Tag Archives: Christian pedagogy

THE ARCHBISHOPS’ LETTER TO PARISHES

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written a letter to parishes, challenging the thinking of Christians about the upcoming election.

Education features throughout their letter, acknowledging its significance in nurturing a strong, stable society and raising some relevant questions about our education service. They state: ‘If our shared British values are to carry the weight of where we now stand and the challenges ahead of us, they must have at their core, cohesion, courage and stability. Cohesion is what holds us together’. Education can be a powerful force for nurturing cohesion, but it shouldn’t be used as a tool of force. Instead of seeking to impose further centralised control over curriculum content, the government should be acknowledging and celebrating the diversity of our education service, the role that the Church has played in its formation over centuries, and the right of parents to choose the education which most closely matches their parenting values. Cohesion is not uniformity – cohesion is living at peace with difference and showing respect for fellow humanity. These should be the British values which we share in a pluralist society.

The letter calls for ‘education for all’. For this to be effective, it requires us to acknowledge that we are all uniquely created in the image of God, with different gifts, skills and aspirations. To achieve meaningful education for all which nurtures individuals and promotes human flourishing, we must stop the current ‘one size fits all’ approach to education. We should create an environment in which schools of all types, including Christian schools, can thrive without fear.

We are called to act with courage, which ‘also demands a radical approach to education, so that the historic failures of technical training and the over-emphasis on purely academic subjects are rebalanced’. It is time to reverse an education culture of constant high stakes measurement, which values nothing but results and predictions of future economic prosperity. We need to develop an education service which focuses on the holistic development of people. Careers education, for example, should be about reflecting on individual identity, values, interests, aspirations and ambitions, rather than measuring the effectiveness of careers education purely on consideration of maximising income.

The Archbishops further write: ‘To our concern for housing, health and education as foundations for a good society, we add marriage, the family and the household as foundational communities, which should be nurtured and supported as such, not just for the benefit of their members, but as a blessing for the whole of society’. Yet the new Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) requirements, made statutory in the Children and Social Work Bill that received royal assent this week, require schools to teach all relationships as being equal.

There is a growing body of evidence that children raised in stable families with two parents who are committed to each other in marriage are much more likely to achieve their potential academically, socially and personally. Yet despite highlighting the importance of marriage and family in the past, the government does not privilege them in any of the new policy proposals. Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, recently called for faith schools to reach ‘common ground’ with the LGBT community on sex education. Why? Faith schools should be allowed to genuinely teach according to the tenets of their faith. Further, the right of parental opt out should be extended across the whole of the RSE and Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) policies. To do otherwise is to open the door to state indoctrination on matters of morality and ethics.

Regarding the issue of assumptions of secularism, which now inform all education policy formation, the Archbishops state: ‘Contemporary politics needs to re-evaluate the importance of religious belief. The assumptions of secularism are not a reliable guide to the way the world works, nor will they enable us to understand the place of faith in other people’s lives’. This is nowhere more evident than in the teaching of science. Government advice states that ‘Any explanation or theory which holds that natural biological processes cannot account for the history, diversity and complexity of life on earth and therefore rejects the scientific theory of evolution cannot be permitted in science classes’. This limits open consideration of a range of theories about our origins, including creation.

Finally, the letter raises the issue of religious freedom, positing that, ‘The new Parliament, if it is to take religious freedom seriously, must treat as an essential task the improvement of religious literacy’. The RE Commission, a non-statutory body, is currently gathering evidence with a remit to make recommendations designed to improve the quality and rigour of religious education and its capacity to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain. Any changes to the framework or policy must acknowledge the religious diversity of Britain, the distinctiveness of each faith, the right of parents to make decisions about their child’s involvement in religious education and the right of schools to determine curriculum in a local context. We must avoid the imposition of a centralised curriculum, which is the route to totalitarian control. It is also time to put an end to the practice of safe spaces and no-platforming in further education institutions which limit the rights of Christians to express their views openly in the public square.

 

 

RAISING CHILDREN IN A DANGEROUS WORLD

Calls for compulsory PSHE and SRE are nothing new and the government is lobbied regularly about the issue from a range of sources. This week, the BHA’s Andrew Copson added yet another call, arguing that we are raising children in a dangerous world where compulsory SRE is necessary for their protection.

Reading the reasons that campaigners give is like reading a list of reasons to book in for self-defence classes: violence against women, abortion, porn, sexting, online grooming, abuse, forced marriage, FGM, sexual harassment and homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying. There are a whole range of issues there, none of which relates to sex as an expression of love within a stable relationship, which is the basis of family life and therefore of societal strength.

Whenever calls are made for compulsory SRE, the responsibility of one vital group of people is deliberately omitted – that of parents. The Bible is quite clear that parents are their children’s primary educators: Psalm 127:3 tells us that ‘Children are a heritage from the Lord’ a gift in His image, given to us by God to be nurtured, loved and raised to know God. Deuteronomy 6:6 tells us how we should teach our children: ‘These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up’. While parents often choose to entrust parts of this task to others, the responsibility ultimately rests with them to make a good choice and to help their children navigate a path through the many voices that clamour for their attention, particularly when it comes to matters of morality and relationships.

An increasingly secular state is eroding both this responsibility and right, and the push for compulsory SRE is part of this. One of the arguments is that this is necessary because some parents are abdicating their responsibility, leaving their children vulnerable. But that is not a justification for imposing a centralised curriculum on all children, particularly those whose parents want to protect their innocence until such time as they consider it right to talk about the many forms that abuse take.

Another powerful argument says that our children are in danger and that we need to teach them to protect themselves. But that, again, comes full circle to parental responsibility. Adults have created this dangerous world where children are exposed to explicit sexual information from an early age. The answer is easy – protect our children by creating a safe society, not by preparing them to live in a dangerous one. Except that to do that, adults have to accept limitations on their liberty and freedom to live as they wish.

But there’s another strand to the article, which actually has nothing to do with SRE, and that is the profiling of HBT bullying. The fact that this is now considered a necessary part of SRE is proof of how embedded the LGBT activist agenda has become. Copson argues that the role of Osfed in inspecting SRE is not viable because a BHA analysis of 2000 inspection reports showed that this form of bullying is only mentioned in 14% of the reports, although it is reported by 86% of secondary teachers.

The problem here is the lack of proper scrutiny of the data. That percentage of teachers may well have heard words like ‘gay’ being used inappropriately and, as with all name calling, should have dealt with it appropriately. But name calling does not constitute bullying. Nor does the mere perception of it. Bullying is planned, prolonged and persistent. When analysed using that definition, the figures look rather different. One study shows that in Year 9, when bullying is at its worst, only 6.2% of students who reported being bullied gave HBT bullying as the cause. The other 93.8% of those bullied gave a range of reasons, mostly relating to appearance, clothing or disability. You’re far more likely to be bullied for having red hair, than for being gay. So why should one group within a diverse society claim the bullying problem for its own?

The other argument is more subtle, but none the less corrosive, and that is the equalities agenda. The Equalities Act 2010 marks a significant departure in English law, because for the first time it establishes the protection of characteristics. English law is founded on person and property, dating from a time when there was a common understanding of personhood as being created in the unique likeness of God. The protection of characteristics offers an open door to identity politics and creates a hierarchy: that is not how God designed us to live.

So how can a Christian educator respond? The answer is to create genuine diversity in your classroom, not based on characteristics, but on personhood. Each student is uniquely made in the image of God, and deserving of respect not because of how they identify, or how they look, but because God loves them. In creating a context where each and every student is equally respected, accepted and valued just because, you are living out the principle of welcoming all in the name of God.

THE CASEY REPORT: TAKING RELIGION BACKWARDS

The recently published ‘Casey Review: a review into opportunity and integration’, raises some concerning issues, if you are a person of religious conviction. It’s even more concerning if you’re involved in teaching. Here’s why.

The report lays the blame for segregation and inequality at the door of what Casey describes as ‘less progressive religious communities’ who are ‘taking religion backwards and away from 21st century British values and laws’. You may think that doesn’t apply to you, but read on. Because when she was questioned about her report in an appearance before the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, this is how Louise Casey described those communities:

I do not really have any view on which religion it is that it is promoting those sorts of views, but they are not okay, in the same way that it is not okay for Catholic schools to be homophobic and anti-gay marriage. That is not okay either—it is not how we bring children up in this country. It is often veiled as religious conservatism, and I have a problem with the expression “religious conservatism”, because often it can be anti-equalities.’

Casey talks about the need to challenge or act on behaviours that fall into ‘grey’ areas ‘where one person’s religious conservatism is another’s homophobia’. She calls for an honest debate about these grey areas, although she simultaneously implies that anyone who disagrees with her is wrong, so clearly her mind is already made up about the purpose of any public discourse.

And this isn’t an incident isolated to someone speaking from personal prejudice – it’s a religiously illiterate view that prevails even at ministerial levels of government. This was an exchange that the Archbishop of Canterbury had with a senior politician recently:

Politician: ‘look at our British values, what have you got against the rule of law as a British value? I mean are you seriously going to tell me that I don’t call someone an extremist if they say that their faith is more important than the rule of law?’

ABC: ‘Well, you’ve got a real problem here because for me personally my faith is more important than the rule of law so you’ve got an extremist sitting in here with you…We do not believe as Christians that the rule of law outweighs everything else, we believe that the kingdom of God outweighs everything else.’

If that is what you believe, you are, by definition, an extremist. You are a religious conservative, so according to the Casey review you are anti-equalities. That means that you are breaking the law by adhering to a worldview at variance with secular liberalism. Again, you may not think it is relevant to you, but if you are a Christian teacher, it may soon become very relevant to you personally. You may be required to swear an oath that puts British values and the rule of law above everything else. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid likes Casey’s idea of a public oath and he plans to say more about it when he responds to her report later this spring.

The crux of the issue isn’t about actively promoting wilfully vague British values. It is whether, or not, you believe that the kingdom of God outweighs the rule of law. If you do, how does that inform your response to the liberal social orthodoxy to which everyone is increasingly required to conform?