A friend recommended the Pod Delusion, and I was intrigued by this podcast, which deals with Faith Schools, amongst other interesting things.
Having worked for six years in Faith Schools, I must say that I don’t feel it’s as bad as the British Humanist Association makes out.
They paint a picture of discrimination, indoctrination and a narrowing of horizons, that frankly I just do not agree with.
There was no place on the BHA’s website that I could leave a comment or express my views, so i am choosing to do that here, although more to get it off my chest than convince others.
My experience of Faith Schools has been one of nurturing and caring for the individual and the community. I fail to see how non-faith schools can tap into an accepted moral framework without reference to religious doctrine. In my opinion this doctrine provides a tried and tested, ready made scaffold to individual expression and personal growth.
I do not think it appropriate to explain in scientific terms how the world works to a small child, who will be, and should be, thinking in more abstract and mysterious terms than an adult. As science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God, (or god, if you like), I do not feel that scientific doctrine has the facility to guide people on how to live their lives.
Don’t get me wrong – I am a scientist; Evolution, Darwin, technology – all good. Also, I am not religious in the conventional sense – but I do reserve the right to believe what the heck I want about the world around me and ‘why’ we are here. Science provides fascinating and compelling evidence of the mind-blowing elegance and beauty of the world around us – but it provides ‘how’ rather than ‘why’.
I referred to religious doctrine as a good thing. I’d like to point out the difference between doctrine and dogma, where the former, as I comprehend it, is following an established pattern for an explicitly understood reason, and the latter is without understanding – blind. Both science and religion have both doctrine and dogma (whether they like it or not) – any system that has human beings in it will tend towards dogma, as people crave a framework that they can rely on and not think about any more (constantly reevaluating your baseline assumptions is extremely hard, and is to be respected in both religion and science).
However, having now read the Dossier on Independent Evidence on Faith Schools I am in turmoil, being presented with a goodly amount of statistics and informed opinion that runs contrary to my own experience (reevaluating those assumptions!).
There doesn’t seem to be a very good case for faith schools, I’m afraid. Many of the comments, including those of the NUT, refer to increasing inclusion across all schools, and not just faith schools. It appears that social impact of faith schools is worse in some parts of the country than others, and it that if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender then you are not going to have a good time at a faith school.
My mind remains open – to the views of others on their reasons for the hinting down and eliminating of faith schools, and to my own experience of faith schools being friendly, supportive and positive environments to work and learn in.
I suspect, as I end this rant, that the significant factor that will lend itself to successful schools is not faith or non-faith, but to the quality of its management, as in the schools that I have worked in.
PS: this is a BLOG. it is not a scientifically researched paper and all opinions expressed are my own. I have not made up my mind about this topic, and remain open to reasoned argument and persuasion either way. Hope you enjoyed it – now get back to work!