Friday, November 7, 2008

faith schools - teaching unions versus teachers

Wendy Wright speaking on human rights in ChinaThis August, as part of his series on The Genius of Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins interviewed Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, about the controversy surrounding the teaching of creationism in school as opposed to evolution. In my opinion, Wright displayed her greater cognitive agility by stating that in a controversial subject such as that of creationism versus evolution, pupils should learn both sides of the debate.

Today, Martin Beckford, religious affairs correspondent of the Telegraph, reported on a poll by which produced some unexpected but reassuring statistics. Although half of the teachers in the 1200 surveyed disagreed that creationism should be given parity with evolution in the classroom, a third - a very significant minority - thought that parity was appropriate - and indeed just under a third already consider creationism as equal to evolution.

click to read a profile of Michael ReissAnother statistic showed that the controversy over Professor Michael Reiss being ousted from his position as Director of Education at the Royal Society is far from dead (Professor Reiss opined that creationism should be taught in schools and was promptly ousted by a cabal of scientists whose figurehead was Dawkins; Sir Richard Roberts called Reiss's vocation "very worrisome"):
Nearly half (49.9%) of teachers also agreed with Professor Michael Reiss’ sentiment that excluding alternative explanations to evolution is counter-productive and alienates pupils from science.
What this figure suggests is that some of those teachers who disagree that creationism should be weighted equally with evolution support a place for creationism in the syllabus. Dawkins' retort to Ms Wright on the issue of teaching both was that he was all for teaching children to think for themselves, but there were limits. In neglecting to explain what he thought these limits were, he ceded the position of freer-thinker to Wright, who had probably held it all along.

This is in the context, I believe, of a rather loaded dialogue on the role of faith schools in society that has been going on for a couple of years in the open, but which bodies of a certain ideological shade have been pursuing covertly for decades.

The NASUWT (National Union of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers) brought out a consultation document this year called Keeping the Faith, which in the body of the text constructs a balanced argument about the role of religion in education, but in the conclusion comes out in favour of a British Humanist Association publication called A Better Way Forward, which concludes that all religions should be given equal weight: while a valid proposal for a phenomonological study, this is an insult to each and every religion so considered, no matter the religion/denomination of the school. Translating the argument into another sphere, can you imagine a physical education class in Texas which was looking into baseball and situated the Texas Rangers as being no different from the Yankees?

click to go to the home page of the Catholic Education ServiceThe above study involved only one religious group, the Catholic Education Service, despite the fact that in Great Britain there are schools of other faiths: the 2004 report by Dr Richard Stone, Islamophobia, stated that there were nearly 7,000 state religious schools in the UK, of which 33 were Jewish, 2 Sikh, 1 Greek Orthodox and 1 Seventh Day Adventist; of the rest, one paper puts the numbers at over 4,700 Church of England schools, and just over 2,100 Roman Catholic schools. As a member of the Church of England, I feel I detect an agenda: go for the Catholics first, then mop up the rest. This is a time to stick together.

The NUT (National Union of Teachers)has called for an end to funding of faith schools, and says in a typical passage in its document, In Good Faith:
Human equality in all its dimensions should be affirmed and celebrated. The importance of working for the elimination of any faith-based homophobia, transphobia and institutionalised prejudice towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is vital.
I am reminded of a robustly pro-gay friend who chose me as the first person to come to and voice her concerns about a circle of gay men, not well liked in the LGBT community, who were running a competition on how young a boyfriend they could pull. I hope that free-thinking gay people, should they read passages like that quoted above, will reply, "not in my name".

In case the NUT paper wasn't circulated widely enough, it was summarised on a Marxist website, by NUT activist Kirsty Paton, under the title, "Schools are for teaching, not for preaching". The author states that, having heard arguments from the Catholic Church and the Church of England in favour of retaining faith schools, "fortunately we then had the opportunity to listen to the views of the British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society (NSS) and Women against Fundamentalism all of whom explained why faith schools should be opposed".

I am against fundamentalism in all its forms, which is why I am in favour of faith schools: if you believe that after a worthless life we turn to dust, then there are no limits to what you might do; if, on the other hand, you suspect that Hell might be possible, then you are an invaluable pointer to Heaven. God bless you.


  1. There is another theory besides creationism and evolution. Intelligent design, is it? Seems like I read of some potential problems with the theory, but I don't remember what they were.

  2. Hi Pam - I agree that intelligent design is a midle way between creationism and evolution. Personally the theory does it for me, but Francis Collins, author of The Language of God, calls intelligent design "creationism 2.0" - ie the offspring of creationism and radical militant atheism. There's a review of his book here -

    I don't think we can come up with a theory about the development of life that doesn't have problems, basically because on this side of death it's going to be a very long time before we are in possession of most of the facts, if ever.

    Case in point - you might say that on the other side of creationism is what Michael Cremo calls Forbidden Archaeology, the concept that humankind has been around for millions of years before the orthodoxy of mainstream science allows - he has been sidelined for the suggestion by the same people who sideline religionists and/or creationists and the descendents of the ideological orthodoxy who oppopsed Wegener's theory of tectonic plates - because it didn't fit. But I'm not sure that enough evidence either way.

  3. There's an exhibit at our local science museum - a video depicting the Big Bang theory. One day I was watching my 3 children dash from exhibit to exhibit and happened to stop in front of that one. I turned to look at the wall it plays on, and it seemed to me that I heard God say "Be" - and the whole universe exploded into being. It was very beautiful. Especially, thinking that in that one Word, every aspect of creation that He intended was contained. I still enjoy that memory.

  4. As long as I know the God did IT, I won't be bogged down with the details. I certainly will not limit God to any 'theory' that man can imagine.

  5. I hear you Linda - and I think the climate-change bods and radical militant atheists - who co-opt Darwin's name for viewpoints nobody knows that he would have embraced - should remember what I beleive it says on some T-shirts - IT'S JUST A THEORY!!!


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