Naive belief in secular Utopia

23rd July 2004 at 01:00
As the head of a Catholic primary school I was annoyed, not by Linda Smith's humanist views but by the way in which the religion versus no-religion debate is often based on the erroneous misconception that no-religion equals scientific vigour, truth and tolerance, whereas religion opposes scientific principles and is based on intolerance.

Ms Smith's secular Utopia seems to be based on the assumption that there is such a thing as a neutral curriculum; there is not. Is it really possible that we can teach all the world's beliefs and give them equal weight? There are a lot of beliefs out there, Ms Smith. What do you mean by equal weight? Exactly the same amount of time and delivered to children at the same stage of their intellectual development?

Such a view seems to be as naive as saying we want our children to understand all languages so we will not teach any in particular and they can choose when they are older.

Ms Smith's comment about "I did not know I was a humanist" is very revealing. Perhaps she is equally oblivious to the fact that what she is proposing is humanist schools. Her views reflect some typical misconceptions about faith schools. Catholic schools are required to teach pupils about other faiths, which are given equal weight in terms of respect and tolerance.

Eilis Field Headteacher, St Edward's Catholic primary school Swadlincote, Derbyshire

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