Inchworm - Monday

25th June 2010 at 01:00
The policy wonk whose heart isn't in it

Monday: An email from the fragrant Bryony Stamp, head of think tank services at the Department. Subject: "RE". She asks if I'd be available for a "mindstorming" session on the issue of religious education. I reply at once, of course, delighted. She emails back her thanks. I reply "no problem". She replies with the time of the meeting. I confirm. She emails back with an attached agenda. There's really nothing more to say but I can't help noticing that if I reply once more the subject line will read "Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: RE". So in the words of the great Aretha Franklin I email back the one-word message - "spect".

Tuesday: To the Department for Strictly Education. A huge commotion outside. The police have separated two snarling groups of demonstrators. Religious protesters on one side, atheists on the other. Banners scream at each other. "Eucharist Is Cannibalism!" "There Is No God But God, Who Is God!" "Explain The Dinosaurs Then, You Dinosaurs!" "The Bible = The Only Text Book You'll Ever Need!" I get a call from Bryony. The Department is in lockdown. Think tank postponed until tomorrow. I trudge to the pub reflecting that fundamentalist believers and fundamentalist atheists have more in common than they'll admit. For example, the word "mentalist".

Wednesday: Think tank in session. It's not going to be easy. The Gove has made it clear he won't tolerate religious bullying, and there's a test case coming up. Some creepy observer at a Catholic school has complained that a classroom discussion about teenage pregnancy failed to include the Virgin Mary. The teacher has been crucified. Suspended, anyway. "We need," says Bryony "to understand both sides of the argument." I have an idea.

Thursday: Lunch with my old friend Caz, who is Head of Outreach at the Dawkins Institute for the Suppression of Faith. They're gaining momentum fast, learning from the success of the anti-carbon lobby. Caz has become quite the zealot. She jabs her fork at me menacingly as she bangs on about how poisonous and "dirty" faith is and how it could easily be replaced in secondary schools by colourless, non-toxic Evolution Studies. "Religious emissions must be curbed - there's growing evidence it causes leukaemia clusters." Oh, for God's sake, I say. She looks at me as though I've committed blasphemy, calls for the bill in a very snippy way and says the Institute will be pushing for a 10 per cent reduction in schools' Delusion Footprint by 2012. Shit, now it's a Crusade ...

Friday: Report back to Bryony. Summary: RE and Evolution should somehow be reconciled in an educational "RE-volution". This will require much more research, at the usual day rate.

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