Saturday, July 05, 2008

UK Schoolboys Punished For Not Praying To Allah In Class

Once upon a time there was an England:

It was claimed that the boys, from a year seven class of 11 and 12-year-olds, were given detention after refusing to take part in a practical demonstration of how Allah is worshipped.
Yesterday parents accused the school of breaching their human rights by forcing them to take part in the exercise.
"The teacher had gone into the class and made them watch a short film and then said 'we are now going out to pray to Allah'.
"Then two boys got detention and all the other children missed their refreshments' break." She added: "Not only was it forced upon them, my daughter was told off for not doing it right.

"They'd never done it before and they were supposed to do it in another language."

She said the pupils were asked if they had water on them, and when one girl produced a bottle, the teacher began washing her feet with it.

The alleged incident, at the Alsager school, one of Cheshire's top performing schools, happened on Tuesday afternoon. The teacher, Alison Phillips, the school's subject leader in RE, is understood to be staying away from the school until the furore dies down, although she has not been suspended.
She is said to have got prayer mats out of the cupboard and also asked children to wear Islamic headdresses.
Sources at the school said the incident could have been down to Miss Phillips instigating a role play and not properly briefing the pupils, all aged around 12, what she was doing.
Yes, it's role-playing all right:
"What would our curriculum consist of, if British traditions were worthless...
What could we do to make sure these kids never learn about the awe-inspiring legacy that the United Kingdom can be proud of...
What's another excuse to avoid talking about William Wilberforce, Horatio Nelson, Edward Pellew, Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare, John Milton, James Cook, Francis Bacon, Thomas More, I. K. Brunel, Isaac Newton, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Dickens, Thomas More, John Wesley, John Wycliff, Arthur Wellesley, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton..........."
I would presume that this misbegotten teacher is simply the result of being a good student of the system currently in place in the UK for teaching teachers how to teach students in their turn. Like all but two of her students, maybe she's simply not been introduced yet to what she would most benefit from learning.
There used to be a time when British history, as taught around dinner tables at home as well as in schools, consisted of more than learning about Houston Stewart Chamberlain, John Hawkins and Jack the Ripper.
You can't forget something if you've never been given the chance to remember it in the first place.


Findalis said...

So much for the right of people to freely exercise their religious rights.

I expect this to begin happening in the US this next year.

Anonymous said...

I am of two minds on this issue. First of all, I agree that this is a highly dangerous way of thinking, and could be seen as an infringement upon the childrens' freedom to religion.

Also, it's just crass. You don't pray to a god as part of a curriculum. "Today students, we're going to invoke thousands of years of religious tradition by praying to a god called Allah. Turn to page three in your textbooks, please."

It sounds vaguely Lovecraftian.

But, one doubt that I have, is that if you are in the public, or private school environment, aren't you already submitting yourself ( or in the case of parents, submitting your children ) to outside control, over what is taught, what is eaten, etc.? Does religion have to be different?

I don't think that religion should be enforced in schools. I find that morally questionable. I just wonder if at that point, you've already surrendered control?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

woops, I got the wrong song title in my previous comment.

I'm also reminded of a song: Take the Power Back, by Rage Against the Machine ( don't judge me )

There is one particular line that I thought of when I read this:

"The teacher stands in front of the class, but the lesson plan he can't recall.....

....complacent students sit, and learn the bullsh*t that he learned in school."

Eowyn said...

We have a big thing in the U.S. about separation of church and state. I have nothing against teaching comparitive religion, but not until university. Otherwise, it's the job of parents to expose their children to other religions. Many, if not most, Christian churches here participate in interfaith services, meetings, picnics etc., which are great ways to foster understanding one-on-one.

This article is yet another example of religious intolerance. On the same page as the link to this story, there's a link to another story about a non-Catholic student being banned from her school bus. (link --


Charles Henry said...

Walker, thank you, you put your finger on the word that eluded me in my first (pre-coffee) draft this morning...

Crass: "guided by or indicative of base or materialistic values".

This whole episode suggests the school system possesses no respect for sacred ritual, and certainly none for religious belief in the first place.

Since it means so little to them, they're presuming it means little to anyone. "Prayer" is treated like a game, a theatrical role-playing exercise.

Studies in comparative theology are one thing (although I agree with Eowyn, 7th grade is more than a little early for this kind of subject matter); it's another thing entirely to physically make the students behave as if they actually were religious.

What's next, marching them down to a Catholic church to receive the Holy Eucharist, to "see what it's like" to be Catholic?

truepeers said...

one doubt that I have, is that if you are in the public, or private school environment, aren't you already submitting yourself ( or in the case of parents, submitting your children ) to outside control, over what is taught, what is eaten, etc.? Does religion have to be different?

-if you were to study the history of "secular" state schooling in Canada, for example, you would probably conclude that these schools evolved, with the leadership of people like Rev. Egerton Ryerson, to institutionalize or secularize a certain kind of Protestant Christian world view. Even to separate church and state is to make a move with religious character - it is essentially a Christian separation, at least in its origins.

The idea of some perfect public neutrality is not really sustainable. That's not to say that some public realities are not far more appropriate to a free society than others.

So I'd say yes, if you send your kid to public school, you are relinquishing some control and this includes some control over matters religious. But still, that is not a license to teachers to force kids to pray to Allah. Ultimately, we have to sit down and talk about what works best in a free society, not search hopelessly for some unimaginable neutrality. Or, we have to give up on being a free society, and then we will know what hell and unmistakably religious warfare is.

Dag said...

From times past we inherit, unknown to most, the concept of schools acting "in loco parentis" or in the place of the parent.

Those who prefer to spend their efforts on homeschooling are those who haven't got any faith in the pubic school system. Why would parents give the care of their children to a creature such as the one featured above?

The public trust is broken. It takes generations to restore that, I would think. Or it will take parents going back to teach at schools in person. Maybe it will mean less of highly educated ideologues and more of moms and dads sitting in and teaching what they know. Continuity? Expertise? Well, the world got on quite nicely before the rise of B.Ed.s in charge of our children. Look at the majority of both groups and -- duck!