We are facing a educational dilemma in this country. This dilemma is how to cater to the needs of everybody without offending anybody. As most of us have probably realised by now, it is almost impossible to write or say anything these days without offending somebody even with something as simple as disagreeing with their world view. I have found that as long as you are not inciting violence, telling someone they are wrong and explaining why in a calm and rational manner, tends to diffuse a tense situation and is a quite acceptable means of voicing your take on an issue. In this country we have a right to freedom of conscience, belief and expression but in that there lie limits. I may disagree with somebody’s life choice and as entitled as I am to raise discussion in public, I have no right to incite violence against them or be deliberately offensive.
A large portion of the problem stems from the act that people don’t generally understand the difference between a debate about facts and a personal attack. By this I mean, that what they think of as a ‘debate’ is actually a personal attack and vice versa and it’s generally because one party has not thought before they speak. Tone accounts for a lot of it and speaking to someone as though they are stupid is not the way to get them to listen. I was always taught that the moment somebody starts ranting, shouting and breaking things, the argument is lost and that nobody ever really won someone over by being deliberately offensive. An article in The Guardian today briefly explores the problem and points out the problem of how the line can so easily be crossed. Maybe we should start giving lessons in decorum in schools too?
“Fancy a row?” he tells me. “Try teaching evolution, based on hard evidence, when the Muslim parents and the evangelical Africans would rather you taught one of the variants of creationism. That’s to spend a less than enjoyable day between a rock and a hard place. I’ll say sorry, I just can’t teach something that has no scientific basis. If it’s religious belief you’re interested in, the subject for that is RE. They’ll say, ‘Well if that’s your final word, we’ll have to withdraw our children. Then the children lose out. We can’t have that either. Tricky.”- Hideously diverse Britain: The challenge of diversity in schools | UK news | The Guardian
My first instinct is that if parents wish their children to receive a religious education then they are well within their rights to supplement the education already required by the state. They have no right to demand that all children receive the style that they would personally choose for their own children and nor do they have the right to deprive their children from receiving a balanced education. If they are confident in their beliefs let, these children receive the education based on evidence and solid proof. Do not lie by omission and deceive these children by refusing to allow them exposure to other world views. It is their choice to make, not ours or their parents. What we have a duty to provide is a broad education based on solid evidence.
We have that solid evidence which points to the accuracy of the theory of evolution, common ancestry and natural selection, such as DNA, carbon dating, and the fossil record. That teacher is quite correct. The place for teaching children ABOUT world religions is RE, but neither are RE lessons to be hijacked, abused and turned into instruction. It matters not what personal world-view these parents have chosen for themselves because their children are individuals and not miniature carbon copies, but what these children are equipped with in order to deal with the world once they have left school. Those children, and their parents, will be sorely disappointed to find out that to pass exams and gain qualifications, their children will need more than a basic knowledge of theology and mathematics.
What would you do, asks another teacher friend, when a pupil suddenly disappears or goes on holiday to Pakistan and you’re pretty sure it’s an attempt to marry her off. Are you acting in the interests of the child by saying nothing? Are you cutting your own throat by saying something? People don’t always thank you for it. More often than not, the instinct for self-preservation kicks in.” – Hideously diverse Britain: The challenge of diversity in schools | UK news | The Guardian
What would I do is contact social services. Residents and citizens of this country are subject to its laws. Religion or going abroad for a does not give them a loophole to marry off young girls who are too young to legally marry in this country. The reason there is a minimum age (16 with parental consent and 18 without) is for the protection of young girls. Children are supposed to be in school within term-time which is why we need consent from the school to take them on holiday outside of school holidays.
And it’s not just the obvious stuff, involving the core beliefs and the core curriculum that causes problems. Sometimes it’s the niggling stuff that comes out of nowhere. Who knew that, as apparently happened in London the other day, parents might raise religious objections to music lessons? Who knew that a Muslim girl’s headscarf, while symbolising belief, can also be a neat way of disguising the fact that she’s listening to her iPod during lessons? So many challenges, but also so many rewards. Whatever the complexities, the best part is the kids.” – Hideously diverse Britain: The challenge of diversity in schools | UK news | The Guardian
I remember when I was in about year 10 (14-15 yrs for the benefit of my overseas readers) that my female Muslim classmates after years of adhering to the rules suddenly started coming in wearing head scarves after the Easter holidays (two weeks in mid April). I was highly disappointed when my school suddenly bowed down to the local Muslim community and made an exception to normally strictly held uniform rules. The reason being? Fairness. One group was being granted immunity from the rules over the rest of us. The families of these girls began withdrawing the girls from school (detentions had been issued for refusal to abide by the uniform rules) until the headmaster relented. The concession that the scarves be unadorned and navy blue -in line with the school colours- and that they not cover the faces of the girls with the school colours was made by the Muslim community. The Sikh community did NOT then suddenly insist the boys wear turbans to school, and nor did the local Hindu community kick up a fuss. The Christian did not insist that their children flout the ‘No Jewellery’ rule.
The only people who made a fuss about a uniform rule which pupils and families had happily abided by for years were the Muslims. It would have been the girls who would have suffered from being pulled out of school. If it were me, I would have again reported each family to social services for failing to ensure that their children attend school. Rules are rules and the scarves should not have been allowed any more than baseball caps should have been permitted. Gadgets and gizmos were not allowed on school premises and any child caught listening to an iPod or MP3 player in a lesson should have both the means of disguise AND the gadget confiscated to be collected at the end of term. Were I a teacher I would probably be less than popular but my favourite teachers were the ones that inspired me and would not allow excuses or disruption to their lessons.
The ‘obvious’ is that the religious community feel that it is their right, nay duty, to press their beliefs and worldview on the secular community while claiming ownership on ALL morality and normal human experience. They maintain that secularism (and atheism) is immoral and, claim varying offences due to a differences of opinion. To quote a victimlesscriminal video on Youtube, religious institutions have been generally getting louder rather than larger. In short if a secular approach is adopted in state schools where no religion is given preferential treatment (including atheism) then we should be on a fairly safe footing when it comes to avoiding giving offence.