Monday, 28 December 2015

Religion in Schools: what means this 'is'?

British Humanist Association chief executive Andrew Copson said: All the usual contemporary justifications for the teaching about religions in schools ... logically also apply to the teaching of humanism.

Before I became the cult staple and voice in the wilderness, I taught in four schools - one was explicitly religious, the others promoted a form of Christianity that managed to justify the school rules, from uniform to a particularly odd piece about the appropriate distance between male and female pupils.

Guess which one was the most comfortable experience for me - even though, as it happens, I did not share its religion. Turns out that I did share the values, though.

And so, in order to keep our attention on the hard work of the state to control our minds, the education minister has made a statement. Apparently, it includes the idea that Britain is a Christian country...

At the risk of suggesting that the media reports contain an anti-religious bias, the statement that Britain is anything can be a fine example of dumbing down. Dumbing down often gets associated with the Disney versions of fairy tales becoming prominent, but here the use of the word 'is' becomes the problem. 

It doesn't mean anything much.

It could be that Christianity holds the dominant position in our state structures - it does have a bunch of bishops in the House of Lords.

It could be that the state and the legislature evolved during a period when Christianity held the affiliation of the majority, and reflect certain values and beliefs.

It could be that more people affiliate to Christianity than other religions.

It could be that Britain mirrors the Islamic State, in being a theocracy defined not by The Koran but The Bible.

But is? Too vague, too broad. 

Going back to my own experience in an explicitly religious school - look, it was a Jesuit school, and we all know how hardcore the Jesuits are - the majority of students easily dropped religious belief by the time they hit puberty. And that's even in an environment built around regular masses, propagandist religious studies and every single piece of work having AMDG at the top of the page. 

School is a relatively poor location for 'indoctrination', if that's the worry. If anything, adding in my experience of other schools, there's no better way of destroying interest in a subject by adding it to the curriculum.

I mean, Shakespeare is pretty good, but how many teenagers hate it? 

Okay, that's anecdotal. With that level of research, I could be a columnist on The Times. Or a politician.

Is Humanism a Religion?

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