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Dawkins: Faith School Menace?

Richard Dawkins

Here’s a programme I intend to watch tonight. More 4 today, Wednesday 18 August at 9pm. I guess it will also be on 4OD later.

It’s the Dawkins on Faiths schools documentary mentioned earlier. It will be interesting to see the angles covered: bias in science lessons is likely as Dawkins is a scientist, but I would also like to see discussion of the admissions process and, hopefully, some probing questions to politicians. Why does no major political party oppose faith schools even though the majority of the public don’t want them?

UPDATE: I thought it was very good indeed. I think Dawkins managed to put the case across very well and none of the pro-faith schools arguments were in the least bit convincing. Things I liked best:

The Church of England’s spokesperson who argued that children needed to “experience” faith “lived” at school as part of the justification for forced, collective worship. Weasel words indeed.

The couple who had it hinted to them that they should help pay for repairs to the church roof to get the vicars letter. In fairness, the church is question disputed it, but there are similar stories in a recent Government investigation into admissions policies.

The Muslim science teacher who couldn’t answer the “Why are there still apes?” creationist canard. I’m not suggesting – and nor did the film – that all faith schools science teaching is like this. But with areas of the curriculum controlled and inspected by a faith organisation this is a danger.

Finally, I found the interview with Charles Clarke the most revealing. (Was he the only politician to be asked for an interview, I wonder.) He’d gone from opposing all faith schools to allowing new ones – on the grounds of fairness to all faiths. His argument that abolishing faith schools would close 4,000 schools was pathetic. No, it wouldn’t, it would change their character by taking control of admissions and RE away from them.

I suspect politicians are afraid of the flack they’d get from closing faith schools not that that there’s any real practical difficulty involved. I’ve written before about the hysterical pro-faith coverage in a some newspapers when they perceive faith schools as being under attack. Ed Balls has said that his worst time as Minister for Education was when he tried to make some (not that far reaching) changes to the admissions policies of faith schools.

  1. Stonyground
    19/08/2010 at 6:56 pm

    I thought it was excellent too. Amazing how RD manages to keep it together no matter how crass and idiotic his interviewee gets. The priest from Northern Ireland who stated with a straight face that he did not believe that religion is divisive had me swearing and throwing stuff at the telly. I also found it amazing that a biology teacher could not answer the ‘why are there still apes’ question, it was a master stroke from RD to give her the opportunity to answer the question first, she looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

    • 20/08/2010 at 8:01 am

      Yes the NI bloke was intensely annoying too. As you say, you’d think anyone from there would have a little humility about the role of religion in reducing conflict!

      I think the science teacher on the “Apes Question will probably become the highlight of the programme; I expect it is getting multiple views on You Tube now!

  2. Stonyground
    23/08/2010 at 5:44 pm

    The RD website now carries several links to various reviews of the programme. I don’t know if it is because I am obviously a bit biassed, but the complementary reviews appear to be well written and intelligently argued while the hostile ones appear to have been written by idiots. One review hardly mentioned the program at all and just slagged off Dawkins pausing only to make a bad and unfunny joke about atheist suicide bombers. Many of the comments on the links referred to the amazing patience shown by RD when confronted with mind numbing idiocy at every turn. I think that he knew who his audience would be and shrewdly allowed his victims free reign to condemn themselves.

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