This week in UK the national news has been obsessing about Islam again. Senior tory politicians, Teresa May & Michael Gove are both fuelling the anti-Islamic fire with a well publicised (& perhaps stage-managed) spat about ‘extremism’ in several Birmingham schools.
It’s hardly surprising that as the national mood takes another goosestep toward Islamophobic nationalism this issue has surfaced now. It has, after all been known about for years according to reports. But the tories are losing ground to more openly nationalist groups like UKIP and paramilitary street ‘defence’ groups such as ‘Britain First’. The tories need a scapegoat – an ‘acceptable’ issue to hide behind as they compete to display their own xenophobic traits. So they’ve conflated religious extremism with terrorism and stamped on a few Muslim schools. Job done!
Except that it’s only half a job…. and it’s only half done.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m no fan of Islamic faith schools. In fact I’d go so far as to say that any school that aims to indoctrinate children into accepting nonsense like creationism is psychologically abusive and its teachers are, by definition, professionally negligent.
But why single out Islamic schools only?
Education minister, Michael Gove has gone on record condemning these Islamic schools for denying their pupils access to lessons on evolution. I agree with him about that. The theory of evolution underpins the rest of biology and informs many more sciences including chemistry, paleontology, archeology, anthropology, vast areas of medicine and significant swathes of psychology. Creationism denies many basic precepts of geology, physics, cosmology & astronomy, dendrochronology, archeology and climatology. In short, creationism undermines students’ ability to understand the methods of science, to evaluate evidence and to form onjective opinions. To teach creationism as fact is to betray students!
But I still think the current attack on these Birmingham schools is unfair. After all they’re only doing what was asked of them.
Successive UK governments have indulged faith schools, including these ones, for political reasons for years. This feigned outrage isn’t about faith schools at all – it’s about the tory party finding an excuse to align itself with Islamophobes. Michael Gove can pretend to be disgusted at schools teaching creation all he wants but he’s fooling nobody. After all, Gove personally approved the development of three creationist Christian schools as recently as 2012. This has nothing to do with legitimate and reasonable concerns about educational betrayal. It has to do with the continuing isolation and scapegoating of British Muslims. And it stinks.
So here’s my suggestion…..
Let’s cut to the chase and ban all religious prosletising in schools. Let’s teach religious education and encourage children to study many religions as cultural artefacts and optional systems of belief – rather like politics. Let’s give kids information on religions, on scientific method and instruction in critical thinking and evidence evaluation. Let’s accept that no child is old enough to be a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew, a Sikh, a Bhuddist or anything else. They’re too young and naive to decide, whatever their partisan parents might think.
Let’s teach comparative religion in secular schools. Let’s teach atheism, humanism and critical thinking in schools too. And let’s ban ALL faith schools.
Anything less is just obvious discrimination. Given this government’s already appaling record in that department, a little fair play (however unusual) might go a very long way.
Filed under: Abuse, Evolution, Politics, Religion, Safeguarding, UKIP | Tagged: Birmingham, education, extremism, Gove, indoctrination, muslim, school, Teresa May | Leave a comment »