OUR HEATHEN EDUCATION
P rant Our Educationat Correspondent It is good that The Times has added its voice to the cry that our national education is heathen.
Of course it is heathen. Catholics and other people of definite religious beliefs have been saying so since the public education system was founded.
National education is heathen because it is part of the social and administrative system of the country, and that system is essentially heathen throughout.
Fr. Woodlock, in a sermon at
Farm Street, on Sunday, February 25, said that: " Christ is less of a reality to thousands of children than either Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck," That is necessarily so in view of the attitude of the State to religion Upside-Down Legislation Fr. Woodlock tends to accuse teachers for this state of affairs, but the blame is not solely theirs. Neither does it lie with the Board of Education or the local authorities, though every part of the chain of authority must bear sonic part of the blame.
Our national education is based on leglitiat ion which is upside down. Broadly, that legislation enacts that education shall be irreligious with limited provisions for contracting out by those who wish the children to have a sound Anglican or Catholic education, Actually, of course, it should be the other way about. The Acts are full of safeguards for people who do not want their children to receive religious instruction of a particular kind, but make inadequate provision for those who do.
Religious instruction appears in the timetable of most elementary schools and of some classes in secondary schools, but it is there treated as a "subject "and an anomalous subject at that, because it is not a matter of inspection or check by the Board of Education.
Inadequate and Misleading
This treatment of religious instruction, with a brief half-hour at the beginning of the day (so that the children of objectors may be withdrawn without upsetting the timetable), is not merely inadequate but misleading. Too often its alternative title is " Scripture," with the Bible treated as a cross between History and English. There are signs of dissatisfaction with this system. The Board of Education held a conference in 1933 and 1934 on " The provision of improved opportunities for teachers to equip themselves for giving religious instruction." The report of that conference stated that " as regards secondary schools, the conference have little doubt that . . increasing interest in religious instruction is being shown by local education authorities, by governing bodies, and by the teachers themselves, and that as a result the general level of teaching Is being raised." Successive consultative committees have made recommendations calling for more solid religious instruction, and the report on secondary education (the Sperm report) went more thoroughly into " Scripture " as a subject and religious instruction as a background of education. The keynote of the Spens report in this particular may be summed up in the following quotation from chapter ftve: "It is often maintained that the study of the Bible should have a place in the curriculum for its literary value alone. We do not wish to underestimate that value, The English Bible is one of the glories of the literary heritage bequeathed to the Englishspeaking peoples. For that reason there is much to be said in favour of the inclusion of portions of the Bible in the syllabus of English literature. But it is also true that no boy or girl can be counted as properly educated unless he or she has been made aware of the fact of a religious interpretation of life."
Not Much Religion for Delinquents On the other hand, a report on the work of the children's branch of the Home Office studiously avoids all but casual reference to religious instruction in the reformation of delinquent children. In fact it quotes from a report of a well-known special school : " Considering the school as a centre of medical, educational, industrial and character-forming activity, I put the
medical work first, ."
Government departments arc chary of any religious approach to a problem, even a moral problem, because of their fear of stirring up controversy. Parliament and the Cabinet are similarly timid, and as Parliament and Cabinet are supposed to reflect the nation's will it would appear that those who are religlous-minded must regard themselves as a troublesome minority.
Actually the Spens report offers the hint of a solution. As regards religious instruction, it states that the traditional form which the religious interpretation of life has taken in this country is Christian, which justifies the inclusion of Scripture study in the curriculum of schools. It also justifies a Christian education system in place of the present heathen system.