What is the Place for Religion Within Education? Outside of all management.

Many may remember the education scandal associated with Operation Trojan Horse in 2014. A letter was given to the authorities which purported to be evidence of a plot by hard-line Islamists to replace leadership in Birmingham schools with a high proportion of attendees from Muslim backgrounds, in order to instil a much more religiously conservative ethos and curricula. Though the letter was widely suspected to be a hoax, it  raises some serious questions about what the role of religion in school should be. 

 These questions and others like it, have become a lot more difficult to answer with Ofsted delivering, on 19th January, its worst ever report to ‘The Durham Free School’; a school with a strong “Christian ethos”. The school received inadequate (the worst rating) in all areas covered in the inspection. Many of the inspector’s comments give significant cause for alarm, in relation to schooling generally but also in relation to the role that religion plays within the school. 

In the report we find comments such as:

“Reviewing the curriculum so that there are appropriate opportunities to teach students about sex and relationships and to promote respect for different faiths, beliefs and values so that they are fully ready to function as young citizens of modern Britain”

“Governors place too much emphasis on religious credentials when they are recruiting key staff and not enough on seeking candidates with excellent leadership and teaching skills”

“The religious studies curriculum was too narrow and did not give students enough opportunities to learn about different faiths and beliefs. Consequently, students’ understanding of different faiths and beliefs is sketchy with some holding prejudiced views which are not challenged.”

It is clear that the school’s management and teaching staff, and the governors have all, to some extent, allowed their own personal religious beliefs to negatively impact on the opportunity for the pupils of this school to receive an adequate education; a very sad state of affairs.

With two serious incidents in education from schools where religious values are put before teaching the role of religious schools within Britain has to be called in to question.

No one should be saying that schools should be wholly secular, with no religious education; this is not a way to foster understanding and compassion for people and their beliefs. But what can be said is that the management of a school should be wholly secular, with religion being kept to the religious studies classroom.
It has been the tradition of the government in the UK, and was written in to the American constitution that, though religion has its place, that place is not within the running of a society. Schools are a bedrock of any healthy society, and so reasonably they should fall under the same dictum that religion does not have a place within the governance of out schooling systems.

To read the Ofsted report in full follow the link below:


What is satire? Thoughts following Charlie Hebdo

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks it seems prudent to re-evaluate; what is satire?

Though targeting a person, this targets the hypocrisy of the leader of a political party supporting a corporation his party have done so much to attack.

Though targeting a person, this targets the hypocrisy of the leader of a political party supporting a corporation his party have done so much to attack.

Satire is a joke that points at an accepted idea or action within society and labelling it as ridiculous. The best satire will make you think about something from a perspective that you had not seen before, and change your own perspective in an unalterable way. It never attacks a person, but an idea or action; these may be attached to a person but the focus is always on their idea or action.

UKIP don't represent a viable government as they only have a limited number of policies.

UKIP don’t represent a viable government as they only have a limited number of policies.

One of the best satirical works ever was the book ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell which pointed at Communism and showed it to be ridiculous as the central ethos (equality for all) will always inevitably be undermined by greed, especially those drawn to leadership and power. He did this by depicting the leaders of a farm as pigs and the followers or proletariat at sheep. So simple, yet so utterly brilliant!

Ridicules the idea that foodbanks are banned by those whose privileged backgrounds mean that they don't understand the lives of those who need to use them.

Ridicules the idea that foodbanks are banned by those whose privileged backgrounds mean that they don’t understand the lives of those who need to use them.

Policies looking to decrease  the deficit should target the people with the money  not without any money!

Policies looking to decrease the deficit should target the people with the money not without any money!

For me, satire plays a vital role within society. It rightly ridicules the ridiculous and changes views. It changes views in a way that persuasive writing cannot do; the message can be given in an image and in a way that anyone can understand. Persuasive writing may make us think but satire makes us laugh, and in laughing at something that we did not realise was funny it shatters prior conceptions. Laughing not only changes our convictions but also stops the idea from ever being taken seriously again.

Cameron states that Britain is a 'Christian Country' despite having a capitalist agenda contrary to the  politically Left, non-materialist Bible star Jesus

Cameron states that Britain is a ‘Christian Country’ despite having a capitalist agenda contrary to the politically Left, non-materialist Bible star Jesus

Good satire is a necessary medicine for society, it makes us check our idea, and it makes the world change its ways. It makes those in power realise that we are not just sheep blindly going along with what we are told, but that we engage with their ideas and actions and will hold them to account.

Also, satire is open to all ideas no matter how serious- jut because 1billion people say something is a good idea it does not make it a good idea. It is up to satirists to find the lunacy and shine as bright a torch on it as possible- this can be religion, democracy, free speech even satire itself if you so choose. The more seriously an idea is taken, the greater the opportunity for satire!

Considering the wake of Charlie Hebdo perhaps their readership were already aware of the satire on Islam and therefore continued use of similar material just started becoming an assault, and perhaps they needed to draw from different sources. Though people are not discussing it this is difficult in France, a country where free speech is not completely held to and religion is seen as an easy and accepted target. I won’t go in to the politics of free speech in France now though.

But good satire will always offend someone because people identify so strongly with ideas. It is important though to remember that people have the right to say what they want so long as they are not inciting violence a and others have the right to be offended.

But you don’t have the right to never be offended, because that idea is very offensive do it gets us nowhere!

P.S. You may wish to follow @Rowland72James on Twitter who provides excellent Satire and donated some images for this blog

The word belief should never be used in a religious context- A Socratic dialogue

Blaise Pascal: “What have you been up to, Bertie?”
Bertrand Russell: “Oh you know, mainly logical mathematics and stuff, you Blaisey?”
Blaise: “Why, it’s Sunday morning I have been in my house of worship, praising the God above for all of his work!”
Bertrand: “Like ebola and mass hunger in Africa?”
Blaise: “No Bertie, this is not God’s will but he has given us the tools to help us overcome these scourges. And, I believe that those who die, so long as they believe in God, will be saved, so it all happens for a greater good!”
Bertrand: “If I may ask, Blaise, Why do you believe in God?”
Blaise: “I just do, and I am of the opinion that I should believe because if I’m wrong…”
Bertrand: “For once, Blaise, can you stop banging your ‘wager’ drum! But that’s not why I ask the question.”
Blaise: “Well, as I say I just do; I feel it to be true therefore I believe.”
Bertrand: “Do you believe that some apples are red?”
Blaise: “Why, yes of course I do”
Bertrand: “And why do you believe in this?”
Blaise: “Because I have seen apples, Bertie, obviously.”
Bertrand: “just so, my friend. You see them. Do you believe that you like the smell of coffee?”
Blaise: “Why yes, the smell of coffee is most pleasing to me, so I believe this to be true, where are you going with this mon ami?”
Bertrand: “Bear with me old sport. Do you believe that a loving mother, on hearing her baby cry will come running?”
Blaise: “If she is able to, of course a mother will do this!”
Bertrand: “If someone was to cut you, do you believe that this would hurt?”
Blaise: “Of course, I pricked my finger just this morning, and it is still sore now!”
Bertrand: “You believe all of these things based on what?”
Blaise: “Well as you have obviously alluded to, based on what I see, hear, feel, smell. You did not say taste, but you could have, eh? I believe these things based on my senses. Ah, I see where you are going now, you wily old fox Bertie! You are saying I can only believe these things for which I have sensory evidence!”
Bertrand: “Well since you mention it, yes this is what I think.”
Blaise: “Any my belief in God is unfounded!”
Bertrand: “Unfounded from a sensory evidence perspective, yes. But, who knows, you may be right. But can you say you believe in a god?”
Blaise: “I have faith, which is to believe. Also, I feel it, like the knife stabbing in to my skin; here is your sensory evidence!”
Bertrand: “OK, Blaise, will you join me for a thought experiment? Yes? I would like you to imagine that you have suddenly got head lice, that even as we speak they are crawling about your head, you want to scratch your head to try and get rid of them as their small legs scamper about on your scalp. Blaise, you have actually raised your hand to scratch your head, why so?”
Blaise: “My scalp! It feels itchy, you have made me feel itchy all over with your mind Games Bertie!”
Bertrand: “You feel that you have head lice, do you believe this to be true?”
Blaise: “Well I’m pretty sure I do not!”
Bertrand: “So you’re feelings deceive you at times! You believe the knife hurts because you see it enter the body, you see evidence of an injury, or a doctor does, and you feel it. Can a doctor see evidence of god touching you when you feel his presence?”
Blaise: “I do not think so, no.”
Bertrand: “And this is my point, dear friend, without measurable sensory evidence, whether our purely with our five senses, or through using equipment, like a microscope or an X-Ray, we cannot believe anything, we can only think it to be true, to be of the opinion that it exists, to have a religious conviction. Do you not now agree?”
Blaise: “This is purely semantics, I feel like I am talking to old Ludwig W!”
Bertrand: “It may be semantics, but it is an important difference. We should therefore avoid using the words believe, and beliefs when talking of religious conviction as these are not believes. You are fully entitled to hold your convictions about the existence of a god, as much as I am the existence of a teapot circling around the sun between Earth and Mars, but in both cases belief does not enter in to it.”
Blaise: “OK Berite, I will bend to your logic. I think that God exists.”
Bertrand: “That is most accommodating of you Blaise!”
If you enjoyed that one then try this one:

How might the story of Jesus sound under a UKIP government? A televised speech from Nigel Farage

“We at UKIP are pleased to be able to announce that the extremist fugitive known as Jesus Christ has been arrested.

As I’m sure all you good, beautiful, working people of Britain know, Jesus was an immigrant; an immigrant to planet earth; stowing away in Mary’s womb to illegally come to live in our pleasant and green pastures, where he was not wanted.

He came and took a traders job, of carpentry, that could have gone to a non-immigrant; he came without a working Visa, using a flimsy cover story of going to work for his father, Joseph, while also claiming an immaculate conception- it’s a story which didn’t add up and we were quick to spot this during intensive interrogation.

He came and quickly started preaching his new religion to a planet that didn’t have his religion. UKIP were quick to act and started surveillance on him when we realised that this Jesus was a religious zealot, preaching religious extremism. We heard stories of delusions of grandeur; he claimed to be able to heal the sick which, although nonsense in itself, we saw as an attempt to steal more work from good, honest NHS workers, who may not all be as British as we like but that’s something you know that we at UKIP are working on. He was heard to be giving directions on how to fish in our own North Sea, telling fishermen where they should be casting their nets. And it was actions like this that led to people following him; giving up their work to take up a life of crime with said individual.

It was at this time we knew we had the evidence to bring a criminal case against this self-proclaimed son of God.

The authorities were able to apprehend him following a tip-off from a good, British, hard-working man called Judas. We apprehended Jesus and have been able to deal with him as our law courts see fit.

Some say that UKIP have been barbaric and out of date in bringing back crucifixion but you see characters like this and you can understand why we have and it helps us have a system that works for the hard-working non-immigrant people of the UK. He has been crucified and his body stored in a cave, in-line with new UKIP legislation.
We want to send a message to all out there; stay out of our country and if you don’t you too may face crucifix too, Farage is the only messiah! Thank you”