"All things are wearisome, more than one can say." - Ecclesiastes 1:8

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

School assemblies hoo-hah

I used to teach in a school that attempted to have a inclusive 'let's celebrate the gorgeous mosaic of our diversity' assembly once. Even by today's standards, it was an embarrassing and really very stupid event. I did wonder at the time: who couldn't be offended by this crap? I was offended because this sort of vacuous nonsense gives legitimacy to the notion that faith per se is a virtue - never mind what people actually believe or whether the beliefs being celebrated contradict each other. I wouldn't know but I'd imagine that anyone who took their particular religion even remotely seriously would have found it fairly offensive too - although if memory serves, it was near the end of term and most pupils had the good grace not to turn up in the first place.

This experience forms part of the reason why I'm inclined to be suspicious of this story about a headteacher in Sheffield who supposedly resigned because she encountered such resistance to her attempt to abolish separate religious assemblies in favour of multi-faith assemblies.

Perhaps the small number of parents who complained and allegedly accused her of being racist were indeed being entirely unreasonable. I don't know - and neither do you. I do know, however, that you wouldn't have to be devoutly religious to object to your child being subjected to this shit. I know I wouldn't be too happy about it. The fact that it's the law to have assemblies of this nature doesn't wash - anyone who knows anything about schools understands that this practice is honoured more in the breech than in the observance.

Unlike some people, I'd be disinclined to rush to judgment. We're told only a small number of parents complained, that the headteacher was supported by a majority of the staff and the parents - yet not only does she resign but the chair of governors does too? "She has been hounded out. Very few people objected to this change.", according to the Mail. Hounded out by 'very few people'? I doubt we're getting the full story here - but frankly it isn't interesting enough to find out the rest. The internal politics of a school distract from the wider point, which is that this wouldn't happen in the first place if the sensible thing was done and collective worship in schools was scrapped altogether.
"A mother with three children at the school said that Mrs Robinson was "a marvellous head and loved by the children". "What she was doing was quite right. The children sit together in class so why shouldn't they share a school assembly?" she said.
Because in class, there's no reason not to sit together. Two plus two equals four regardless of race or creed. But with religious assemblies, this is not so. There is good reason why children of other faiths or no faith might not want to sing 'Onward Christian Soldiers'. I was made to sing this when I was at primary school. Can't say I appreciated it - and I certainly don't want my son to be made to sing it. If the headteacher of this school was making all the pupils sing 'Onward Christian Soldiers', or whatever the modern day equivalent is, what she was doing was not 'quite right'.

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