Thursday, 12 March 2009

Messy or necessary compromise?

. James Graham and Jonathan Calder both have pieces on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages commenting on the faith schools debacle at conference. James attacks the newly amended policy as a 'messy compromise' where as Jonathan clearly sees it as a necessary one.

Jonathan doesn't seem to have much to offer in his argument except that 'messy compromises' are often how it is with social institutions which on the surface is all well and good but really lends nothing to our vision of trying to change things for the better. Some faith schools no doubt perform their task well and are good schools to those that are allowed to attend however, the choice offered those parents who are happy to send their children to them does nothing to expunge the lack of choice for those parents who cannot send their children there or who do so reluctantly.

Does our policy enhance the choices of these people?? The answer surely has to be no; no doubt what we would see under this policy is a scramble to prove inclusiveness by the admission of token groups of differentially or non-faith pupils. Great for those that are lucky enough to benefit but not so great for those that remain excluded. What is more, children that are part of these 'quotas' now face the rather horrific prospect of social ghettoisation within their own schooling community and I think we can all agree that is defiantly not a 'good result'.

How often do proponents of this system speak-up for those whose choices are crushed totally and utterly by the continuation of this 'messy compromise'? Besides, it is now the case that if faith schools; regardless of quality or otherwise, are unable to prove their inclusiveness to the satisfaction of a local authority they would face arbitrary closure under our proposals. So, as I said at the time what we now have is the worst of all worlds which is all about fudging the issue within our party and has nothing but bad implications for the real world where these policies are supposed to be implemented.

Jonathan asks;

"Are we seeking a society in which people with quite different views of the world to live peaceably together? If we have the latter aim, then a range of different types of schools, even within the state-maintained system, should attract us."

Sounds ok in theory doesn't it?? Until you face the spectacle of different faith groups bickering over the allocation of what are set to be increasingly limited resources; then this approach begins to look ever so slightly more fragile. Of course, that is to totally forget how peeved the non-selective state school down the road is because it is groaning under the weight of all those excluded from the land of milk and honey with the same or less resource; then your magic formula for unity and harmony becomes a fire-crackling explosion of discord, dissent and prejudice.

Raising to the challenge of the indoctrination argument, Jonathan dismisses out of hand "the idea that the state can offer an aseptic form of education until children are old enough to decide their own beliefs, uncontaminated by the influence of family or anyone else" as unrealistic. Of course, it is true that the state cannot and should not try to influence the way families wish to raise their children however it can control what it does. Looking at it through it through this prism the idea moves from the realm of the unrealistic to the highly possible.

Bear in mind this; this is not about outlawing the presence of faith schools or saying no they can never be; what this is about is the state determining how our tax dollars are actually spent and if we are actually happy with a situation where our tax dollars are spent fostering not a system of opportunity for all but actually choices for some and damn the rest. Our policy is now on this question very bad policy because it does nothing to actually strike any balances and actually risks creating worse in-balances; that is what makes it a very messy compromise indeed.


Letters From A Tory said...

Education should be about opportunity for everyone, not just someone with a particular skin colour or religious backgrounds.

Faith schools are the most blatant form of discrimination imagineable and have no place in society.

Darrell G said...


Couldnt agree more...