Thursday, December 04, 2008

Faith Schools & Bigotry

A thread on Liberal Conspiracy is currently discussing faith schools, in advance of a report due today from the Runnymede Trust on whether faith schools promote that New Labour crock of gold, community cohesion. The full report will be downloadable from the Runnymede Trust site later this morning.

The comments themselves are fairly sensible, with quite a few people noting that they went to faith schools but didn't become bigoted fundies. On bigotry, here's a very thoughtful post from a NZ blog Why am I a Bigot? which argues that the accusation of bigotry gets thrown at Christians who hold strong moral views (in his case on abortion and sexuality), as a way of short-circuiting the argument. If we can label people 'bigots', then we no longer need to listen to their point of view. But is the label true?

One would think that it would be fairly obvious to people that you don’t refute a position by calling the person who holds it a bigot and it is tempting to dismiss this response as simply ... (confused)..; the problem is that people do not appear to find this obvious. In my experience, many people even educated people, recoil from considering any argument against feticide or homosexual conduct or listening to theological concerns on these matters because they perceive such positions to be bigoted.

worth a read (but skim-reading is probably not a viable option!), even if you don't agree with him.

Update: brief summary of the press release:

Faith schools should be open to all
Runnymede's latest report 'Right to Divide?' examines how faith schools have responded to the statutory duty to promote community cohesion. It recommends:
1. End selection on the basis of faith
2. Children should have a greater say in how they are educated
3. RE should be part of the core national curriculum
4. Faith schools should also serve the most disadvantaged
5. Faith schools must value all young people
6. If these recommendations are acted upon, faith should continue to play an important role in our education system

Rob Berkeley, Deputy Director of Runnymede, said:
"Faith schools make up a third of our education system. Schools should be central to their communities and neighbourhoods for all who live there not just those who share their religious world view. If we are serious about the importance of equality and cohesion, faith schools too need to play their part by welcoming all in society to the benefits of their approaches. "

Full report as a pdf here (76 pages), executive summary here (12 pages).

Update: good discussion happening on a new Liberal Conspiracy thread here.

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