Tuesday, 10 June 2014

I Am All For Extremism In Schools

Posted Wednesday 10th June 2014

I am all for extremism in schools

I am an extremist, I have extreme views on the education of our children and I impose my extreme beliefs on 1025 children I have systematically removed staff who do not share my extreme practices and I have insisted that all governors, recruited over the last 15 years , embrace fanaticism.

I have tried everything I currently know to extend my agenda into other schools and I am a member of organisations committed to the same revolutionary vision.

I'm looking for a whole herd of Trojan horses, skilled letter writers, spoof columnists and revolutionary cadres to spread the takeover.

Or as Bobby Dylan said, "I'm liberal but to a degree, I want everyone to be free."

The context for my confessions is the “Trojan Horse” scandal to hit 21 Birmingham schools. In March, an anonymous letter was made public which claimed to be a template illustrating how state schools could be taken over and pushed into adopting a more Islamic culture. The unsigned letter could be a provocative hoax - refers to "Operation Trojan Horse" as the name of the alleged conspiracy.

At a time of anti-foreigner sentiment spreading throughout our political parties this was a heaven-sent opportunity to scare us all about muslims. Into Birmingham went four investigation teams, including experts on terrorism, for God’s sake!

Schools that were judged good or outstanding by recent Ofsted inspectors are now labeled by Ofsted as inadequate. I’m not sure I can see much evidence, that’s evidence, of extremism but I do know that the judgments on the mainly muslim state schools have been made on criteria my colleagues and I, in mainly white state schools, have never heard of. And I have endured 7 such inspections.

The Birmingham schools reject the findings as “scaremongering and an unfair misrepresentation,” calling the whole investigation "a vicious and co-ordinated smear campaign.” Much has been made of a muslim woman’s failure to shake hands with an Ofsted Inspector. This was interpreted as a cultural thing rather than most teachers’ sensible approach to Ofsted.

However, with an education system unmonitored and split asunder to satisfy an ideological obsession there are bound to be opportunities for all kinds of nutters and if you let all kinds of people run their own schools you will get extremism, almost by definition.

Many people of all ethnicities are united by their opposition to homosexuality. Our great British values were upheld in law between 1987 and 2003 with the infamous Section 28 banning teachers from suggesting, “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

I find it hard to embrace the Old Testament punishment for adultery

“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbour, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”(Leviticus 20:10)

And I am very pleased that Mosaic Law was replaced when Jesus came along to preach love and forgiveness rather than stoning. John 8:7 recounts a woman accused of adultery being brought before Christ, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

Adulterous wives have been roundly condemned. Among the often severe Aztecs they were sometimes impaled. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks favoured amputation of the nose whilst the legal code of Mesopotamia , around 4000 years ago, provided drowning as a punishment. This was as much to do with husbands’ rights of ownership as sin, of course, and the Mormon religion encouraged men to be polygamous, though not women. For failing to worship her husband in the Manu tradition of Ancient India “the king shall cause her to be devoured by dogs in a place frequented by many.”

I think what I am trying to show is that societies can have some laws and punishments we now consider abhorrent, but they can and will change in a liberal society. They remain abhorrent. There are no static context free British values and I understand that values evolve with the maturity of a society. There is no place for Sharia Law in Britain but we need to respect British muslims into society, not ostracise, isolate, label and condemn them.

 In 2011, about one third of the 20,000 state funded schools in England were faith schools, approximately 7,000 in total, of which 68% were Church of England schools and 30% were Roman Catholic. There were 42 Jewish, 12 Muslim, 3 Sikh and 1 Hindu faith schools.

Are we really surprised that Muslims do some Islam related teaching, that their ethos may be a bit different to the going-to-mass-in-school-time Catholic faith schools? Do boys in Jewish faith schools wear the kippah, Sikhs turbans and Muslim girls the niqab? Surely the refusal to insist on secular state schools means we tolerate faith schools praising and proclaiming their own religion just a bit. Do we doubt that the Methodists, Greek Orthodox and United Reformed Church who all have state funding for their schools, sometimes go on a bit about what they consider the best bits of their faiths? Allow and encourage faith schools and we must accept that elements of separatism will pervade. The Quaker school might mention pacifism when talking of war, much to the distaste of those who glorify British wars. And as for the new Hindu Free school with a ban on sausages…

 If we segregate children by religion are we surprised they become segregated socially? Our school cook, Tina, said it better than me: “If you want a multicultural society our kids have got to grow up together.”
Why would an inclusive society want to separate our children from each other on religious grounds. There’s a nice little model of how this could work in Northern Ireland.

 98% of our state funded faith schools may refer to those tablets God gave to Moses. The 10 Commandments insist: Keep the sabbath holy, Do not covet thy neighbour’s wife, oxen or his other property. And I was brought up not to question the Holy Trinity the Virgin Birth the Ascension of Mary into heaven, The Resurrection, transubstantiation, Heaven and Hell, mortal sin and the infallibility of the Pope. Well…

Long ago
I was a 9 year old debutant altar server at Our Lady’s House in Willesden and at something near to 5.00 a.m the fallen women were already at work. I remember them as worn, timid and withdrawn young women very drably dressed scrubbing the floor. Many of you will be familiar with the recent films and fuss about the dire and inhumane treatment of women in the Magdalen’s Laundries throughout Ireland. Approximately 10,000 women are known to have entered a Magdalen Laundry from 1922 until the closure of the last laundry in 1996.

The homes cared for unwed mothers and other young women considered to be wayward. They endured a daily regimen that included long periods of prayer and enforced silence. Women were imprisoned in these institutions and kept from the embarrassed holy eyes of a catholic nation.

The vengeful Catholic Church would take their children from them.

On Wednesday 5th of June 2014 news broke of the discovery of the bodies of 796 children from one of these schools for the children of fallen women in Tuam, County Galway, my own mother’s homeland.

The children in these schools/homes were 5 times more likely to die as other children, undernourished and cruelly abused and neglected as the sins of the mothers were visited on innocent children. 796 very small skeletons of children who died in the home were found in a septic tank The Catholic Church buried these children by throwing them into a cesspit. I wonder if they recited Luke 18:16 “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God, “as they disposed of their bodies like worthless garbage.

The Bishop of Tuam says you can't impose the morality of 2014 Britain on 20th century Ireland. You can't judge people for previous behaviours. I guess the 1960s were a different time and we should let Jimmy Saville and the other paedophiles rest in peace. And let’s not go using our 21st century ideals to go on about the Holocaust.

My family were catholic. It was their job and their church’s job to teach me about being catholic. Parents have a right in the European Convention of Human Rights to bring up their children in the religion of their choice. However, they do not have a right to state funding for religious schools. I have nothing against what I know of the Hindu religion, and Muslims, Sikhs, the numerous Christian varieties, Jews and Anabaptists should all be free to worship as their religion and secular law dictate. But I am against all faith schools.

Let all schools educate about the similarities between religions, the fact that there are different views of religion. A little thought to town planning, to mixed housing provision to help create communities of people of all colours, who consider themselves British and who can celebrate their faith, or none, in a fair society based on good old British values: equality of opportunity, meritocracy, fair play and doing the right thing.

However, I don’t want to come across too democratic or liberal. Neither I nor my daughter, Scarlett, slept peacefully on hearing the Mass Grave in Galway story, sadness and anger ruining the night.

I hear that a priest wants to pray over the septic tank.

For whom shall we pray, who to bless and who to condemn? Upon whom should we wish eternal hellfire, to rot in hell - the nuns and priests, bishops and popes or the children they termed bastards?

Dennis O'Sullivan

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