Letters extra: church and schools

3rd August 2001 at 01:00

Peter Wilby proposes that "we treat religion as a private matter and keep it out of the public realm, which should unify and not divide". He gives Muslim parents who want their own faith schools the credit for being sincere, not fanatical. He does not wish to accuse Anglicans of being racist snobs; although two paragraphs earlier he says "more C of E schools is code for schools that offer exclusivity to the white middle classes".

Let's take the Anglican part. Has Wilby asked African parents whether they want their children's schools to be more Christian than they are? Has he asked people of all ethnic and cultural traditions whether they wish their schools were more respectful of religion than they are now? As he thinks that "America has got it right" by being "firmly wedded to secularism in schools" how large, compared with England, is the percentage of American children who do not attend state schools?

And as he believes that church schools only succeed because they gather children of supportive parents, can he say what steps should be taken to prevent such children collecting in particular non-church schools?

There was a time in England when secularism with a benign sprinkling of civil religion was acceptable to a nominally Anglican majority. Today, neither the secularism nor "the county council creed" command general respect. Wilby's quaint hope of a return to the 1950s should be archived with a preservation order.

Richard Wilkins
General secretary,
Association of Christian Teachers

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