Thursday, 26 August 2010

Faith School Menace

Richard Dawkins has a new documentary out called The Faith School Menace, and you can watch it too because it's available on YouTube in four parts (episode 1 can be accessed here).
This three quarters of an hour long documentary discusses the education scene in England, where state run faith schools are now a third of the overall number of schools. These schools are in the way of normal parents trying to send their kids to a nearby school, but they tend to have a reputation for being the best performing schools, too. Dawkins looks at these issues and ultimately confronts the big question, which is whether parents should have the authority to force their own faith on their kids or whether kids should be allowed to make their own minds up, uninterrupted.
The beauty of Dawkins' documentary is that it does not push Dawkins' views as the correct ones. While Dawkins does have the last word as the narrator, he does let those whose opinions contradict his to present their arguments uninterrupted, allowing viewers to make their own minds up. Things are quite different from the strident image many claim Dawkins to have.
I warmly recommend the Faith School Menace, mostly because of its relevancy to Australia where a similar problem exists. It's even worse here, with Labor promising 222 million dollars (!) to fund chaplains in government state schools that are supposed to be secular. On a personal basis, I liked Dawkins' documentary also because it raises the question of whether religion should be used as a tool to form a child's identity around (a matter I have discussed here after family members pressed me to celebrate my son's Bar Mitzvah so as to allow him to form a "proper" identity). According to Dawkins, an identity that is formed through religion is an identity that alienates its subject from people of all other religions. Granted, Dawkins' is a nice argument even if it would probably fall on deaf ears with the likes of my family that simply won't care. Obviously, there are many problems with our world that need fixing, and I'm glad Dawkins is there with the initiative.

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