Letters extra : Dogma presented as belief

9th March 2001 at 00:00

During my teaching career (now ended) I taught in a variety of sectarian schools, gradually coming to the conclusion that they were, at best, not good at producing students with open, enquiring minds. Any students leaving so equipped were self-taught.

There are several consequences of entrusting education to faith groups which Richard Dawkins no doubt had no space to mention.

1. The presentation to students, as fact, of dogma which is really only a matter of belief is in itself immoral. If the school handles science teaching well and encourages a questioning mind, then there will be tension between the religion on the one hand and sound education on the other.

Which leads to:

2. Some faith groups have difficulty with some aspects of the science curriculum, such as Darwinian evolution and cosmology. The findings of science conflict with the teachings of some of the more fundamentalist sects. Can we be sure that the science curriculum will be properly taught in these schools?

3. The same faith groups (in most cases) are also out of sympathy with some recent social advances, such as gay liberation. Some, in fact, are actively homophobic. Can these schools, when they are established, be trusted to give unbiased sex education, and protect gay and lesbian students against bullying?

Finally, a case (of sorts) can be made for selecting children on ability, aptitude or even attitude. Surely no case at all can be made for selecting them on a characteristic displayed by their parents, that is, the fact that they choose to believe in the supernatural?

Barry Thorpe
90 Brown Lane
Heald Green
Stockport SK8 3RA

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