There is an image of the ostrich born out of the cartoons we watched as kids. It’s the idea that it would bury it’s head in the sand at the first sign of any threat under the notion that if it cannot see the threat then there is no problem.

But growing up I found out that the ostrich has a less stupid survival mechanism. It is not only fast as a horse but also  can kick you to death. Chances are it’s not likely to hide in the sand. Not when it can outrun most things and stamp most things that can catch it.

But the imagery stuck.

Hiding your head in the sand to avoid all the ills of the world doesn’t work. And this is seen in two schools in the UK that are both in trouble for thinking that simply because they couldn’t see “us” that we weren’t paying attention to them.

The Madinah school in Derby is to be closed after a review by OFSTED (the UK’s Education Watchdog). The exact reasons are unknown but it has to be pretty major to warrant such a closure. But one of the main reasons for the review? The Madinah School was asking female staff to wear the Niqab and enforcing a “Muslim” Dress code using taxpayer money which is “unacceptable”. In addition? There were stories about kids being forced to wear the Niqab and segregation by gender within classes.

This is despite the Madinah school taking 50% of it’s students from Non-Muslim backgrounds. There may have been intereference with basic education criteria and other offences but for now this is what we exactly know.

And another school is facing the threat of closure.

Yesodey Hatorah Jewish Voluntary Aided girls’ secondary school is being investigated formally after students asked it to follow up unconfirmed reports that teachers had redacted questions in this year’s GSCE science exam.

The precise questions that were blacked out has not been revealed by OCR, but it is believed to be questions on evolution that would sit uneasily with Orthodox Jewish Creationists.

The investigation confirmed pupils were left disadvantaged by being unable to access 3 marks out of 75 for a unit in a higher GCSE science exam, and 1 mark out of 75 for a unit on a lower paper.

Yesodey Hatorah is a Charedi school. And has “problems”. It used to be a private sector school until the new faith initiative rules came into force and accessed public sector funding (Think of it as the voucher scheme) but a lot of ideas coming out of this school seem “harmful”.

In addition to the creationism (on my quid? Fuck No!) being flogged here there is a distinct misogynistic vibe. Girls attending Yesodey Hatorah are told to not go to university and gain further qualifications. According to Rabbi Pinter: “Our experience, is that the better educated girls turn out to be the most successful mothers. For us, that’s the most important role a woman plays.” Girls in this school are being crippled by an ethos that effectively is designed to make them think there is nothing outside of homemaking and motherhood.

Which begs the question as to why we are supporting these schools at all? Why are we using tax payer money to support schools that are not places of learning but religious indoctrination?

These schools effectively create enclaves of religious and ethnic lines and provide a breeding ground for extreme viewpoints. How many Christian, Muslim and Jewish faith schools are flogging creationism? How many are doing what the Madinah school did? How many are effectively crippling children’s futures by restricting them to a narrow stereotypical aspect of life?

We are putting religious indoctrination before education and at the expense of public funds.

The idea that religious belief is more important than science is anathema to a nation that puts Darwin on it’s currency. The usage of dogma over science effectively creates a system where religious schools can make up stuff rather than teach to a basic standard.

And the community has closed up over the school. The wall of silence effectively keeping officials from finding out about this since this happened months ago.

This is not upsetting religious people’s sensitivities. No matter what the Charedi think, Evolution is scientific fact and if they don’t wish to educate young girls in science then they shouldn’t have a school set out specifically for them. Likewise, education is available to all equally and the Niqab cannot be forced onto people. It is not an appropriate school uniform any more than forcing Muslim children to wear a crucifix or the holy ash of Hindus. None of these are necessary and encouraging these schools effectively cripples the future generations by teaching them in exclusive groups that doesn’t learn to deal with a varied society.

Children’s education in the UK is being compromised by the influx of religion and we must draw the line in the sand today and now. Stop the Faith Schools. It is a failed experiment. Let education be education. Teach reality not fantasy, we are already seeing massive problems in education without adding fantasy to the mix.

At no point has this ever worked beneficially. The USA is filled with stories of religious schools making frankly terrible educative decisions. Why on earth must we make the same mistake before we realise how stupid it is? Let us not cut the costs of education.

Education and the future is the last place we should be making concessions. And it’s the last place we should be encouraging fantasies to be taught as reality.

End the faith school, nothing good has come out of them. They teach our children to ignore reality. To bury their head in the sand and then expect everything to work when they grow up. They are in effect killing the possible futures of many of these children by making it harder to achieve certain goals.


  1. smrnda says

    One thing that school should be about is learning how to live in a pluralistic society; religious schools are totally at odds with that mission in that it’s usually about keeping kids from ‘outside influences’ and preventing them from free access to information. In the US, the push is probably just that some people hate pluralism and want tribalism.

  2. TGAP Dad says

    Maybe OFSTED should come and enforce standards in US schools! Since the republicans like privatizing so much, maybe we could contract with them for it.

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