Monday, December 03, 2007

School nativities and praying children

Couple of stories in the news today. BBC breakfast had this piece on schools supposedly abandoning nativity plays. The obligatory National Secular Society rep was quite restrained, (though their website headline - 'schools favour secular productions over the nativity play' is again inaccurate and misinterprets the findings - a 'modern reinterpretation of the nativity' doesn't mean a secular version, most of these re-tell the nativity story quite well, but aren't a straight rendering of the story), and the other commentator talked a lot of sense, wrapping up with: “Our identity is being chipped away at for want of ‘offending anyone’, but most people aren’t offended.”

The full story was broken by the Telegraph, though it's only based on a survey of 100 schools, so I wonder how accurate the findings (that only 1/3 of the schools surveyed were having natiivty plays) really are. It seems to be mainly a piece about political correctness, arguing that people of non-Christian faiths aren't as offended by the Christian story as they are made out to be.

Here's a quote from the story:

Terence Copley, Professor of Educational Studies at Oxford University, said the idea that the nativity could offend other faiths was "crazy".

"I have never met a single Jew, Muslim, Sikh or Buddhist who has objected to the commemoration and celebration of the birth of Jesus," he said. "In Islam, he is a prophet and his birth is described in the Koran. It is not other religions that are pushing for this at all.

"If we avoid Christmas we are pandering to a secular minority and allowing the event to become all about commercialism, presents and self-indulgence.

"There's nothing wrong with a bit of self-indulgence but if we don't teach about Christmas and deal with it confidently, not just in RE, we are failing in our duty as educators."

Meanwhile a CBBC survey of 1000 children aged 6-12 has some interesting findings, including

  • School work dominates family conversations (52%)

  • Two-thirds of children pray but half of these pray only at school

  • One in four children do not count their father as immediate family

  • Children spend an average of 3.5 hours a day with their parents

  • Thirteen per cent of children said they never eat together as a family

  • More than half (56%) would like to spend more time doing things with their parents

  • Most bullying happens at school - one in three have been bullied at school, one in five elsewhere

  • In careers, boys still dream of being sportsmen (footballer - 26%), girls want to teach (12%), become a hairdresser (11%) or nurse (10%)

  • The real world still beats online - children would rather play outside and talk to friends face to face

Some sad stuff there, about fathers, family life and bullying, but the overall picture is of kids who (in the main) enjoy school and have friends. And if 1/3 of kids pray on their own, that is 4-5 times the number who are involved in church (or other religions), there's clearly a job to do there in resourcing and encouraging that, so that children can develop their own relationship with God.

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