Monday, September 01, 2008

Faith schools may now legally discriminate

Faith schools of necessity already discriminate against students on the grounds of religion, but as of today, headteachers and school governors may also discriminate against teachers as well. That is 6,384 primary schools and 589 secondary schools which henceforth shall be permitted to include faith as a selection criterion for teaching and non-teaching posts.

Whilst Cranmer can understand the necessity for a headteacher, and perhaps other senior leaders or pastoral carers, and perhaps those who teach religious studies, to belong to a specific faith, he is utterly bemused that schools may now demand that those who teach mathematics or PE, or those who cook or clean or otherwise support teachers, must also now be practising members of a particular religion. Such discrimination, of course, remains illegal in other state schools.

Why on earth may a Muslim mathematician not teach Catholic children the wonders of Pythagoras? Why may a Hindu not be considered acceptable to prepare halal food? Why may a Protestant not be permitted to scrub the floor of a Guru Nanak’s primary school? And why may a Sikh classroom assistant be deemed incapable of supporting a Christian teacher?

It is all, of course, beneath the guise of ‘maintaining the ethos’ of an educational establishment. And some religious folk are rather more sensitive about their ethos than others.

The bizarre thing is that this utterly dysfunctional, deceitful and self-contradictory government has legislated to permit faith schools to do precisely what places of worship may not. Whilst faith schools may now refuse to employ a homosexual, churches are manifestly obliged to (and so, therefore, are mosques, but that challenge has not yet arisen), even when that ministry involves educating children in the nuances of Christian orthodoxy. So the Christian school may discriminate against the gay geography teacher, but the church may not discriminate against the gay youth worker, even if he happens to be a geographer.

The statistics for faith schools are in flux because of the ever increasing number of applications from minority ethnic groups. When Labour was elected in 1997, all faith schools were either Christian or Jewish. Now the taxpayer funds 4,716 Church of England schools, 2,108 Roman Catholic, 32 Jewish, four Muslim, two Sikh, one Greek Orthodox and one Seventh Day Adventist school. (UPDATE 19.00. His Grace said things were in flux: the UK's first Hindu school opened today).

Cranmer awaits the first application to found the Jedi Knight Academy. He shall gladly support their bid for state funding and join the governing body.

Of course, the reality is that in order to maintain a distinctive ethos and character, faith schools must discriminate. But if the law creates space for this, then a fortiori must it do so for churches, mosques and gurdwaras, not to mention adoption agencies. Discrimination is part of the process of discerning; it is intrinsic to being human. If it is to be restricted in the spiritual realm, then why not the political?

How dare New Labour object to a Tory leading their party.


Blogger Christian said...

Dr Cranmer,

While I quite see your point about the absurdity of requiring houses of worship (or whatever faith) to employ those who would cause scandal to the congregants I think that your point regarding faith schools is taking an unfortunately liberal perspective.

By this I mean that the liberal perspective is that one can compartmentalise things, in this case one can divide one's faith from one's work. This is clearly not so. My Anglican school had several atheist teachers who did not teach Divinity but seeming innocuous subjects like History and Biology. This did not in anyway stop them from airing their views and, effectively, preaching their views to children.

Adult staff at any school are figures of authority who's opinions matter to the children, or, at least, they are taken seriously by the children. Within the context of a Christian school it is totally unacceptable to have the children's minds confused and perverted by alien doctrine. These doctrines should be made known to the pupils but they should be taught as what they are, errors, not as just some other opinion. That is indifferentism.

1 September 2008 at 15:04  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Christian,

Ah, but neither biology nor history are innocuous. Those who educate the future generations on the antics of generations past have indeed influenced the course of the world.

Whilst accepting that there is a strong argument that all teachers ought to adhere to the faith of the school, what about cooks, caretakers, cleaners and gardeners? The opportunities they have for 'preaching their views to the children' are few and far between.

1 September 2008 at 15:12  
Blogger Botogol said...

what a tangled web.

governement-funded faith schools were always a fudge and a muddle. they existed as long as no one really tried to think things through, or push the underlying assumptions to their logical conclusions.

which is now happening.. and the answer is clear: there should be no govt-funded faith schools.

1 September 2008 at 16:23  
Blogger Christian said...

Dr Cranmer,

You are quite right but as a Tory you would, surely, see that there is no need for government to ban such discrimination as people will sort it out for themselves. I think that your wisdom on this point would be widely recognised and schools would simply choose not to exercises their right to discrimination when looking for staff fulfilling menial tasks. If they get second rate staff or find filling these jobs difficult because of their policy of only employing Anglicans (or whatever the religion concerned is) then more fool them.

1 September 2008 at 16:26  
Blogger Christian said...

PS: Botogol,

You will find that faith schools are not only consistently better than state schools at education children in facts but also consistently turn out tolerant, moral and loyal Britons. If they do this then what are we loosing. And don't give me that segregation rubbish, there is no evidence that faith schools create segregation in this country.

Moreover secular schools teach a certain ethos, that is indifferent ism towards different religions. They teach either actively or passively that all religions are equal and that their practice is a private matter. Any good Christian should find this a totally unacceptable creed. Therefore secular schools are far from natural learning environments they are just like every seat of education is by its nature, a place that engenders a certain world view and moral ideas. If such formation is inevitable is it not better that parents can choose how their children are morally and intellectually formed?

The French Republic has, for 150 years now, used secular education to teach French children republican morality and the value of the secular state. Be this a good or a bad thing surely and true Conservative could not abide such clear top-down government engineering of the national consciousness and ethos.

Regarding faith schools I strongly believe that we have the best system in all the world in this country. A system in which parents can truly exercise their right to educate their children as they see fit within the bounds of the law. No atheists are forced into religious schools and not religious people are forced into secular schools. Catholics, Anglicans and Jews are all happy.

Why on earth should our education system only represent the secular populous who make up a small minority of the population? Your ideas are both tyrannical and undemocratic.

1 September 2008 at 16:38  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Faith schools are dominated by above average IQ middle class types so of course they do better.

1 September 2008 at 17:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'...there is no evidence that faith schools create segregation in this country.'

Not Christian schools (Muslims usually prosper in them), but Muslim schools are likely to - they're still fairly new and pretty un-British in their ethos (like Muslims, in fact).

1 September 2008 at 18:03  
Blogger Christian said...

Anon. 1:

I do not believe that IQ test results show very much other than one is good at IQ tests. I have known people with 1st's from Oxford who got an IQ of 70 on one of those tests. Plus, given that Catholics, for example, are actually slightly poorer than the average Briton yet their schools still do better than secular ones. Research shows that Catholics schools, at least, do not have richer pupils.

Anon. 2:

That is no argument against faith schools, it is an argument against Muslim schools. I, as a Christian, see no reason why I should be lumped together with them as we are all 'people of faith'. I don't feel anymore in common with them than I do with a communist (surely they are a 'faith community' given their 'faith' in their philosophy).

1 September 2008 at 18:13  
Blogger mckenzie said...

There is going to be severe problems finding Christian staff in certain places. Come to think of it, there is going to be severe problems finding Christians in certain places.
Division seems to be inevitable though, so at least both sides can educate their own, and the rest will be bloody history.

1 September 2008 at 19:16  
Anonymous Terry said...

any school ought to be able to impose any criteria it likes for its staff - there's no obligation for people to send their children there. Cranmer, I don't think you should be opposed to it - who are you and who am I to say a school shouldn't specify what it wants?

1 September 2008 at 21:22  
Blogger mckenzie said...

I fail to see how any believing Christian can argue against faith schools.
Ultimately, as a believing Christian we should understand that God requires certain standards from us, which our own sinful instincts would like to oppose at every opportunity. I have heard it said that kids should be brought up neutral so they can decide for themselves. Well, this experiment has clearly failed. Teach them the scriptures and let them decide would be a better option.

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting.
It has been found difficult; and left untried.

G.K. Chesterton 1874-1936: What's Wrong with the World (1910).

1 September 2008 at 21:46  
Blogger Miss Snuffleupagus said...

Interesting. I didn't know faith schools weren't allowed to discriminate in this way before. All the faith schools I have known have always discriminated in their hiring habits. They would only ever choose outside their faith when they thought the candidate in question was so superior, that it was worth having him, in spite of his lack of faith. And even then, he would only get hired if he promised to almost pretend to be of that faith. ie. attend chapel, say prayers, etc.

But I am confused, Your Grace. You seem to be of the view that discrimination of this kind is not ok in schools, but it is ok in adoption agencies. Yet you yourself point out the inconsistency of the Government in thinking the opposite.

1 September 2008 at 22:33  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Whoever said His Grace was opposed to this sort of discrimination? Does he not clearly state that discrimination is part of the human condition?

Perhaps his wording was to nuanced...

1 September 2008 at 22:37  
Blogger Botogol said...

I am not againt faith schools, I am against *Government funding* of faith schools.

2 September 2008 at 09:06  
Anonymous Rebel Saint said...

"Faith schools are dominated by above average IQ middle class types so of course they do better."

That old chestnut. How come then that the 2 best performing schools in Bradford are both CofE schools at least one of which is situated in an absolutely dire, troubled estate from which the vast majority of the intake are from.

The muddled thinking over funding faith schools comes from the fact that the state cannot take a pluralistic view on religion. It MUST decide which God it will serve. By saying we will fund ALL faith schools you are simply saying that all religions must be equal.

2 September 2008 at 14:22  

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