Tackling education religion division

Boris Johnson has like all recent PMs vowed to heal division. This opinion piece, Barking & Dagenham Post 1 Jan 2020, stresses the importance of tackling the religious rift in our our schools.

“If Boris Johnson really wants to bring the country together he needs to address the religious rift in our schools.

Growing numbers of religious schools divide children based on parents’ faith. Further division arises from the archaic requirement that schools hold a daily act of exclusively Christian worship, successfully challenged in court by Humanists in 2019. Another concern is teaching of anti-scientific creationism by fundamentalists.

Then there is Sex and Relationships Education, always set to be a big issue in 2020. Lobbying by Humanists helped secure rules making SRE compulsory from September. But opt-outs mean many will miss out. Content is not compulsory, and it doesn’t apply to all schools. Resistance from religious die-hards is inevitable, echoing protests last year against teaching of homosexual equality.

SRE helps children make safe and respectful choices. Understanding and respecting different types of family and sexuality is essential for social cohesion. And facing up to issues like freely available internet porn requires critical thinking skills. Ignoring these issues won’t make them go away.

Freedom of religion and belief doesn’t trump children’s right to a full education. Every child should be able to learn and play with children from other communities. Every child has the right to learn facts. And every child should be equipped for adulthood in a modern diverse secular society. 

Johnson, like all recent Prime Ministers, has vowed to heal division. Humanists will continue to campaign to make sure this includes tackling the religious divide in education.”

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humanists

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