Whilst theBand and Drums of the Lancashire Fusilliers play cheerful carols and martial music over the road - Christmas entertainment for former soldiers now resident at Broughton House for Retired Service Personnel - here are two takes on faith schools, which according to the Runnymede Trust, as cited by Friday's Times:
must give up religion as basis for selecting pupils
To many this would seem like a contradiction in terms. Two programmes tackled this enigma on Radio 4 today, one head on and the second only indirectly. The first was an interview on the Sunday Programme
and the second featured
today's guest on Desert Island Discs, Marcus du Sautoy, who is the new Oxford University Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science:
I found the thoughts of Professor du Sautoy very interesting. He is an atheist, but his wife is an Israeli who has moved to London. He therefore finds it natural that she should want her son to enjoy his cultural links and heritage and they therefore send him to a Jewish school.
Quite right - apart from the fact that in Judaism science and religion have always lived in harmony, as the guy pointed out. He appears to have a contacts among the Orthodox who live on the West Bank and manage to keep their scientific and religious aspirations separate.
As did, in the Middle Ages, many Muslims.
So what is the argument about faith schools really all about? Could it be that fear of militant Islam and misunderstandings of evangelical Christianity have led to a position where all are tarred with the same brush? If that is the case, then maybe the whole thing should be aired honestly and openly. For most people who believe in their religion and customs, faith schools are a wonderful way of supporting the education already received from parents and community. The best faith schools also encourage charity in the wider world.
It would be a great pity if fear led to the demise of some of the most successful schools in the country, whilst the real problem would, unfortunately, remain unresolved.