New Internationalist

Schools of belief

November 2004

If religion is always viewed from outside, and never from within, it can never be understood as it exists for those who practise it.

One example from many debatable or unbalanced statements about religion was made by Marilyn Mason (‘Suffer little children’, NI 370). As Education Officer of the British Humanist Association, she is employed to argue that religious schools are a bad thing. She does this by reference to a single critical sentence from an inspectors’ report on a Scottish Muslim school. A quarter of all state primary schools and six per cent of state secondary schools in England are run by the Church of England (the proportion rises when other religious providers are added). The great majority of these meet with the warm approval of Her Majesty’s Inspectors, and of parents, which is why they are often oversubscribed. Few, if any, barring the one cited by Ms Mason, are criticized because they hinder freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Such a prejudiced analysis fails completely to understand why parents, religious and irreligious, send their children to religious schools.

Stephen Plant Cambridge, England

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 373 This column was published in the November 2004 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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