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12th December 2008 at 00:00
Resist the spread of faith schools

Given that I am currently what I like to describe as an "exile of conscience", on the run from the inanities (and insanities?) of school and university teaching in the UK and living the life of Riley here in Ireland, it might seem that I have little right to rant about anything in the British TES. But ... for God's sake, do all that you can to resist the spread of faith (religious) schools. Whether you're a teacher, a parent, both or neither, resist the pernicious tendency to assume that children are born to believe anything in particular.

This is not an atheist call to arms. True, religious belief comes from informed and conscientious choice. Children can learn about religion without becoming religious, just as they can learn about science without necessarily becoming scientists, and should ultimately be free to choose whether to embrace either, both or neither. (Though it might be desirable if we were all to be scientific, in the sense of valuing evidence over blind faith.)

The island of Ireland has had its share of conflict caused by religious divisions, and probably the shares of several more peaceful parts of the world too. Our daughter is fortunate in attending one of the few Irish non-religious primaries, provided by a democratic parents' network called Educate Together, but most children here are not so lucky.

In matters of education policy, the Irish often tend to make the same mistakes as the British 10 to 15 years later. But now the position is reversed. The centrality of religion to Ireland's schools has been in little doubt since 1922. Current drift on your side of the Irish Sea towards an increase in faith schools would be a retrograde step and should be vigorously resisted.

David Limond is a lecturer in education at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland.

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