Thursday, February 23, 2006

"There will be a widespread welcome for today's announcement by the main religious organisations that children in faith schools should, as a matter of course, be taught about all the major faiths.

This confirmation that a broad religious education should take place within all faith schools demonstrates their explicit commitment to promoting inclusion and tolerance which have never been more important in our society." Ruth Kelly, 22nd February, 2006

The key word here, of course, is 'should'. Whereas, in the past, we have sen it as right and fitting to impose restrictions on schools to assure that certain provisions were provided (such as the national curriculum), we now are preparing to replace 'must' with 'should'.

This is especially worrying when it comes to the teaching of religion, as the way in which it is taught is obviously a fundamental concern for everyone in the 21st century. Why does teaching more and more about a wider range of irrational beliefs (perhaps only with the aim of promoting one of them above the others) strike us as an example of a 'commitment to promoting inclusion and tolerance', when, if followed to its extreme, it is quite the reverse.

"A strong ethos is important to raising standards in any school, regardless of whether that ethos is faith based or not." Ruth Kelly, 22nd February

So, presumably, non-faith schools are just as good at educating childen, and better at not having them turn into religious fanatics. Would it not be best to try and create more secular schools, then?

"That ethos, of course, must reflect the values and goals of their community in which these schools are based."

Must it? What if the values and goals of a local community directly conflict with those of society as a whole? I went to school in Caterham in Surrey, should my school have promoted a sense of privilege, conspicuous consumption and casual racism? It did, but should it? And should it have been designed to?

This is not to say that local communities do not have local needs, but that too much emphasis on them is a step back for education, a move towards a more American system, in which intelligent design can be taught in publicly-funded schools. Some beliefs are just wrong, and, if one has the misfortune to grow up in an area where many peopel hold those beliefs, why should we compound them by rteinforcing them at school. School should be a place to go to get away from the demand of the local community, not to have the conformity it demands enforced on one in a place of learning as well.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Patterns of Sponsorship

This is a story by someone who has studied what sorts of people sponsor academy schools, and it shows how flawed the theory of academy schools is. Highlights include:

"While diversity is an explicit aim of educational policy, diversity of sponsorship is limited. Over half of academies (53%) are sponsored by business (mostly individual business people)."

"This is not to question the motivations or the appropriateness of particular sponsors giving their support to education. But sponsorship tends to reflect the existing pattern of social and economic power: the people and organisations who already have advantages and influence will have most sway over the future education of our children - there is an inherent conservatism in the system."

Friday, February 10, 2006

Pointless architectural schadenfreude...

There is no point to this, it is symptomatic of nothing, points out none of the problems inherent in involving the private sector in the provision of education, and it nothing to do with faith groups. It is, however, very funny.

Although it is pleasing when the government adviser on academies thinks they're for oddballs. 'Sir Cyril also attacked some of the original specialist subjects adopted by academies as "just weird".'

Results at City Academies

Given that the results from many Academy schools weren't all that good, they should probably ask for their money back.

First Islamic Faith Academy

This article tells of the first Muslim faith school to be openend in Bradford.

The assertion that 'faith schools', generally, are a good thing is one that holds no water. Even if one of the many faiths (and it should be good to see Satanist and Wiccan academies springing up across the country with state funding) is true and right, that means, necessarily, that the others cannot be. How can a committed adherent of a specific faith, who must believe that adherents of others must be misguided, if not hell-bound, possibly suggest that 'faith' in a general sense is a good thing?

How can 'faith' be good in and of itself, with no relation to what one has faith in? Faith is an irrational belief in something, surely the thing in which one has an irrational belief is important?

Of course, there are those of us who would argue that irational belief of any kind is not a particularly good basis for education...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

"Wholesale privatisation"

The Headteacher of William Hulme Grammar School plans for it to become an academy school in September 2007. This is because he, Mr Stephen Patriarca, thinks that "If the trust schools go ahead we are talking about wholesale privatisation, and in my view that is a good thing."

Many of us would not agree that 'wholesale privatisation' of our children's futures was not entirely 'a good thing'. Many of us would argue that it is too precious to be left in the hands of private enterprise, and sectional interests. Many of us agree with Mr Patriarca that this is, nevertheless, what the government is trying to institute. We shoudl thank Mr Patriarca for saying it so clearly.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Faith Academy FAQs

Here's a nice dissection of some of the givernments FAQs about City Academies. It nicely highlights that these schools are a good way of removing education from local control, and centralising it, as they will only be answerable to the Secretary of State, not LEAs.

"All applicants for school places must be considered, though the Code of Practice allows faith schools to give priority for admission to children on the basis of religious affiliation." It is obviously very heartening to know that your child must be 'considered' by any religious school, but that 'priority will be given' on the basis of 'religious affiliation'. Thus, religious organisations can use schools to force parents to attend church or mosque or gurdwara and thus swell their coffers even more.

The need for schools devoted to secular humanism is greater than ever, whilst New Labour is clearly trying to increase the numbers of the devout through odd pieces of social engineering like City Academies...