With the ever rising number of faith schools in Britain, Richard Dawkins calls on society to reconsider the consequences of faith in schools.
Dawkins states that in about 7,000 publicly funded schools, one out of three is affiliated with a religion, and the coalition is only planning for more faith-based education in the future. His recent concerns lie primarily with the idea that children are being shoe-horned into religion all for the sake of getting a good education.
There are several factors which have not been taken into account in Dawkins’ argument. It’s simply illogical to make a sweeping generalisation about faith schools and presume that they’re indoctrinating irrational belief into the minds of school children. Whereas in reality, the irrational decision lies in the hands of the parents who know perfectly well what they’re signing their children up for. In some cases, parents may even think there’s a lot more ‘indoctrinating’ that goes on than what plays out in actuality.
Pulling apart all the ties this country still has with Christianity seems to have become a default reaction, because it doesn’t reflect the values or beliefs of many people in Britain today. It’s deemed to be offensive and restricting to force children to conform to a belief which they do not necessarily hold as their own.
Parents often choose to send their children to faith schools because they provide a better level of teaching and pastoral care. However, it would be naïve to suggest they are unaware of the Christian ethos and sense of traditionalism that generally comes with them.
Another thing to consider would be the varying degree of religion in faith schools. There are some schools which require families to go to church and attain a signature from a vicar to confirm their attendance. This then, is a ridiculous notion if parents feel they have to act in pretence in order for their children to receive the level of education they are entitled to.
However, many faith schools are open about their beliefs and welcome students from all faith backgrounds to be freely integrated within the school. This further demonstrates that the choice is down to parents and it shouldn’t be assumed that children are mindless sponges who can’t think for themselves. All schools should encourage children to assess what they believe and why, and provide a safe environment to do so.
Dawkins argues that faith schools do not respect a child’s right to freedom of belief. Nonetheless, advocating the removal of faith schools, arguably, does not allow for children to have the right to freedom of belief either. So where is the middle ground?
Instead of the coalition implementing a greater number of faith schools, they should focus on raising the level of teaching in all schools across the country. That way, parents will have an opportunity to make a more informed choice, in terms of the best education and schooling for the children, and won’t feel they have to send them to a faith school if its nature conflicts with their personal beliefs.