Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

King James Bible- Gove’s folly   Leave a comment

The first of the signed copies of the King James Bible are now arriving in schools.  I am a little puzzled about who signed them!  Was it Yahweh, James I or Michael Gove?

Actually I don’t think the books are actually signed- not in any earthly way at least.  However a few individuals have paid several hundred thousand pounds to send a premium copy of the 400-year-old translation to about 25000 schools.  There is no doubt that this version of the Bible is a classic piece of literature, the prose and language has defined our culture.  So is Shakespeare, Austen and Conan-Doyle.

I am not sure that those supporting the supply of the Bibles appreciate the literary merit of the translation.  Fifty-odd scholars looked at the Greek and Hebrew transcripts of the Old and New Testaments but seemed to have relied on the “politically correct” existing versions.  Had they gone back to basics or looked at different books then the new version might have been theologically interesting.  Rather than addressing the message the KJV clouds it in wonderful language.  I understand that those backing the Bible issue are in the main Christian and those supporting the initiative are people of faith.

So what good does sending a wonderfully bound bible to every school do?  Well this version is out of copyright so I think rather than one big book to each school, each pupil could have had a personal budget copy.  Better still the money could have improved education sooner than reinforcing religious prejudice with an untouchable relic.  Plenty of useful books could have been purchased for the millions spent on this project.  The KJV can be read on a computer if someone needs it as a reference book.  If they need to read it as a moral indicator then it proves education isn’t working.

In my youth the Gideons came into my secondary (high) school and handed out New Testaments.  When I doubted the Christian faith based on history and an awareness of multitheism, I looked at the reference section in my bible.  The suggested verses were cryptic and the links contrived.  That small red bible helped to reinforce the idea that any message from that work was manufactured.

I am all for recognising mine and my country’s culture but to suggest that this sending of Bibles to schools is other than a religious gesture is inane.  Better still let students really appreciate the vile drivel of the “Christian user’s manual” that way we might have many more realists.

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Half-hearted and meaningless- religion in schools   4 comments

At school Physical Education was compulsory.  I forged notes from my parents, feigned injury and forgot my games kit to avoid it.  As soon as there was a relaxation, as I reached sixth form (High School senior years) I opted for table-tennis which was unsupervised and so was actually cover for a card school.

Outside of the official games periods I played football (soccer) in the playgrounds and cricket and football away from school.  I still play league cricket as I reach my fiftieth year and social football games twice a week.  I am also a walk leader as part of a community project.

At school I tried to avoid sports because they were official, the PE teachers that led classes as a supplement to their other academic duties also did so without any conviction and so allowed a little latitude.

My view of religion at school was very similar to that of games; the statutory nature destroyed any merit for the subject.  In the main, I feel most schoolmasters felt a similar lack of enthusiasm.  The difference for me was that I didn’t run off and engage in religion away from school.

This is why I find the battles in the American education system and the extent of religious indoctrination so alien.  Religious tradition is so much a part of the English education system but has a marginal effect; over the pond it seems that the malignancy is very deep.

Unlike the US, the church in the United Kingdom is not separated from the state but integral to it.  Our Head of State is the Head of the Church of England.  Our second legislative chamber has protestant church leaders in it as of right.  Our state (public) schools have daily collective worship that “shall be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”.  For all this religion is weak in our collective society.

Like in my day I get the impression that religion is essentially ignored in the state school system.  Even some voluntary aided faith schools insist on as few as ten per cent of admissions being regular participants in the established faith.  My local Roman Catholic secondary (High) school gives preference to Catholics who attend church, then any Catholics, then active Christians, then any active participants in any World Faith.  There is a move away from parents pretending to go to church just to guarantee a better school place for their heathen children.

I clearly remember at primary school that the school dinners were preceded by a Christian grace.  All my assemblies included prayer and most were akin to a church service.  For all that there was a feeling that this religious input just diluted the faith message.  All of the religion seemed closer to tradition than any real theism.

There was Religious Education at school but I have no real recollection of the subject I always got the impression that any masters or mistresses involved were a figure of fun.  I don’t remember any other faiths other than the very basic biblical Christianity.  The official government line on the school subject  now is “Religious education provokes challenging questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of life, beliefs about God, the self and the nature of reality, issues of right and wrong and what it means to be human. It develops pupils’ knowledge and understanding of Christianity, other principal religions, other religious traditions, and other world views that offer answers to these challenging questions”  What I found odd over my kids’ school life was that every exploration of “alternative” religions involved Diwali; it was an easy call to go for a festival with lots of lights before Christmas.

As an atheist for my last five years at school I never had an issue with any religious elements.  My later secondary school had been founded in 1594 so had traditions linked to religion going back centuries.  I never remember anyone asking my religion.  Perhaps it was that as multi-culturalism had not really reached middle England then and so we were all “Christians”   However I do not remember any Catholic teachings.  This was in a town where there were a significant number of Roman Catholics although that town claimed a place in Protestant history.  I did note that the “visiting” priest at my daughters’ school was Catholic.

A generation on and at that establishment, another 400 year-old school, my children found their religious studies to be very similar.  Lay teachers going through the motions and specialists who were figures of fun.  Because I took more of an interest I knew who the religious teachers were.  One of the most devout was also one the best teachers I have come across.

The early secondary stages were all about comparative religions with a drift thereafter into general morality.  I got the impression that those who kept the study up into external exam levels were either the properly religious or those looking for easy grades.  My youngest daughter sought exemption from the collective worship as soon as she was of an age to decide and no one made an issue.

I have to say that for me and my children a lack of faith was no issue whatsoever even from those teachers who were devout.  It certainly didn’t stop my eldest representing her school and many events and winning a whole host of prizes.

For as much as religion is enshrined in the compulsory curriculum and levered into daily assemblies by law it seemed meaningless in reality and regarded with the same apathy as compulsory sports.  Like with those sports if you were really interested you got on with it outside of the education system.