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Can we stop pretending faith schools are the problem?

9 June 2014

5:23 PM

9 June 2014

5:23 PM

Liberal secularists don’t like faith schools. Obviously. When confronted with stories of Islamists overtaking state schools in Birmingham, they have no difficulty diagnosing the problem. It’s not an Islam issue, or an extremism issue — it’s faith schools. Faith schooling is where the rot starts, even if these Islamified academies are not actually faith schools. We should therefore oppose all state funding for faith-based education. Catherine Bennett said as much in the Guardian, and lots of social media types seem to agree.

Dan Hodges of the Telegraph this morning tweeted: ‘All faith schools are Trojan horses. We need faith based education like we need a hole in the head.’ It might be silly to judge what people say on Twitter, but let’s consider that thought for a moment. What Dan, a clever journalist, is saying is that every single religious school is pretending to be something it is not in order to impose its agenda on nice liberal Britain when nice liberal Britain isn’t looking. This is just not true. Most faith schools in this country are about as menacing to British values as a basket of geraniums.

What really irks the godless intelligentsia about faith schools is that they are good. Church of England and Catholic schools consistently outperform their secular equivalents; in many urban parts of Britain, parents who can’t afford private education and are not religious (or willing to fake being religious) struggle to find good schools. This tends to infuriate metropolitan journalists — often privately educated themselves and viciously guilty because they can’t afford to pass that privilege on to their mewling sprogs.

I don’t want to pick on Hodges — there are hundreds of thousands of people attacking religious education all over the web — but it was telling that when another Telegraph journalist, Tim Stanley, pointed out to him that 25 per cent of all primary and middle schools are Church of England and that 81 per cent of those are rated as ‘good/outstanding’ by Ofsted, Hodges reply was ‘And what if I’m not CoE. Why should my child be denied a good education?’ As if the whole point of Christian schooling was to deny Dan Hodges’s children a decent chance in life. That’s pretty unprogressive, especially from a self-proclaimed Blairite: his question really should be why voluntary aided Church schools often do so well — clue: it’s to do with the ethos – and what can the government learn from them to make secular state schools better?

The Birmingham Islamic schools scandal is a troubling one; in fact, it might be so troubling that we would rather not think about it too hard. It’s much easier to talk about how all religion is nasty and fanatical and how we’d much rather not have to spend taxpayer money imposing God on our young. At least then you can’t be called an Islamophobe.

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