Secularism Against Religious influence in Schools, from Birmingham to Islamabad.
Government’s response worst possible one.
“Le jour où les socialistes pourraient fonder des écoles, je considère que le devoir de l’instituteur serait, si je puis ainsi dire, de ne pas prononcer devant les enfants le mot même de socialisme.”
The day that socialists come to found schools, I consider that the duty of the teacher would be, if I may say, to never pronounce even the word socialism in front of the children .“
Jean Jaurès Pour la Laïque January. 1910 Chambre des Députés.
It is the influence of religion in education, and the free reign this has been given in Academies and Free Schools.
Here is what we know, at present (Monday morning), from the central findings.
The Birmingham academy trust at the centre of the so-called Trojan Horse allegations has been accused of running schools which have “taken the Islamic focus too far”.
A leaked draft report on Park View Educational Trust from the Education Funding Agency says some parts of the school curriculum are “restricted to a conservative Islamic perspective”.
It found that girls and boys had been segregated in some classes.
The trust has strongly disputed allegations of extremism.
This highly-critical report found a classroom culture in which Park View School which was not welcoming to non-Muslim pupils – even though the school is not a Muslim faith school.
It described a “madrassa curriculum” in PHSE (personal, social, health and economic) lessons and “posters written in Quranic Arabic in most of the classrooms visited”.
Staff told the inspectors that loudspeakers in the school were used to broadcast the call to prayer.
The report says there were posters in classrooms encouraging children to begin lessons with a Muslim prayer.
And there were claims of an inappropriate external speaker being brought in to talk to pupils. BBC
Some on the left will side with the schools.
They have lost their moral compass.
The subject of Jihadism has muddied the waters. But this is not about a link between these schools and ‘extremism’. It is about the power of religious authority in education.
The worst possible response has just come from the government.
“Protecting our children is one of the first duties of government and that is why the issue of alleged Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust response,” the prime minister said.
Cameron will chair a meeting of cabinet ministers on Monday morning to discuss the Trojan horse findings, in the wake of the public row between Michael Gove and Theresa May on the subject. Ofsted will publish the reports and then Gove will address parliament on the issue.
The Guardian has also learned that the Department for Education is investigating options to radically restructure Birmingham’s state schools in what would amount to a sweeping, city-wide shake-up of England’s largest local authority. It could lead to all the city’s schools being forced to become academies.
These measures will simply transfer religious authority to new administration.
What is at stake.
A deeper principle remains unresolved: open-minded education.
These schools, as with all faith schools that limit pluralism, close people’s minds.
The evidence is there: the schools at the centre of the report have clearly framed their teaching in religious terms. They have created an environment constrained within faith terms. They have actively promoted one religion.
A “madrassa curriculum” is the opposite of freedom, it is narrow-minded introduction to a single point of view.
This will certainly not be solved by making schools academies, which permitted this in the first place.
What should be our reaction?
We can see one already emerging.
It is to defend these religiously influenced academies.
This is to revive the debate between secularists, like Jaurès and his opponents,defenders of religious (Catholic) education way back before the Great War.
Some British liberals and some on the left would have sided with the far-right Maurice Barrès who spoke against Jean Jaurès during the 1910 debate.
Barrès argued that religion was an integral part of French culture and the basis of humanism. He defended it against “rootless” secularism.
He evoked, as some British liberals and leftists do, the contribution of faith to morality and its cultural importance.
Jaurès replied that Barrès seemed to take everything, even the French cathedrals, as support for his personal standpoint.
We will no doubt hear the same arguments from those backing the Birmingham schools.
What is the answer?
How is the state to be involved in education?
Not by making them academies, which, to repeat, created the opportunity for religious forces in the first place.
Comrade Jaurès had the response.
Secularism means freedom from imposing any doctrine in education, even his socialism.
It is to encourage the use of people’s own reason.
“Proudhon l’a dit avec force : l’enfant a le droit d’être éclairé par tous les rayons qui viennent de tous les côtés de l’horizon, et la fonction de l’Etat, c’est d’empêcher .l’interception d’une partie de ces rayons.”
Proudhon said emphatically: the child has the right to be enlightened by every beam of light coming from every quarter. The role of the State is to prevent any one of these rays being filtered out.