Monday, April 25, 2005

SNP backs more faith schools

I'm implacably opposed to faith schools but it's beginning to feel like my republicanism; something I believe in as a concept but which has no chance of becoming a reality in the foreseeable future. So while I might be expected to have a rant about Alex Salmond's backing for Muslim schools in the state sector, what's the point? None of the main political parties are willing to confront the power of the churches in education so given that faith schools will continue to be part of the educational landscape, the SNP are quite right - the present situation is unjust to Muslims.

The SNP's policy puts them with the Tories as being the only two to advocate state-financed Muslim schools in Scotland (presently, there are none) and in doing so, they've followed through the logic further than Labour and the Lib Dems of a system that no longer insists on a single state religion but persists with the silly idea of institutionalizing the myth that faith per se is a virtue.

However, as with so many of these issues, no party has the courage to accept completely the logic of their position: if it is no longer acceptable for the state to sponsor a particular religion in the classroom and we've to continue with faith schools, when are we to hear proposals for Sikh, Buddhist and Hindu schools; schools for Pentecostal Christians and other Evangelicals; schools for the heterodox Christian offshoots like Mormonism and Jehovah Witnesses; and Jewish schools? When are all those thousands who responded "Jedi Knights" to the question about religious affiliation in the Scotland 2001 census going to have their corner defended by Alex Salmond? Or schools for Satanists, witches and practitioners of the occult? While we're at it, let's have schools for those who think Elvis is still alive; for those who believe in UFOs and wild conspiracies - it's only fair.

Then when we survey the mess, the segregated and suspicious society we've created, maybe then more people will begin to understand the only practical - and fair - way of catering for all shades of belief in a multi-faith society is to give none of them preference or special status and have a proper, modern and secular education system that insists that god-botherers do it in their own time.

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