Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, recently addressed the nation following his receipt of reports on a number of schools in Birmingham. Although the catchment areas of these schools are overwhelmingly Muslim, they are not "faith" schools, but common-or-garden state - that is, taxpayer-funded - secular schools that happen to serve populations of the Islamic faith.
Wilshaw did not mince his words. While some of the schools had previously been considered good, or even "outstanding", there had recently, he said, been attempts to narrow their curriculum to serve a particularly conservative interpretation of Islam, and practices had apparently been introduced (such as the gender segregation of pupils) that had no place in a state school.
Moreover, the governing bodies of these schools had attempted to meddle in their day-to-day work. Although evidence for the existence of a deliberate "Trojan Horse" plot to subvert the secular nature of these establishments was largely non-existent, a disturbing pattern of Islamisation had nonetheless emerged.
Two things strike me as particularly important in understanding what the Trojan Horse "scandal" is really about. The first is that, had the schools in question been faith schools, there would have been no scandal. In existing Muslim faith schools, the ethos is unashamedly Islamic. The second thing is that the real debate society should be having does not seem to be taking place.
That debate was touched upon, almost en passant, in Wilshaw's remarks. "It's really important," he said, "that all our schools, whether they're faith schools or secular schools, promote the values of wider British society."
The real debate about faith schools is not taking place
But what precisely are these "values?"
Wilshaw hinted that they included "tolerant attitudes towards other faiths." He must know that many British Muslims do not consider it praiseworthy to tolerate other faiths.
But if it is indeed a British value to tolerate other faiths, why are Christian missionaries permitted to denigrate Jews (as I personally witnessed on my doorstep a couple of Sundays ago)?
Wilshaw's critique included the charge that children at the Birmingham schools in question were not being protected from "extremism." Well, it could be argued that teaching children that "gay marriage" was an alternative normalcy was itself a form of "extremism." One person's extremism is (in short) another person's core value.
As regards gender segregation, I wonder if Wilshaw is aware that there are in fact single-sex state schools.
I'm not defending the misdeeds of any Birmingham school governor. School governors should stand well back, allowing the head-teacher to supervise day-to-day activities. If the governors of any of the affected schools in Birmingham have exceeded this remit, by all means have them removed.
But the rights of parents are quite another matter. If I had children of school age, and they were attending a state school, I should as a taxpayer be extremely angry were I to discover that my offspring were being inculcated, at my expense, with values (transmitted, for example, through school-sponsored "nativity" plays) that ran absolutely counter to those that underpinned the Orthodox Jewish home my wife and I provided for them.
One way forward is for the government to provide many more Islamic faith schools. But I remind you again of Wilshaw's words - that he expects even faith schools "to promote the values of wider British society."
Many of the charges levelled at Muslim faith schools ("extremism," gender segregation, etc) could also be made against Jewish faith schools.
If Wilshaw and his Jewish cheerleaders really believe that Jewish faith schools should be compelled to sing the praises of "the values of wider British society," I hope they will have the honesty to say so. Then we will begin to see much more clearly the underlying motives of those of my religious brethren who have enthusiastically climbed aboard the Trojan bandwagon.