The UK’s new Coalition government has recently announced plans to allow for so-called Free Schools. This means that charities and faith groups will be allowed to set up schools within the state sector and funded by the Dept of Education, but which will be free from certain state controls. Of course, there have been faith schools for decades (and of course, until the 2nd World War, the vast majority of schools in this country were set up by the Church of England). But this is certainly a new departure, but consistent with the government’s policy of decentralisation and their philosophy of the state.

So up pops the country’s favourite atheist, Richard Dawkins. He had this to say in an interview with Mumsnet (as reported in yesterday’s Telegraph):

Thank you for suggesting that I should start an atheist free school. I like the idea very much, although I would prefer to call it a free-thinking free school.

I would never want to indoctrinate children in atheism, any more than in religion. Instead, children should be taught to ask for evidence, to be sceptical, critical, open-minded.

If children understand that beliefs should be substantiated with evidence, as opposed to tradition, authority, revelation or faith, they will automatically work out for themselves that they are atheists.

I would also teach comparative religion, and teach it properly without any bias towards particular religions, and including historically important but dead religions, such as those of ancient Greece and the Norse gods, if only because these, like the Abrahamic scriptures, are important for understanding English literature and European history.”

In reply to another questioner, Prof Dawkins said: “The Bible should be taught, but emphatically not as reality. It is fiction, myth, poetry, anything but reality. As such it needs to be taught because it underlies so much of our literature and our culture.”

He also disclosed that he plans to make a documentary about “the present education system and the role faith plays within it”.

Well, well, well. He’s actually advocating a Faith-Free school. I wonder if you can spot the glaring inconsistencies in what he’s said.

On a separate note, it’s interesting that he still wants people to be taught the bible, for similar reasons to Andrew Motion (as mentioned yesterday).

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. “Thank you for suggesting that I should start an atheist free school. I like the idea very much, although I would prefer to call it a free-thinking free school.”

    If this school happens (I suspect demand for places will be fairly limited), it would be interesting to see what would happen if a Christian Union developed among pupils at the school and wanted to put on events. Would this be allowed?

  2. I imagine such a school would be delighted if a set of pupils decided of their own free will to set up a Christian Union.

    Remember, it is only religions that seek to suppress other religions.

  3. Ben – I wonder why you suspect demand for places will be fairly limited? I would have thought there would be many parents crying out for such a school.

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