Posted on 21/01/2016
Nothing to Hide or be Ashamed of
Once again, faith, education, indoctrination, extremism and radicalization are in the news, and as the Headmaster of a school built on Christian principles I relish such debate.
The prime minister has warned that “teaching intolerance” has to be stopped and the DfE has said it makes “no apology” for wanting to ensure children are properly protected. New proposals would give inspectors powers to ensure children were “properly safeguarded” in madrassas as well as in schools. The Northern Council of Mosques has said that such “control and monitoring” over lessons would “effectively lead to a form of state sanctioned religious expression” and “unduly encroaches on the legitimate right of faith providers to teach their children faith”.
I agree with the view that if what we are teaching children cannot be ‘inspected’ then we shouldn’t be teaching it – be it in schools, madrassas, church camps, or holiday Bible clubs. . Jesus Christ taught openly (Mark 14.48, 49) and far from brainwashing people and forcing them to believe certain things he asked over 150 questions in the New Testament, always encouraging people to question and think. He had nothing to hide and urged his followers not to teach secretly but openly. The apostle Paul said that he was ‘not ashamed’ of the Christian message (Romans 1.16). If what we are teaching children cannot be ‘inspected’ then we shouldn’t be teaching it.
However, I also agree that the state cannot encroach on the “legitimate right of faith providers to teach their children faith”.. It would cut across the very purpose of education to dictate what people should believe. The man voted the greatest Briton ever, Winston Churchill, said, ‘True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous and conflicting information’. Shouldn’t young people be encouraged to have strong beliefs, to be unafraid to go against the crowd, dare to say that society might be getting things wrong and hold counter-cultural views – so long as they are not hateful and violent, are themselves willing to be disagreed with and questioned, and can back up their views with reasoned arguments, kindness and respect?
It’s why ‘how’ we teach , as much as ‘what’ we teach, is so critical. At FBS, we never hide or dumb down the fact we are a school built upon Christian principles. In every subject, including PHSCE, RE and Science, the Christian views are presented alongside other world views and theories. We expose our boys to what Christians believe and encourage them to evaluate it, weigh it up. We don’t force them to believe it. We have created an environment that encourages thinking, questioning and scrutiny.
In such a transparent climate, wouldn’t you expect, even think it is the duty of, a school to expose young people to the claims of the Bible and Jesus Christ as long as it is in a fair and balanced way that encourages them to scrutinise those teaching? Surely this is preferable than having society’s views and biases forced on young people; to be told that what we have decided on today is right and every other generation has got it wrong; that certain arguments and views are not even allowed to be put on the table.
As long as I am the Headmaster of The Fulham Boys School, Fulham Boys will be exposed to the claims of Jesus Christ and to the Bible in assemblies and in lessons. And let’s be totally honest, as a Christian I would love nothing more than if these boys came to believe and love these things as much as me. But I will always encourage them to really challenge them, question them, to know the other sides of the argument. If a belief or idea is real and true then it has to stand up to the most intense scrutiny.
So Ofsted and the DfE, you are most welcome to carry out the most rigorous inspection you know how. Feel free to speak to whoever you would like to and look at whatever you need to. We’ve got nothing to hide or be ashamed of.