The journalist Catherine Bennett likes to be challenging and often succeeds, but in an article in the Observer at the weekend she ventured into the territory of insult and slur. Her underlying theme was ‘ never mind any Trojan horses in Birmingham, the real problem is faith schools per se.’ But in making her case she slipped in a completely unwarranted suggestion that Prince Charles would probably be perfectly happy with an Islamic State, and implied that one of the capital’s most prominent church schools is teaching ‘ creationism.’
The irony is that she was only able to think she could get away with that by assuming the ignorance of her readers. She cited a section 48 report on the school which said that students at the school are ‘ able to identify the contribution of a number of scholars to the Design argument for the existence of God’, as an example of ‘ irreversible indoctrination.’
Bearing in mind that Charles Darwin was also well acquainted with such scholars before he made his own mind up, that Francis Bacon- the man with a good claim to being the inventor of the scientific method- was another of their ilk, and as was Isaac Newton, this is a very weak argument. If the school is indeed teaching about such scholars and , very correctly, reserving discussion of them for Religious Studies classes, surely it is fulfilling its role very well.
It makes me wonder if the writer has not inherited an unacknowledged stain from fundamentalism herself. The one that fears knowledge as a dangerous fruit, perilous to the picker!