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religious skew in education

UK: Onward Christian teachers?

by AC Grayling

Tuesday 13 November 2007

A new report exposes the influence of Christianity in our schools and universities and the consequent religious skew in education

by AC Grayling

- (The Guardian, November 12, 2007)

Facts do not always speak for themselves, but they can sometimes shout. In a speech not long ago the Archbishop of Canterbury quoted the saying, “teaching children is like engraving in stone”, meaning that what is learned early is what sticks. It is therefore relevant to note that 33% of all primary school teachers in England, and nearly one in five of all secondary school teachers, receive their teacher training in Church of England colleges. There are 4,470 Church of England primary schools - 80% of the country’s Church of England schools are primary schools. There are 2,300 Roman Catholic schools in England and Wales. In Scotland, Catholic schools are wholly funded by the government. There are 16 “faith led” institutions of higher education (is this not an oxymoron?) in England and Wales, between them admitting over 100,000 students a year. (Most of these institutions are now called “universities” according to the new definition of what counts as such, viz that it has more than 4,000 students and awards “degrees” - this latter word being a homonym of a term that used to denote something rather different in quality and status. If you think this a tendentious remark, consider the following fact: that 0.28% of students who take the international baccalaureate achieve the highest marks possible in that examination, whereas over 25% of students who take A-levels achieve three A grades. Something spectacularly fishy there; and the fishiness feeds all the way through the system into the newly-described universities and the degrees they award.)

The facts about Church of England institutions of higher education are reported in the absorbing and troubling “Christian Universities: A report into the Higher Education Institutions founded by the Church of England” prepared by Joe Gladstone for the National Secular Society. He tells us that in these institutions more than half the governing body is appointed by the church, that the chancellor of each has to be a communicant member of the church, and that each has to have a Church of England chaplain. All the mission statements of these institutions make reference to their “Christian foundation” and state their aim as “service, worship and the serious study of Christianity”. Gladstone adds: “All the institutions have committed to the Engaging the Curriculum project which has aimed to make available ideologies of Christian faith into subjects where there was none before.” And he further adds, quoting a Church of England publication entitled The Way Ahead (pdf), “Although there are many statements of inclusivity found in the universities’ literature, they also make sure their chaplaincies ensure that worshipping Christian communities lie at the heart of the colleges, and that all institutions offer a Christian influence to all staff and students”.

Apart from the intrinsic objectionability of religious skewing of education - and, to add deep insult to injury, education funded by the taxpayer at that - there is yet another concern: “by [the church’s] own admission the student intake [of the Anglican universities] has now broadened due to wider course choice so that practising Christians [are] probably in the minority (The Way Ahead, p68)” - which means that the church has the opportunity to use a largely state-funded institution to proselytise people of other faiths and none into its own version of the fairy story.

Only imagine if the educational institutions were “Conservative party primary schools” or “Labour party universities” for propagating the outlook and beliefs of each in the young. And what do we think about those madrasas that teach hate and jihad - not just in Pakistan, but here in our midst? If such are not acceptable, why is C of E or RC inculcation of religious superstition in three-year-olds - or 18-year-olds - any more acceptable? Surely not because neither has ever burned anyone at the stake when they were in a position to do so.

Much more might be said. But two other quotations included in Gladstone’s report should suffice: “We consider it essential that all those appointed to senior positions in the colleges should be in sympathy with, and willing and able to support, the mission of the colleges as Christian institutions” (The Way Ahead, p70); and “We would go further and so we recommend to the colleges that as a long term policy, the head of the teacher training should be a practicing Christian.” (ibid).

Remember that all this Christian teacher training is aimed at religious brainwashing of the young, not least the very young. Without brainwashing of the young, religion would wither and die of its own absurdity. The religions - all of them - depend crucially on recruitment by capturing the minds of children. As a result of it you either have the person for life - Islam’s grip is almost always totalising: its votaries are taught that abandoning the faith is punishable by death - or if they rebel for a time in adolescence it will only take divorce, a spell in prison, the death of a loved one, failure or illness, to make some reach for the comfort and support of the tales once told. Odd, isn’t it, that someone in psychological need who was indoctrinated with Christianity in primary school rarely becomes a Zoroastrian or a worshipper of the Japanese emperor (nor vice versa): which is proof, were it needed, that it is not the religion but the brainwashing which is at work.

Children should be taught about religion and the various religions as sociological and historical phenomena, and left to make their own minds up, when they have reached maturity, on the merits (such as they are) of the claims made by each. That this simple and indisputable suggestion is anathema to the religions themselves speaks - shouts, screams - volumes about them and what they are doing. And we with our tax money are allowing them to get away with it.