In a hugely busy news week, Baroness Warsi’s comments about the acceptability of discrimination against Muslims in the UK have been somewhat eclipsed. They clearly caused a stir– especially her assertion that constant references to ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ Muslims have cast a dark shadow over all Islamic adherents. So much so that a rewriting of the speech was required as a sharp division of opinion opened up about the wisdom of raising the spectre of Islamaphobia. As a Christian it got me thinking about the perceptions of others of my own faith. Do I like being referred to as a fundamentalist? Or in the wake of the Terry Jones saga seeing others link evangelical with extremist? Do these associations build a picture of committed Christians that actually increases their sense of caution and develop our underlying defensiveness? Some degree of wider understanding would be welcome for us all- not for conversion purposes, but so that we describe each other in terms that that those we describe are happy with. With this in mind I read about Michael Gove’s education plans for school performance indicators. And what did I discover? That one humanities subject would be used in the five subject ‘English baccalaureate’. One of history and geography. Here’s the reasoning:
Gove fears that schools are narrowing the range of exams, depriving pupils “of the things they should get from education, which is a rounded sense of how to understand this world in all its complexity and richness. If you don’t understand science and you don’t understand other cultures, you are deliberately cutting yourself off from the best that is going on in our world.” [Source: The Guardian]
Excuse me? So Religious Education (or Ethics and Philosophy at my children’s school) is not suitable for this task? If there’s one subject that could help foster such an appreciation surely this is it. So Latin, Classical Greek & Biblical Hebrew are all in, but not any form of religious studies. Is academic elitism triumphing over the need for the understanding of contemporary culture? I wonder what Baroness Warsi makes of that?