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← How, realistically, do we get rid of faith schools?

How, realistically, do we get rid of faith schools? - Comments

road_runner321's Avatar Comment 1 by road_runner321

Faith schools are businesses, selling a product for which people have a demand. As the demand for the educational environment they provide decreases, the faith schools will follow. Religious faith seems to be in sharp decline. Just in the U.S., Gallup poles now show that 32% of people are non-religious. One might expect the children of these people to be sent to more secular establishments.

It wasn't always like this. There used to be only faith schools, because the church had all the money and all the power, and any knowledge gained in their seminaries was contingent on the student becoming a priest and spreading the faith. But as knowledge accumulated, it had to be broken up into separate disciplines, growing until it became unfeasible to split time between worship and study. Knowledge continued to grow until entire schools were built solely for its teaching, without the need of money from religious coffers.

The Enlightenment was the death knell. The trend of accumulating knowledge has ever been the enemy of religion, disproving and surpassing it at every turn, forcing it into ever smaller and darker corners. All the disciplines which add to the store of information contribute to this trend. It will continue into the future, and as religious faith diminishes, people will have no need for faith schools.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 12:38:06 UTC | #931878

Viveca's Avatar Comment 2 by Viveca

Comment 1 by road_runner321 :

Faith schools are businesses, selling a product for which people have a demand. As the demand for the educational environment they provide decreases, the faith schools will follow. Religious faith seems to be in sharp decline. Just in the U.S., Gallup poles now show that 32% of people are non-religious. One might expect the children of these people to be sent to more secular establishments.

I had to read the above twice until I understood it. I initially thought you were saying that the "business" in question was education. I now see that you're saying no such thing. You seem to think that in this business model the parents actively want their children religiously indoctrinated, and as religious belief declines this will naturally remove the rationale for faith schools. As far as the UK is concerned you couldn't be more wrong. Most parents who send their children to faith schools do so primarily because they think their children will receive a better general standard of education. They're thinking of economics, not theology. They're primarily concerned with the earning potential that education (whether religious or otherwise) offers.

But the problem you're not addressing is why the state allows and promotes faith schools in the first place, given that there is no reason on earth to suppose that real learning is best when it occurs within a religious context.

The Enlightenment was the death knell. The trend of accumulating knowledge has ever been the enemy of religion, disproving and surpassing it at every turn, forcing it into ever smaller and darker corners. All the disciplines which add to the store of information contribute to this trend. It will continue into the future, and as religious faith diminishes, people will have no need for faith schools.

Again, you appear not to have read the OP, or you simply don't understand the problem.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 13:21:09 UTC | #931895

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 3 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

A very good topic to raise.

The only way I believe we can get rid of faith schools is to convince the majority of parents that they are a bad thing. And that's really the right way because if the majority of parents like having faith schools, or don't really care one way or the other, then we don't really have a democratic right to get rid of them.

It's all very well secularists and atheists talking amongst themselves on this issue, or making small petitions to government, but that won't get us anywhere. Politicians will only be concerned if a serious number of votes are at stake.

I don't have any children, so it is hard for me to judge, but I am pretty certain that most parents have little or no awareness of the controversy over faith schools. It's probably something that they scarcely think about; they just know that there are various types of schools provided (they don't consider how or why we happen to have these different schools) and if they have any concern about their children's education they will try to get them into the best performing school possible, and have no concern as to whether or not it has any religious affiliation.

Organisations like the National Secular Society need to consider launching campaigns to bring this issue to the attention of the general public. My only fear is that the general public won't be interested in what is largely a philosophical debate. I have never heard anyone bring up the subject for discussion or even mentioned the term "faith schools" outside these specialist forums.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 13:25:27 UTC | #931897

Viveca's Avatar Comment 4 by Viveca

One possibility, of course, is that if society becomes more ghettoised and balkanised along religious lines, and this leads to significant social tensions, more people will call for the state-sponsored divisiveness to end. I doubt this will happen, however, and the example of Northern Ireland's reluctance to embrace the obvious "solution" springs to mind.

To recap: So far, i've mention three scenarios with the potential to encourage the abolition of faith schools.

a)Faith Schools produce visibly lower educational results for pupils.

b)The proportion of the population who take religion seriously, as a personal guide, seriously declines to well below half the population.

c)Religious affiliation and division in society leads to significant social problems between various groups.

However, i've also said that, in my view, none of these events are likely to lead to the abolition of faith schools. The problem remains.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 13:47:17 UTC | #931900

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 5 by Zeuglodon

Comment 2 by Viveca

Most parents who send their children to faith schools do so primarily because they think their children will receive a better general standard of education. They're thinking of economics, not theology. They're primarily concerned with the earning potential that education (whether religious or otherwise) offers.

Yes, this is a similar problem to the census one. Politicians, when challenged, point to statistics and say "look how well they're performing, that proves religious schools are a good thing". They never seem curious as to why faith schools get such grades. There are several possibilities, which I've yet to see them address.

One: there are so many of them that they take up a good chunk of the league tables. This isn't an explanation for their good reports - they could just as easily occupy the bottom third of the table in theory - but it makes the next few points more pressing. Two: the schools may be actively rejecting all but the brightest students in an attempt to bolster their standing. Three: the good reports are actually for tests that most of us would recognize as sub-par when compared with non-faith schools. I know that independent agencies like Ofsted have failed before - see The God Delusion and the section on an educational scandal - so why not again? Four: the fact that their students do so well may be in spite of the religious atmosphere, not because of it. Removing the religious influence might have no effect on performance, or might even improve it.

I think it's simply related to the huge political influence the religious still enjoy, and to the fear of being thought anti-religious like those tiresome atheists. It's an anachronistic thinking process that hasn't been challenged thoroughly enough.

The remedies I can think of are stuff like the Ipsos MORI poll. So long as we bring stuff like this out into a public forum and discuss it, the issue should over a few months spread like osmosis.

In a sense, our tactics haven't really changed. Unless we can think of convincing one of these public powers to speak on our behalf, but that'll be a slow process. The absolute worst thing we can do is let it drop out of sight.

I haven't looked into the matter in great depth, though, so I can only offer bland conjecture like the above. Anyone more personally acquainted with the effort to abolish faith schools can confirm or disprove any of my points accordingly.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 13:48:10 UTC | #931901

road_runner321's Avatar Comment 6 by road_runner321

Comment 2 by Viveca

I initially thought you were saying that the "business" in question was education. I now see that you're saying no such thing.You seem to think that in this business model the parents actively want their children religiously indoctrinated, and as religious belief declines this will naturally remove the rationale for faith schools.

No, I really do mean that faith schools are selling education, and an education built upon precepts and traditions of religious thinking. Not indoctrinating, but imbued with the putative values and discipline of faith. This is the product they want to remain in high demand. As faith decreases, there will be less of a rationale for having schools financially and ideologically backed by religions. Religious people will still see them as essential, but their numbers will decline. The state backs faith schools because there are still sufficient numbers who see them as beneficial in principal, or, at least, not their problem. The decline of faith will turn public opinion away from faith schools, especially those which do not provide an above-standard education in return for their privileged status. People will question what a faith school can offer that cannot be had elsewhere. The questioning of faith will necessarily bring into question faith schools, not just on a personal level but on a public level.

Abolition of faith schools may then be possible with sufficient public support, but with so many of their potential customers against the idea, one wonders why they would bother.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 14:10:38 UTC | #931908

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 7 by AtheistEgbert

We need to start building and running secular academies, as high quality alternatives to faith schools.

There, a practical solution.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 14:12:53 UTC | #931909

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 8 by Bobwundaye

Comment 7 by AtheistEgbert

We need to start building and running secular academies, as high quality alternatives to faith schools.

Yup. This is the only sensible solution.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 16:44:56 UTC | #931936

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 9 by Schrodinger's Cat

I am disturbed and dismayed by the fact that religious privilege and exceptionalism (i'll focus here on the UK) not only persists, but is supported by ALL the major corporate actors in our political landscape: National newspaper editors; teaching unions; the NUS; the BBC ( a publicly funded body), along with the other major media outlets; the CBI; and ALL of our main political parties - in short, all of our major opinion-forming organisations, support the continuance of religious privilege and exceptionalism.

Well the question is surely.......is this something that is being imposed from above, or the response to demand from below ?

Imposition clearly sucks. But if this is something people actually want, you then get into the thorny issue of the rights of parents to bring up their children as they see fit. The nanny state is the very opposite of liberalism, certainly the sort of Thomas Paine classical liberalism that I support.

That is further confounded by the extent to which 'what people want' may itself be the result of top-down imposition......in an endless cycle of which religion is a good example. Not to mention the issue of who gets to decide what is 'correct' for people to follow.

I'm affraid to say that trying to impose rationality and simultaneously claim liberalism is pretty much squaring the circle. It is precisely why followers of Marxist ideology...supposed to usher in the new age of utopia....end up actually creating such a dog's dinner of it.

History is not full of answers to this dilemna.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 16:59:15 UTC | #931941

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 10 by Zeuglodon

Comment 9 by Schrodinger's Cat

Well the question is surely.......is this something that is being imposed from above, or the response to demand from below ?

It's not even as straightforward as that. The top-down politicians cited the census as evidence of a bottom-up demand for more christian policies, but the Ipsos MORI poll showed that the bottom-up demand was based on several misunderstandings. It isn't a strategy in and of itself, but raising awareness goes some way to addressing your points.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 17:25:36 UTC | #931945

Viveca's Avatar Comment 11 by Viveca

Comment 3 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee :

It's all very well secularists and atheists talking amongst themselves on this issue, or making small petitions to government, but that won't get us anywhere. Politicians will only be concerned if a serious number of votes are at stake.

I agree, but it's even worse than that. Even if a majority of the population opposed faith schools this would not necessarily signal their demise, because the main political parties will see that only for a fraction of the population will the issue be a vote decider, so unless a mainstream political party breaks ranks and advertises the fact that it will abolish faith schools (and subsequently gets elected) nothing will change. And every political party will calculate whether adopting such a policy will lose it votes, knowing that adopting such a policy will not, in itself, gain it votes.

The problem remains.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 19:38:55 UTC | #931982

Viveca's Avatar Comment 12 by Viveca

Comment 6 by road_runner321 :

Comment 2 by Viveca

I initially thought you were saying that the "business" in question was education. I now see that you're saying no such thing.You seem to think that in this business model the parents actively want their children religiously indoctrinated, and as religious belief declines this will naturally remove the rationale for faith schools.

No, I really do mean that faith schools are selling education, and an education built upon precepts and traditions of religious thinking. Not indoctrinating, but imbued with the putative values and discipline of faith. This is the product they want to remain in high demand.

"Putative values" seems too vague. I have no scientific data to back this up, but in the UK I am utterly convinced that for the vast majority of parents it is an economic issue, and that these "putative values" (whatever they are) as JUC says in comment 3 really don't enter their heads.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 20:02:10 UTC | #931985

Blind Fith's Avatar Comment 13 by Blind Fith

As already stated, the solution would appear to be to provide a more desirable alternative. i.e. good quality, high performing, non religious schools.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 20:14:32 UTC | #931988

Viveca's Avatar Comment 14 by Viveca

Comment 9 by Schrodinger's Cat :

Imposition clearly sucks. But if this is something people actually want, you then get into the thorny issue of the rights of parents to bring up their children as they see fit.

No, that's not the issue. In their private time parents are allowed (within limits) to bring up their children in any manner they please. This issue in question is why state-sponsored religiosity is allowed? This echoes Richard's point that there is no such thing as a "Christin, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu" etc child, anymore than a "Neo-Marxist, democratic socialist, Royalist, or post-structuralist" child.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 20:16:24 UTC | #931989

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Comment 15 by Jonathan Dore

Viveca, many thanks for an excellent opening post laying out some of the main issues. One (relatively minor) point I'd take issue with is the premise that the UK political classes are a-religious. In general this is true of course but with the significant exception of Tony Blair, whose personal religiosity was behind the major expansion of faith schools from the late-90s onwards when he took the decision to open up what had been the relatively staid and cosy club of Anglican, RC and Jewish schools to Islamic and other Christian (it turns out, mainly fundamentalist) organizations, triggering an expansion of the original groupings (Anglican and RC especially) as well.

With that exception, the reason religious organizations have such exaggerated influence in government is simply through being organizations. When the backwash of a millennium of privileged status means you can claim to represent 1 or 2 million people, then you get invited to Downing Street because you are presumed to speak on their behalf, no matter how accurately you reflect that membership's actual beliefs. For politicians, who are accustomed to building coalitions of voters in units of millions, they're simply another coalition that needs to be brought onside, so having them wrapped up and delivered in neatly packaged bundles (Anglican, RC, Muslim etc) makes them all the easier to engage with and manage.

That's why it's important for people here to join secular organizations. We may scoff at the idea of signing up, we may be proud of the fact that we're not "joiners", we may like the image of being cats who can't be herded, and we may point out till we're blue in the face that the whole point of our position is that you don't need to replace churches with anything else. But the fact remains: if the National Secular Society had 2 million members instead of the pathetic 10,000 or so it currently has, then Keith Porteous Wood would get invited to Downing Street too, and listened to with just as much fawning attention as any cardinal or archbishop. The more people organizations like the NSS can claim to speak for, the more powerfully the secularist position will be heard, and the more weight it will be given, when political decisions are made.

As for what to do about the situation, however, I don't think there's currently any real prospect in the UK of any large membership coalescing around an organization with a generalist remit like the NSS: the only realistic prospect (and it would take a lot of money) is to build a single-issue campaigning organization with the single aim of getting organized religion out of state education. High-profile celebrity endorsements (not just academics but sports stars and soap actors too), billboard campaigns and newspaper ads, a continuous stream of press releases and studies, massive membership drives among teaching unions, and a simple, low-cost membership gradually building a campaign that's in it for the long slog it would take to really change attitudes -- probably 15 to 30 years. With enough resources and momentum behind it (and it would take a lot, especially at the beginning), the conversation would gradually shift: from being seen as dangerous zealots -- or at best, eccentric faddists -- the campaign's talking points would enter the mainstream until they were regarded as deserving serious consideration, even if one didn't agree with them, then to being a force of opinion to be reckoned with, and eventually to representing a consensus of public opinion such that, finally, the politicans would regard it as a political goal that had to be accommodated, an idea "whose time has come". Think of the thirty years it took for the global anti-apartheid movement to achieve its goal.

This couldn't be done within the NSS as it stands at the moment: when I suggested it on their Facebook page I was told they didn't really think such a campaign was necessary -- that they had high connections in government and hoped to influence legislation at drafting stage through high-level consultation. In other words the only course open to you when you have only 10,000 members. But it's never going to effect the sort of cultural change that will be necessary to really root out faith schools from the state sector. That's why any successful campaign would have to be a completely separate organization, and start from scratch. Perhaps the RDFRS would like to found and support it?

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 21:40:54 UTC | #932004

VrijVlinder's Avatar Comment 16 by VrijVlinder

The problem is that theist Parents want their kids indoctrinated in school so their job is easier. Children are brainwashed starting from the baptism.

I hired a woman to help me care for my Father, she has a boy. He is now 2 and a half years old. He can barely speak clearly . Ever since he was born she took him to church on sundays. She is aware of my lack of god but she does not understand the philosophy behind it. She is an Indigenous Indian Mexican Catholic. I love the little boy he is very smart and I try to be a good influence.

On another thread there was a discussion about how young can a kid know what god is. Curious to know if David, the little boy could tell me who god is.

I asked him who is god? Much to my surprise he said Diosh, and pointed to my computer screen to a thumbnail of a Christ on the cross ,I used for another piece of artwork.

How amazing that a boy who can't speak yet can know what is god. Obviously he does not know what he is only who he is , brainwashed to associate christ on the cross as being god.

To realistically get rid of religion in public schools, you must start with the parents.

I find my task challenging because Gloria the boy's mother has very little education and has a hard time understanding science. We had another quake, I had already explained to her the mechanism of earth quakes. She does not take my word for it. She will reply "So you say." Not in a challenging way though, but in an accepting way which she can't verify.

In the case of people with limited education it easier to teach them lies than the scientific reason for anything .

Should I teach David atheism on the side? I would be saving him no? It is hard to go against deep credence from ignorance.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 22:14:38 UTC | #932008

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 17 by Tyler Durden

Comment 16 by VrijVlinder :

Should I teach David atheism on the side?

No, and for a few reasons:

  • It's not your job.
  • Such efforts will be easily counteracted by his mother.
  • She may resent you for it when she finds out - which she will.
  • Which might probably lead to you then losing her as a carer for your Father.

  • I empathise with your predicament, my mate's toddlers are also being indoctrinated, but it's not your job.

    Mon, 02 Apr 2012 23:09:02 UTC | #932016

    Viveca's Avatar Comment 18 by Viveca

    Comment 13 by Blind Fith :

    As already stated, the solution would appear to be to provide a more desirable alternative. i.e. good quality, high performing, non religious schools.

    That's no "solution". First, you have to explain how we get from here to there. Second, even this, by itself, won't necessitate the abolition of state-sponsored faith schools, at best it will only decrease their numbers.

    Mon, 02 Apr 2012 23:49:58 UTC | #932021

    VrijVlinder's Avatar Comment 19 by VrijVlinder

    Comment 17 by Tyler Durden

    Thank you Tyler, don't fret,

    My Father died but she is still with me and I take care of her and her little boy,( not as a lesbian) I can't help everyone so I picked someone to help.She comes from a dirt poor village, she said did not appear on a map, but I googled it and showed her. I only want to help her and her little boy have a chance to escape poverty permanently.

    Tempting as it may be, to do something like that would make me no different than what I am against. Those considerations I also thought about. It is not my place to do such a thing. I understand that and will not try to influence his beliefs.

    What I could do is teach him about science and math once he gets older. If he ever asks me about god, I will first ask Gloria if it is ok to give him my philosophy. If she says no, I will have to say, I am sorry, that you must ask your mother.

    I would not care to lose her as a helper, I would care to lose her as a friend because I refuse to be a boss. I am against classism she is not my maid. I have known her for about 8 years, she used to work as my mother's maid.

    The first step is to help those who believe they are from poor roots therefore only can do meager work that it is not true. I told her David could grow up to be President. She did not believe me, not because it takes school and contacts to be one , but because she thinks a poor person has no chance they are born stupid. I told her poverty does not make one stupid or born stupid.

    Forgive me that I even gave the impression I would do such a thing. it was an example of the education gap that religion itself created by making god more important than science math reading and writing.

    It was an Observation that a child at that age can be indoctrinated even if they can't speak yet. And how difficult it is to explain tectonics , when they don't even know what magma is. But ask Gloria about Jesus and all the catholic stuff and she knows it by heart. May not know what it all means. it's just how she was brought up, her mother her mother's mother.

    No doubt it hard to live in a theist place, it feel like I'm in a bad movie, or a nightmare and can't wake up!!

    But rest assured. I am ethical .

    Tue, 03 Apr 2012 00:03:10 UTC | #932024

    Viveca's Avatar Comment 20 by Viveca

    Comment 15 by Jonathan Dore :

    Viveca, many thanks for an excellent opening post laying out some of the main issues. One (relatively minor) point I'd take issue with is the premise that the UK political classes are a-religious. In general this is true of course but with the significant exception of Tony Blair, whose personal religiosity was behind the major expansion of faith schools from the late-90s onwards when he took the decision to open up what had been the relatively staid and cosy club of Anglican, RC and Jewish schools to Islamic and other Christian (it turns out, mainly fundamentalist) organizations, triggering an expansion of the original groupings (Anglican and RC especially) as well.

    With that exception, the reason religious organizations have such exaggerated influence in government is simply through being organizations. When the backwash of a millennium of privileged status means you can claim to represent 1 or 2 million people, then you get invited to Downing Street because you are presumed to speak on their behalf, no matter how accurately you reflect that membership's actual beliefs. For politicians, who are accustomed to building coalitions of voters in units of millions, they're simply another coalition that needs to be brought onside, so having them wrapped up and delivered in neatly packaged bundles (Anglican, RC, Muslim etc) makes them all the easier to engage with and manage.

    That's why it's important for people here to join secular organizations. We may scoff at the idea of signing up, we may be proud of the fact that we're not "joiners", we may like the image of being cats who can't be herded, and we may point out till we're blue in the face that the whole point of our position is that you don't need to replace churches with anything else. But the fact remains: if the National Secular Society had 2 million members instead of the pathetic 10,000 or so it currently has, then Keith Porteous Wood would get invited to Downing Street too, and listened to with just as much fawning attention as any cardinal or archbishop. The more people organizations like the NSS can claim to speak for, the more powerfully the secularist position will be heard, and the more weight it will be given, when political decisions are made.

    As for what to do about the situation, however, I don't think there's currently any real prospect in the UK of any large membership coalescing around an organization with a generalist remit like the NSS: the only realistic prospect (and it would take a lot of money) is to build a single-issue campaigning organization with the single aim of getting organized religion out of state education. High-profile celebrity endorsements (not just academics but sports stars and soap actors too), billboard campaigns and newspaper ads, a continuous stream of press releases and studies, massive membership drives among teaching unions, and a simple, low-cost membership gradually building a campaign that's in it for the long slog it would take to really change attitudes -- probably 15 to 30 years. With enough resources and momentum behind it (and it would take a lot, especially at the beginning), the conversation would gradually shift: from being seen as dangerous zealots -- or at best, eccentric faddists -- the campaign's talking points would enter the mainstream until they were regarded as deserving serious consideration, even if one didn't agree with them, then to being a force of opinion to be reckoned with, and eventually to representing a consensus of public opinion such that, finally, the politicans would regard it as a political goal that had to be accommodated, an idea "whose time has come". Think of the thirty years it took for the global anti-apartheid movement to achieve its goal.

    This couldn't be done within the NSS as it stands at the moment: when I suggested it on their Facebook page I was told they didn't really think such a campaign was necessary -- that they had high connections in government and hoped to influence legislation at drafting stage through high-level consultation. In other words the only course open to you when you have only 10,000 members. But it's never going to effect the sort of cultural change that will be necessary to really root out faith schools from the state sector. That's why any successful campaign would have to be a completely separate organization, and start from scratch. Perhaps the RDFRS would like to found and support it?

    I've reproduced this comment in full because it is, in my view, exactly the type of discussion all serious secularists should be having.

    Jonathan, thank you for posting. Most of the content of your post I agree with, but more importantly, your post demonstrates a seriousness and political/intellectual maturity that I often find lacking here.

    Now for the bad news: I agree with you that there is no real prospect of abolition for at the very least, decades (if at all). In comment 4 I offered the only three scenarios I can imagine with the potential to deliver the abolition of faith schools, and none of these, for a variety of reasons, are good prospects. This relates to my previous OP on "The real opponents of secularism", a thread noteable, largely, for its denial by "leftists" that they themselves bear significant responsibility for mess we're in, and by those who seem to think that politics is driven by "Enlightenment principles".

    I'm a big believer in the "where there's a will there's a way" principle. While the money aspect is, I agree, crucial, it is nevertheless only an instrument (though a very potent instrument, I agree). Let's focus on the lack of collective will. Why doesn't it exist? It exists because most people simply don't see it as a problem, and even among those who do most are not the "activist" type. Can anything be done to change this? I think it's utterly futile to argue that state-sponsored faith schools are an unjustifiable imposition totally at odds with liberationist and progressive principles. While I think this is undoubtedly true, I am painfully aware that these type of foundational and abstract arguments NEVER, in themselves, produce political change. This therefore tells me that change will only come about when a critical mass of the population and political classes perceive faith schools as positively detrimental to other, more important, goals. Faith schools will have to be seen as a political, social or economic liability before their abolition is seriously considered, no significant change will occur until that happens (if that happens!). The $64,000 question is thus: pragmatically speaking, which negative consequence of religious schooling is most likely to manifest itself in the public mind? Economic, social, or political?

    If, after much serious research and discussion, the most vulnerable Achilles heel of faith schools can be identified (a difficult and somewhat speculative task) then every effort should be made by secularists to bring this single issue (whatever it is) into the public mind. This, for a variety of reasons, seems an extraordinarily difficult task to accomplish, but I can see no credible alternative. Can you?

    Tue, 03 Apr 2012 01:04:02 UTC | #932032

    Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 21 by Schrodinger's Cat

    Comment 14 by Viveca

    No, that's not the issue. In their private time parents are allowed (within limits) to bring up their children in any manner they please. This issue in question is why state-sponsored religiosity is allowed? This echoes Richard's point that there is no such thing as a "Christin, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu" etc child, anymore than a "Neo-Marxist, democratic socialist, Royalist, or post-structuralist" child.

    Yes, but my point was that it's a self-perpetuating meme. People go to faith schools. They are taught religion. Some of them then end up becoming the next generation of politicians who decide that people should go to faith schools and be taught religion.

    This is essentially culture. And the question is then how one seperates out this thing that people do because their parents or peers did it from all the other things that people do because their parents or peers do them.

    This sort of culture is a pretty immovable object and is not governed by what people rationally 'ought' to want.......as it has it's own version of 'ought'. I don't expect any massive change any time soon. All one can do is chip away at it over several generations.

    Having a wider number of people aware that this is even an issue ( those caught up in the culture wont even see it as such ) is the start. So really, the wider exposure of people to secular ideals is the goal.......which of course means having to make some kind of a noise over and above the din of media outlets supporting the status quo.

    Tue, 03 Apr 2012 01:47:48 UTC | #932038

    raytoman's Avatar Comment 22 by raytoman

    The answer is very simple.

    Exclude religion from charitable and tax free status and treat it like any other business.

    Have School curricula for all schools which can include religion as an overall subject (including no religion) but with no focus on any specific religion (or no religion). This aspect of curricula could include superstition and myths with supporting information, including studies of them and the results of debunking, including where these have been unsuccessful (so far).

    All children should have to attend school and pass tests to progress.

    If religious (or irreligious) people want to teach their children specific religions (or no religion) or specific myths, superstitions or debunking, etc, that can take place out of the education system and is parential choice. Government funded organisations (orphanages) cannot teach any of these, only parents and organisations they fund.

    There also need to be laws similar to consumer protection laws that protect people from exploitation.

    Oh! wait!, I'm thinking about a rational society! DUH!

    Tue, 03 Apr 2012 01:55:11 UTC | #932040

    xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 23 by xmaseveeve

    Viveca,

    for the simple reason that, as i've already said, none of our currently most powerful political actors are religious in any meaningful sense.

    Are you joking? David Cameron? Michael Gove? Ring a bell?

    Tue, 03 Apr 2012 04:18:22 UTC | #932055

    Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 24 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

    Comment 4 by Viveca

    To recap: So far, i've mention three scenarios with the potential to encourage the abolition of faith schools.

    a)Faith Schools produce visibly lower educational results for pupils.

    b)The proportion of the population who take religion seriously, as a personal guide, seriously declines to well below half the population.

    c)Religious affiliation and division in society leads to significant social problems between various groups.

    The problem with the above, I hope you agree, is that scenarios (a) and (c) are undesirable. We don't want pupils to have a significantly poorer education at any school, and we don't want division in society.

    The other problem with (a) is that faith schools often do better than average, because they are selective.

    I think this may be the key to the problem. We should campaign that no state funded school, including "faith schools", can be selective towards either staff or pupils. Also, to campaign for all schools to be run so that no staff or pupils are obliged to attend any religious service, and nor should they be made to feel in any way excluded by opting out. Indeed, you should have to opt in to partaking in any religious service within a school. On reflection I think this is the general line that the NSS follows in its campaigns on the issue. If anyone agrees with this approach I would encourage them to join the NSS and write to them in support on this, if they haven't done so already.

    Tue, 03 Apr 2012 11:06:58 UTC | #932102

    Jonathan Dore's Avatar Comment 25 by Jonathan Dore

    Viveca, Comment 20:

    Yes, for any success to be achieved the lack of collective will would have to be overcome. I think that most of those who would support a secularist stance in general but currently "aren't bothered" about faith schools are apathetic because they're not making linkages in the anecdotes they hear in the news (if the anecdotes make it as far as the mainstream news, that is). They are simply a series of random, unconnected incidents, none of which in isolation seem to cross the threshold of unacceptability/outrage needed to command attention. What a campaign would have to start by doing, therefore, is link these incidents together with a convincing narrative so that people could see the connections between, for instance:

    • unfairly allowing faith schools to select pupils, thus depressing attainment levels at neighbouring schools
    • forcing parents to make insincere professions of belief to get their children into said schools
    • children being deliberately taught demonstrable lies about the age of the earth, evolution etc.
    • children being taught to value community identity at the expense both of individual identity and of social cohesion
    • the disparity between the numbers of actual adherents (as measured by church/mosque attendance) and the proportion of schools/resources controlled
    • moving towards a future like the past that Northern Ireland is trying to escape from
    • the way faith schools are allowed to choose "sympathetic" inspectors, effectively creating a parallel system of accreditation for themselves to avoid the rigorous spotlight of real accountability
    • ...and many more.
    

    What you need to do is get people skilled in communication (especially advertising and marketing) to craft memorable images and messages that link these points together and give them coherence. Once people start to see the pattern that links all these disparate facts, they'll start to think about it more seriously, and begin to get worried about what would happen if these trends are allowed to continue.

    To then move from getting serious about it to getting angry, and thus genuinely motivated, these overarching themes need to be personalized with emblematic stories that underline the unjust outcomes -- from what I've heard, this is something Sean Faircloth does well in Attack of the Theocrats, addressing the question of state privileging of religious organizations by allowing them to opt out of health and safety regulations etc. We'd need to assemble a similar dossier of faith-school related stories that link the larger injustices to little Johnny/Sarah/Mohammad.

    The third crucial element in the message would be to present a clear image, right from the outset, of the desired end-state that you are working towards, so that there can be no question of anyone having ulterior motives or murky agendas. It isn't hard to present a positive picture of what we would like the end-state to be, because it's built on fairness, equality, and natural justice, not special pleading and historically inherited privilege.

    Tue, 03 Apr 2012 13:03:04 UTC | #932122

    Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Comment 26 by Stephen of Wimbledon

    Hi Viveca,

    ... by what means do you imagine faith schools can ever be abolished?

    By the same means by which they were established - by political means.

    Are there any lessons and parallels we can draw from history whereby seemingly entrenched laws and opinions were subsequently overturned?

    Votes for women, the abolition of slavery. In my lifetime: A Scottish Assembly and joining the European Union were originally considered next to impossible in my youth - but both are fact today.

    ... merely pointing out that things can change, without understanding what specific ideological and material forces brought about that change, isn't going to help anyone.

    Joining the EU and forming the Scottish Assembly were - demonstrably and decidedly - not driven by ideology. Both decisions were pragmatic (they also proved to have unintended consequences - but that's dim-witted politicians for you). Ted Heath's government (actually, probably the Civil Service) recognised that not belonging was causing growing harm, and belonging had hard economic benefits (witness that the EU is now our biggest trading partner).

    The Scottish Parliament was formed because the Idiot thought that it would be a great way for the Labour party to make trouble when the inevitable non-Labour government would be voted into Westminster. At least, that was what was reported at the time.

    Do these count as material forces? They're certainly political forces.

    Are there any specific ideological or material forces currently on the horizon which have the capacity to assist in the abolition of faith schools?

    Ideological, no.

    Material ... well, there's you, and me, and a few thousand others. Do we make a political force? Given our success rate so far I think we have to recognise that we have a long way to go. As the Prof. says; Herding Cats.

    But it's not just the lack of standing up to be counted, or the absence of leaderships and organisation, it's that politicians are convinced of the value of the religious vote. That, it seems to me, is the key.

    Peace.

    Tue, 03 Apr 2012 16:49:26 UTC | #932157

    xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 27 by xmaseveeve

    Comment Removed by Author

    Tue, 03 Apr 2012 20:20:54 UTC | #932187

    xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 28 by xmaseveeve

    Comment 15, Jonathan Dore,

    What an interesting and thoughtful post. I think you are right. You can't herd cats, but that means cats don't get the vote, so religion gets away with murdering intellects. International Pen (for writers) was the only thing I ever joined! Organisations organise. They listen and work together. So, I'm disappointed to read;

    This couldn't be done within the NSS as it stands at the moment: when I suggested it on their Facebook page I was told they didn't really think such a campaign was necessary -- that they had high connections in government and hoped to influence legislation at drafting stage through high-level consultation. In other words the only course open to you when you have only 10,000 members.

    That is very worrying and rather shameful. This is worse that atheist apathy and borders on 'too many chiefs' - it is atheist complacency. We also must attract many, many more women, especially as they usually influence young children (and other women) more than anyone.

    VOTES FOR CATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And what a good slogan. Atheists are cats with thumbs. I think 'secularist' is more accurate, but sounds too political. Humanist sounds much more direct and, well, human. Surely any God would be a humanist too. I mean, how could the religious argue against that? Language really matters. We are talking about changing a whole culture.

    Why don't we start a new movement where we agree on the basics - no more than two short, simple, airtight statements, one idea per sentence? How about the 'Human' movement? Could the Pope argue that he is not also human? We are too fragmented, which prevents us from taking advantage of the fragmented nature of religion. Friends, we 'have ta'en too little care of this'.

    I'm a Human. Yeah, okay, right enough, it does sound daft! Maybe someone can run with this and come up with a better name. A something-ist. Two syllables, so that it wouldn't be abbreviated or be an acronym. Some atheists object to the word Humanism. So let's boil down its list of objectives and definitions and start again. We must become the biggest circle in a venn diagram which leaves the others intact but removes their legal, lethal sting.

    Atheists are too easily dismissed as not believing in anything. Ironic, since we believe much more than they of much faith and little brain do, and with a better quality of belief. I'm a - insert name here. No more of this 'a-' stuff. It's what we're for that matters, not what we are against. I can believe what I like but I can't infringe the rights of others by means of what I believe. Children are people too, and they have the right to an honest education, with no other agenda.

    The only way to combat faith schools is through Human Rights. The existing legislation can be interpreted in different ways. So, maybe the best idea to end the practice of atheist parents bending through hoops backwards to secure a hens' teeth place in a Catholic school because of their often superb results, is to propose a new, specific provision for the right to an education, using the Human Rights Act, but defining the word 'education' in the statute. The right to 'free thought'.

    Faith schools already violate freedom of religion. How can children have freedom of religion if they do not first have freedom from religion? In the UK, many Muslim parents are choosing Catholic schools because of good academic results and some sort of moral code -alongside Islam, which really beggars and buggars belief!

    I'd like to see the divine (not as in magic red biddy) Stephen Fry leading a sustained campaign, and to have famous atheist actors and performers delivering lectures - otherwise, as my mum used to say, it's like having a dug and barking yourself. It's time for a massive campaign, 'taken at the flood'. A hard-hitting poster campaign - for example, a huge photo of a group of small, wide-eyed children, 3 or 4 of them, white, black, Asian, (much more effective than a crowd) - with the subtitle, 'What d'you mean, we're different?'

    I disagree with some of the comments here but I'm reading through the opinion drift which accumulated while I was asleep. I'm enjoying stamping about and making word angels in these freshly-fallen words. What a bloody important thread! I'll post this tuppenceworth and dive back in!

    Tue, 03 Apr 2012 20:22:35 UTC | #932188

    Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 29 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

    Comment 28 by xmaseveeve

    You raise some interesting ideas for campaigns.

    A hard-hitting poster campaign - for example, a huge photo of a group of small, wide-eyed children, 3 or 4 of them, white, black, Asian, (much more effective than a crowd) - with the subtitle, 'What d'you mean, we're different?'

    I think that could be a very hard-hitting campaign but suggest a slight change. Just using children of different races will give the impression of an anti-racist campaign (a good idea in itself, of course, but not what we are specifically discussing here). May I suggest a similar photo but with young children being draped in ridiculous religious attire (e.g. a bishop's hat, a burka, a nun's outfit, maybe even a suicide bomb) by over-bearing adults.

    Tue, 03 Apr 2012 20:55:58 UTC | #932191

    xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 30 by xmaseveeve

    Superb interview on BBC4, Bertrand Russell. He says our movement (in 1959) that we are ingnored until we do something that looks fanatical. He is a fanatic against 'fanaticism'

    Tue, 03 Apr 2012 20:58:45 UTC | #932192