Alan Rogers writes:-
We are fortunate in Wales that plans afoot for English schools will not directly affect our children and their parents.
Mr. Gove, Secretary of State for Education at Westminster seems determined to create a sectarian school system and the most recent plan is to transfer thousands of community schools to the care of the Church of England.
Now the Daily Mail is not always the most reliable font of knowledge but on this occasion it seems to have a good grasp of Mr. Gove’s intentions.
In a statement, Mr Gove said: “I want the church to recover the spirit which infused its educational mission in Victorian times and support more new schools, especially academies and free schools, to bring educational excellence to the nation’s poorest children”.
So, in England, it is back to the future with Mr. Gove’s Victorian social engineering experiment.
Not everyone agrees with Mr. Gove. A YouGov survey this year (using a weighted sample of 1750 respondents) showed in response to the proposition:-
Make all state schools secular and stop them having special links with the Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other religion.
Of those surveyed – Total support 49% Total opposition 38%
State school Parents – (Primary) Supportive 42% Opposed 41% (Secondary) Supportive 47% Opposed 38%
At the very least this demonstrates that Mr. Gove probably has rather less than half of parents behind him in his experiment. Perhaps he only listens to parents who go to church. This policy is probably more about Mr. Gove’s religious beliefs than the will of the people.
Given the disaster which befell the Irish Republic when, after 1922, it entrusted the Catholic Church with education and social services Mr. Gove’s adventure into sectarian schooling is either brave or foolhardy, Unfortunately it is not Mr. Gove who will be affected by the outcome two or three generations from now. Mr. Gove will, by then, be happily settled in his Anglican Paradise.
A senior academic, Professor William Shaw, was moved to write to the Prime Minister about this matter. I have the Professor’s kind permission to copy his letter below. He makes it clear that the views expressed are his alone. I think we would do well to let the Welsh Government know on every possible occasion that secularist deplore the current English schools policy and we support the establishment of an increasingly secular school system for Wales. Why not email your Assembly Member to make this point?
From Professor William Shaw:
I have written a letter to my MP, David Cameron, in response to the Gove plan to expand faith schools as reported in Newsline* last week. The text is below.
* The online publication of the National Secular Society. [Alan Rogers]
Dear Mr Cameron
I am writing to you as one of your constituents, and as an educator, to express my concern about Conservative policy on education in relation to religion both in Oxfordshire and nationally.
There is a wonderful document called the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It has been around for over four decades and the UK has consistently shown contempt for it. Article 14 states that “Children can believe what they want as long as their beliefs do not harm others”.
Tony Blair’s premiership, once there has been time for its proper historical appraisal, will be remembered for two great crimes. The first is the Iraq war. The second is his abhorrent creation of Faith Schools. The very concept is a clear violation of Article 14, and such schools set out to
(a) violate children’s rights to freedom of thought;
(b) undermine the proper teaching of science via the promotion of creationist drivel;
(c) promote bigotry against gays and people from other faiths;
(d) violate employment rights through the hiring and promotion of staff of the dominant faith.
(e) undermine the very concept of education, which is to teach a child how to think and to question, and replace it with the notion of telling them what to think and not to question.
They also destroy social cohesion through the notion that the school faith group is somehow superior, and create distance between faiths when there should be unity. The experience of Northern Ireland in promoting cohesion through secularising is an example to the rest of the country.
The misplaced popularity of faith schools with parents is probably nothing to do with faith and everything to do with a focus on discipline and a back-door selection procedure.
I am writing to you today because I have become aware of deeply disturbing remarks by Michael Gove, in an interview with the Yorkshire Post where he outlines Tory plans to expand faith schools. His remarks are utterly appalling. It is essentially a plan to have the Conservative party engage in the intellectual abuse of our children.
There is a minority of children at even greater risk from religious home tutoring, where their UNC rights of freedom of association and freedom of access to information are also violated. This should also be addressed, in a manner consistent with freedom of religion.
It is important to remember two very simple things:
1. The only difference between an evangelist and a paedophile lies in the difference between the abuse of a child’s mind and abuse of a child’s body.
2. The legal protection of freedom of religion should be about protecting the rights of people to believe, assemble and worship. It is not about giving people the right to ram their views down the throats and into the minds of others, particularly vulnerable children.
I call on you to sack Mr Gove as education spokesman and publicly commit the Conservative party to the abolition of Faith Schools. Otherwise your party will essentially be campaigning on a platform promoting child abuse.
“Why not email your Assembly Member to make this point?”
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