The Guardian and faith schools: for or against?
The Guardian’s Good Friday editorial (14 April 06), "Fight the Good Fight", exhorting religious liberals (Christian and other) to redouble their efforts against the fundamentalists while striving not to disown secularists and anti-religionists, goes into a curious contortion in seeking to define its attitude to faith schools:
…there are specific battles to fight, for example against the teaching of creationism, the extension (and the maintenance) of faith schools and the defence of free speech.
Er — what exactly is that all about? The Guardian is evidently and predictably against the teaching of creationism, and may be presumed to be in favour of the defence of free speech, but how far does that ‘against’ stretch in the absence of an essential ‘and’? Can it be that in a respectful nod to Good Friday, the Guardian is engaging in constructive ambiguity on the neuralgic subject of faith schools, striving not to antagonise either vaguely liberal Christians, rampant atheists, or bet-hedging agnostics who go to church in the hope of getting their young into the best of the local schools, places in which happen to be in the gift of the Vicar?
All the more peculiar when three pages earlier, the inimitable and indefatigable Polly Toynbee is inveighing eloquently against faith schools, on (one would have thought) absolutely impeccable grounds:
Ask most Labour MPs and they abhor the devious abuse of religious schools and the segregation they cause. It’s not "choice", since most parents would never choose faith schools if they were not the flag for assembling the better pupils locally. Baroness Morgan, until last year a close Blair ally as No 10’s director of government relations, spoke out boldly against religious schools in the Lords. (Note how everyone leaving No 10 suddenly speaks their mind – and it is rarely the mind of their leader.) ICM polling shows that 64% of voters think "the government should not be funding faith schools of any kind" – a surprisingly strong position. So what on earth is a Labour government up to – and why don’t Labour MPs refuse to let this happen?
Why indeed? Why don’t Labour MPs rebel against a whole host of illiberal and reactionary policies constantly confronting them under New Labour’s increasingly unLabour rule?