**Warning!! Opinionated post alert!**
The Boy came home from school absolutely buzzing about the Easter story, retold it to me in great detail and has continued to reference it since then. I have to admit to being quite impressed with the school for making it appeal to a group of five and six year olds and to produce such a reaction. After all, religious education is an important subject…….isn’t it?
I myself, am an atheist and although I was christened and went to a church school, my parents weren’t particularly religious. I was given the choice to be confirmed in my teens but chose not to and have since respected others for their various religious beliefs, even though I do not share them. In return, I expect the same level of respect for my decision not to partake in religious thinking. Though a non-believer, I’m fascinated by religion, the varying origins, conflicts and practices. It astounds me that people can have such devout commitment to something intangible, so much so that they would put their beliefs before family or friends. I have huge respect for anyone with such loyalty to a cause, to put such faith into something you cannot see and may go a lifetime without reward for, some would say that is a sign of true strength.
The children’s school is not a church school but they do teach Christian religious stories as though they are true facts, which surprised me a little. When K came out of school raving on about the ‘Son of God’ around Christmas time, I actually felt a little bit like she had been brain washed, like my child had been told facts rather than an idea that she could form her own opinion around. After all that is what religion is, right? Ideas of the existence of a greater being, that us mere mortals should please in order to be rewarded, either in this life or the next? In their purest form, holy books share stories and passages that teach followers how to behave, how to treat others and if read in the right way, all religions promote peace, love and harmony. Of course I have no problem with my children being taught peace, love and harmony but personally, I would like them to be good people because they feel it is the right thing to do, not because of a promised reward somewhere down the line! K was actually quite shocked when I questioned the schools teachings because as far as she was concerned, her teacher’s word was gospel in all subjects! I explained why it was that I didn’t believe in a God but that many people did, in different ways and that she should learn all about it and make up her own mind.
The school do, however, teach about various religions and reference many different celebrations and religious occasions throughout the year. Next week, The Boy is off on a trip to a synagogue in relation to their current Judaism topic and in the past, the girls have visited mosques, temples and churches with the school. However, does the fact that schools teach about all religions, make it appropriate for them to actively practice one? To promote one above the others, therefore insinuating that said religion is the ‘true religion‘? In my opinion, it does not. I believe that schools should be impartial and only provide facts, giving our children the tools to form their own opinions and make their own decisions. Christian ‘brain washing’ aside (exaggerating I know) and to add some perspective, our school has ‘values’ that are not related to religion, but do promote all the attributes of a ‘good person’, as I’m sure many schools do. These values include respectfulness, responsibility, kindness, perseverance, honesty and appreciation. If these types of values are being taught in schools, I’m not sure what part religious practices have to play in schools anyway? A general culture of sharing equal values across the board should surely suffice.
With the UK being a hotchpotch of various religions, creeds and cultures, it is wrong for any school to practice any one religion over another or indeed, any. Schools are a place to learn facts, discuss ideas and challenge beliefs, not, in my opinion, to worship or pray. By allowing schools to practice religion, we are encouraging parents to send their children to a school based on their religious beliefs and therefore segregating them from other religions and in extreme cases, broader society. Surely, integration within society begins at an early age?
Leading on from that, with the current crisis in school funding, how can the government allow church schools to require a level of commitment to a religion in order for children to be considered admission? How can it be acceptable for any facility funded by all taxpayers, to be only available to a small section of a community with a particular religion or those with the time, patients and ability to commit to a religion that they don’t believe in? It hardly seems fair!
I think, by taking religious practice out of schools we will produce a more rounded, tolerant and integrated society of young people, equipped with the tools needed to make their own decisions regarding religion with relation to their families and personal beliefs.
Just to be clear, I am not opposed to religion or the practicing of it, though I have to admit to believing the world would be a better place without it! Children should be taught about all aspects of religion including historical and current conflicts, general and extremism. The world is becoming an ever-smaller place, there is no stopping that and our children are growing up in an ever increasingly diverse culture into which they will need to interact. Give them knowledge and the ability to use it wisely.
That’s why I think schools should stick to the facts when teaching religion but what are your thoughts? Do you think there is a place for religious practice in schools? Have you lost out on a school place at your catchment or nearest school due to your religion or lack of it? Have you attended regular worship in order to secure your child’s school place? I’d love to hear your experience or opinion.