Why does the Church preach a PC gospel of middle-class respectability?
The Church of England put out a press release yesterday, welcoming the report of the House of Commons Education Select Committee into Underachievement in Education by White Working Class Children. Speaking after the release of the report, the Church of England's Chief Education Officer, the Rev'd Jan Ainsworth said:
“This is a timely report into a pressing issue, and the Church of England stands ready to play its role in supporting the young people identified by the committee.The Church of England is putting more money specifically into educating white, working-class children?
“We are particularly pleased that the committee has highlighted the complexity of issues associated with White Working Class underperformance. Excellent schools can clearly make the world of difference to disadvantaged young people, but the committee also recognises that we need a greater understanding of associated social factors.
“That is why we have commissioned our own project, working through Church schools serving some of the most disadvantaged communities in England, to put additional resources and energy into enabling those children to succeed. Church schools can and do make a real difference to the lives of children who have the furthest to travel in terms of educational achievement, but we recognise there is more that could be done.”
Head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw observes: "The underperformance of low-income white British pupils matters, particularly because they make up the majority - two-thirds - of such pupils. So the lowest-performing group of poor children is also the largest. If we don't crack the problem of low achievement by poor white British boys and girls, then we won't solve the problem overall."
A focus on poor white British boys?
While His Grace welcomes this development, he can think of one or two bishops who might find this sort of language a bit Ukippy, not to say BNP-ish or 'racist'.
Funny - isn't it - how the Church permits matters of social justice to be determined and developed by ethnic identity, but those policy issues of considerable concern to the working class - such as immigration, housing and employment - may not.
Why is it acceptable to sermonise about justice for white working class children, but not for white working class adults? Why can there be more money for educating white working class children, but not for housing white working class adults?
Is it because vicars and bishops are drawn mostly come from middle-class backgrounds. Is it because middle-class theology embraces educational inequality but frowns upon the aspirations of white working class adults?
A fundamental weakness of the Church of England - in common with many churches in Europe - is its tendency to demand that people do not merely acknowledge the Lordship of Christ but also abandon their former way of life in favour of that of a peculiar middle-class sub-culture. Notwithstanding some of the excellent work going on in some of the most impoverished parishes in the country, the public perception of the Church of England remains one of middle-class privilege and an elitism which has little relevance to the working class.
While this may be something of a misconception, it is undoubtedly exacerbated by bishops treating Kippers and BNP-supporters as irredeemably racist outcasts.
Even Jesus broke bread with prostitutes and tax collectors.