Why do faith school supporters want them to be so awful?

I have to admit to coming out of the Lib Dem debate on 5-19 education feeling somewhat perplexed. After a complicated series of four amendments wrangling over the same bunch of lines, what the party has come up with seemed to be little more than a state commissioned figleaf scheme. Let me explain.

The motion as originally worded (negotiated on the Federal Policy Committee by, among others, Evan Harris MP) allowed faith schools but banned selection on the basis of faith. The amendment which was passed replaced this with the following commitment:

Requiring all existing state-funded faith schools to come forward within five years with plans to demonstrate the inclusiveness of their intakes, with local authorities empowered to oversee and approve the delivery of these plans, and to withdraw state-funded status where inclusiveness cannot be demonstrated.

As I snarked on the way out of the auditorium, what this amounts to is faith schools being free to discriminate, but will have their funding withdrawn if they discriminate.

In fact, however, it’s actually worse. Never mind the abstract debate, for me the acid test is the couple I know whose humanist wedding I attended who currently attend their local church every Sunday (along with their Orthodox Jewish neighbours) in order to ensure that their children are let into the local primary school. What would this motion, as amended, do about this closely observed hypocrisy? Absolutely nothing. My friends could stop going to church, not be able to send their children to the local school, be able to demonstrate the school is non-inclusive and have the school’s funding scrapped (in so doing, harming the education of lots of other children). Or they can keep quiet, go to church and act as a figleaf for the school’s “inclusive” policy when the inspection comes. Stick your head above the parapet, and you might be able to claim revenge eventually. But it is in your child’s interest to keep your head down and be a part of the lie.

What is most crazy about all this is that many of the best faith schools out there don’t have exclusive selection policies; ending discrimination on the basis of faith only affects a hardcore. Yet speaker after speaker in the debate claimed that the motion unamended was an attempt to scrap faith schools by the backdoor. It was a grotesque libel perpetuated by, among others, Vince Cable and Tim Farron. What did they hope to achieve by making such ridiculous claims?

I strongly agree that schools need an ethos, and a religious one is better than none at all. A total ban on faith schools while broadening the range of organisations which can help run schools would mean that the National Secular Society and even Microsoft could sponsor a school while the Quakers could not. There are much worse organisations than religions that could end up running English schools under this policy.

But here’s the thing: I’m constantly hearing religious people out there banging on about the Golden Rule these days, that “heart” common to all religions which we are to believe makes them vital and moral things. Yet when you go along with all that, and merely ask for the ethic of reciprocity to extend to, well, everyone, all that nice, woolly tolerance suddenly vanishes. Suddenly asking them to not discriminate is an unacceptable position. Suddenly, far from the Golden Rule, the core of religion they want to preserve is the right to shut people out. And they dress this neat little package of discrimination up in talk about the need for “inclusiveness.”

It is no wonder that the supporters of the second amendment, which called for all faith schools to be phased out, are not prepared to take them at their word. The movers of this amendment repeatedly raised the issue of homophobia in schools and how difficult it is to grow up as a homosexual in a faith school, yet this issue wasn’t addressed. Rather than deal with this fearsomely important point, in an act of supreme irony the movers of the amendment were branded extemists.

As I’ve said before, I would rather ally with a liberal person of faith than an illiberal atheist. But liberals don’t condone intolerance. The message I got from the supporters of faith schools on Saturday was that intolerance is an integral part of religion without which faith schools would not be worthy of the name. Keep saying nutty things like that and I’ll join the barricades alongside Laurence Boyce.


  1. Some good points James. If there is to be a compromise on selection by faith, I think we should demand that a declaration of faith is sufficient. Not least because there are more than a few of the faithful who have disagreements with their church.

  2. James, what do you mean “the local primary school”? Was there no other primary school sufficiently “local” to them? Suppose I lived next door to your Jewish friends’ synagogue. Suppose then I pretended to be Jewish in order to attend it on the grounds “it’s my local place of worship”? Wouldn’t it be better for me to attend a place of worship which was a bit further away but more true to my own beliefs? Suppose I say “But this synagogue has a real nice friendly atmosphere, and does great things for me”. Wouldn’t it be hypocritical of me to accept the good things it does while not accepting the religious belief that led to these good things?

  3. James, you write of defenders of faith schools wanting “to preserve is the right to shut people out”. No, it is the other way round. If there are enough members of that faith to fill the school, but you say they should not be favoured if others apply, it is YOU who want to push out members of that faith from the school their community built and nurtured, and instead give those places to people who have contributed nothing towards what makes that school different. Essentially, you want to take without giving and push out those who give.

  4. Oh Matthew, we’re not talking about faith schools run on the nurture of a community, we’re talking about faith schools run on our taxes.

    Is it hypocritical to accept some benefit while disputing the fact or the merit of it’s source? I’m not so sure. You do get some people suggesting that creationists are hypocrites to use medicine, because they reject science, and in particular biology. But that isn’t hypocrisy, it is just error.

    I was impressed by the Rabbi who spoke at the Accord coalition fringe, saying “I want my children to go to a school where they can sit next to a Christian, play football in the break with a Muslim, do homework with a Hindu and walk back with an atheist – interacting with them and them getting to know what a Jewish child is like. Schools should build bridges, not erect barriers.”

    Does he take without giving, to push out those who give?

  5. Joe,

    The particular issue mentioned by James was people who will go to the extraordinary length of long-term pretending to be of a religion they are not merely in order to get their children into one state primary school rather than another. Both state primary schools are funded on the same basis, it is not the case that schools which come jointly under the LEA and the Catholic Education Service or whatever enjoy any more funding or anything else which makes them “better” schools.

    No-one worried about this in the past because there was not this general idea that Catholic etc schools were “better” schools than any other school. Indeed, surely if those of you who call yourself “brights” are right, they should be worse schools. But now it turns out perhaps we have something that you don’t, and you want to steal it from us. I think what it is that makes these schools work well is the attachment to the Catholic parish community, so in wanting to destroy that, you will destroy what it is that makes these schools seem attractive.

    I write from the basis of experience, Joe, though you call me a liar. You and your type keep going on at me as if to suppose that if you call me a liar often enough I will admit to it, and accept what you say which I see by my own experience to be incorrect.

    My own experience is having gone through Catholic schools, primary and secondary. It wasn’t something I ever thought about much until quite recently when I found all sorts things being said in liberal circles about Catholics and Catholic schools which from my experience I felt to be untrue. I became more certain that much of what was said was out of ignorant prejudice, and that prompted me to “come out” as a Catholic in liberal circles, because no-one else dared do so, and I felt I had to stand up to defend the community which I had been brought up in and feel some affection for. Also I have the more recent experience of my wife having been chair of governors for six years of a LEA Catholic primary school, and this too made it quite clear to me that much of what people like you say about these schools and how they work is rubbish.

    So, no Joe, I will not confess to the liberal “thought police” that what I have observed is wrong.

    On your Rabbi, he is entitled to his belief based on his own experience. I have not myself experienced that Catholic schools teach their pupils to hate those of other religions, quite the contrary. Where is this big community of enclosed Catholics who hate people of other religions which must exist if what you say is true? Do you have evidence, for example, that Catholics are more likely to vote BNP than anyone else? My own experience is that Catholics, coming from a background of religious culture, are more and not less likely to understand what it is to be a Muslim.

  6. Matthew, when did I call you a liar? You seem to be trying to paint me as some sort of monster? Why? What have I done here, but disagree with you?

    What do “people like me” say about Catholic Schools? There is nobody like me. I am a unique creation, or something. Save your “us and them” rant for Lawrence Boyce.

    Is the Christian ethos about reaching out to the community, or about keeping the community out?

  7. Now, to answer your final point, where is the exclusion? If it were the case that the choice was either between a Catholic school or no school, you could say there was an exclusion. But there are plenty of state schools funded on the same basis as Catholic schools but without a religious requirement on admissions, and as they are funded in the same basis they must be just as good, so no-one is being excluded from education.

    I do think there may be an issue in some places, such as rural locations where the only reasonable school to attend is one which for historical reasons is a Church of England one to say that should not happen. However, also for historical reasons, most Catholic schools are in urban settings, and those urban settings are densely populated with schools.

    If there were not enough people who wanted a Catholic school place by virtue of being Catholics, then the school would have to open to others – that is a condition of of it being LEA-funded. Then the problem of people being excluded because they do not practice the religion does not apply. So the condition you are concerned about – people being excluded for no practicing the religion – applies only when those people if accepted would thereby exclude those of that religion.

    Hence my point – if you think there is something intrinsically better about Catholics schools, it may be that community link. If you want to destroy that link by banning it being a condition for entry, you may destroy what it was you wanted that condition to be banned for anyway.

  8. Oh, OK, I guess I thought you were just repeating somebody else’s lie, but maybe that is too fine a distinction.

    Do you seriously maintain that the policy would effectively destroy faith schools, and therefore do you maintain that faith schools that don’t select on faith are not in fact faith schools at all and are misrepresnting their status?

  9. Matthew, you seem to be saying that it is the quality of the intake, (i.e. the children) that make a school a good school. And actually I would agree. I think this probably matters rather more than the quality of the teaching, leadership, or anything else.

    And what you’re saying is that it is only fair to select the intake on quality, because good kids contribute to a good school, and so deserve it, and bad kids would steal that contribution away.

    I can see the logic.

    Of course there is a more reliable way to do this than to assess this by parental willingness to go to church. We should just simply maximise each schools power to select the pupils it wants – by ability, by behaviour record, by social class, by parental willingness to make financial contributions, etc.

    Any child not meeting these criteria, whatever they are, is seeking to take something away from the school community without giving anything back. Little bastards.

    If only there were a way that a school could give something extra to the kids, on top of what it relies on the kids to generate themselves. I can’t think what that might be though.

  10. @Joe Otten
    Well, we have been given evidence of an extraordinary length people will go to to get their children into these schools – giving up their Sunday mornings for weeks on ends to attend some ceremony they find ridiculous or disagree with. So I think we can conclude from this that many more would apply if they could get a place without having to go through this.

    So, the policy you advocate means these schools will fill up with the children of people who have no interest in the faith they are intended to support, meanwhile the children of people whose faith they are intended to support will get pushed out. It would seem to me under those circumstances quite wrong to carry on pushing that faith in those schools, and why anyway should those running them bother to do so? Why should the faith community that was aupporting the school bother to do so, now it has instead to put its effort into running Sunday schools for its own children who got pushed out of what was its scool?

    So, yes, it seems it does offer the prospects of those schools being destroyed as faith schools, at least as I understand what such a school might be. Maybe you have a different definition.

    As I said, if a faith school wished to defend itself against being taken over by people not of its faith in the way what you advocate would allow, there is a simple way it could do it. It could push that faith in such a hard and extreme form that no-one who was not of that faith would want to send their children there. So, although it wouldn’t officially discriminate against applicants not of its faith, it wouldn’t get any anyway. Or it could simply teach in a bad way and lose its attractiveness.

    So it seesm to me what you advocate is punishing a faith community for being successful in education and being moderate in how it puts across it faith in its schools.

  11. @Joe Otten
    But Joe, I am not advocating faith schools because they are good schools. I am advocating them because I support the right of parents to bring up their children in their own culture. I also feel the deal in which the state supports these schools in return for an overview and religion being taught by trained teachers is a moderating one. I feel its is no accident that the faiths in this country which are causing the most problems due to their extremism and intolerance are those which DON’T have a network of state-supported faith schools. As I keep saying, if faith schools cause people to grow up separated and hating those of other faiths, you’d expect Catholics in England to be the religious problem group. So just where are the Catholic ghettoes and Catholic bigots which the oponnets of faith schools say must exist, and must be much more widespread than say Muslim ghettoes and Pentecostalist bigots, given there aren’t many Muslim and Pentecostalist faith schools? And you’d expect the Netherlands to have the most extremist Catholics and to be riven by Catholic-Protestant conflict, given that it has not just faith schools but also many other social organisations with a faith basis. I think you will find that’s not the case.

    If we Catholics have managed to turn our community of poor immigrants into something successful, so that you Prots and atheists are jealous of us, well I am sorry, what do you want us to do? Go back to planting potatoes in the Irish bogs? No, you just want to take over what we have built up successfully and turf us out of it.

  12. Oh for goodness’ sake Matthew, where did all these potatoes come from all of a sudden?

    I thought this was supposed to be about faith? Where did all this talk about culture come from? Are we going to have Welsh-only schools now? Or Nigerian ones?

    You seem to be attempting to goad Joe and myself into making some very obvious cheap shots, but I won’t stoop to your level. This paean to sectarianism is making me reconsider – perhaps the secular purists were right on Saturday after all if faith schools embed such a sense of them versus us as you are displaying right now.

    But to answer your point about my friends, it is their local school and the next nearest is significantly worst. They want the best for their kids and would rather have them educated in the public sector, what is wrong with that? Do you really live in such a hateful little world to believe that an atheist family’s ethos would be totally at odds with a Christian school’s (since you’re so keen on culture, it might have escaped your attention that we have a common one)? And why would that school’s ethos be challenged by having the children of people with different ideas from you? Is your ethos really so fragile?

    This is what I find so crazy. I’m not Laurence Boyce. I’m quite happy living in a society where I can exchange ideas and build relationships with religious and non-religious people alike. Yet all I get is this poison poured on me for my trouble.

    It is usually around this point that Laurence comes along and tells me “I told you so.” I happen to think he’s wrong, but you so badly need to get over yourself. And your Irish peat bog.

    PS I suspect I’ve taken the piss out of the “bright” movement somewhat more than you, so calling me one is a little misguided.

  13. I think you need to update your biog Matthew – it has all this stuff about Brighton and the West Midlands in it and nothing at all about your past as a sackcloth wearing Irish serf.

  14. James,

    The point about the Irish is that historically the Catholic Church in England has not been a prosperous or privileged group. Its origin is largely down to Irish immigrants in the 19th and 20th century, though more recently, particularly in some urban areas, it has taken on many more from a diversity of immigrant backgrounds. We are not talking about defence of some sort of aristocratic rights. Until recently what we are arguing about would not have been an issue, because why on earth would non-Catholics wish to send their children to Catholic schools? If anything, these schools would have been thought somewhat worse than ordinary state schools, and, yes, part of the disdain for them did involve anti-Irish prejudice.

    I am really voicing what is being thought and said amongst Catholics about this sort of thing. Yes, there is this “you treated us with disdain in the past, but now you come begging for some of what we’ve got” aspect. There may not be Christian humility in this, but do you blame those old enough to remember the “No Irish” signs from thinking this way? There is also a feeling that Catholicism continues to be a safe outlet for liberals who want to kick religion, because you (plural you here, not a personal accusation against thee James) can kick us and we won’t fight back and you won’t get accused of racism, and yet here you come knocking on our doors saying “We want some of what you’ve got”.

    I have not said that I hate your atheist friends and their children, indeed it is touching that they should want to send their children to a Catholic school. The point I am making is that those children’s places will be at the expense of pushing out the children of Catholic parents who have close links with that school through the parish it is attached to. Do you suppose those Catholic parents are going to accept that without comment? And isn’t there something a bit strange about having a school set up in order to provide education with a Catholic tinge ending up providing that to people who don’t really want that Catholic tinge and not to those who do?

    The key to what you say is the claim that other schools are worse. Why is that? If they are less well funded than the Catholic school, then that is wrong and complaints should be made to the LEA about it, as they should if the LEA is providing anything else to the Catholic school which is making it better than the other schools. If, as some opponents of faith schools claim, the goodness of the Catholic school is all down to them really selecting on ability or class background of parents, then I am sure you friends would have no problem getting their children in.

    I am suggesting that a big part of the reason these schools are seen as “good” is down to the close community links they have. It means such things as parents meeting outside school at church events, or governors and PTAs willing to put in a bit more effort because it is not just another school, it’s part of the community which also includes our parish church and what happens there.

    If the school is good so that a great many people who have no links with the parish will apply to have their children have places, and these people will be offered a place ahead of those with the parish link because that link is not allowed to be an admissions issue, then the situation will inevitably change. Can you not see is human nature? You interpret me as saying this because you think I hate atheists, that is not the case. I am simply saying from my own experience that since the Catholic community will no longer see the school as “theirs”, they will no longer be willing to put the extra effort into it that made it so attractive.

    Therefore my feeling is that removing the religious element on admissions to faith schools will significantly damage what it is that makes these faith schools attractive. I have argued this on the grounds of my own experience, I have not said whether that damage would be a good or bad thing. If you feel on balance that privilege which Catholics have on school choice is a bad thing, and should be taken away, well fine, whether it is a good or bad thing is another issue. I did note that this privilege wasn’t intended or seen when the system was set up, but you may say now it has been observed in practice it is a bad thing so must be taken away. I did venture the opinion that it seemed to me strange to have a system whereby a school designed to educate with a Catholic tinge is not allowed to give priority to those who want that sort of education, but you feel that strangeness is not enough to balance the concern about discrimination.

    I have also noted that if you had your way I feel there would be considerable anger, and suggested forms that anger may take. You may feel that anger is worth facing up to in order to remove what you see as discrimination.

    There is an issue here because I think social liberals in particular value the idea of community and of people putting in voluntary effort to build good things, but it’s very hard for such communities not also to be exclusive. The community feeling and the exclusiveness go together. If we wish forcibly to break up the exclusiveness because we feel it is a bad thing, we may also break up the community feeling it engenders.

  15. James,

    Does it help if we go abstract?

    The state has 30 cases of A&B to offer – it cannot offer A and B separately.

    We have 30 people who want A&B.

    We have 60 people who want A and are indifferent about B.

    You are looking at it from the point of view of one of the 60 people who want A – those people are saying “It is unfair that A is only given to people who want A&B”.

    I am looking at it from the point of view of one of the 30 people who want A&B – those people are saying “It would be unfair to give A&B to people who only want A and thereby to deny it to people who want A&B”.

    How should those 30 cases of A&B be given – chose 30 people at random from the 90, or chose the 30 who want A&B.

    This captures only part of the argument, but let’s deal with that part. What do you say is the fairest way to allocate the 30 cases of A&B?

  16. One of the reasons why I am relaxed about the existence of faith schools is that they represent a challenge for secularists to nail down exactly what they want out of a school. Having an educational establishment with literally no values at all would be clearly absurd and unworkable (although I fear people may be able to cite several examples), so the real question is what values should a secular school import?

    I don’t think that is an unanswerable question but I’m sure that some people would confuse secularism with some kind of mushy moral relativism. It is a challenge that we as a “community” (I am much more ambivalent about that word thant you) have to meet.

    In the long term, that’s in your interest too. Quality secular institutions will attract atheists and stop them wanting to send their children to quality religious institutions. But for that to happen, we need a level playing field.

    I really don’t think what happened in the past is at all relevant. Clinging onto historical greivances is fundamentally unproductive. What matters is what is fair now.

  17. When you say “Clinging onto historical greivances is fundamentally unproductive” I do not think you appreciate the extent to which a Catholic parish would see the Catholic successful primary school attached to it as something it has built up, and therefore saying “No, you have no special rights to send your children there, any child from any background who applies to go has the right to push your child out” will be seen as fundamentally unfair by Catholics – especially those whose chldren are forced out of their schools. Your argument seems hardly to acknowledge that the existence of such people is a necessary corollary to what you demand, and they aren’t going to remain silent, are they?

    The agreement with the Catholic Church when its schools came into the state system was that it retained ownership of the land and buildings and the right to choose the pupils in return for supplying that land and buildings to the state for education purposes. You are saying that what happened in the past is irrelevant, so the state could unilaterally break that agreement and order the Church to gives its school places to whoever the state chooses. There may be some tricky legal issues there. The diocese which owns the land and buildings could say “You won’t let us use these for our own people, therefore we no longer wish to carry on owning them, therefore we’re putting them up for sale – do you care to pay us the market price?”.

    In short, I don’t think you appreciate the can of worms you will open up if you proceeded with what you demand here. The issue is most certainly not, as you suggest it is, Catholics having some squeamish fear of “a few” non-Catholics in their schools. Indeed, the Catholic bishops recently issued a document recommending the installation in all Catholic schools of what is required for Muslim prayer ablutions, which hardly suggest the attitude you are accusing them of having (not that that document went without criticism in wider Catholic circles, particularly conservative ones which tend to see the bishops as a bunch of liberal wimps …).

    As you say, this would not be an issue if there were not now this fairly widespread perception that Catholic schools are good schools, and therefore it’s unfair for non-Catholics to be excluded from them. I think this is a fairly recent thing, and why it has happened and what could be done to give secular schools what Catholic schools have without that being doses of religion would be a good thing to talk about. However, your angry accusations in your original article, which are both unfounded and ignorant of the real issues behind that, do not help. Catholics have good reason to be defensive at the moment, given that the overwhelming position amongst liberals sesms to be to start off assuming the worst of them. If you wish that defensiveness to break down, you need to appreciate where they are coming from.

  18. Jesus wept… and THIS comment thread is exactly why faith schools ought to be only available to those religious folk who can afford to fund their own, right here.

  19. Jennie, why? Do you have anything intelligent to say in response to what I wrote – which was largely observations rather than opinions, and was neutral on whether faith schools really were good or bad things?

  20. Matthew, I’m not going to get drawn into mudslinging with you, but before painting yourself as stating fact rather than opinion, I’d read back what you have written, if I was you. It’s riddled with unsupported and wild assertions, and full of factual errors. I’m not going to do your homework for you, though. I don’t have the time or the inclination. If you want to know where the errors are, why not do a bit of research?

    With regard to you then impugning my intelligence: isn’t there something religious people say about planks and eyeballs?

  21. Right, I have said:

    If a faith school is not allowed to use faith in deciding on admissions, and more parents apply to it who don’t have its faith than who do, then that faith school will tend to take on more pupils who don’t have that faith background than do. That was really the main thing I was saying.

    In what way is that unsupported, a wild assertion, or a factual error? It looks to me like a piece of mathematical reasoning.

    I said I went to a Catholic school myself, and that my wife was a Chair of governors of one. In what way is that unsupported, a wild assertion, or a factual error? Do you know more about me and my wife than we do?

    I said I support the right of parents to bring up children in their own culture. OK, that’s an opinion. If you disagree with it, fine. I don’t think it’s either a wild assertion or a factual error.

    I argued against the suggestion that religious schools are automatically divisive by noting that most actively religious schools in England are Catholic, and there isn’t a big problem here of extremist Catholics living bitter isolated lives in Catholic ghettoes. Am I wrong here? Is that a wild assertion or a factual error? If it is, tell me where these ghettoes are.

    I said the school system in the Netherlands is divided into faith schools. Am I wrong there? Is that a wild assertion? I said there isn’t a big problem of Catholic V. Protestant hatred in the Netherlands. Am I wrong there? Is that a wild assertion?

    I said the Catholic Church in England owes its origins largely to Irish immigrants. Am I wrong there? Is that a wild assertion?

    I said in urban areas the Catholic Church now has many more members from more recent imigrant origins. Am I wrong there? Is that a wild assertion?

    I said that Catholic schools tend to have close links with Catholic parishes, which gives them a strong community background, and this may be an element in their perceived success. OK, that’s an opinion, but it’s based on my observations. In what way is it wild or containing factual errors?

    I said those links would tend to get broken if the admissions system which James supported led to Catholic schools having more pupils from a non-Catholic background than from a Catholic background. Is that a wild assertion? Again, it would seem to be to be simply a mathematical consequence of the proposed change of system.

    I said that if Catholic parents found they couldn’t get their children into Catholic schools which are regarded as “good” because those schools attracted many non-Catholic applicants and using religion as a basis for selection was banned, the likelihood is those Catholic parents would get angry about it. Is that really such a wild and crazy thing to say, so stupid and unsupported that, no, it really wouldn’t possibly happen like that, those Catholic parents would just shrug their shoulders and say “Oh well, it’s probably to the good those other parents got their kids in instead”?

    I said the agreement with the Catholic Church when its schools came into the state system was that it retained ownership of the land and buildings and the right to choose the pupils in return for supplying that land and buildings to the state for education purposes. I believe this to be legally the case, and actually I did Google it before writing it to make sure. But if I am factually wrong there, please provide evidence for it. It should noty be too hard to look up the relevant legislation giving the legal position of Voluntary Aided school and quote it to me.

    I don’t regard this as mudslinging, because if I genuinely have got things factually wrong, as you assert, I’d very much like to be told where I am wrong. If you know more about the Netherlands than I do, and on that basis you can tell me that their system of Catholic and Protestant schools causes big problems, please feel free to say so. If you have observations on how Catholic schools work which I don’t, please feel free to share them with me.

    If I have got my mathematics wrong, and picking 30 people out of 30 who want A&B and 60 who want just A, and not being allowed to use preference for B in making that choice, won’t result in most people who want A&B not being picked, then please point out just where my maths went wrong.

    I am not impugning your intelligence, just challenging you to back up your accusations by countering what I have said. I shall of course draw my own conclusions on whether you really have any intelligence or just said what you said out of prejudice on the basis of whether you are able to reply in a way that acknowledges what I said, if only to point out errors or suggest alternative conclusions, and carries on from it in a logical way. Agreement to disagree if fine – I like it when an argument ends that way, then we know what the issue is. When the argument ends “Oh, what you said is all rubbish, but I’m not going to say what is rubbish about it, I just hate you because you have a different point of view from me”, well …

  22. Oh FFS, all right then.

    1, Your asseriton that if there are more children of non-religious parents than there are children of religious parents then the proportions would stay the same on school intake is not true, because the faith school rejects the children of the non-religious in favour of thechildren of the religious, or at least those who pretend to be religious. That, really, is the whole basis of the problem.

    2, Most actively religious schools in this country are catholic? Where is your evidence for this? How do you define active? This is an unsupported asserion, and I would contend itis a wild factual error too.

    3, Communities are not solely based on religion, therefore your assertion that allowing children of non-catholic parents to go to a catholic school does not necessitate weakening of community in any way shape or form. Your support for this assertion is your own prejudice. Religion is what tears communities apart (c.f. Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Darfur), not schools without it.

    4, Cathloic parents might well get angry about not being allowed to have someone else indoctrinate their children because they are too lazy to do it on their own time, but I don’t see how that is my problem?

    I am unsubscribing from this comment thread after posting this, BTW, because I really DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS. Any response you make will therefore not be seen. Just so you know.

  23. I wonder if there are any figures on how many Catholics who happen to have a better non-Catholic school nearer to them than the Catholic school, still send their children to the Catholic school.

    Of course I don’t think they should be forced to send their kids to the more distant inferior school, but then I don’t think anybody else should be so forced either.

  24. Well, it seems that Jennie can dish out the insults, but when it comes to me asking her to justify them, she runs away claiming she hasn’t the time.

    But I’ll go through her four points anyway:

    1) Either she is remarkably thick or she just didn’t read what I wrote at all, because the whole point is that – yes, currently faith schools use religion of the parents as an issue in admissions, and I was arguing about what could happen if they were banned from doing so – that was the key issue in this thread.

    2) The figures on the number of Voluntary Aided schools in this country are easily obtainable, for example, they are given in:


    As the figures show there, the vast majority of Voluntary Aided schools are either Church of England or Roman Catholic. There are more Roman Catholic secondary schools than Church of England secondary cchools, but more Church of England primary schools than Roman Catholic primary schools. My understanding is that Church of England schools have more tendency to be just nominally religious than Catholic schools, that is there is less overt use of religion in admissions and teaching, and their religious nature is more a matter of history than of active olanning. These are figures from the government, they back up what I wrote, so for Jennie to claim I made a “wild factual error” just shows her up as very, very stupid.

    3) More ignorance – the conflict in Darfur is on ethnic grounds, both sides are Muslims. And what a hypcorite she show herself to be – she’s accusing me of making unsupported and wild asseertions, and now here she is doing just the same.

    4) The argument is, of coure, about competing claims about what is fair, so of course we have to raise the concerbns of both sides in order to decide what is fair. Jennei is clearly clueless about the very basics of political debate to be unable to comprehend that’s what we’re doing here.

    I would have been more gentle with her if she were reading this, but as she isn’t I’ll say what I feel – James and Joe, I’m sorry you have someone so stupid, hypocritical, and unable to deal with the simplest form of political argument batting in your side. Jennie must be a severe embarrassment to you. Sorry, James, but “brights” indeed, this low-wattage “bright” clearly couldn’t deal with a “dim” like me.

  25. @Joe Otten
    Joe, to answer you point, a great many. At least among practising Catholics in the past – it was just natural you would send you children to the Catholic school, you wouldn’t dream of sending them to a Protestant school (which state schools then were) just because it was deemed in some way “better”.

    I do remember when I went to secondary school, I passed the 11+ so could have gone to the local grammar school (situated in the richest part of town, the secondary moderns were in the poor parts – it was quite clear to which school you were expected to go), but I went to the new Catholic comprehensive school instead. It was my choice, my parents asked me which I wanted to go to. A couple of those in my Catholic primary school who passed the 11+ went to the grammar, but they weren’t kids who parents were practising Catholics.

    Harder to say now, given that this situation is rarer, but I think the same would apply – practising Catholics would see the Catholic nature of the school as the dominating factor in choice.

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