By Robyn Rosen
August 19, 2010
Last night, atheist Richard Dawkins, surprised noone in his documentary on faith schools.
You may remember I wrote about the Board of Deputies and Hertsmere Jewish Primary School pulling out of participating in the film after in-depth discussion.
And it turns out they weren’t the only ones unhappy with the idea of the documentary.
In fact Dawkins only had access to one faith school, a Muslim school, where he criticised the science teacher in front of her pupils for ignoring the facts of evolution, despite her assertion that she teaches both the secular and religious views on the origins of the world leaving the pupils to contemplate it themselves.
A source told me that when producers approached the community, they claimed the film was not “typical Dawkins” and he was to explore all sides of faith schools.
Anyone who has seen the film will note this is not the case.
From the start, his agenda is clear. Faith schools are cruel, closed-minded institutes forcing young innocent children to adhere to their parents’ foolish beliefs.
Faith schools like “indoctrinating children too young to defend themselves,” and religions like “getting to children young because that’s when they are at their most impressionable,” he says.
It's very title, Faith Schools Menace?, and its gloomy images of dark clouds above church spires and solemn organ music isn’t the most subtle message.
When asked what he wants for his own children, Dawkins replies: “I want them to be open-minded, sceptical, ask critical questions, seek knowledge. I do not want to impose my own views on them.”
Well, that’s exactly how I would describe my education at a Jewish school. And on top of that I was taught the importance of community, family, charity and chesed. I had religious education side by side with secular classes from the curriculum.
In fact, my Jewish studies A-level compared Jewish values with other religions and philosophies and made for a very well-rounded, informative course.
This is touched on by Donal Flanagan, chief executive of the Council of Catholic Maintained Schools who said the Catholic ethos “adds value, gives a sense of belonging and community.
“That’s what parents want.
Dawkins was unable to refute this point and stammered onto his concern about segregation.
He can’t see that secular education and religious values can work together and even complement one another.
By the end of the documentary we have blue skies and mushy music and Dawkins explaining: “It was education that allowed me to change my mind and unleashed my curiosity”, as if saying it's a choice between education and faith.
Perhaps Dawkins should take his own advice and be a little more open-minded about the lessons faith teaches children. He could even change his mind again.