can explain their reasons. I’m more interested in reasoned-out thought – yes, this goes on in a Catholic school because RE provides an environment for discussion – reason and faith and the relationship between them, interests me.

  • “Phyllis – RE is compulsory until the end of KS4 – if a child doesn’t do RE GCSE then pupils are still supposed to be taught it.”

    Oh yes you’re right if course. All the kids in our School have to do the half-GCSE.

  • Helen Tedcastle 8th Mar '13 - 1:16pm

    @ Phyllis: ” What is “non-exam RE at KS4″? I thought all subjects apart from PE are exam subjects at KS4??”

    Sorry I may have misunderstood your earlier point on your child studying EP at KS4 – it read to me as if he wasn’t taking GCSE.

    Anyway, to answer your question. In community schools, all students are to take RE until 16 but at 14, they can decide whether to take the GCSE or a half GCSE or an non-exam course – it depends on the school. More and more schools offer a half GCSE or short course, to those who do not wish to pursue the full GCSE. In Catholic schools, RS GCSE is part of the core of subjects taken and it only those at the very bottom of the ability range who will take a certificate course rather than a GCSE..

    You won’t be surprised to learn that I would recommend that a child choose the GCSE in RS to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the subject – plus a GCSE has more currency in society – although Gove is making this harder for RS,Music, Art and easier for marginal subjects like Ancient Greek and Biblical Hebrew, due his EBacc nonsense.

  • 2010 Manifesto:
    “We will ensure that all faith schools develop an inclusive admissions policy and end unfair discrimination on grounds of faith when recruiting staff, …”

    The first part doesn’t sit well with the actions of the DfE (schools minister David Laws), arguing against the Richmond Inclusive Schools Judicial Review case where the proposal was for a new Catholic secondary school with no component of inclusive admissions.

    The second part is an issue that may be raised in Saturday morning’s debate on teaching

  • Helen Tedcastle 8th Mar '13 - 1:32pm

    @ ArnieG: I think one has to strike a balance between inclusive admissions and forcing Catholic schools to recruit non-Catholics to teach the Catholic faith in RE – it’s like asking a member of the Labour Party to run Liberal Democrat training sessions! We need the spirit not letter of the resolution to be followed , otherwise we will look plain silly.

  • ARealScientist 8th Mar '13 - 2:39pm

    bcrombie, bazzsc, bazsc

    Pleae read my earlier posts. It’ll all makes sense if you do that. Although, I suspect that you just read the last comment and write something that argues against that. Rather than read the thread.

    ‘bcrombie’ – my actual name
    ‘bazzasc’ ‘bazsc – your alias are all very similar to a very good friend of mine (coincidence?)
    ‘I come from Birkenhead’ – so do I
    ‘I am a Scientist’ – yep – ARealScientist

    Be who you say you are, because Crombies are not few and far between in Birkenhead.. …One of the rules of this forum…unless someone else can vouch for him? He seems to be pretty prolific on this site posting lots of incoherent nonsense which is designed to just keep blogs going on for far longer than they need to.

    Don’t answer, just stop.

  • ARealScientist

    I am from Birkenhead, born there actually! There are other B in my family and both have the same name, father and son. I do know the younger B is a scientist – perhaps it is you?

    There is another bcrombie from the Wirral I think you will find – hasn’t lived there since very young but was born there. If you are who I think you, remember that you have a big family…..

    I do not think this is the place for family arguments but it would have been easier if you had thought it through and asked politely rather than making accusations – I never knew you were religious though. Shame because I know you are a nice guy and would not want to fall out over this

  • Matthew Huntbach

    I am a vegetarian and I am not in principle opposed to abortion, whether for animals or humans. I am against killing and eating animals and people too.

  • Matthew

    I am not challenging his right to say what he does – anti-abortionism is a position many people take . What it does show, and the other quote, is that the leadership of that particular organisation has values you would not normally consider to be liberal.

    I am being consistently accused of prolonging the thread by some people from the opposing side but there seem to be very few answers coming that are in any way convincing to a non-believer. Mainly personal insults to be honest

    The only person who has tried is Helen Tadcastle and I am listening to what she says.

  • ARealScientist 8th Mar '13 - 7:29pm

    Bcrombie

    Ok makes sense now. Just very ununsual to have my corporate office alert me to this blog, and I have had other instances of online identity theft, so I am hyper aware. Apologies, good to connect with you in this rather unusual way.

    What you say about Southport is wholly untrue!!

    And also all that church schools stuff as well There…kept it within topic.
    I prefer Geometric Theosophy……wink.

    Not religious.

  • ARealScientist

    Well cousin, nice to have made contact with you as well and I can understand your ‘emotional response’ from what you explained. I am surprised you didn’t think it through though – there are quite a few scientists in our family and you know I am as well. It is funny because I only started using my real name when there were comments on here about too many anonymous users – that is why I have other user names, although the reason I used one in this thread was the one I explained above. Never knew it would cause such problems

    No need to say more about it and perhaps we can be a little more civil to each other next time!

    On Southport, well that is just an opinion – not worth more or less than anyone else’s.

    I am also allowed my opinion on church schools – I am not alone in what I think and to someone who doesn’t accept the role of organised religion in the state it is completely consistent – not important enough to fall out with family over though (our lot can find plenty of other excuses to lol).

    But, I am sure there are many more things we actually agree on and I hope you and family are well. It would be nice to catch up by email sometime – if you want I can get my details to you by some means I am sure

    The things that happen in the strange world of the internet!!!!

  • Stephen Hesketh 8th Mar '13 - 9:01pm

    @Crombie Clan – Oh no – there really are two of you! LOL.

  • Stephen

    Lol – more than 2. Sorry about that!

    It is a bit like Surprise Surprise!!!

  • “The things that happen in the strange world of the internet!!!!”

    Pleased at the happy ending :)

  • Stephen Hesketh 8th Mar '13 - 9:37pm

    @bcrombie – Yes, at least 3 of you!
    Just for the record, I am another scientifically-trained, strongly pro-secular Liberal.

  • bcrombie
    Apologies Cousin, it was the whole Birkenhead thing that threw me, you know what I mean….you’re right I did not think.
    I will get my email to you, so we can reconnect properly. Of course, The Crombies really do know how to row…ahem…give a reasoned argument. On this experience, I have now started to have a ‘feeling’ that a higher hand of consciouness has brought us together. Lets start a school. I am only joking. Poor old Nick Clegg, as long as his kids grow up like all of our kids, to be happy, healthy, respectful, kind and compassionate to others and pay their taxes to preferentially subsidise some schools….damn…..I nearly stayed neutral didn’t I? I’m actually quite ambivalent – although I have to say if we went down the route of totally secular schooling, how would the Gaddafi family be able to make donations to the LSE…..I mean, you can’t stop evolution can you?

    All the best to you and yours ‘b’

    Does blogging on this site mean I’m a liberal democrat now…..or I am still CofE?

  • Helen Tedcastle 8th Mar '13 - 10:10pm

    @bcrombie: “…doesn’t accept the role of organised religion in the state …”

    How about ‘disorganised religion’ or mildly anarchic, non-hierarchical responses?

  • Helen Tedcastle 8th Mar '13 - 10:21pm

    @ Stephen Hesketh: ” strongly pro-secular Liberal.”

    What does that mean?Personally, I’m comfortable living in a secular state where religious diversity is respected, which has a voice alongside others, so in that sense I’m a strongly pro-secular Liberal.
    However, arguing for marginalising a group or groups because one does not like their beliefs or because they’re not all trained scientists – although in fact, ‘religious’ people range from sophisticated intellectuals in many disciplines to the ordinary manual worker – can be discarded as not having the right level of understanding or the right type of training?

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 12:09am

    Phyllis

    I am a vegetarian and I am not in principle opposed to abortion, whether for animals or humans. I am against killing and eating animals and people too

    Yes, and your point is?

    I am not saying that vegetarians should also be anti-abortionists. I am just saying that both positions stem from extending the principle that it is wrong to kill people. I didn’t say that those who extend it in one direction should necessarily extend it in the other.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 12:13am

    bcrombie

    What it does show, and the other quote, is that the leadership of that particular organisation has values you would not normally consider to be liberal

    Cardinal Keith O’Brien was widely condemned by Catholics for the aggressive tone he adopted on this and other issues. On the other hand, he was outspoken on many other issues in a way that was very firmly to the political left.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 12:20am

    bcrombie

    I am being consistently accused of prolonging the thread by some people from the opposing side but there seem to be very few answers coming that are in any way convincing to a non-believer

    Look, BCrombie – I have made my position clear. I have a job, I have a family. I don’t have TIME to spend hours carefully writing essays on Catholic theology and practice, trying to explain it all in great detail to someone who is clearly pretty clueless on it, which is what you seem to be asking me to do. I didn’t come into this thread to do this. As I’ve already said, why is it that if one does take a position which is not standard trendy Catholic-bashing in threads like this, one is then subject to a barrage of further aggressive attacks, and expected to write reams and reams of defence of every aspect of the Catholic Church in response to people who views on it stem at best from ignorance at worse form malicious prejudice?

  • Matthew Huntbach “I am just saying that both positions stem from extending the principle that it is wrong to kill people”

    I should think most people would think that “it is wrong to kill people”, even meat-eaters and those who are not anti-abortion.

  • Matthew Huntbach “have a job, I have a family. I don’t have TIME to spend hours carefully writing essays on Catholic theology and practice”

    You clearly DO have time to write long ‘essays’ on almost every thread on this site – repeatedly- so just admit it, Matthew, you just don’t have an answer – bcrombie has stumped Matthew Huntbach!

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 12:37am

    bcrombie

    Some people have got offended by the ‘sky fairy’ thing but I personally do not see how I can insult a concept that, to me, is a figment of imagination

    Right, so suppose someone writes a great piece of literature or a poem or paints a beautiful painting, and you attack it in a way that shows clearly you did not understand what they were trying to express in that literary piece of artwork, in a way that seriously misrepresents their feelings about it, in a way that suggests they are silly deficient sort of people for even having an artistic mind, would that not be insulting? And would it be an acceptable defence against charges of being insulting to say “how can I insult a concept that is a figment of the imagination?”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 12:50am

    Phyllis

    You clearly DO have time to write long ‘essays’ on almost every thread on this site – repeatedly- so just admit it, Matthew, you just don’t have an answer – bcrombie has stumped Matthew Huntbach!

    Oh Jeez, you illustrate just the point I was making ages ago. I have actually missed a couple of important deadlines at work because of the time I’ve spent on this thread. If I had more time I could answer his points in much more detail, but I don’t. For example, he repeats a common simplistic misinterpretation of the Galileo case. I’ve read detailed analyses of this which show it was a much more complex issue than is put in the way bcrombie put it. But then you seem to be expecting me to look these up, carefully explain them and so on. And if I don’t, and I don’t on all the other very simplistic things bcrombie has said, each of which might take an hour or so to explain properly, you accuse of me of running away unable to answer.

    Phyllis, you have insulted me here more than bcrombie has, much more. I was actually going to type something very rude in reply, but I’ve deleted it. It had two words, the first had four letters, the second three, the first rhymed with “duck” and the second was the opposite of “on”. Anyway, I’ve deleted it, but it’s what I feel about you right now.

  • Matthew, I’ve read some of those “detailed analyses” of “the Galileo case” — and what most strikes me about them is that they take it for granted that Church authorities had a right to threaten, prosecute, and imprison Galileo for holding an opinion they thought was wrong. It hardly matters what the opinion was, or why they thought it was wrong, or whether Galileo was 100% right in his opinions or not. It doesn’t matter whether Galileo was in violation of a previous agreement not to talk about his opinions or not — all of these being irrelevant points that the defenders of Pope Urban the Eighth like to dwell on. When all the irrelevancies are removed, what remains is that Galileo was prosecuted and deprived of his freedom because he spoke and published on issues which the Church had decreed, for entirely unsatisfactory reasons, to be beyond discussion. And that was a fundamentally illiberal action on the part of Pope Urban. It was not his business to give direction to the faithful as to what scientific theories they should or should not be exposed to or allowed to believe. Galileo should have been allowed to present Copernicanism as theory or as fact or anything in between regardless of the sufficiency of data he had to support his views (which was much greater than Urban’s defenders will admit, but that too is irrelevant). The fact that other nations at the time had harsh limitations on freedom of speech and of the press is irrelevant; surely, one would have liked the Church to be out front in defending freedom to publish and freedom of inquiry. But it was not so. Consider that Galileo — at the time a scientist and inventor famed throughout Europe — was publicly humiliated for publishing a major scientific work, while at the same time Kepler, north of the Alps, and under the protection of Emperors Rudolf and Matthias, was able to publish pro-Copernican works unhindered. The sole difference was whose power these scientists were answerable to: in the first place, to secular rulers who were generally supportive of intellectual inquiry; in the second place, to church rulers who believed they had the answers and would only support inquiry if it arrived at predetermined conclusions.

    This is not saying that the church was evil or that its essential characteristic was or is antipathy to science. But at this particular time, under this particular Pope (and others for a while afterwards), it had adopted opinions (and a manner of dealing with contrary opinions) that was prejudicial to free inquiry, and which tended to give a slight lead to countries (like England and Scotland and parts of Germany) where there was less hostility to a scientific method. Over time (from the mid 17th-century on) that would make a big difference in their national development.

    In short, the defenses of Urban and of the 17th-century church are examples of niggling apologetics that fail to deal with the larger point by focusing on an array of trivial details, none of which are new to historians.

  • Helen

    I think ‘organized’ was the wrong word. ‘Institutionalized’ was properly more accurate. I don’t like the idea of a institution that is , from my view, strongly illiberal having any link tot he education of children This would go for political parties as well.

    Religion, of course, has to be part of any rounded education. I am interested int he philosophical side of religion as part of the tapestry of life. How that education is done though is debatable, which is what we have been doing here (on occasion)

    Matthew

    You say you don’t have time and then proceed to write 3 or 4 posts on various threads. I mainly agree with your political viewpoint but you do frequently seem to be aggressive to others – even those agreeing with you but just having a slightly different perspective.

    On this insulting thing, I am still a little confused how I can insult a concept. On the, in my view flawed, comparison you made; I have seen art critics dismiss work from artists as rubbish frequently. In fact there are some people who thought work we now consider to be at the top of the cultural tree now as useless in the past. As these things are very subjective then you cannot say someone is right or wrong.

    On the point that seems to upset you the most, which I will try to avoid doing again, you can argue that the church’s excesses and actions in the past mirrored society as a whole. The violence against non-believers, the attitude towards women, the control etc were common in the past. The thing is though, the church (of whatever form) is supposed to be linked to a deity that knows the truth. A lot of the things that the church takes credit for were actually done in the face of opposition of the institution.

    I agree ‘religious’ people were involved in a lot of major progressive changes in the past but was this because of or in spite of. Remember, noone who was a declared non-believer would have been able to get to university or even an education of any kind.

    I also think your response to Phyllis was out of order – you cannot expect everyone to agree with you on your say so

  • Stephen Hesketh 9th Mar '13 - 8:47am

    @ Helen Tedcastle 10:21pm

    The scientific bit was entirely innocent and related to the two BCrombies raising scientific backgrounds in their posts. It absolutely does not imply anything along the lines you suggest; nor did I wish to bring the inquisition down on myself. My position would be that raising up any occupation or belief system above all others ultimately has a significantly bad effect upon the society it/they co-exist in.

    I made the secular and Liberal points because I fundamentally believe that people have a right to their own beliefs and to attempt to live their lives by those beliefs – but only so long as they do not impact disproportionately upon the reasonable beliefs and freedoms of others.

    I frequently observe that the secularism of many religious people does not extent very far when it comes to alternative opinions that clash with the teachings of their religion. I cite the reaction to Eric Avebury’s desire to have the option of assisted dying open to him at the end of his own life or to same sex couples wishing to marry in churches that have freely voted to accept such couples.

    Prior to my short Crombie Clan post, I had not become involved in this thread. I am now returning to that position.

    Secular, green, egalitarian, Liberal Democrat!

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 8:52am

    David

    Matthew, I’ve read some of those “detailed analyses” of “the Galileo case” — and what most strikes me about them is that they take it for granted that Church authorities had a right to threaten, prosecute, and imprison Galileo for holding an opinion they thought was wrong

    Yes, but this illustrates precisely the point that led me to get so angry with Phyllis. What I mean was that I felt the way bcrombie put this was rather simplistic, failing to take into account much of the context of the time, I could explain the other side of the argument, which I think ought to be put to get a balanced view of it. The fact that I could explain it doesn’t even mean I am wholeheartedly in agreement with it. Yet then without me even putting this other side, you write something which seems to assume I am an extreme supporter it, not someone who just thinks if an extreme view on one side is put it’s only fair that the counter-view should also be put. You seem to suppose I hold to the view that the Catholic authorities at the time did nothing wrong, which I don’t. And if I don’t reply to clarify my position, because I think this is getting a bit silly and well removed from the original point , you will assume that I am as you have painted me, an extreme supporter of every aspect of the Catholic Church who holds to that position out of ignorance, and that therefore if I am not replying it is because I have been “stumped”.

    I made my original point at 11.03pm on 4th March, and that was all I really wanted to say. I made that point because I looked at this thread and felt it was very one-sided. I felt there was a liberal argument for faith schools which had not been made at all, and that much of what had been written here was based on a belief about how religious education works in Catholic schools which I know from my experience is wrong. Now, it used to be more like that many decades, ago, but how it was being described here was completely at odds with the religious education I had in the state Catholic schools I attended, and that was back in the 1970s.

    So why is it that if I make this point, it can’t just be accepted? Why am I then expected to go on and on making a detailed defence of every aspect of the Catholic Church, and if I don’t, I am accused of being someone who doesn’t know his stuff, someone who has been “stumped” by what I know to be very simplistic and one-sided lines? As I said a long time ago in this thread, this is almost ALWAYS what happens whenever I feel it would be good to air a balancing opinion to something that has been said on a topic relating to the Catholic Church. So should I therefore remain silent, even though I think something one-sided has been said where it would be good for the other side to be put to balance it? I now wish that I had not bothered to put the other side in this case, given what simply doing that has led to. But doesn’t this amount to censorship? Why should I feel forced to remain silent and let dubious one-sided argument go without a balancing point of view being given because of fear of the consequences of putting that balancing point of view?

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 9:03am

    bcrombie

    I also think your response to Phyllis was out of order – you cannot expect everyone to agree with you on your say so

    I wasn’t saying that. I’m happy with people disagreeing with me, but I like to reach the point where we can agree where we disagree. The problem here is not any point of view of Phyllis, it’s the personal attack on me made directly against what I had said earlier, which is that I was getting fed up with the way this was being dragged on, but I did not want to give the impression that if I did not carry on with it, that was because I had been “stumped” and could not mount a defence of attacks on points I made.

  • @MH (on Galileo)

    But Catholics and other religious people claim to able to draw upon some kind access to and inspiration from the “right” values, through their communion with God, revealed scriptures, the process of prayer etc. Doesn’t the fact that they need to resort to “but that was the context of the time” suggest to you that they are only imagining they have that access? Why wouldn’t god have revealed the value of free speech to the pope and other priests much earlier than he did?

    By the way I don’t have a problem with the abortion stuff. If the Catholics are right and there is a god who has a negative view of abortion, homosexuality and so on, then that is something we have to deal with – but the fact most liberal people don’t want it to be true doesn’t make it less likely to be true. Atheists who say “but church/deity X holds position Y on issue Z”, as an argument for that church being wrong generally are guilty of the same argument by wishful thinking they frequently accuse religious people of.

  • Education and religion – a perfect recipe for controversy!

    I have a strong belief in the powers of education, and having read through the evidence provided by this thread I’m reassured it’s not wholly misplaced.

    Education requires honesty, so let’s be honest.

    It is completely dishonest to deliberately confuse criticism of any particular belief with criticism of a person who may hold such a belief.

    All forms of education are form of indoctrination, and I think parents should be honest with themselves that they aren’t launching their child into a values ‘black-hole’ when they select schooling preferences.

    And the public debate should be more honest that it is impossible to completely eradicate all forms of selection… because until we are more honest about this, society won’t be able to control for counterproductive divisions and all selection criteria will continue to be the subject of harmful snobbery.

    I see no fundamental reason why a state comp should necessarily be considered a worse preparation for the outside world.

    For liberals the freedom to choose is an imperative – we know we don’t live in an ideal world – and any parent should count his or her blessings when they recieve a positive choice.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Mar '13 - 1:10pm

    @bcrombie: ” I don’t like the idea of a institution that is , from my view, strongly illiberal having any link tot he education of children This would go for political parties as well.”

    Yes, I think that to me it appears your objection is with strongly hierarchical forms of religious expression – I guess the RC Church is the exemplar extraordinaire in that regard, as is the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches. They are the products of history, of having powerful friends etc.. but also the key bearers of a very simple and extraordinary message.

    You may find more to your liking the movements of the 18th century which gave rise to radical reformed traditions, which eschewed hierarchies. organised and complex liturgies, and emphasise simplicity and a different relationship or understanding of God etc.. I’m thinking of the Quakers, Unitarians and Primitive Methodists. God is not object out there but within (although this strand of thought is also present within the Catholic/Orthodox tradition, though not understood in the media or in wider secular society, much to my frustration!).

    The reason for writing all this is that ‘religion’ as such, is highly complex and multi-layered – the media is obsessed with one strand of the RC Church and the negatives associated with institutions – I’m not underplaying the hypocrisy and cover ups of those who put ego and power-games, ( in Ireland, this was colluded with by the state at the expense of ordinary Catholics), above the Gospel but the Church is not all about externals or or indeed the hierarchy but millions of decent people who do the hard graft in faith schools and in the community day in day out – with little recognition.

    It’s a pity that the immense work for the common good of which Catholic schools are a part, is not fully appreciated by members of the Lib Dems (except the Cleggs ;-) ), who wish they didn’t exist.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Mar '13 - 1:21pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach: ” I felt there was a liberal argument for faith schools which had not been made at all, and that much of what had been written here was based on a belief about how religious education works in Catholic schools which I know from my experience is wrong.”

    Yes, that too has been my frustration, not just on this particular thread but others on the forum over time. Like you, I respect those, with respect towards others, can argue their point sincerely.

    “Now, it used to be more like that many decades, ago, but how it was being described here was completely at odds with the religious education I had in the state Catholic schools I attended, and that was back in the 1970s.”

    Like you, I had RE lessons in the 1970s and also in the early 1980s in Catholic schools – it wasn’t like the Madrassahs of northern Pakistan, as some seem to think it is!! We actually discussed, disagreed with the teacher (shock) and had out views challenged.

    I do think RE teaching has improved greatly since then though, as there are far more specialists with Theology/Religious Studies degrees in schools – although still nowhere near as many as there should be – it’s a shortage subject.

  • Matthew — I was not addressing your views on Galileo, which are unknown to me. I was addressing the views of certain persons who have made the attempt to justify the 17th-century church’s actions against Galileo, whose arguments are familiar to me because they got a good deal of publicity not too long ago, and which seemed likely candidates for your “detailed analyses of this which show it was a much more complex issue.” I don’t expect you to “clarify your position” because I didn’t see you taking any position; you just referred to these “analyses,” not endorsed them. I simply wanted to address some of the “complexities” from a liberal perspective.
    The truth or falsity of Catholic Christianity, or any religion, would seem to me to be a philosophical matter beyond the scope of this site. The quality of education in faith schools is relevant, but unless someone has hard statistical data on the subject, we would seem to be reduced to flinging anecdotes around — an endlessly amusing pastime, but not terrifically enlightening.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Mar '13 - 2:04pm

    @ David: Philosophical debate is important and valuable – it clarifies thinking and thinking ‘is the big thing we need’ in this era of lies, damned lies and statistics.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 2:07pm

    Helen Tedcastle

    You may find more to your liking the movements of the 18th century which gave rise to radical reformed traditions, which eschewed hierarchies. organised and complex liturgies, and emphasise simplicity and a different relationship or understanding of God etc.. I’m thinking of the Quakers, Unitarians and Primitive Methodists

    Yes, but this sort of liberal Protestantism is in steep decline. Whereas the sort characterised by the USA tele-evangelists, which also owes its origin to these traditions, is on the rise. Seeing this happen and thinking through how and why has, as I said, played a big part in reconciling my liberal instincts with the nature of authority in the Catholic Church.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 2:16pm

    Richard S

    But Catholics and other religious people claim to able to draw upon some kind access to and inspiration from the “right” values, through their communion with God, revealed scriptures, the process of prayer etc. Doesn’t the fact that they need to resort to “but that was the context of the time” suggest to you that they are only imagining they have that access?

    I believe the Church is a living and evolving organisation – that is entirely in line with Catholic theology. I don’t believe God gave us a fixed rule book which explained everything, and that’s what our religion is all about – that’s more in line with Protestant and Muslim theology. As St Paul put it “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am”. It is an admission at the start of the Church that we are working towards it, but we are not there yet.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '13 - 2:22pm

    David

    I don’t expect you to “clarify your position” because I didn’t see you taking any position; you just referred to these “analyses,” not endorsed them.

    Yes, but this was in a context where every time I suggested there were alternative positions and what was being said was rather one-sided and seemed to me to be based more on prejudice than knowledge, I was attacked on the supposition that I supported every aspect of these alternative positions, expected to explain them all in detail, leading to more attacks of the same sort, and when I said, as I have been “look, this is all very interesting, but I don’t have time to carry on like this”, attacked and accused of being someone who lacked the knowledge and ability to reply to the simplistic and one-sided points that were being made. That sort of attack from Phyllis was an attack on me personally, not an argument against any position I’ve taken, which is why I found it so offensive.

  • ARealScientist 9th Mar '13 - 6:38pm

    Bazza,
    See my post under ‘BCrombie2′ at 9:47pm…took a while because I put the wrong email in, in case you missed it.

    Stephen Hesketh
    There are two, what have you started!!! A Crombie sandwich of pure logical argument!!!

    To all others
    Apologies for hijacking this post, it’s been emotional…like my post at 9:47 says…I actually might stay a while, seems like a good forum, well done to all!!

  • Richard Dean 9th Mar '13 - 7:06pm

    Do real scientists really allow their emotions to run riot in this way? Wouldn’t a real scientist be more interested in facts, methods of accurately obtaining them, and methods of developing a theoretical framework consistent with them and capable of accurately predicting new facts?

    I wonder if there remain a few identity issues hidden here?

  • Matthew Huntbach “Phyllis, you have insulted me here more than bcrombie has, much more. I was actually going to type something very rude in reply, but I’ve deleted it. It had two words, the first had four letters, the second three, the first rhymed with “duck” and the second was the opposite of “on”. Anyway, I’ve deleted it, but it’s what I feel about you right now.”

    For heaven’s sake Matthew you must really learn to curb your emotionalism. No-one has ‘insulted’ or ‘attacked’ you at all. If this is what you think is happening then you really must get out more. You regularly accuse people of ‘attacking’ you when all we are doi g is raising valid points. In fact you are far more offensive to others – as is evidenced by the four-letter expletive you have all but used to me. I consider that extremely puerile, and against the rules of the Forum.

  • Bcrombie”I also think your response to Phyllis was out of order – you cannot expect everyone to agree with you on your say so”

    Thanks bcrombie. I am actually quite upset about that post. Unbelievable to be attacked like that with the ‘F’ Word. Is this what LibDems have come to?!

  • @Helen: I’m glad that you’ve had the experience of engaging in philosophical debate that has clarified your thinking. I am sure such a thing is possible, especially between friends who have mutual respect for each others’ views. I have rarely if ever seen it in public internet discussion, however, largely because there is no agreed upon philosophical basis, no structure for the discussion, and no willingness to concede a point. “Philosophy” in such a venue amounts to little more than slightly-warmed air, meaningless to most readers because few of them will share any of the presuppositions of the philosophical argument.

  • @Matthew: You’ve clearly done a much better job at following the clew of the argument throughout this thread. I’m afraid I lost the plot about the time of the Crombie Family Reunion, and I’ve never been able to get back to it again. I still can’t make the thread read like anything other than a series of random digressions.

  • Richard Dean

    Scientists can be emotional as anyone! The situation with the belief in the deity can be taken to a scientific level. You have Pascal’s Wager which suggests that belief in a deity is the most sensible choice. You can then make the hypothesis that God exists and whether you have believe it has been proven tends to depend on your belief. There are other hypotheses, including the ‘Hand of God’ in Creation. Again a perfectly valid hypothesis but the issue as always is proof.

    My apologies for the hijacking of the thread at times by my family but we have not been in touch for years and I hope you will indulge our reunion a bit!

    It does seem that when they say religion and politics don’t mix….they may be right!

  • Richard Dean 9th Mar '13 - 11:10pm

    Yes, indeed, science rests on faith, in the “scientific method” – a circular argument if ever there was one – and science cannot explain existence. All its explanations start from some postulate that something already exists!

  • >science rests on faith, in the “scientific method” – a circular argument if ever there was one

    Also ‘science’ as people usually refer to also is entirely about “Public Knowledge”, and as any one who has either stepped back or been involved with soft sciences such as psychology would know there is a whole world of “private knowledge” out there that scientists such as Richard Dawkins totally ignore because the normal scientific method cannot be applied.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Mar '13 - 11:25pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach: ” Yes, but this sort of liberal Protestantism is in steep decline. Whereas the sort characterised by the USA tele-evangelists, which also owes its origin to these traditions, is on the rise. Seeing this happen and thinking through how and why has, as I said, played a big part in reconciling my liberal instincts with the nature of authority in the Catholic Church.”

    It’s not my cup of tea and you’re right, it is not faring well, although I’m not sure about the Quakers. It’s strange then that the Government is so keen to accommodate these fringe groups (not the Methodists as they are against it), on the issue of Gay marriage but are happy to ignore the arguments from the mainstream Churches.

    On authority in the Church: yes, I think if one examines the authority and the model of the Bishop of Rome in the Church, it is reconcilable with liberal instincts, no doubt. My view was confirmed in this along time ago when reading the Vatican II documents, especially Lumen Gentium. In the secular realm, the obsession with and hostility to the Church stems from the strong line on personal issues – they bypass the other areas – too inconvenient.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Mar '13 - 11:46pm

    @ bcrombie: ” The situation with the belief in the deity can be taken to a scientific level. ”

    if you mean it can be tested using scientific method, I would argue that this is probably not feasible, as God cannot be observed or tested in the same way as an insect or fruit fly – this is the dilemma for scientists. However, they can test those who claim to have had religious experiences and I know that neuro-scientists believe they can detect an area of the brain associated with religious feeling/responses. Perhaps we are hard -wired to God? ;-)

    “You have Pascal’s Wager which suggests that belief in a deity is the most sensible choice.”

    This is more of a philosophical argument than a scientific hypothesis – Pascal determines that it is better to live in this world as if God does exist than not, due to what may or may not happen in the after life – the wager or gamble is how one chooses to live and the stance one takes towards God. Pascal himself had mystical experiences of God – no doubt he really believed and didn’t fake it.
    “There are other hypotheses, including the ‘Hand of God’ in Creation. Again a perfectly valid hypothesis but the issue as always is proof.”

    Again, the language I would use is not hypothesis but philosophical argument – on this one, ‘proof’ is not something that can be brought into play, if one means by proof, testable, observable data – largely because, when the believer uses religious language to describe an experience and a non-believer uses scientific language to describe the same phenomenon, one cannot prove the ‘validity’ or truth of the experience either way.

    In my view, looking for proof ie: in terms of testable data, will only get one so far – it certainly should not be the only criteria on which to judge the truth of belief (after all, would you test a work of Dickens in the Lab for its efficacy?)

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '13 - 2:29am

    Phyllis

    For heaven’s sake Matthew you must really learn to curb your emotionalism. No-one has ‘insulted’ or ‘attacked’ you at all.

    I made the point that I felt this was getting out of hand, being expected to write more and more and more in defence of almost every aspect of the history and practice of the Catholic Church just because I had jumped in at in point to make a corrective balance to what appeared to me to be a very one-sided debate was unrealistic. I had jumped out of the argument and into meta-argument, and I think you should have accepted my plea to bring this to an end for purely practical reasons, and not because I am intellectually incapable of carrying on replying to the points being made.

    I think you should have accepted that, but you did not. Surely this is polite behaviour in any circumstances – when someone says “look, enough is enough, let’s call it a day, let’s agree to disagree”, that is done. Instead you goaded me, and did so very deliberately, repeating back the very words I had used to try and bring this to an end. That made me very angry, so much so that I nearly did post the words I referred to. But then I calmed down, trying to express my feelings about this in a light-hearted way. I felt, however, you ought to know how I really felt.

    Now when you write “Is this what LibDems have come to?!” that is ridiculous. What on earth do you mean by it? Am I claiming to be a representative of the Liberal Democrats here? No. Are you suggesting that membership of the Liberal Democrats is some sort of mind-control thing, so that anything done or said by anyone who happens to be a member of the Liberal Democrats under any circumstances must be done because that is how Liberal Democrats are ordered to behave? Well, what you say would make sense if that is how you think, but I assure you that is not how being a member of the Liberal Democrats work.

  • Matthew your response to some gentle teasing from me was to tell me to swear at me . That speaks for itself.

  • The criticism of faith schools (and religion more generally) boils down to their capability to reform and engage more closely with the universal ideal of shared humanity. It is a deeply political position.

    So if liberals want to promote what we stand for then we must stand up for each of individual rights to express ourselves – not only it is good that we can do so in a pluralistic mixed society, but it’s more important that we don’t ex-communicate ourselves from those we differ from.

    The ‘some voices’ argument is bogus, there are many voices within any organisation – which we as LibDems should know only too well, especially on LibDem Voice!

    Fairness needs a more representative balance.

    It was the case in politics for many decades for our party.

    It is the case for many of our campaigners who struggle to get their voices heard on issues big and small.

    And it is true for anybody in society who feels nobody is listening.

    If we think the religious debate is polarising and becoming more extreme then we need to restate a fresh, relevant and more engaging liberal theology.

    And it starts with freedom.

    We defend freedom of conscience by defending each other’s freedom of conscience.

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” – because only then can we can try to convince each other through conversation.

    It is an open-minded approach, rooted in the truth we know, founded on the values we hold. We cannot know where this ultimately leads, just as we don’t quite know what tomorrow will bring.

    I think we should bring this conversation back down to earth.

    We support the right to protest as fundamental to democracy, but society needs to do more to recognise this to be able to hold officials more accountable because we feel they aren’t fully or proportionately representative.

    As far as this thread is concerned, there doesn’t seem to be any official participation, so things are liable to descend.

  • Helen Tedcastle 10th Mar '13 - 1:40pm

    @Oranjpan: ” We defend freedom of conscience by defending each other’s freedom of conscience.”

    I agree with you there.

    ” I think we should bring this conversation back down to earth.”

    I really do not understand what this means – the conversations on this thread – on the whole – have been rooted in the here and now. If you are referring to some people over-stepping the mark, then it was ever thus on this medium.

    ” As far as this thread is concerned, there doesn’t seem to be any official participation, so things are liable to descend.”

    Sorry but if ‘officials’ or those who set themselves up as such, were participating actively, I would not be too happy if they censored remarks, closed down genuine discussion or constantly towed the Party Line on this thread.

  • Paul Pettinger 10th Mar '13 - 4:55pm

    Helen, you seem to be ignoring a couple of things – firstly the extent of religious discrimination in employment, and secondly that state funded schools with a religious character are almost entirely funded by society at large.
    Most faith schools, and all Catholic schools, can place religious restrictions and requirements on all their teachers and teacher posts, not just RE teachers, with seemingly no requirement on the school to show that such treatment is justified or proportionate. Schools can therefore demand that (for example) maths, foreign language and sports teachers are of a certain faith, and can discipline and ultimately even dismiss teachers for conduct that the school (rather than a religious authority) deem to go against its religious tenets. For example, teachers at Catholics schools choosing to remarry have been forced to leave posts (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/jul/22/headteacher-remarry-forced-resignation). Yet these schools are almost entirely funded by the state i.e. between 99% and 100% of costs, and have exemption of equalities legalisation to allow them to discriminate.
    I don’t see that protecting these privileges in an age when Christian belief is on the decline provides the Church with a good advert. Providing education for its own sake, tailored with a special emphasis towards the vulnerable would earn plaudits, but faith schools, and Catholic schools in particular, are becoming increasingly a space for the affluent (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/mar/05/church-schools-shun-poorest-pupils).
    Having been raised a Christian (high church Anglican), if we were to ask what would Jesus do, I don’t think the current arrangements would be his answer.

  • Helen Tedcastle 10th Mar '13 - 8:18pm

    @ Paul Pettinger: ” firstly the extent of religious discrimination in employment, and secondly that state funded schools with a religious character are almost entirely funded by society at large.”

    On the first point, this is not religious discrimination. As you note in the second part of the above statement, the schools in question have ‘a religious character.’ When a teacher applies for /signs up to a school like this, they know what they are going into – it is clearly and explicitly stated. A headteacher must be Catholic as the head of a Catholic school. Why is this so radical? Would you accept a practising Muslim as chairman of the Humanist Association? I doubt it, because aims and objectives are entirely at odds. I doubt a Muslim could put their heart and soul into leading an organisation opposite to their beliefs – are you expecting me to believe Humanists would be happy that such a person lead them? What about the character of that organisation led by a theist?

    I still cannot see the problem with state funding from the examples you give – no one is fooled – as if schools conceal their identity – it’s all open and above board – apply and sign up to the ethos and values or don’t apply.

    Simples.

  • Paul Pettinger 10th Mar '13 - 8:35pm

    If it isn’t discrimination why do faith schools need opt outs from religious discrimination laws? Other organisations, such as a religious or humanist charity, can show preference to some one on the grounds of belief in employment when they can show there is a genuine occupational requirement – why can’t faith schools just subscribe to these legal arrangements too? Why does a state funded faith school need to require a games, maths or geography teacher be of a certain faith?

  • Helen Tadcastle

    Don’t you see anything wrong in this at all – a state funded school being able to discriminate on the grounds of religion?

    Why can someone who is not religious not be able to teach French in a Catholic School?

    The BNP were forced to change their constitution over the barring of membership to non-whites. The fact that no non-white would be expected to want to be a member is immaterial. Why do religious schools have an exemption from the equality law (before Matthew gets upset again I am not implying there is equivalence between the two organisations but as an example of inconsistency)

    Are state schools able to be Humanist – I thought someone had tried this and it was prevented? The BHA policy is that schools should not be used in this way and that

    Your comment can be dealt with if schools weren’t labelled humanist, sikh, muslim, catholic etc which is the point we are making

  • Helen Tedcastle 10th Mar '13 - 9:14pm

    @Paul Pettinger: ” Why does a state funded faith school need to require a games, maths or geography teacher be of a certain faith?”

    First of all, many non-Catholics already teach in Catholic schools – I know I have taught alongside them – when they applied, they agreed to sign up to the ethos of the school. The difference between a Catholic teacher and a Non-Catholic one in a Catholic school is that whereas one can be a great teacher and accept the ethos to the extent that they do not actively go against it – some actually get quite involved – Catholic teachers bring an extra dimension of understanding of what it means to be a catholic, a better than average understanding of Catholic values, how they are lived and practised. Some of my ex-colleagues who were non-Catholics but who taught in the school a long time, did participate more readily than the new teachers but they expected the Catholic teachers to lead and to know far more about Catholic values as they are lived-out in school life, pastorally particularly.

    It is not discrimination to try to preserve the culture, ethos and values of a community which belongs in society or should all cultural differences be abolished – the key bearers of tradition and culture are adults in positions of care over children – if parents send their children to a Catholic school, they know in advance what the tradition and culture is and they know that teachers transmit it. What I might suggest, you are after is a culturally=free school system but in reality if religious identity was squashed from public view, another culture would come to the fore – a secular one – not neutral but positioned and frankly, intolerant and bland.

    What would Jesus do on helping the poor and marginalised? Help the poor and marginalised but even he needed disciples to educate so they could support his work and teach the Good News.

    However, the article you provide a link to makes the point that faith schools take from a much wider area than the community school. Also, free school meals is only one criteria for underprivileged – it is the Ofsted one, granted but I note that there are no statistics cited for the number of exclusions taken in by Catholic schools – disproportionate to other schools (who expel their kids), also no statistics are provided for those with behavioural and emotional difficulties. There are many ways to measure the vulnerable and marginalised numbers.

    @bcrombie: ” Why can someone who is not religious not be able to teach French in a Catholic School?”

    Please see above comment on teachers in Catholic schools.

  • Helen

    But the Head has the right to employ only those on the relevant religion does he not? There is the opportunity to take people of not of that religion if they are of the ‘right ethos’ but discrimination, because that is what it is, is not prevented by law as it would be for other institutions.

    This is a pretty appalling state of affairs really though isn’t it? In 21st Century we see certain organisations having exemption from the equality laws and these are the institutions helping to inform our next generation.

    If Heads or organisations want to do this then really they should not be in receipt of state funding as a minimum – whether they should still be able to do it in the private sector is also debatable (and I think you know where I would come from on that already).

    You keep talking as it is a ‘Catholic’ School – it isn’t, it is a state school run and should be run for the benefit of the community in general not the views of one particular part. I have seen a lot of criticism of humanism on this thread but if you look at the BHA website they oppose any sort of schools set up under a ‘humanist’ name – surely that is a better approach?

    I understand your concerns that religious studies would no longer be part of the curriculum and I agree with you that this is a key part of the education of our children as it helps to understand the development of our culture. Setting up faith schools seems a bit of overkill to protect that

  • Helen Tedcastle 10th Mar '13 - 10:08pm

    @ bcrombie: This is a pretty appalling state of affairs really though isn’t it? No.

    “In 21st Century we see certain organisations having exemption from the equality laws and these are the institutions helping to inform our next generation.”

    Lets not get too much onto our high horse!

    As I understand it, the leadership of a Catholic school and the RE teachers have to be Catholic, others don’t. On the ground, many non-Catholics teach, assist and support pupils in a Catholic school. These institutions as you put it, contribute far more than they detract from society – to suggest otherwise or at least imply it is unfair.

    I can’t think of one positive contribution to society made by that tiny organisation called the BHA – except constantly complaining . If they did ever get enough people together to form a community, perhaps they could open a school and we’ll see how they get on re so-called discrimination – whether to employ Humanists or not in a Humanist school.

    However, I have met some Humanist individuals on the local SACRE and they didn’t seem to have the same problem with my faith school as some on here do.

  • Paul Pettinger 10th Mar '13 - 11:27pm

    State funded faith schools should seek to sustain particular beliefs and cultures? I find the notion that groups should assimilate abhorrent, but the use of public funds to maintain the fortunes of religion and beliefs groups wholly inappropriate. State education should make us ask questions , cover different perspectives on the big questions and prepare us for life in a diverse society, but trying to inculcate specific beliefs is an invasion of the autonomy of the individual, and I don’t see how it can be justified on liberal grounds.

    “I can’t think of one positive contribution to society made by that tiny organisation called the BHA – except constantly complaining. If they did ever get enough people together to form a community, perhaps they could open a school and we’ll see how they get on re so-called discrimination – whether to employ Humanists or not in a Humanist school.”

    That is an unnecessary paragraph. The BHA do not support having single belief state funded schools, and I for one hope they stay true to their convictions, generally like most of the Free Churches have, especially if the non-religious continue to grow in the coming decades. As I understand it, they stand on their own two feet, and want religion and belief groups to do the same.

  • Helen

    You have ignored the point I make:

    The question is ‘Faith schools are exempt from the equality act and so can, if they want, choose their staff on religious grounds and can remove them if they do not meet the church ‘ethos’ – is this coorrect?’

    All these equality laws are only there as a backstop – if everyone was fair then there would be no need for them. This backstop does not exist for faith schools as I see it – if I am wrong correct me? Is there anything to stop a Catholic school sacking a female member of staff who has an abortion, or divorces and remarries or changes religion. Hopefiully, the school will be understanding but there is always the headmaster who is not as liberal as you. What happens in that situation?

    Also, whether they contribute more or less to society than if they didn’t exist is subjective and you, or I, are not the best to judge.

    I also found your comment on the BHA a bit snide – humanists are not held together by a single belief just the lack of belief – this does not make for a focused organisation. There are no Popes, Arcbishps and Priests of Humanism!

  • Helen Tedcastle 11th Mar '13 - 11:24am

    @ Paul Pettinger: ” State education should make us ask questions , cover different perspectives on the big questions and prepare us for life in a diverse society, but trying to inculcate specific beliefs is an invasion of the autonomy of the individual, and I don’t see how it can be justified on liberal grounds.”

    Agree about the aim of education (state or not) to make us ask questions – that’s what good education does in faith schools and community schools.

    ” inculcate specific beliefs”

    This does proves that reasoned explanation is wasted. I have tried to explain the reality but to no avail – clearly you are convinced by a certain perspective – because that is what it is – the BHA does does not have a monopoly on reason, enquiry or any kind of question – the BHA seems to inculcate their members pretty well with an erroneous perspective on faith and their role in education – selective use of evidence notwithstanding.

    I for one am pretty tired of being lectured on liberalism or what constitutes it from those of a non-religious persuasion – this is the problem, there is an inherent intolerance which eschews diverse provision, refuse to accept that faith schools educate and believe in some kind of bleached neutrality which does not exist and will never exist.

    I’m with Matthew Huntbach, it’s not worth pursuing the discussion any further.

  • Paul Pettinger 11th Mar '13 - 4:38pm

    I have shown you evidence of faith schools trying to inculcate belief, such as by quoting recent Roman Catholic Church policy documents which talk about teaching confessional RE that presents Catholic teachings as objective truth, as well as schools evangelising more generally. Of course evangelising is not just confined to Roman Catholic schools – the Anglican ‘The Way Ahead’ report of 2001 stated that:

    ‘The justification for [running church schools] is, and must be, because that engagement with children and young people in schools will . . . enable the Church to
    Nourish those of the faith;
    Encourage those of other faiths;
    Challenge those who have no faith.’

    Some faith schools do not take these approaches and I think they should be praised for that. Again, swap the words around – how would you feel if there were many state funded schools which saw it as their mission to nourish the affirmably non-religious; to encourage those with naturalistic, unspiritual and irreligious instincts, and to challenge those with faith?

    I appreciate as a teacher at a Catholic school you are in a very awkward position Helen, but I hope you may privately sense see how unfair and lacking in mutual respect are current arrangements.

  • Paul,
    If you’re asking that faith schools don’t discriminate against those of other and no faiths then you’re discriminating against them on grounds of their religiosity.

    It is wholly inconsistent for you to complain about unfair discrimination and then discriminate equally unfairly against those you wish to accuse of this ‘crime’. In fact, by doing so, you undermine your own rationale and advance the cause you oppose – to support restrictive and unscientific inquiry. After all, without conscience, science is empty and meaningless.

    It’s an inescapable paradox which no law can resolve, and it’s somewhat surprising you’re unaware of this eternal debate which goes back to the founding of the first educational institutions, especially since it revolves around the origins of the ideas of liberty and democracy.

    I also think you’re shooting yourself in the foot because you’re forgetting that ‘non-faith’ state schools in the UK already promote our ‘non-faith’ state religion. Doubt is integral to Christianity dcotrine ( remember St Thomas?) and Anglicanism is traditionally attacked for the faithlessness and pragmatism of its’ congregations.

    Like I said, all education is indoctrination; all lessons contain moral values (whatever their relative merit), and therefore, rather than proscribe the views of your neighbour, it’s far better that you have the freedom to choose your own according to the relevance it has to your individual circumstance. Who can judge that better than the individual?

    Likewise, each and every school has its own ethos, and members are required to follow the regimen it subscribes to, or exercise their freedom to leave and choose another. Home schooling is also allowed, or you can now set up your own ‘free school’.

    Frankly, if you’re complaining about recent reforms you’re telling me you’re not immune from lazy thinking. I’m sure you’ll agree that the teaching of inacccurate facts and bad logic is not restricted to those of one belief system or another.

    I think you should also be mindful of the politics of what you’re saying, it is hugely damaging to turn your back on those in your audience who you wish to convince. How you treat your neighbour tells them how you want to be treated in return – I think there’s a famous biblical story about it, which you may have learnt…

    Rather than criticise those you disagree with for their qualities, I suggest you may do better to get involved as a local school governor to try to improve the options available in your community.

  • Helen Tedcastle 11th Mar '13 - 8:51pm

    @ Paul Pettinger – I appreciate the tone of your comments. I think that the real issue here is a mismatch of understanding of certain terms or expressions, which, need fuller explanation.

    The Anglican statement you quote is being read as if the aim is ‘inculcation’ ie: a method of indoctrinating – this is redolent of repetition, narrowness of thought, closing down of argument and debate.

    However, when I read this quotation, I read it as ‘entitlement’ ie: what one might expect for a school with an Anglican ethos` – nourish=enrich, develop a mature understanding – encourage ie: foster respect and value in the lives and values of those of other faiths or none, – challenge those of no faith – surely you could not disagree that a person of no faith is not challenged by faith? This may confirm the non-belief of a child of no faith or more likely, indifferent to faith or it may foster a greater appreciation of faith. The important thing is that these aspirations are not determined in advance because that is, ultimately up to the child.

    Indoctrination implies closing down of debate, no opportunity to grow as a person, to reject or embrace. I probably will never convince you that faith schools are not the sinister institutions you appear to fear but they do represent living communities which were encouraged by the state in the 19th/20th centuries to set up schools for the benefit of the faith communities and wider communities. That is what they do – educate according to the NC but reflecting their distinctive ethos and values which many non-Christians, no faith residents appear to want – these schools are incredibly popular.

    If they did ‘inculcate’ belief, I doubt they would be so popular and as I said before, I don’t see these hoards of indoctrinated Catholics etc.. undermining society and democracy – exactly the opposite in fact – they produce well-rounded, socially concerned citizens.

    On other matters: I have addressed the free school meal issue – this is one aspect of addressing the poor and marginalised (a broad term). of course more faith schools exist in the most deprived areas than community schools but as these schools also serve the faith community as well as the immediate community, the intake will be less reflective of the local area but not wholly non-reflective. I have addressed the issue of teachers and this is not just at my school but other faith schools I have visited/had contact with. It is actually more likely that 100% Catholic staff will be found in independent schools, especially those of religious orders.

    ” how would you feel if there were many state funded schools which saw it as their mission to nourish the affirmably non-religious; to encourage those with naturalistic, unspiritual and irreligious instincts, and to challenge those with faith?”

    If I was wholly uncatered for in the local area or county-wide, I would feel very annoyed but then again is this situation uniform across the country or pertinent to some areas where faith communities are historically more numerous.

    In my area, my family were the ones in a small minority. My sister had to travel a long way to get to a Catholic school every day, as in our town all the schools are community (no faith secondaries). In some areas there may be a surfeit of faith schools – if so, do what my sister did – board a train or take the bus. It was hard but we’re a Catholic family.

    I would suggest that Humanists with strong objections should do likewise. This is not an argument for turning all schools into community schools though . In my case, there was little choice – I wish we had had a proper choice between faith schools and community schools, closer to home.

  • Paul Pettinger 12th Mar '13 - 7:16pm

    I don’t know how you can unpick thing like teaching the Catholic faith as objective truth, combined with daily worship, as different to inculcation. Just because a great many faith schools have become more respectful to non-adherents, especially as RE has made great progress in fifty years, it does not mean that lots of schools within the faith sector are not trying to inculcate, albeit often in much more soft and amendable ways than before. The Anglican paper sets out a vision for it schools, which includes helping it sustain adherents, and keeping religious belief and identity alive is certainly a big feature at many Jewish schools.

    You do not seem to object to humanist schools along the lines I have described, which is even handed of you. However, I think providing schools for different ethnic, religious or philosophical groups would be a route that as a society we would come to regret in long term, especially as dividing children on these lines could help to create a society where mistrust between groups more readily grows. I think it far better for community cohesion (among other reasons) that state funded schools seek to be genuinely respectful of, open to and appropriate for those of all beliefs, and that is direction I would like education policy to go.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 12th Mar '13 - 11:05pm

    A child’s education should not in my opinion be the subject of public discussion. The Clegg’s have every right to send their children to a state, independent school, or school at home, whichever is best. If parents can afford to send their children to the best schools that happen to be private then this is excellent, I only wish that all schools were of this standard.

    As for the whole issue of ‘Faith Schools’, well this is a debate that will run on, and on without a final conclusion, for far more people will be affected than one may think.

    I personally went to a faith school, and was exempted from assembly and attending religious studies classes. This was certainly not ideal, for as a young person being excluded from any gathering is not overly conducive to making one feel included. I could have attended the assembly and the RE lessons, but there again I would still have been excluded by my lack of participation, and desire to ask difficult questions such “so who is the God person?”, and constantly asking “Why?”, and “Where is the evidence?”, etc. One cannot suddenly believe in a divine being, merely for the benefit of the acceptance of ones peers.

    Do I today support faith schools? Yes absolutely, but not state funded. I do feel that faith schools should be open to ‘other’ students, and that the ‘Faith’ aspect of the teaching should be clearly defined within specific and identifiable lessons so that non-believers can have their needs catered for as well, which in my day meant extra maths or something similar. On a personal level I do fear that teaching creationism, or something similar in a non-faith lesson such as science, is not overly helpful.

    As for schools based on ones ethnicity, again I remember attending such schools, where I was the only non-white pupil. I can assure you that it was lonely at times. I did though go on to become a researcher, advisor and lecturer in community cohesion issues, so maybe the experience was more influential than I have previously thought.

  • Nick’s integrity intact. What a relief. What an inspiration to us all.

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