Faith Schools

As I have previously mentioned before, I'm quite big on secularism, less because I want to force my beliefs on everyone else and more because I don't want religious oppression (the kind of religious people who ignore secularism are the kind who would gladly take away the freedom of belief of anyone who doesn't think like them). Following on from this, I oppose all state religions (obvious attempt to mix church and state is obvious) and all faith schools. Most people seem to be quite confused about why a state religion is a bad thing, particularly here where the Church of England is still something that's largely just there and doesn't do very much in the way of obvious religious oppression (I am very thankful to live in a country where, although we have our unfair share of religious nutjobs, we still don't have as many as the Americans). I think I've already tackled that in my massive rant on secularism (already linked).

What people don't seem to understand, either, is my opposition to faith schools. The grounds for defence seem to be something like "well, religious communities have a right to educate their children in their customs without having all these horrible things like edumacation forced on them". Let me try and pick apart this absolute clusterfuck of an argument.

Firstly, it assumes that religion is something worth protecting, which is at the very least debatable since from an atheistic or antitheistic point of view it just looks like a shitty idea. And even if it's not a shitty idea, it doesn't deserve special protection, for the simple reason that no idea does. If you can't defend it, it should sink.

Secondly, it assumes that religion can only be protected in faith schools, which is a lie. If you want to instill religion that badly, there is plenty of time to do it in your home, in your church, and in your community.

Thirdly, it assumes that only religious people will be educated at particular religious schools, which isn't true - you get people from different or no religions educated at religious schools, and in particular it makes no sense to speak of a young child as Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, whatever religion you may pick, since they're not yet capable of deciding for themselves. And, if you're forcing religion onto someone in a multifaith school, which you will be...guess what, since that brings religion into a public or multifaith space, it's a violation of secularism and a violation of freedom of belief.

Lastly, it assumes that being brought up in the religion of the community is what should happen, with education an external influence; therefore, education is an attempt to "push beliefs" on children. The truth of the matter is that both religion and education (to put it crudely) are external influences and an attempt to push beliefs. Now, I'm not a great fan of standardised schooling because I'm non-standard and a system based on getting results rather than encouraging development doesn't serve me or anyone else well. However, secular education hopefully avoids little niggling things like, you know, indoctrinating children. And in case you think I'm being a little hysterical here, please do note that my language was mild. Please also note my anecdote.

I have never believed in God, but only first identified as an atheist at the age of ten. By that time, I was in year 6 (fifth grade to you Americans) and when I started going to my Christian secondary school in year 7 and sat through religious services twice a week I was safe from brainwashing.

My Christian secondary school also runs a prep school (for the uninitiated, it's a fancy way of saying a primary school or an elementary school). Sadly, this prep school is also Christian. Sadly, the young children there are also forced to pray and attend chapel services. I have seen this happen. And I am doing everything I can to contain my rage.

There are probably some people out there who are clueless as to why I am angry. Perhaps I should spell it out for them, then. This particular Christian prep school educates children from reception to year 6 (Americans have no equivalent of reception - it's the year before kindergarten), or four to eleven. There is no way to get out of chapel services, at least not in the senior school - any criticisms are met with "It's a Christian school and if you don't like it, you should leave". If the same holds true in the prep school, children who are far too young to decide on their religion are being forced to believe in one.

If you still do not understand why I am outraged, very young children are effectively being forced to believe, with no alternative, a myth with its roots in the Bronze Age that is quite clearly wrong. And even if you disagree on that - they are still being forced to believe in something, while too young to decide for themselves, with no real discussion of a viable alternative. That is a violation of freedom of thought and belief. That, no matter which way you look at it, is unethical.

Education should not be about indoctrination of any belief. It should not be about infringing the basic rights and freedoms of those too young to yet resist this indoctrination. It should be about encouraging people to think for themselves. Quite obviously, these things do not go with an institution that pushes a certain doctrine - in other words, a faith school.