Sunday 6 May 2012

Should faith schools be banned due to their effect on kids brains?

By Dark Politricks
I have just watched the "Big Questions" on BBC1 which you can watch in a few hours on BBC iPlayer and there are ways to watch it from abroad if you are technical enough or know what a proxy server is.

However the show was about religion and mainly about whether Religion was good for Children. This included faith schools and how child's brains are formed and can be indoctrinated during their younger years into religion. The debate was full of humanists, evangelical Christians, Muslims and Rabbi's.

Whilst there is no doubt that in this country at least which has a long history the Christian religion has brought many good things as well as bad things to the overall culture of the country such as original schooling, charitable foundations and people who were moral Christians who went out into the slums to help the poor because of their faith.

However we now live in a multicultural society and "the age of reason" where faith schools are allowed to exist which can create their admission policy around the students religious background. You can help change this by signing this petition.

We have had stories over the years of the Saudi Arabian supported schools that undercover reporters found were teaching things about defamatory things about Jews and Christians and much more.
In my belief faith schools are a bad thing as they teach separation on the lines of indoctrination.

Kids at the age they go to school are likely to follow the beliefs and actions of their parents. 

If their parents are religious they are likely to unquestionably follow their parents including religion and going to a faith school will re-inforce that belief. They are also less likely to mix with children from outside their faith as friendships are formed within school at that age.

As we know from Northern Ireland and the Protestant and Catholic schooling systems that helped keep the country divided for years schools can be the places where child's philosophies on life are formed (which is why many religious people take their children out of State schools to home teach as they believe they are too liberal).

For some children the school is the only place they receive any kind of mental stimulation or moral grounding as some parents are just too busy working all the time to pay for food, mortgages, clothes and other things that keep them alive.

Whilst many parent are not like that I have seen personally many children at the age of 5 that you can just tell are going to end up in prison as their parents only talk to them when they shout at them to tell them to shut up or sit down as they are too busy watching TV to play with them.

Therefore schools can be very important places and for some kids they are the only place they receive any kind of information, life skills and for some abused children any form of kindness and even love.
We all know from the statistics that many Church of England or Catholic schools in the UK have some of the top grades in the country for state schools which is why so many parents try to get their kids into them whether they are religious or not.

This is more a damming indictment on our state school system that a sign that faith schools provide a better education and moral grounding.

Our state schools are a mess and I personally can attest to that after being to one and it is through pure luck and my own brain that I didn't end up in prison like so many others of my peer group.

Through my own thirst for knowledge I went out and taught myself what I now know in this world through reading books many of which were religious (e.g history of religion(s)), studying philosophy and then when the Internet arrived I probably learned more in a couple years of surfing the web than I did in the whole of my state secondary school education.

In places in Southern states of America where religion is supposedly so strong, schools are evangelically christian by nature and children hold "purity rings" to show they won't have sex until they are married as they are taught by their Christian religion they have some of the highest levels of teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, anal sex and other signs that the kids are breaking the rules or bending the indoctrination to fit in their hormones.

At the time of their life when the urge to have sex suddenly arrives but a moral code forced on them forbids it - what happens? They try to "bend the rules" and end up having anal or oral sex as they see it as not having "real" sex as it doesn't lead to pro-creation.

As many religious people on all sides claim, morals are linked to religion and without their religion they wouldn't have a moral grounding. This really annoys humanists and atheists as it signifies that moral behaviour is somehow only available to followers of a certain belief system.

Obviously this is hogwash as not only would it mean that without the religious belief the person would become a murdering, raping, lunatic which is plainly crazy but it would mean that all the millions of people who are not followers of a religion would be non-moral unethical walking anti-christs.
Humanists do what is right because it is right not because an old book or myth handed down Chinese whisper style before it could be written down says so.

What I found interesting from the debate was what one person said about linking a moral code to a belief system, as many religions do. That when, as many do, people leave the religion they are likely to leave the moral code behind as well because the two have become so intrinsically linked together in that persons mind.

In this scenario the person might engage in immoral behaviour to spite the religious teachings they had forced upon them, which might be the root cause of this belief of religion equals  morals.
This could be the "lack of morals" that some religious people see when they talk about the lack of morals in humanists and atheists but it but it is also a good reason why ethics and morals should be taught on their own right at school without any linkage to religion at all. People should be taught that doing good things is good for their own sake not because Jesus or Mohammed said it was good.

Good ethics and morals are something I cannot ever remember being taught at school and it should be a parents jobs to teach right from wrong without indoctrinating the child into a belief system anyway.

The school however should realise that in this day and age, when riots are occurring around the land and the economy is collapsing and whole estates are no-go areas for the Police that they should be a backstop in case of these missing "home lessons" that undoubtedly so many kids today don't get at all.

I remember my own Religious Education lessons at school and they were just a time for winding up our very religious (Christian obviously) teacher.

I remember one lesson trying to be the critical and questioning child that we should all want our children to be and on the subject of heaven I asked "what happens in heaven".

The teacher replied that in heaven we were all given jobs to do by God and went around working for him. I replied that it all sounded very boring and I didn't really want to go to heaven if that was all that happened and that hell sounded a lot more exciting. I was sent out of the lesson in disgrace - no questioning my indoctrination in this class please.

As a book writer on the subject talked about on the show, at the age we are at school our brains are forming and in the "questioning, critical analysis" stage which should be nurtured not stubbed out through indoctrination and blanket yes/no answers to big questions that kids want to know at that age.

Questions we still ask such as "where did I come from" , "why are we here" and "what is the meaning of life and does there even need to be one"

These are all questions that some of us are still trying to find the answer for but through reason, science and logic not fairy tales and ancient stories.

At that time in our lives we undoubtedly live in a mystical age where we are likely to believe anything we are told. This is the reason we believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and read books about magicians, dragons and other Harry Potter style fantasies.

However we all grow up and whilst the myth of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy were dispelled by me either sleepily catching my parents filling my stocking or being told at school at a young age it was all a myth the religious myths continued.

The main reason I suppose was that older people, people in authority were still believing these religious stories and as a child it is hard to disagree with authority (for some at least) when they tell you black is black or God exists. Case closed.

In my opinion, and I cannot see how we could do this unless we banned faith schools, banned home schooling and then countered any home time indoctrination by teaching ethics, morals, philosophy, psychology, sociology and even religion from a historical and cultural point of view. At least this way we ensure our kids get some useful knowledge from the time they spend at school as well as a moral grounding that might be missing at home in all in a non religious way.

Of course if we taught these lessons instead of the mundane and boring lessons that I can remember from my state school education it might even help solve the problem we currently have of parents feeling guilty by not being able to pay for their child to go to a private school and replace the loss of Grammar schools for the clever kids that have to suffer state school teaching. We must churn out those drug dealers and factory line workers...

It would raise state education standards for all pupils and also give our kids a grounding in morals and ethics that are not linked to any belief system they might discard later in life.
I am not against people choosing to believe in religion or the Flying Spaghetti Momster in the sky if they are old enough to make their own decisions.

I am however against children being indoctrinated into any religion at an early and particularly susceptible age in your life.

I am also against little boys and in some regions of the world girls being genitally mutilated by being circumcised when they are too young to make their own decision. Something that would be considered child abuse in any other context.

Remember it is not about religion it is about teaching right from wrong. And neither are linked to the story of Abraham and the 3 faiths that flowed from that story and make up the majority of religious believers today - Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
As Ghandi famously said: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ"

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