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Gove: Catholic schools can escape ‘meddling’ by becoming academies

By on Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Michael Gove: 'Catholic schools must be allowed sufficient autonomy to integrate the Catholic faith into every aspect of school life' (Photo: PA)

Michael Gove: 'Catholic schools must be allowed sufficient autonomy to integrate the Catholic faith into every aspect of school life' (Photo: PA)

Catholic schools can avoid “unsympathetic meddling” by secularists if they take up the Government’s offer of academy status, the Education Secretary has said.

Writing in The Catholic Herald this week, Michael Gove said that opting out of local authority control would ensure a Catholic school could “remain true to its Catholic traditions”.

He urged parents who favoured academy reform to “make their voices heard” as bishops and governors consider whether to take up the offer.

Mr Gove’s plea comes after the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CESEW) signalled for the first time that Catholic schools could become academies if they and their bishops wanted to.

About 150 “outstanding” schools have become academies under Mr Gove’s model but none of them, until last month, were Catholic. In light of the CESEW statement, Mr Gove said he hoped to see “many Catholic schools coming forward to become academies during the next year”.

He said the academy model gave Catholic schools a chance to extend “hard-won freedoms” over admissions, staff appointments, the teaching of religion and the way they are governed.

He said Catholic schools had “a deserved reputation for being well-run” and had provided “some of the most conspicuously inspiring leaders in the field”. He cited Michael Gormally, former headmaster at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial school, west London, and John McIntosh, former head at the London Oratory.

Mr Gove said: “Of course, what really makes Catholic schools stand out is their Catholicity … A key element of [Cardinal Manning’s] vision was that Catholic schools must be allowed sufficient autonomy to integrate the Catholic faith into every aspect of school life. A Catholic ethos is not something confined to RE lessons, but a pervasive set of values that find expression throughout the school day.”

The Education Secretary said that people who opposed academies and free schools on ideological grounds were also likely to be hostile to faith schools.

He said: “Active in the teachers’ unions and in other parts of the education establishment, they often misrepresent the Catholic school ethos as a mechanism of religious indoctrination and wrongly portray the admissions criteria used by Catholic schools as selection on the sly…

“But by becoming an academy, a Catholic school can place can itself permanently out of range of any such unsympathetic meddling and so ensure it can remain true to its Catholic traditions.”

Schools that become academies have more independence over what they teach and can exert greater power over unions. They also gain extra funding that would otherwise be handed to the local authority.

Catholic academies will be funded entirely by the state. The Church will stop paying 10 per cent of its capital costs, as it does under the voluntary-aided system.

Eric Hester, retired Catholic headteacher, said there were “big advantages” to becoming an academy, but that Mr Gove had failed to mention them.

He said: “The biggest advantage is that an academy school does not have to follow the national curriculum, so Catholic governors will have regained control of this most important area.”

But Mr Hester said it was a “big blow” that academy reforms required the permission of the local bishop.

“We are not talking about a benign figure in a mitre,” he said. “We are talking about diocesan bureaucrats, many of whom are as thick as thieves with the local authorities.”

Earlier this month St Joseph’s College in Trent Vale, Stoke, became the first Catholic school to acquire academy status under the Coalition’s reforms.

Headteacher Roisin Maguire said the change allowed the school to set its own priorities without outside influence and “be master of its own destiny”.

She said it secured the school’s future “from a financial point of view” but was not a response to “meddling” over its Catholic identity. “We’ve never really suffered from that,” she said. “We are aware [of] what people say about faith schools but we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it.” The school, rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted, is in the trusteeship of the Christian Brothers and so is independent from the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

Andy Burnham, Shadow Education Secretary, said Catholic schools were an “important” part of the education system, and had been “early adopters” of the Labour academy model, “turning around schools in some of the most deprived parts of the country”.

He said Mr Gove “risks diverting resources and attention from raising standards for all children, by focusing obsessively on structural changes such as free schools – which at best will be meaningless for the majority of parents, and at worst could see standards fall and inequality rise as has happened in Sweden”.

A full version of Michael Gove’s article is printed in this week’s edition of The Catholic Herald.

  • Anonymous

    Deo Gratias!!!!

  • Anonymous

    go you you invented a new noun

  • Jules

    “But by becoming an academy, a Catholic school can place can itself permanently out of range of any such unsympathetic meddling and so ensure it can remain true to its Catholic traditions.”

    Yes, so true to its Catholic traditions that the London Oratory School thinks Toby Young is a suitable partner in its quest for Academy status!

  • teresa

    Anything that gives Catholic schools freedom to be truly Catholic and freedom from the outdated ideologies of the CES has got to be a good thing .It is no good having academy status if the CES is still in control….

  • Anonymous

    Eric Hester is right, as usual. Mr Gove has expressed admiration for those qualities of Catholic education that matter most to those parents who apply to schools like Cardinal Vaughan, and he “urges parents who favoured academy reform to ‘make their voices heard’ as bishops and governors consider whether to take up the offer.” Mr Gove has perhaps not noticed the lack of success parents of pupils at Cardinal Vaughan have enjoyed in persuading bishops and governors to take account of their views about the governance of the School.

    An urgent problem for Mr Gove to address is the disparity between the freedom of schools in the trusteeship of religious orders to apply for Academy status, compared with the insistence of Bishop McMahon that diocesan schools will be bound by the decision of their bishop, which will cover all schools in his diocese. The CES’s concept of “umbrella Academy trusts” is designed to create another layer of authority above school governing bodies; the ability of governors to act in the interests of the schools to which they are appointed will thus be severely constrained.

    Bishop Mc Mahon’s insistence that “we are not in favour of a free-for-all in which some institutions flourish whilst others wither” is an other source of concern. This zero sum game approach, in which a flourishing school can only do so at the expense of others, rather than acting as a beacon for them, is surely something which Mr Gove will wish to challenge.

  • Anonymous

    …as Churchill said : “Any stick to beat a dog”

  • Guest

    ” … A key element of [Cardinal Manning’s] vision was that Catholic schools must be allowed sufficient autonomy to integrate the Catholic faith into every aspect of school life…”
    “Active in the teachers’ unions and in other parts of the education establishment, they often misrepresent the Catholic school ethos as a mechanism of religious indoctrination…”

    Please explain how ‘integrating the Catholic faith into every aspect of school life’ is not a mechanism of religious indoctrination.

  • Anonymous

    Authentic integrating of the Catholic faith into every aspect of school life, because the Catholic faith comes to us by Jesus, Himself, is not a mechanism of religious indoctrination, but one of our Lord’s paths to salvation. Every attack on the Catholic faith, is an attack on Jesus Christ, Himself. Period.

  • Anonymous

    You have zero authentic evidence for your view (so arrogantly expressed by the use of “Period”). How can you be so certain of your view, given that lack of evidence? My guess would be that you have been indoctrinated yourself, by parents and/or by an institution, at a susceptible age. People who have succumbed to religious indoctrination are not aware of what has really happened, and assume their choice of religion was not involuntary.

    You cannot see just how ridiculous your claims are because your thought process has been damaged. To inflict such damage on a young child is to mentally abuse that child. This has been very forcibly put to Michael Gove. As far as I know, he has never come up with a single valid response. But some Government ministers seem to be above giving valid responses to valid arguments. Religion trumps reason, you see. That is what religious faith means.

  • Mike Lawrence

    Micheal Gove is leading this country down a path of religious segregation a sectarianism which will be regretted by all in the UK in the decades to come. We do not know who will be holding the reins in the faith school system in 40 years from now, because they have not yet been born. But my guess is, these future bastions of faith education will be primarily engaged in out fantasising other denominations in the manner in which they indoctrinate their children!

  • Anonymous

    Almost all children now believe they go to school to pass exams. The idea that they may be there for an education is irrelevant. State schools have become exam factories, interested only in A to C Grades. They do not educate children. Exam results do not reflect a candidate’s innate ability. Employers have moaned for years that too many employees cannot read or write properly. According to a survey, school-leavers and even graduates lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. More and more companies are having to provide remedial training to new staff, who can’t write clear instructions, do simple maths, or solve problems. Both graduates and school-leavers were also criticised for their sloppy time-keeping, ignorance of basic customer service and lack of self-discipline.

    Bilingual Muslims children have a right, as much as any other faith group, to be taught their culture, languages and faith alongside a mainstream curriculum. More faith schools will be opened under sweeping reforms of the education system in England. There is a dire need for the growth of state funded Muslim schools to meet the growing needs and demands of the Muslim parents and children. Now the time has come that parents and community should take over the running of their local schools. Parent-run schools will give the diversity, the choice and the competition that the wealthy have in the private sector. Parents can perform a better job than the Local Authority because parents have a genuine vested interest. The Local Authority simply cannot be trusted.

    The British Government is planning to make it easier to schools to “opt out” from the Local Authorities. Muslim children in state schools feel isolated and confused about who they are. This can cause dissatisfaction and lead them into criminality, and the lack of a true understanding of Islam can ultimately make them more susceptible to the teachings of fundamentalists like Christians during the middle ages and Jews in recent times in Palestine. Fundamentalism is nothing to do with Islam and Muslim; you are either a Muslim or a non-Muslim.

    There are hundreds of state primary and secondary schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion all such schools may be opted out to become Muslim Academies. This mean the Muslim children will get a decent education. Muslim schools turned out balanced citizens, more tolerant of others and less likely to succumb to criminality or extremism. Muslim schools give young people confidence in who they are and an understanding of Islam’s teaching of tolerance and respect which prepares them for a positive and fulfilling role in society. Muslim schools are attractive to Muslim parents because they have better discipline and teaching Islamic values. Children like discipline, structure and boundaries. Bilingual Muslim children need Bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods, who understand their needs and demands.

    None of the British Muslims convicted following the riots in Bradford and Oldham in 2001 or any of those linked to the London bombings had been to Islamic schools. An American Think Tank studied the educational back ground of 300 Jihadists; none of them were educated in Pakistani Madrasas. They were all Western educated by non-Muslim teachers. Bilingual Muslim children need bilingual Muslim teachers as role models. A Cambridge University study found that single-sex classes could make a big difference for boys. They perform better in single-sex classes. The research is promising because male students in the study saw noticeable gains in the grades. The study confirms the Islamic notion that academic achievement is better in single-sex classes.

  • Anonymous

    I had eight years of indoctrination at the local Dominican convent and I should not inflict this on any child ever. Morning to night RE. Even exams stopped for the Angelus.

    Every child deserves a secular education free from superstition.

    I was rescued at the age of thirteen. I still feel bitter about my schooling. When I wrote an told one of my teacher nuns how appalling I had found the education she wrote back and apologized. She said at the time she thought they were offering an excellent education but she now realized its shortcomings.

    How can the British let this happen?

  • Anonymous

    The problem with having a thorough RC education, as I had, is that if you are intelligent and I was, then you can see the flaw in the concept of Original Sin. Even with no science lessons I could see the ‘flaw’

    Now with science lessons I can prove it.

    Also I found sitting below the icon of a graphically crucified man for eight hours a day sadistic and cruel. The amount of physical torture that was described on a daily basis I still find unacceptable.

    The guilt of this Sin of which I was completely innocent has ruined my life as I can never escape it even today. I feel ‘guilty’ pointing this out.

    RC indoctrination is all pervading but I am a god example of how it doesn’t work. It ought to work, the nuns had eight hours a day to get it to work but it doesn’t.

    The obvious ‘flaw’ by the way is that Original Sin was never committed. A real ‘Adam & Eve’ as described in the bible never existed.

    The Vatican knows this but says it has be believed even if it never happened as Scriptures are infallible!

    Is this how you want your children to be educated? I survived my education but many don’t.

  • Anonymous

    I had a truly RC education and I have suffered from it all my life! No Science or sex education at all.

    My education was horrible. I wish I had been sent to the local council school where at least I should have been taught properly.

  • Anonymous

    What’s wrong with teaching British values?

    My RC school taught me that as a woman I had to submit to a man. I could never tread on the altar or become a priest. A six year old boy could serve at mass but I as a girl couldn’t. The grown up nuns had to defer to a spotty six year old male because as a woman they would defile the altar. Yes! Not good.

    Sometimes today men treat me as ‘almost an equal’ without looking at me as if I was inferior to them.

    Is this how you want your daughters to feel? That they are not equal to a man?

    No secular mixed education for all and let the boys take their chance.

    Have private religious education if you wish but pay for it yourself.

  • Anonymous

    State schools … do not educate children.

    I assume you mean that they educate children to a lesser degree by focusing on exam results. This is not an inherent fault of state schools, but rather a result of bad parameters imposed on them by the state. The solution is to enforce greater accountability on those in power in order to counter government by whim. By this, I mean that valid arguments put to ministers must be met by appropriate responses. It is the opposite of what has happened in the DoE under succesive governments, but especially under Gove.

    Exam results do not reflect a candidate’s innate ability.

    Could they not be extended to do so? If not, how do you propose that ability and attainment be measured?

    According to a survey, school-leavers and even graduates lack basic literacy and numeracy skills.

    How many? You do not reference the survey.

    Bilingual Muslims children have a right, as much as any other faith group, to be taught their culture, languages and faith alongside a mainstream curriculum.

    By “Muslims children” you mean the children of parents who regard themselves as Moslem. Children are not born with any particular religiious faith – it is usually inflicted on them in childhood. “Have a right, as much as any other faith group” – in other words, no right. Children have a right not to be denied education. Note that this right does not endorse mis-education. For example, the teaching of myths as facts is mis-education (as opposed to the teaching of facts about myths).

    There is a dire need for the growth of state funded Muslim schools to meet the growing needs and demands of the Muslim parents and children.

    No there isn’t, because those demands are not reasonable. There is no need to propagate the delusions of parents. The parents’ culture can be passed down by the parents, but even then, the bad parts of a culture (such as genital mutilation) should be discouraged by the state. Schools might accommodate those parts of a culture which are not bad. If the school teaches about cultures, it must not be expected to endorse the bad parts.

    Muslim children in state schools feel isolated and confused about who they are.

    (Again you mean children of Moslem parents.) Is it not due to the deliberate attempt by parents to shun integration? Judging by certain verses in the Qur’an, it would seem that the only integration that Islam encourages is for non-Moslems to become Moslems. The answer is not to segregate children. That will only help to divide society.

    This can cause dissatisfaction and lead them into criminality, and the lack of a true understanding of Islam can ultimately make them more susceptible to the teachings of fundamentalists like Christians during the middle ages and Jews in recent times in Palestine.

    When you say “a true understanding of Islam”, are you not referring to the fundamentals of Islam? Or perhaps you are referring to the Islam that is often presented to the public as benign in spite of what is taught? If the latter, then you are presenting a veiled threat – let us teach Islam or else. None of the Abrahamic religions are a good guide to morality; quite the opposite. Moral questions should be answered by weighing as many factors as possible in a rational manner. The supposed wishes of a deity do not come into it.

    Fundamentalism is nothing to do with Islam and Muslim; you are either a Muslim or a non-Muslim.

    I do not understand this sentence.

    There are hundreds of state primary and secondary schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion all such schools may be opted out to become Muslim Academies. This mean the Muslim children will get a decent education.

    The TV programme “Faith Schools Menace” revealed the failure of a particular school of Islamic character to teach science. For example, it was clear that the idea of creationism was presented as superior to that of evolution by natural selection. One of the pupils was hoping to become a doctor, yet her ability to understand some basic biology was being cruelly undermined. In what way do academies prevent this sort of thing?

    Muslim schools turned out balanced citizens, more tolerant of others and less likely to succumb to criminality or extremism.

    Than what? Is this your opinion or the results of an un-named study?

    Muslim schools give young people confidence in who they are and an understanding of Islam’s teaching of tolerance and respect which prepares them for a positive and fulfilling role in society.

    Much of what I read in the Qur’an is the opposite of tolerance and respect. A recent Channel 4 program “Dispatches” broadcast undercover footage of children being taught in Islamic schools. What was shown being taught corresponded well with what I have read in the Qur’an, and was being highlighted in the program precisely because of its evil nature. Is the Qur’an wrong? Not according to your website. I am not interested in hearing good verses quoted as if they represent its general nature. Unless Islam rejects the bad verses (which, of course, it cannot do), then you should be ashamed to promote it.

  • polish catholic

    Sex education? Do you still have a problem with that? Most of humanity had none since stone age.

  • polish catholic

    Every child deserves a religious education free from progressive superstitions (that is mad sexualization and advocacy of abortion along with sacrosanct pseudo-science of darwin theory, climate change and modern malthus, not to mention relativism that leads to spiritual wasteland)

    British should have a choice to protect their children from secular cauldron. Why you oppose to let them have it.

  • polish catholic

    Parents have the right to send their children where they want to. State shouldn’t infringe this freedom. Period. If you don’t accept this basic human right, than you place yourself in lunatic Sweden if not 3rd Reich.

  • Anonymous

    Your comment on Darwin and science etc is a very good example as to why a secular education is necessary in today’s world. But that’s fine as long as you don’t expect me to pay for it!

  • Anonymous

    After birth, the rights of a child have priority over the wishes of its parents. Parents no more have the right to abuse a child mentally than they have the right to abuse the child physically, and it horrifies me that many Catholics do not accept this. In both cases, the state should do what it reasonably can to protect children from abuse.

    One cannot really blame deluded parents for sending their children to a school with a nature that matches the religion of those parents; those parents are doing what they think is right for their children. The state is at fault for not discouraging delusions and, in particular, for lending credence to those delusions by allowing ‘faith schools’.

    Your comment about ‘lunatic Sweden’ and the Third Reich suggests a failure in your own education.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, brother; pass the pretzels.

  • Dwon

    Just look at the history of N.Ireland if you want to see where dividing up society by religion gets you, it certainly isn’t a peaceful cohesive society. Religion is a private choice for the individual which they should be free to make but to keep that freedom religion must be kept out of the state. I am the product of Catholic junior school and the more I was made to study the bible and listen to Nuns and Priests the more contradictory and ridiculus it all sounded.

  • ladyvamp

    OMG!!! What a scary lot. I had a catholic education in Kent from the age of 5 to 18. I studied all the sciences’ up to O’level and passed them all, I was also taught sex education and a teacher (an ex nun) would with raised voice say “if you are going to have sex, then for God’s sake get protected” – we were in year 10.

    A few nuns taught me and I have to say that they were lovely gentle women. Yes, we did have mass weekly at school but this was optional. We were taught that being a Catholic meant that we took to core values of love and forgiveness into every aspect of our lives, we were also taught the importance of social justice. We were encouraged to be politically aware and proud to be a woman. I will always remember a teacher (who was Catholic) telling us that a woman can do any job.

    It does sadden me that some people have had bad experiences at RC schools. I fully intend for my own daughter to go to my old secondary school, as I know she too will have the same positive experience.

  • Guest

    Gosh there’s nothing like a Catholic education topic to stir up a hornet’s nest is there.
    My 8 year old son goes to a Catholic school which he loves and which has provided wonderful support to him (he is autistic). The school was chosen less from a desire for a Catholic education but more for my familiarity with the school (3 nieces had gone through there and my sister works as a TA there). My son is taught about the Bible, he asks questions and I answer them as honestly as I can. I find it interesting here that many people appear NOT to be Catholic yet have gone out of their way to find this site and rubbish the Bible or the faith which is something I would never dream of doing. Respect for other faiths is important and we all find our own way with spirituality or not as the case may be.
    Catholic schools are a different kettle iof fish to the ones which existed many years ago. My aunt told terrible tales of the abuse she suffered as a schoolgirl in the 1940s under the Nuns who taught her – she never went into a church again because she says they ruined it for her.
    My son on the other hand is NOT taught by Nuns but by teachers who may or may not have a Catholic background.
    The two Nuns I have met are both active and caring people – one of whom is very outspoken about the Catholic church’s attitude to women both now but more so in the past.
    Me – I have progressed from Atheism, paganism and now consider myself Catholic with an opinion that Catholic schools have a place as do other faith schools such as Muslim schools with strong leadership which protects our children from the extremism and isolation which exists for childrern of faith in non-faith schools.

  • Anoymous

    What good has a secular education done? Look at any of the modern problems: Abortion, euthanasia, climate change and the Catholic Church is one of the very few institutions that is actually willing to act on what it says. The government advocates secularist approaches to education and that has caused teenage pregnancy rates to skyrocket, morality to become non-existant in schools and people thinking that we can do whatever we like simply because we have the technology to do it. Seeing as none of these problems existed before secularism I’ll take “indoctrination” by a church that actually believes in something over secularists who have no morals whatsoever without hesitation.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry to reply a week late but your answer was not very funny.I have suffered from i all my life but fortunately and have been able to rise above it. To deliberately refrain from teaching sex and science correctly should not be allowed in any school and these new schools are being handed the freedom to go back to the ‘good old days’ which I thought had disappeared forever.

    I found your reply distasteful and patronizing. And you are supposed to be a Christian who gives a good example to others of how to behave.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps Mr Grove should watch YouTube Dispatches Lessons in Hate & Violence Part 4 before handing complete control the religious.

    This documentary is a good example of what is happening now and Mr Grove should put a stop to it, not encourage child abuse.

    I speak from personal experience in this area, Nuns could be just a bigoted and mentally cruel. I was terrified of them. Eventually my father rescued me.

  • Catholic Schoolmaster

    A religious education can be indoctrination; but it need not be. A secular education can be indoctrination; but it need not be. Indoctrination is an education that aims at inculcating teachings – be they sacred or secular – without providing that development of intellect that gives to equipment to discern that the teachings are true, or are false. Science can be taught as indoctrination, in the absence of teaching proper method; so can history; so can Christian doctrine. This is bad.

    An authentic Catholic education both teaches doctrine thoroughly and systematically, but also develops the intellectual equipment vigorously. The aim is to produce adults who both believe and know why they believe (this was eloquently expounded by Cardinal Newman). By developing intellect, we run the risk that it will be misused; we take that risk.

    Has this sometimes been practised imperfectly? For sure; by Catholics, Protestants, atheists, and all. But look both at the principles taught by the Church, and at the history of Catholic education through the ages, and its well nigh impossible to doubt the church’s commitment to education which develops the intellect, shows proper respect to secular studies and methods, and aims to develop the whole man.

  • Catholic Schoolmaster

    If you believe that science can in some way ‘prove’ for sure that there was no Adam and Eve, then you clearly have been indoctrinated – and not by Catholicism, but by some second rate substitute for real science.

    If Catholics were attempting to indoctrinate, they must be doing it fairly ineffectively. You’re the proof of that!

  • Catholic Schoolmaster

    Every child deserves an education free from superstitition; agreed.

    If you think that secular education is free of superstition, then you sadly either have little experience of it, or little discernment of what constitutes superstition. Modern secular education is rife with superstititions and pseudo-science, of many kinds.

    If you want a superstition-free education, your local church school would be a better bet than the bog-standard secular comp.

  • Anonymous

    If you want a superstition-free education, your local church school would be a better bet than the bog-standard secular comp.

    You have obviously not been the recipient of a true faith school education. I experienced one for 8 years. My formal education was appalling and in fact one nun has apologized. They thought they were doing an excellent job. I let my convent as the nuns thought it inappropriate that a non catholic should win the RE prize. I was a child of a mixed marriage so they lost my exams papers. I wen from first in class to almost last. The nun in question said I should of my disappointment up to God.

    My father on reading my report said all my brains were in my feet and sent me to ballet school where I received the education of a lifetime. The nuns complained that I could have gone to Oxford and the school was run by a Jewess. If my father had known I should never have had the opportunity of my life.

    Give me the’ bog standard secular school’ every time.

  • Anonymous

    How do you know I have ‘no morals’ because I am a non believer? I certainly would not deny condoms to a person in danger of contacting HIV Aids, I would not hide abuse of children and I should not excommunicate the mother, doctor and a hospital of a eight year old child expecting twins who was in danger of death, who had been raped by her father who was not excommunicated.

    Basic sex education is the right of every child.Lac of it causes the problem which is why 4000 women from Southern Ireland travel abroad every year for abortions. I agree that this should not happen.

  • Anonymous

    There is no doubt that DNA can prove that the biblical ‘Adam & Eve’ of Genesis do not exist. Even the Pope realizes this. This is not my fault. However my convent education taught me that ‘Adam & Eve’ were the first humans created by God and that they committed the Original Sin for which every child of Adam & Eve must atone. This was and still is an historical event and has to be believed like the Assumption. See your catechism.

    The problem is Adam & Eve never could have committed Original Sin!

    Yes my 8 year indoctrination was a failure mainly because I had access to information the nuns did not have, namely a television, I saw Belsen at the age of four in 1947 and I knew there was no ‘loving God’.
    One nun even insisted that I acknowledge a gnome called Red Cap who hated girls who could not spell ‘beautiful’. I spent the afternoon on top of my desk because I would not admit the presence of such a gnome. Gave me time to think – if sister was wrong about the gnome she might be wrong about God too. Not much difference both tyrants.

    Is this education?

    However I do know enough to realise if there is no ‘Adam & Eve’ the rest is superfluous. Willing to discuss this.

  • Anonymous

    This was not my experience. My convent based Catholic education was a disgrace. However the nuns were so terrifying and tyrannical that nothing that life throws at me could ever be worse. It taught me how to deal with injustice. I spent much of my life on my desk, in the corner or outside the door for asking for proof on invisible creatures one of which as I stated in a comment above was a Red Genome who sat on the French windows. All the class had to demure to this unseen tyrant which was really no different from the unseen tyrant in church. The result was the same punishment if you did not conform.

    The through teaching of Catholic doctrine eight years of at least two hours a day means I have a superb religious education and I can see the major flaw and that is there is no ‘Original Sin’. It could not be proved in my day but it can today. I was right!

    There is nothing in my Catholic Education of which the Vatican can be proud. I would not inflict it on my worst enemy and thanks to the nuns I am not afraid to say so.

    Lastly most of the nuns in question have left the order. The nun who mentally abused me left and married. She took out her sexual repression on us. She did the right thing. She should never have been married to the church. It was not good for her or us. One day I shall tell my story but as her husband is dying now is not the moment.

  • gregoryvii

    And you will never, ever, have any of that in the Holy Catholic Church! So, you must go somewhere else to get the things you desire. The door is held open for you.

  • Anonymous

    You were lucky. I was not! My nuns were not lovely gentle people. They were zealots in the name of God. Just depends who is in charge. Today the state has a great say in schools but the new regulations will mean that the Church will have more say and will return to the type of education I received. So watch out.

    The nun is question who gave you that sex advise was right but was going against the teaching of the Vatican as you well know. No birth control.

    The nuns of my day repressed as they were did eventually rebel. Only one has remained in the order the rest left and most married.

    I too have done well in life but I should have done better if I had not had to deal a tyrannical unseen God in the sky who as it turns out never created the humans who committed Original Sin. As a member of Homo Sapiens I am not guilty!

  • Anonymous

    Well said. Many people confuse religion with race. The two are completely different. The problem is with the Jews as if you are born of the Tribe of Israel it is your race as well as religion. This can be difficult but Muslims no it is not their race but their chosen religion.

    The only thing to do is to point out that the Abrahamic religion are built on a flawed concept and hope on day the followers will wake up. In the meantime we must struggle on.

  • Anonymous

    I hope you feel proud of your reply. Discrimination against women is against the Human Rights Charter, that religions are allowed a dispensation is an anomaly that will gradually change. Women are leaving the RC Church in droves and no wonder.

    Don’t worry No ‘Adam & Eve’, No’ Original Sin’ and so need for a Catholic Education.

  • Anonymous

    Have a look at YouTube Dispatches Lessons in Hate & Violence Part 4 and then justify letting Faith Schools regulate themselves. If that had happened in a state school the teachers would be in prison.

    By the way I have read the Quran. The section on Jesus and his crucifixion, is it chapter 5? was most enlightening.

  • Anonymous

    The documentary annoys me. The comments written have annoyed me more, you’ve watched a hour long documentary and you think you’ve got Islam and Muslims figured out? You don’t know the half of it to be honest, a few people cant represent a religion. I’d love to see a documentary on a churches, temples,gurdwaras or synagogues. I’m sure there’s bad aspects of all these places but really doubt that they would make it on air.Don’t just judge on something you know so little about. The documentary although proving sight full is causing more grief then good.
    Head teacher Mujahid Aziz said the school had been misrepresented, and the school had nothing to hide. The programme had completely misrepresented the school’s teachings, Mr Aziz said. Out of two years of teachings, the programme makers had taken a few incidents and shown them again and again, he said. “It’s a clear misrepresentation of what we actually do,” Mr. Aziz claimed. The media seems to be always on us.

    I watched this programme and thought it was grossly biased reporting. It stood on the side of the EDL and David Cameron’s witch hunt against all those Muslims from segregated communities and understood nothing about the reality of living in poor communities in the north of England. Since we can’t all live in tolerant cities like Oxford, then we need to take some time to understand what it’s like living amongst impoverished Brits. Impoverished by unemployment, drugs, underage sex, racism and a nostalgia for a past before Pakistanis lived here. Would anyone from Oxford want to be mixing with ‘them sort’ of people? Probably not. Why should we forced to befriend them, when they hate us and have always hated us. Why not stop blaming Muslims for everything and ask yourself the question – how many Muslims have I bothered to get to know? To tolerate? To understand? Secondly, it is not illegal to smack children. If you mark them, that’s another issue. None of these children were marked. It is their parents who should have the last say, not me, you or Tazneed Ahmad or John Ware BBC Panorama.

    Despatches is clearly trying every thing to turn people away from islam. why don’t they show the child abuse that goes on in western schools. it was only a few years ago the head masters used to do the same thing.but however islam is the fastest growing faith in the whole wide world. whys that i wonder? maybe because its the truth and people what to no the truth.

    Dispatches on Channel 4 TV showed in a high praised state funded Muslim school that children as young as 11 are being taught to keep away from Hindu and non-believers, and turned against Jews and Christians. why no protests about jewish schools.they preach the same racial intolarance.
    The entire old testament is basically the jews saying we can kill anyone coz we are superior, and the sad thing is they actually did kill everyone they could(they said they did), and the Christians plain old ignore this fact. Jesus cared so much about non jews he never left Palestine.

    The program made me proud of mosque schools. Out of 2000 mosque & Muslims supplementary schools, you were able to spot only two schools and two teachers who were hitting physically students or teaching hate. You kept going for 4 years but had to reshow the same clips several time because you could not collect many to confirm your theory. we will try to improve. The percentage of churches and state schools who sexually abuse children and scar them for life are countless. Your program only create hate and division within the community when you generalize from two incidents. what a wasted money & years of your team work. Such dangerous dispatches should be banned to protect our community. A report from the NSPCC, claims that, “One in four people in the UK, aged between 18 and 24, claims to have experienced severe violence, sexual abuse or neglect as a child”. This illustrates that child abuse is still, regrettably, endemic in British society and is not unique to Muslim institutions. “Such abuse is to be condemned wherever and whenever it takes place and needs a multi-agency approach to tackle it, Muslim schools will continue to put the protection and well-being of our children at the top of the list of priorities, but we can’t do it alone and it is both unreasonable and unjust to focus on Muslim institutions in the way that Dispatches has done.”
    A lot of the issues shown happen in a lot of state run schools across all religious and class affiliations but you just want to undermine and misrepresent Islam by parading a few Idiots who obviously haven’t understood Islamic teachings properly but apply cultural practices. Islam is the only system that welcomes people of all colour,creed,class,status,race and background Peace.

    This programme seemed to fuel the already existing anti-Muslim campaign that has been running over the last few years. It would be interesting to know who the programme was funded by as the views and the portrayal were extremely biased. In all parts of society there will always be extreme views but instead of tarnishing a whole community with the bracket of anti-integration or anti British, the extremists should be dealt with accordingly. It is a shame that the point of the programme was to expose the unacceptable growing hatred that is being preached within these select schools. Unfortunately instead of tackling this issue the programme only seemed to be hypocritical by in its own way preaching hatred against Muslims and tarnishing a whole community on the actions of an uneducated small minority. Could this be a show of anti –Islamic propaganda in modern day society?
    There are sinister agendas at work in Western nations and I wonder if they are using Islam to foment trouble?

    On the other hand BBC and Channel 4 TVs have never shown that Muslim children have been victim of Paki-bashing for the last 60 years in British schooling. They have been victim of racism, bullying and discrimination. Schools, LEAs and DEF tried their best to hide this kind of abuse under the carpet.Indiscipline, bullying, incivility, binge drinking, drug addiction, gun and knife crimes, teenage pregnancies and abortion are part and parcel of British schooling. Majority of schools encourage young children to have sex and abortions. Muslim community sees the West as decadent and immoral. They will see West as morally bankrupt animals, needing to be trained.

    These are the reasons why majority of Muslim parents would like to send their children to Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. Only less than 5% attend Muslim schools and more than 95% keep on attending state and church schools to be mis-educated and de-educated by non-Muslim monolingual teachers.

    British schooling is the home of institutioonal racism and British teachers are chicken racist. Non-Muslim teachers are not role models for the Muslim children during their developmental periods. British schooling has been in the process of producing racist young generations, who not only hate each other but also hate those who are differnt in colour and creed. Due to racism in British schooling, young Muslim children are unable to develop self-esteem and self-confidence. All of them suffer from identity crises. They do not know where they belong. In the name of integration, they find themselves cut off from their cultural roots and are unable to enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry. Pakistani children suffer more than others. Majority of them leave schools with low grades. They are unable to enjoy the beauty of Urdu literature and poetry. There is a dire need that bilingual Muslim children should be educated in state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.

    There are hundreds of state and church schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be opted out as Muslim Academies.
    Iftikhar Ahmad
    London School of Islamics Trust

  • Anonymous

    Judging by your comment, it seems that you consider yourself to have an understanding of why you believe in your religion, and do not think that you have involuntarily succumbed to religious indoctrination, though such an opinion could also be the result of successful indoctrination. With effective indoctrination the victims are not aware of it, and the indoctrinators themselves may be unaware that what they are doing would be classed as indoctrination.

    In your case, one could test this by asking you to write down the reason why you believe in your particular religion (as opposed to any other religion or none), in plain English (rather than in Theologese). If you refuse on the basis that you would have to write a whole book in order to be able to explain it, I would ask why similar published attempts always turn out to be compendiums of fallacies. (The book ‘The Dawkins Delusion’ by the McGraths is an example.)

    By the time that infants start school, they may have already been primed in religion, at home or in nursery school, if only by being allowed to believe that belief in a deity is not irrational. Schools that introduce or reinforce the idea by imposing collective worship, day after day, might not be aware of just how much harm they are doing; schools of a religious nature will think that they are doing good, and will say that religious faith is a good thing. They somehow believe that it is virtuous to believe something is true when there is no evidence to support it. Once such irrationality has been instilled, there is no limit to the rubbish that can be built on it – miracles, virgin births, heaven and hell, answering of prayers, resurrection, etc. etc. You admit that Catholic education both teaches doctrine thoroughly and systematically. In doing so, how can they possibly teach those parts of other subjects that oppose that doctrine? You think that you have been taught how to rationally explain your beliefs? It is clear, then, that you were taught the pseudo-rationality that is exhibited in all the so-called proofs that God exists. The vigourous development of intellectual equipment that you refer to is just another myth. The Pope regularly demonstrates his lack of reason, so why should we expect Catholic schools to be any better? The Catholic Church is committed to mis-education designed to enslave the whole man.

    Your use of the term ‘secular studies’ is a give-away. The Pope, and many religious people, mis-use the word ‘secular’. The Pope sees secularism as an evil. If you look up the meaning of secularism, you will see that it is the Pope who is evil in proclaiming his superiority to all non-Catholics and his desire to elliminate secularism.

  • Catholic Schoolmaster

    “You consider yourself to have an understanding of why you believe in your religion, and do not think that you have involuntarily succumbed to religious indoctrination.” Correct.

    “Such an opinion could also be the result of successful indoctrination.” It could. One other hand, it might be the result of study and reflection. How can any of us, when we have considered an issue carefully, and made a decision based on what we think is impartial, be absolutely sure we haven’t been influenced by self-interest, or conditioning? The best we can do is to use the intellectual equipment at our disposal, and be rigorously honest with ourselves.

    Speaking personally, integrity in belief requires me to apply to my religion the same standards of evidence that I would apply to any other important matter in life, and I’ve attempted to apply the full force of my own training in mathematics and philosophy to the Catholic faith. I am personally satisfied that the Catholic faith is a reasonable faith – not in conflict with reason. I could not in good conscience adhere to a religion that I believed was contrary to reason. I speak of nobody else; no doubt both believers and unbelievers have their own justifications for their positions, some good, some bad.

    I respect those who have reached a different conclusion in all good faith. I have little respect for unbelievers who parrot the latest dogma from the likes of Dawkins, and haven’t gone to the effort of passing the content through their brains in the same way that I expect of myself with regard to faith. In my own experience, bigotry and prejudice are rife among self-professed unbelievers – I can only recall knowing well one single atheist who applied to his atheism the rigorous standards I would like to see. The rest have been prejudiced, indoctinated, or parroting second-hand popular literature.

    While I’m about it, I have little respect for the trash produced by Dawkins. He may be a good scientist – I presume he is – but his grasp of the philosophical arguments surrounding religion would get him laughed out of court in a school philosophy exam. His book purports to be an honest enquiry; in fact, having failed even to make the attempt to understand the arguments of his opponents, it fundamentally lacks integrity. This would not matter if it was billed as what it is – a manual of devotion for members of his atheist/secularist religion; all religions have room for books of piety for their members. But to present it as a work of science or philosophy is frankly dishonest.

    What do you mean by indoctrination? Does it mean the same as ‘teaching what you have reasonable grounds to believe is the truth’? Surely not, because otherwise most of education would be indoctrination. Doesn’t it rather mean something like: inclucating ideas or practices by dishonest means, or by highly pressured psychological techniques, or without any attempt to justify the reasonableness of the beliefs?

    If I’m right that that is what indoctrination means, then there is no more reason for a church schooling to be indoctrination than an entirely irreligious schooling. A Catholic education aims, delivered properly, not only at teaching the content of the faith, but at developing the intellectual equipment to enable pupils to sift evidence, examine their own motives, and reach honest, principled conclusions. Obviously I hope that my pupils will use this equipment to reach the same conclusions that I have reached; but they may not. So long as they are in good faith, I wish them well. No doubt, belonging to the church and participating in its rituals and traditions can provide an inbuilt bias; the lapsation rate suggests that it is not to the extent of indoctrination, since many have in fact given up their religion.

    You misunderstand what I mean by ‘secular’ studies. I was simply using it in the sense of ‘all studies apart from religion’ and my point was that these various disciplines should be respected in their own right and not deformed by any religious or irreligious bias. That’s a different meaning than ‘secularism’ (to which I am of course opposed, but it’s a different thing to what I meant.)

  • Anonymous

    “How can any of us, when we have considered an issue carefully, and made a decision based on what we think is impartial, be absolutely sure we haven’t been influenced by self-interest, or conditioning? The best we can do is to use the intellectual equipment at our disposal, and be rigorously honest with ourselves.”

    I roughly agree with the above, though I think the best we can do is more than you have stated. For one thing, if we reach a different conclusion to somebody else, it may be possible to discuss it with them to try to identify the source of disagreement. That is, unless the area of contention is a matter of (religious) faith for one or both parties. To a believer, faith overrides reason. That is the property of faith, it is something that is held in the face of opposing (‘testing’) arguments.

    Yet faith is no indicator of truth. How can it be when there are so many different faiths? Only one of them, at most, can be true. So saying that something is a matter of faith is not a valid argument. It is no help whatsoever in the search for truth. To declare that you have religious faith is almost to shut down debate. If someone presents a valid argument that contradicts your faith, then you conclude that he or she must be wrong – end of. They cannot reason with you, so the term ‘reasonable faith’ is an oxymoron. When you read ‘The God Delusion’, you naturally recognise that it contradicts your faith, so you conclude that Dawkins is wrong, even arrogant for presenting arguments that contradict your faith, even so very evil that you think he deserves to suffer torture for eternity. (But, of course, you are convinced that yours is a loving religion, so that’s alright then.)

    I have not yet heard anyone rationally challenge a single argument that Dawkins makes in ‘The God Delusion’. I hear many unqualified statements, such as your accusation that he writes trash. That is not a rational argument.

    Your accusation that unbelievers parrot the latest dogma also sounds familiar. I would have thought that, having studied mathematics, you would accept the independence of mathematical results. Given a particular definition of 2,+,=,and 4, then it is always the case that 2+2=4. Given the same definitions, any mathematician will come to the same conclusion independently; they are not necessarily parrotting the first person to add two to two. Likewise with logic. Given two premises, the same conclusions can be independently drawn from them. Except that if the conclusions contradict your faith, then suddenly the logician is a legitimate ad hominem target!

    By ‘indoctrination’ I mean imbuing with a doctrine. Indoctrinators are not intentionally misleading if they believe the doctrine and lack the wherewithal to recognise the doctrine for what it is, but how can teachers these days have failed to hear the existence of deities being questioned? If they tell their pupils that God definitely exists and must be worshipped, then they are abusing their pupils – it makes no difference if some do not succumb, or recover later. Indoctrination does not require highly pressured psychological techniques; frequent gentle reinforcement can be very effective because it may not be recognised as indoctrination.

    Since ‘faith schools’ do not have the evidence to justify their faiths, they resort to indoctrination. The very existence of faith schools contributes to this – it sends a message to parents that religious faith is approved by those who ought to know. There are a number of other subtle, and not so subtle, messages being sent out by the Establishment, even as we near the precipice of population-driven disaster.

    Pupils, and theologians, may draw all sorts of conclusions based on the premise that God exists, but if God does not exist, none of those conclusions are supported by that reasoning. Centuries of intensive effort have failed to prove that any deities exist, while mountains of evidence suggest that they don’t exist. (Some deities can be dismissed purely on logical grounds.) Since this contradicts Catholic doctrine, how can Catholic schools be unbiased?

  • Anonymous

    Surely if there is the hatred against Moslems that you claim, the answer is to tackle that hatred. Further segregation will only exacerbate that hatred. A determined refusal to integrate will exacerbate that hatred. But does it not surprise you that adherence to a religion that is anti-Jew, anti-Christian, anti-atheist, anti-gay, anti-female, anti-apostate, and anti- many British practices might generate some hatred? (Yes, I realise that other religions are also discriminatory – that is also reprehensible.) You say “Islam is the only system that welcomes people of all colour,creed,class,status,race and background”, but this is only if they convert to Islam. In other words, you want to completely overthrow the British way of life, and you complain about the resistance!

    We should hate injustice (not attempt to make the law less just), and I mean injustice to real beings, not imaginary ones.

    We should hate suffering (not relish it), and I mean in this world, not in an imaginary after-life.

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