Francis Beckett imagines what the “Richard Dawkins Humanist Conservatoire” would look like:
As a humanist school, we will pride ourselves on our teaching of religion. Other faith schools have agitated for and been given the right to discriminate against teachers and pupils who are not of the correct religion, but we will not. Our children will learn about all beliefs. Children can cope with the fact that adults believe different things. And we see nothing but good in the idea of a Muslim learning mathematics from a Sikh, or an atheist being taught English by a Catholic.
So, no spying to find out whether a prospective parent had been guiltily sneaking into church. No demanding evidence of a subscription to New Humanist. Personal letters confirming faithlessness from Dawkins himself will get you nowhere. Even being the object of a fatwa will not get you in. If we are oversubscribed -– which I confidently expect we will be –- we will take pupils strictly on the criterion of proximity to the school.
Paul Sims at New Humanist thinks this is a good idea, at least in theory. If religions can open up faith schools, why can’t we?
But he poses a good question:
If humanists could set up schools like Beckett describes, would you welcome it? Or would it still be an inadvertent endorsement of faith schools?
I’d rather the British government not support faith schools at all, including this proposed one. It’s a nice idea, the Dawkins school, but Beckett’s ideas aren’t unique to Humanists, and there’s no reason a strong school couldn’t implement some of them right now.