The Year-Five Epiphany
But the response of Graham Allen MP is to call for ‘a national debate about whether we really want to continue down the road of faith schools’. Essentially, he (and quite a few other Labour MPs) want faith schools abolished because they ‘undermine community cohesion and entrench disadvantage’. By this he means that middle-class parents move house in order to fall within a school catchment area, while the poor cannot. Yet people with the financial means have always used their wealth to better themselves, and that involves moving away from ‘undesirable’ areas. Is Mr Allen proposing state control of house moving?
It is typical of a Socialist to use such an important issue to propagate his desire for a bland Soviet uniformity, and conveniently ignore the fact that the principle of selection in education has been the greatest mechanism for social mobility the country has ever produced. And the hypocrisy has been evident time and again from those Labour MPs and ministers who preach the Comprehensive, multi-faith, multi-ethnic ideal, impose it on the masses, and then observe the warfare in classrooms, the irredeemably dysfunctional system, and the consequent poor results. And so they opt to send their own children to private, selective school, simply because they can afford to.
Mr Allen does, however, have a point when he observes: ‘Faith schools at the moment are mainly Protestant or Catholic. Other faiths quite rightly want similar provision. In an era when we are desperate for social cohesion, do we really want to sustain the current level of discrimination between people of different faiths, particularly when taxpayers are paying for it?’
This is an entirely rational debate, not least because of the implications for the National Curriculum and the 1944 and 1988 demands for an act of daily worship that is ‘broadly Christian’, and the provision of Religious Education, which has to prioritise Christianity. It is not inconceivable that there would develop different laws for different schools, with demands for co-religionist Ofsted inspectors to avoid accusations of ‘racism’. This would, of course, be unacceptable, but is indeed highly probable.
The Catholic Church defends its policy of defining Catholics by baptism and said that even where suspicions existed about parental motives, ‘it is not easy to remain a Catholic for long if you are not authentic’.
There would be quite a discussion between His Holiness and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster - not to mention between the editors of The Catholic Herald and The Tablet – of what constitutes an ‘authentic’ Roman Catholic. It would appear that it is entirely possible to be deluded for the entirety of one’s life either towards a BBC/Guardian/Vatican II/Tablet theology as opposed to the Extraordinary Rite/Telegraph/Catholic Herald theology. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to believe they are both part of the same ‘authentic’ church.
However, that aside, Cranmer is pleased to note that the light is not (yet) extinguished, for the Government has declared that it will make it easier for more state-funded faith schools to be established. Unfortunately, this does not have the support of Labour ministers, Labour backbenchers, Labour supporters, or that oracle of wisdom and discernment the National Union of Teachers, which helpfully notes that ‘the selection criteria of many faith schools discriminates against pupils from non-religious backgrounds’.
You don’t say.