Sectarian education in UK

Here’s one from the vaults – a post I composed, then set aside and forgot about. [Edit: As originally posted, the following text implies that Accord was launched in September 2009. It was September 2008.]

Living in the UK, I am often lulled by the generally sensible nature of the people into thinking that the whole country is run sensibly.

One thing that occasionally snaps me out of that is the thoroughly non-secular nature of government here. One of the two legislative houses, the House of Lords, is not elected. It’s not even appointed by elected officials. And in that house, 26 of the 746 seats are reserved for officials from the state religion. Not a large proportion – about 3%. But still, how can even this be considered reasonable in a modern democracy? (I’ll leave aside the fact that the nominal head of state – the monarch – is also the nominal head of the church. If she were to try to exercise any real power in either capacity, I expect she’d be in real trouble.)

In addition to this, the government seems to be encouraging more and more sectarian division by allowing religions to set up separate schools for their own sets of believers. Remember, this is a nation that only a couple of decades ago was embroiled in the quaintly-named “Troubles” – a violent sectarian strife involving terrorists and police actions and lasting inter-religious frictions.

Fortunately, it is not just non-religious Canadian residents here who think this is foolish. My friend This Humanist has pointed me to a coalition of various religious and non-religious individuals and groups campaigning for British children to be educated in an inclusive rather than divisive way.

Check out the Accord Coalition, launched on September 1st [2008]. This should be an important issue for all parents, and for anyone who expects to be affected by the generation being educated now. Will they be taught alongside children from different faith backgrounds, learning to cooperate despite differences? Or will they learn that the appropriate way to deal with differences is to stay well away from anyone unlike themselves? What lessons do you want tomorrow’s decision-makers to learn?

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2 Responses to “Sectarian education in UK”

  1. berenike Says:

    Yeah! You're so right! I look at the lower house and weep, thinking 'if only, if only the upper house were also elected, it too could be so beautiful an example of honesty, integrity, and concern for the good of the country regardless of self or party'.At least with the hereditary peers we had what chance/fate/providence gave us, not what we deserve. And they were independent of the government. Nor, whatever their faults, had they all had to go through the character-deforming process of fighting through petty power structures to get their seat. Ever heard the phrase "noli episcopare"? Or read what Plato says about those who want power? Have a look at our MPs.

  2. Timothy Mills Says:

    You're right: democracy isn't perfect.But with democracy, we as a society can work toward the ideal: an engaged electorate, choosing the best representatives, and holding them accountable.With any alternative, the majority of people can't even work to improve things.Call me an idealist, but I'd rather have a system that gives people what they deserve than one that ignores what anyone deserves and arbitrarily puts power in the hands of a few privileged men.

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