Faith Schools: Why They Matter

Dan Bye, council member of the National Security Society who has previously spoken at my Skeptics in the Pub group, presented a talk to the Atheist Society on faith schools and why they are such a ridiculously bad idea.

Unfortunately such talks often end up preaching to the converted – the people who turned up were the people who already know faith schools are a scar on our education system whereas those who aren’t all that aware didn’t manage to make it down.

One point of debate I found though was whether you were morally responsible if you lied to get your child into a faith school (pretending to be religious) because it was the best school in the area. Ultimately, the answer is, yes, you are a bad person. But much like Mr Cameron, I can probably see why parents do it.

My parallel was that with some recent health issues, I am now cashing in on my private BUPA cover. Yet, I’m not really sure if I agree with the idea of private healthcare. Surely the ideal in our society should be that everyone has access to healthcare and you shouldn’t be able to buy a longer life?

It’s a bit of a hypothetical argument because of course you can – those who come from a more well off, well-educated background tend to have a healthier lifestyle, make more educated life choices and avoid manual labour and as a result, end up living longer. But ignoring the pragmatic truth, what would we want as an ideal for our society? Probably one in which your health was not compromised by the amount of money you have.

Ultimately we decided that it wasn’t the same thing – while I have BUPA cover, I also continue to make my contribution to taxes and therefore the NHS, and by using my BUPA cover to go private, I am actually freeing up more time for NHS staff to treat others.

But I didn’t have to rationalise myself into that position before I decided to use my BUPA cover. I just did it, because my health is more important to me, to the point where even if I decided I did morally disagree with it, I would have been happy to compromise my principles because when you’re having a medical crisis, it’s very hard to think about anything else other than getting better.

Similarly though, if I had a child, I suspect that my emotional drive which has allowed evolved life to flourish so well would quickly turn the override switch to make sure that I put the future of my own child ahead of any sense of moral duty.

So yes, lying to get your child into a faith school does make you a bad person. But I think I can understand why people do it.

P.S. Just so we’re clear, there is no evidence that faith schools do produce better results. This is only applicable if your local faith school happens to produce better results, which could be down to a number of factors, but faith almost certainly isn’t one of them.



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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 at 12:30 pm and is filed under Religion & Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.