Faith schools in the modern British state

Posted by Guest Blogger on Monday, 01 November 2004 11:13.

Americans who don’t realize how traditional complexities often linger in England in spite of the left/liberal tendency of British politics are surprised by the persistence of faith schools there. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, though, that the secular and multicultural commitments of the British state have now made faith schools an issue, or that the issue has its practical complexities that reflect something more general than peculiar English conditions.

The practical problem is that secular multicultural education is always bad, at least on any large scale, because schools of that kind can’t have educational goals that are more sustaining than pliability on the one hand and the effective pursuit of self-interest on the other. If the moral world consists solely of the conflicting purposes of various people, then you either teach children to do what they’re told or you teach them to get what they want. The results of such an outlook when applied to education are fundamental aimlessness, aggression, manipulation, boredom, stupidity, and general bad conduct. Everybody hates everybody, and nobody learns anything.

As it happens, C of E and Catholic schools have been around a long time and enroll maybe a quarter or third of English pupils. While their Christian quality is often attenuated, what’s there is enough to make a big difference in results. Tony Blair and his education advisors noticed that, so they made expansion of the system of faith schools a national goal. Since this is present-day England, that meant they had to offer equal state support to schools for other faiths, in particular Islam.

Then came September 11, and battles between Muslims and whites in the North of England. Various activists, organizations and deep thinkers who had never liked the idea came out denouncing faith schools as hotbeds of bigotry and educational apartheid. Proposals like quotas for atheists and infidels and other ways of loosening the religious connection and so taming the beast were put forward.

Tame the beast enough to make it multicultural, of course, and you recreate the problems of the general state schools. The issue goes to the heart of the contradictions of the established order. Faith, and the local cohesion of substantive communities, are offenses against that order, and its admiring servants loathe and would love to eradicate them. On the other hand, faithlessness and incoherence don’t work as a social matter, and ersatz faiths like “tolerance” can only fill the gap in secondary ways. They can’t provide the love that makes the world go ‘round.

In this as in all ways the left/liberal state is parasitic. It can’t motivate the direction and cohesion, the public spirit and standards, that it needs to exist. That means it can’t be as enthusiastic as it would like in rooting out the bigotries (as it sees them) that are necessarily intertwined with things necessary to it. Hence the bad conscience of liberals, a bad conscience that results from their failure to be more inhuman than the constitution of reality allows.



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