Timeo Daneos et Donar Ferentes

by Dan H

Dan H talks about Operation Trojan Horse
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So the big education news in the UK for the past couple of months (okay, a couple of months ago now, because I've been really bad about getting stuff online recently) has been “Operation Trojan Horse” - an alleged conspiracy by a group of hardline Islamists to take over schools in Birmingham. It sort of sounds like the plot of a mildly offensive black comedy of the kind you might get on BBC3, but it's a real news story that's been taken quite seriously by the UK government, and led to fallings out amongst ministers, accusations of incompetence, and at least one resignation. The investigation was originally headed up by a former head of the UK's anti-terror task force, but somebody pointed out that sending an expert on terrorism to investigate a bunch of sixteen-year-olds and their teachers might look a tiny bit like a witch-hunt, so the whole thing got handed over to Ofsted.

I suspect some teachers would have preferred the anti-terror task force.

Anyway the investigations are over, the reports have been published, and five schools (three of them run by the same Academy chain, which is a tiny bit embarrassing for a government that so consistently trumpets the value of greater school autonomy) have been put in special measures. There are a great many hysterical headlines (the Daily Mail leader read simply “The Damning Verdict”) and articles about primary schools teaching their children to stone people and terrorists being invited to give assemblies, but the truth behind the whole thing seems somewhat more banal.

I should probably start by saying that I'm very aware that there's a tendency for white, middle class liberals to go one of two ways on this sort of issue. Either we go all “I'm not a racist, but” and insist that you have to remember that those Muslims really are different and also they make their women cover their faces and I mean, well, that isn't normal is it, and what is it with all the praying, they're clearly up to something... or else we get all White Man's Burden and start saying that it's important to remember that other cultures are different and that those poor benighted foreigners can't be held responsible for their actions because, after all, we can't expect them to be as enlightened as we are. I'm really trying to avoid going in either direction here – obviously if people are pushing a hardline religious agenda in state schools that's bad (although not quite as bad as it seems, for reasons I'll talk about later) but at the same time it's very easy assume that Islam = Extremism = Terrorism, and that clearly isn't helpful either.

The bulk of this article is going to be about two things, the whole Trojan Horse scandal, and the government's subsequent insistence (which has actually been law since 2013 anyway) that schools promote “British Values”. I should reiterate here that I think it would definitely be extremely wrong for any school (state funded or otherwise) to push an extremist agenda on its students. It would be wrong for Muslims to do it, it would be wrong for Christians to do it, it would be wrong for atheists to do it (although as I'll discuss later, Christian schools actually do it a lot, and Ofsted is perfectly cool with it). That said, I am a little concerned that the goalposts regarding the definition of “extremism” shift considerably depending on precisely whose religious beliefs are being discussed.

I've read the Ofsted reports for two of the “Trojan Horse” schools – Parkview secondary and Golden Hillock primary. The reports make it very clear that the schools are failing to adequately prepare their students for “life in multicultural Britain” and that in particular students are not “adequately protected from extremism” and that staff are not sufficiently familiar with “the government's Prevent strategy”. Now this last point interested me, because I had no idea what the Prevent strategy was, and I suspect that most people in the country don't either. So being a child of the 21st century, I googled it. Prevent, it transpires, is quite a complicated document detailing the whole of the government's strategy for – the clue is in the name – preventing terrorist attacks by discouraging people from associating with extremist movements that might encourage them to sympathise with or engage in acts of terrorism.

Now I confess that I don't work in the state sector, and that it is possible that state sector teachers really are all required to be intimately familiar with the government's specific counter-terrorism strategies, or at the very least to be explicitly trained in discouraging young people from associating with radical or extremist organisations. But honestly I am a little sceptical. I mean do teachers from Eton really get picked up by Ofsted inspectors for failing to educate their charges about the dangers of fringe political movements? You can insert a joke about UKIP here, if you like.

Again, I should stress that I'm not trying to be all “the poor things can't help it” here, and I'm not trying to suggest that Ofsted don't know what they're doing. But reading the reports it sounded like Parkview and Golden Hillock were being criticised for failing to explicitly educate their students against extremism. And honestly, I can see that this might be seen as an oversight if your students are part of a community that is seen to be at risk of radicalisation, and I don't think Ofsted were wrong to pick the schools up on it, but there is surely a world of difference between – effectively – not being anti-extremist enough and the claims made in the original Trojan Horse document, which was that schools were being actively infiltrated by hardline Islamists. It's probably also worth pointing out (as the Prevent strategy correctly observes) that even being a hardline Islamist is not necessarily the same thing as condoning terrorism.

Another finding that made the headlines was that in one of the investigated primary schools, Ofsted found that the library contained books that advocated stoning criminals to death (you can insert a joke about the Daily Mail here if you like) and a historical religious text which contained a reference to those who value faith more than life being blessed. Both of these things sound outrageously scary and dangerous out of context but even a nanosecond's reflection would surely be enough to realise that both of these sentiments are also present in, well, the Bible. We don't assume that every Sunday School is a hotbed of potential mass-murderers just because they all contain copies of a book that advocates capital punishment, the persecution of sexual minorities, and religious martyrdom.

I should probably take a step back here for the benefit of our American readers, because as I understand it you actually wouldn't expect to find a copy of the Bible in an American primary school (at least not a state funded one). One of the things that makes me a bit leery about the whole Trojan Horse scandal is that in this country we very much do not have separation of Church and State. Our head of state is, in fact, also (officially) our spiritual leader. Because of this, it is considered perfectly normal for UK schools to include specifically religious elements in their daily practices. Religious Education (I believe now Religious Studies) is mandatory for all students until the age of fourteen, and can be studied as high as A-level. I understand that things have changed in the last couple of decades, but when I was at school Christianity was a fact of life. RE was focused almost entirely on the Christian perspective (often implicitly – I remember studying things like creation vs evolution and the problem of evil, all of which presupposed that the only possible disagreement was between people who believed in the Christian God and people who didn't). We learned that other religions existed, but little more than that (I remember doing Diwali, Dreidels and the Pillars of Islam and that's about it – Sikhism got a brief mention as one of the “six major world religions” but the syllabus didn't actually tell us anything about it). In primary school we sang explicitly Christian songs in assemblies and nobody batted an eyelid.

The Ofsted reports make it very clear that the five schools placed in special measures had definitely developed an extremely conservative Muslim ethos. It makes it very clear that this was considered to have contravened the school's duty to expose students to a range of beliefs and not to adequately prepare them for life in a multicultural society. What concerns me is that people seem to be treating this as the same as extremism. From what I've read, it is very likely that the five schools were indeed being mismanaged, probably by people with conservative religious beliefs. Possibly even by people with conservative religious beliefs who placed undue pressure on teachers and students to conform to those conservative religious beliefs.

But that is very, very different from evidence of an actual Islamist plot.

It might here be worth taking a step back and thinking about what “extremism” actually is. There isn't, as far as I know, a formal definition, but a working definition (based partly on my reading of the Prevent strategy) might be something like this:

An extremist is a person who believes that their personal moral, philosophical, or religious beliefs supersede, and are incompatible with, the laws and social institutions of the society in which they live and they are, therefore, not obliged to follow those laws or respect those social institutions.

I'd point out that this definition includes people like libertarian “sovereign citizens” who believe that their personal rejection of government means that they are not bound by the courts, and also includes people who legitimately resist unjust laws in despotic regimes. Whether this is a strength or a weakness of the definition depends on your point of view.

The Prevent strategy makes quite clear the connection between this kind of extremism – the belief that your personal principles are incompatible with being a fully integrated, law-abiding member of your society – and radicalisation or terrorism. But this is exactly why I'm so concerned about the way people seem to be conflating “these schools probably have too much of an Islamic focus” and “these schools are run by Islamic extremists.”

The Conservative peer Baroness Warsi summed it up quite succinctly when she said – in response to the recent findings – that it was very important to distinguish between conservatism and extremism. There is a lot of evidence that the five schools were promoting a conservative agenda – there were regular religious assemblies, boys and girls were segregated for some lessons – but there seems to be very little evidence that they were promoting an extremist agenda, that is, that they were promoting the idea that being a Muslim was fundamentally incompatible with being a law-abiding, socially integrated member of British society. Again, let me be very clear here, ignoring diversity (or, worse, promoting intolerance) in pursuit of a conservative social agenda is not an okay thing to do in a state school (especially one that is not a faith school), but there is a real danger that labelling the “Trojan Horse” schools as “extremist” will encourage, rather than discourage extremism.

To label the (undeniably problematic) environments at the various Birmingham schools as “extremist” is to assert that being a conservative Muslim is intrinsically incompatible with being British. This is an extraordinarily dangerous thing to assert, because it is exactly what extremists believe.

For example, one of the criticisms raised in the Ofsted reports (helpfully summarised in this Guardian article) was that at a recent fete held by Oldknow Academy “raffles and tombolas were banned because they are considered un-Islamic.” Now maybe I'm being a wet liberal here, but this seems to me to be a textbook example of the important difference between conservatism and extremism and of what appear to be the implicit cultural biases of the inspectors. There is no way on God's green Earth that a tombola can be seen as a fundamental pillar of life in a pluralistic western democracy. To me, banning tombolas (tombolae?) from the school on the grounds that they're incompatible with your religious beliefs is no different to banning teachers from swearing because your culture has a taboo against the word “fuck”. Again, I should stress that there are plenty of legitimate criticisms made of Oldknow, mostly that a small group of governors are making sweeping changes to the school's ethos without consultation, and that its ethos is too explicitly religious for a non-faith school, but banning raffles is not a challenge to the rule of law.

Whatever the reality on the ground, Her Majesty's Government has responded with the eminiently reasonable and proportionate measure of requiring all teachers in UK schools to actively promote British Values.

Like, I suspect, most teachers I am not certain how to do this. Or if it would be a good idea. Or what doing it would even look like. Fortunately our Prime Minister has a little help for us, because he provides a fairly clear description of the “values” he describes as strictly “British”. Specifically, he seems to believe that “British Values” are ““freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions”.

I have several things to say about this. Firstly, I see nothing uniquely British about these values at all. Indeed if anything they have a distinct whiff of revolutionary France and its values of liberty, equality and fraternity. I also see very little evidence that there was a single one of these values that was not being actively supported by the Trojan Horse schools. Unless you consider “respect for British institutions” to mean – in essence - “not being a Muslim”.

I might also point out that I don't entirely think that these values are even compatible with each other. Certainly I don't really think that “freedom” and “tolerance” really work alongside “respect for British institutions”. After all, several of our oldest and most important institutions are explicitly undemocratic and – arguably – intolerant. Until 2013 it was illegal for the monarch to marry a Catholic, for pity's sake.

The thing is, I can see a value in the Government's position. It is important, in a multicultural society, for every member of that society to be an integrated part of the whole. And certainly you can argue that it is undesirable for communities to exist which are effectively isolated from the wider infrastructure of the nation (although I might also point out nobody worries too much about the Amish). What bothers me here is that I saw no evidence that the Trojan Horse schools were being remotely isolationist, just that they were emphasising Islamic values over Christian values (and, let's be clear here, those are actually mostly the same values). Nansen Primary school, for example, came in for severe criticism because its students were “mostly ignorant of religions other than Islam” - but let's be honest, it isn't really all other religions that Ofsted are concerned about. I mean maybe I'm wrong but I don't really think that anybody cares if a randomly selected British eight-year-old expresses a relative ignorance of Buddhism or Shinto. Or Islam for that matter. We're only getting upset because we don't like the idea of kids in Birmingham growing up without learning about Christmas.

And again, I should stress that I'm not being a complete cultural relativist here (perish the thought, a lot of people – like this Telegraph columnist seem utterly mortified by the idea that we might start to think that other cultures aren't objectively worse than ours). It's very important to realise that there are a number of cultural practices which should be condemned and, if possible, eradicated – forced marriage, female genital mutilation, lynching, queerbashing - but there are a great many which really are just matters of convention, and people are extraordinarily bad at distinguishing between them.

A remarkable number of people seem to fixate on the hijab. Janet Daley in the Telegraph, for example, cites “forcing girls to cover their hair” as exactly the kind of “illiberal practice” that we have the “right” to “demand” that immigrant communities cease. The fact that nearly every state school in Britain enforces a uniform policy, that these policies are usually grounded in extremely conservative traditions, that they are explicitly gendered, and usually enforced far more strictly against girls than boys, seems to completely pass people by. As has the fact that none of the schools in question actually were forcing girls to wear the hijab. As has the fact that a number of girls from Park View Academy are now concerned that they might be prevented from wearing the hijab even if they want to. And even if none of those three things were true, I'm not sure that having a different idea about what counts as appropriately modest dress for a woman counts as a deviation from the fundamental ideals of a democracy.

The latest news from the government is that teachers will now be expected to “confront intolerant or extremist views among staff, parents and pupils” and that there will now be “swift intervention in schools which are not actively promoting British values.” Again, I might be inclined to suggest that there's room for confusion here – are teachers suppose to actively promote normative British values like Christianity and not covering your hair, and then confront themselves for their own intolerant views? Will schools be placed in special measures if teachers are caught reading the Daily Mail? Or are we supposed to restrict ourselves to the values laid out in the Prevent strategy: “democracy, rule of law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and the rights of all men and women to live free from persecution of any kind.” In which case there doesn't seem to be very much that the Trojan Horse schools were doing wrong because, again, it is no more intolerant for a school serving a Muslim community to fail to celebrate Christmas than for a school serving a Christian community to fail to celebrate Ramadan or Imbolc.

The thing is, there's a lot in the “British Values” initiative that I would support if I thought for a nanosecond that it would be applied evenly. A key plank of the government's initiative is a tougher stand on gender discrimination, and since gender discrimination remains a very serious issue in schools all over the world, this would be a fantastic move if it was applied uniformly. I have serious doubts that it will be. Every day, all over the liberal, democratic West, girls get sent home from school for wearing inappropriate clothing. If your skirt's too short, or your top is too low or (perish the thought) your bra strap is showing, a great many schools in free, Christian, democratic countries will take you out of lessons and send you home to change, because we still believe that a girl's sexual modesty is more important than her education. As far as I know, nobody in government is complaining about this. I would be overjoyed if the government's new focus on British Values meant a genuine and renewed commitment to fighting gender discrimination in UK schools in all its forms, from dress codes to segregation in PE lessons to imbalanced progression in STEM subjects. I strongly suspect that it will instead take the form of a crackdown on headscarves.

On a similar note, I would be extremely happy if the Independent Schools Standards were stricter about the role religion is allowed to play in education. The criticisms of Park View school were summed up with the suggestion that their Islamic focus was inappropriate for a non-faith school. This criticism seems fair on the surface, until you realise quite how extreme some faith schools are. For example, upwards of thirty UK independent schools (using their much-touted, government-sanctioned freedoms) teach a curriculum called Accelerated Christian Education. This is, as far as I understand, fully accredited and sanctioned by the UK government. Indeed Maranatha Christian School (which teaches, amongst other things, that evolution is disproved by the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, that the sun is powered by gravitational collapse rather than nuclear fusion, and that science proves that homosexuality is not only a choice but also sinful) was rated as Good by Ofsted as recently as last October. Indeed their Ofsted report explicitly singled out the curriculum as praiseworthy (despite the fact that – and let us be very clear here – it explicitly teaches lies), and also praised the school for the way that it promotes students' spiritual development on the grounds that “Christian beliefs and values permeate all aspects of school life.”

And yes, Maranatha Christian School is a faith school and Park View Academy isn't, but equally there is an order of magnitude's difference between their two approaches to a religiously grounded education. Park View academy clearly promoted Muslim values at the expense of Christian values which was clearly disturbing to a Christian-centric educational establishment (indeed something new I discovered in the fallout from Trojan Horse is that schools require specific dispensation in order to hold non-Christian assemblies, and part of what Park View did wrong was letting their license expire). Maranatha Christian School, on the other hand, follows a curriculum that not only promotes Christian values at the expense of other religions, but actually promotes them at the expense of established scientific facts and explicitly teaches homophobia in science lessons. This is a whole different level of problem, and a much more serious one, but it has received virtually no attention from the mainstream media (and what attention it has received seems to be primarily due to the efforts of this blogger).

Now I don't want to go around making accusations (because we all know that accusing somebody of racism is far worse than being a racist) but I can't help but feel that the fact that promoting explicitly Christian beliefs (even extremist, fundamentalist Christian beliefs) is seen as actively laudable, while promoting explicitly Muslim beliefs is seen as dangerous, subversive, and unbritish rather gives the lie to the notion that respect for other faiths is a “fundamental British value.”

The whole situation is complicated, and I can absolutely see that extremism and radicalisation are real dangers that the government and the DfE are right to take seriously. And I absolutely agree that the fundamental values of democracy, tolerance, and the rule of law (which I do not see as being uniquely, or even peculiarly, British) should be actively promoted in schools. But I am gravely concerned that in practice what we are seeing is the promotion of prejudice disguised as equality, parochialism disguised as diversity, and bigotry disguised as “British Values.”
Themes: Topical
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Comments (go to latest)
http://ronanwills.wordpress.com/ at 16:23 on 2014-07-15
I had never even heard of this, so it was interesting reading your take on it.

Does anyone else read "required to teach British Values" as a gigantic red flag? Couldn't you see that phrase popping up in, say, V For Vendetta as a cover for all sorts of heinous shit?
Does anyone else read "required to teach British Values" as a gigantic red flag?


I'm an American with an MA in Indian (South Asian) History. I have to admit that my waggish angel quipped "Wouldn't the extremist Islamist terrorism be less dangerous" at that phrase. My wife's PhD is in Restoration history, and I know what y'all used to do to people who were simply insufficiently Anglican... ;)
Daniel F at 10:37 on 2014-07-16
Unless you consider “respect for British institutions” to mean – in essence - “not being a Muslim”.

There are a whole bag of issues to do with religion and culture here, though, aren't there? You note that many British institutions are explicitly undemocratic; many of them are also historically Christian. For better or for worse, all the oldest British institutions had their beginning in a supposedly Christian culture, which actively discriminated against people with other beliefs. Even more recent institutions have appeared and evolved in a heavily Christian culture.

Put it like that, and it's ridiculous to expect British institutions to be neutral on issues to do with religion. The assumptions underlying those institutions all stem from a culture which has had incredibly powerful historic links to Christianity. Asking every member of British society to be an integrated part of that society is asking every member of British society to be connected to those institutions and their histories.

There's certainly room to talk about what values should be emphasised, about which values have been secularised and whether that actually strips them of religious meaning, or about whether socially reinforced 'Christian values' are actually any such thing. It's just very odd to expect that you can separate out British culture or British values from the religious history of the British Isles. Teaching British values in isolation from the religio-cultural history that produced them is prima facie ridiculous.

(As a side note, I do wish to avoid identifying British values - whatever they are - with Christianity too closely, because I think it's important to resist... well, anything of the sort. Just as the idea might be offensive to secular British people, it seems to me offensive to Christians to effectively harness Christianity to a particular culture. But perhaps I am an extremist: I would certainly think that in an irreconcilable clash between Abrahamic faith and the laws of the society in which an Abrahamic believer lives, the believer is obligated to put faith above law.)

I don't really have a point to make here other than "Man, multifaith societies are hard".
Arthur B at 11:46 on 2014-07-16
It's interesting because on the one hand the institutions had all these historic links to Christianity, on the other hand you can kind of see a basis for secularisation of governmental institutions in the way the medieval church made this firm distinction between the church's sphere of influence and the secular authority's sphere of influence (as in the distinction between canon law and the king's law and the disputes over investiture of bishops), and on the third hand you have a desperate wish to avoid being dragged back into multi-generation sectarian conflicts shaping a lot of institutions (especially after the Civil War).

And on the fourth hand you have the eternal unknown of how many people in History actually deeply and passionately believed in the faith they espoused and how many gave the faith and its institutions lip service because that's what they were socially expected to do. Now that it's neither legally actionable nor socially disapproved of to not go to church, attendance has plummeted, and there's lots of people who think of themselves as being spiritual or religious but feel no need to connect to any exterior institution of faith.
Daniel F at 13:14 on 2014-07-16
I think now we are increasingly reconciled to the thought that church affiliation need not correspond to piety or to genuine belief. Often church attendance is simply meeting expectations, or being part of a particular social circle, while there are some very devout people who avoid any explicit church institutions.

You're right to bring up the medieval church, though. The distinction between the church and the crown is an interesting quirk of medieval society. It's not secularism in the medieval context, but it is a precedent for the idea that there is a class of professional religionists and a class of rulers, and they (at least in theory) have different spheres of interest.

That distinction helps to undergird the idea of separation of church and state as well. If the church and the crown are (again, at least in theory) occupied with different concerns, it's perfectly sensible for them to adopt a policy of amiable non-interference. Even though it's practically guaranteed that religious teachings will have social implications. Many churches or other faith communities, especially in the modern day, might feel obligated to make those implications explicit. That doesn't seem like a fault to me.

Argh, waffling again. I suppose the point I'm wavering towards is that there's probably no such thing as a religiously neutral or truly secular society. Different faith communities struggle to compromise with the convictions of the societies they find themselves in, and there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. My understanding is that Islamic communities in general are struggling to find where they fit into modern Europe, and that for the most part modern Europeans are not helping.
Arthur B at 15:00 on 2014-07-16
My understanding is that Islamic communities in general are struggling to find where they fit into modern Europe, and that for the most part modern Europeans are not helping.

I think to a large extent it comes down to the experience of immigrant communities in general rather than Islamic communities specifically. A lot of anti-Islam rhetoric over here is actually anti-immigrant rhetoric after a find-and-replace job when you look at it closely.

Which isn't to say that there isn't an Islamophobia problem; what I am saying is that in Europe we have this perennial thing where we get all fussy about some immigrant population or other before we move on to the next scapegoat.

The Islamophobia thing is handy if you have a broad anti-immigrant agenda partly because it lets you tar about a third of the world with the same crude, simplistic brush, and partly because slamming people based on their region of origin is generally accepted as being beyond the pale whereas criticism of religion is seen as a valid and necessary component of free speech.

Probably the closest analogue is Europe's long-standing hobby of antisemitism. The Trojan Horse letter is basically the same sort of animal as The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, after all, with the only significant difference being that it was narrow rather than general in scope and so incorporated more specific details and allegations.
Dan H at 16:41 on 2014-07-16
@ronanwills

Does anyone else read "required to teach British Values" as a gigantic red flag?


I think it sounds a bit more benign to a native Brit because our politicians talk about values, like, a lot. And "British Values" sounds a whole lot less psychotic than what they were banging on about in the '90s which was, I shit you not, "Victorian Values" (so ... military expansionism and child labour?). But yeah, it has a really creepy vibe to it.

The actual values involved are a lot less problematic in that they're mostly perfectly sensible western liberalism stuff, but trying to dress it all up in notions of Britishness leaves me extremely cold.

@Daniel F

There are a whole bag of issues to do with religion and culture here, though, aren't there? You note that many British institutions are explicitly undemocratic; many of them are also historically Christian.


This is true, and actually raises a point I'd been intending to address in the original article, which you *could* make a case that, since England is an officially Christian country, it makes sense for Christianity to have a privileged place in our educational system and that, therefore, a school which doesn't teach its children about Christianity is more of a problem than a school that doesn't teach its children about Islam.

I'd say two things in response, the first of which is that this is a perfectly reasonable argument, but it isn't the one that the government (and Ofsted) are making. I'd be perfectly happy for them to say "look, this is a Christian country, you have to teach your students about Christianity" - I'd disagree, but I'd be happy for them to say it. I'm very much less happy with them pretending that a failure to teach Christianity is a failure to "respect other religions" or "prepare students for life in a multicultural society".

The second thing I'd say is that I suspect the reason they *didn't* mention Christianity explicitly, but instead dressed everything up in terms of "Britishness" and "freedom" is that a lot of people get really upset when the government starts explicitly promoting Christianity. Which implies to me that the notion that Britishness is inherently Christian is one many Britons don't share.

I'd also point out that Christianity is at least as important to American culture, history, and national identity as it is to that of Britain, but the USA is very scrupulous about keeping religion out of state schools. Of course I understand that this often backfires, and you wind up with things like people trying to suppress the teaching of evolution on the grounds that it's promoting a religious viewpoint, but it would seem to suggest that you can have a majority-Christian country without Christianity being an expected part of school life.
Arthur B at 17:14 on 2014-07-16
Worth noting too: the part of the UK which is the most religiously conservative, and in which certain politicians consistently rake in far more advantage than disadvantage by being loud and proud about their religious affiliations, is Northern Ireland.

When the Blair government started talking about allowing more faith schools to be set up, some of those objecting pointed to the situation in Northern Ireland, where there's de facto segregation into Catholic and Protestant schools. One of the "British values" I suspect Gove is trying to push is the idea that people from different backgrounds can get on better if they go to school together.

Query: do Ofsted have different criteria for judging faith schools and secular schools? If you gave an Ofsted inspector the set of facts found in the inspections of Trojan Horse schools but didn't tell them what sort of schools were involved, and asked them to compile a report on the assumption that the facts related to faith schools, would they give a clean bill of health? If you gave them the lowdown on Maranatha and had them compile a report as though Maranatha were a state comprehensive, would they slam them?

If there is an internal culture in Ofsted which assumes that faith schools are run by nutters for nutters, so therefore in that context nutty lessons are par for the course, that's obviously a huge problem for all sorts of reasons.
Dan H at 18:40 on 2014-07-16
Query: do Ofsted have different criteria for judging faith schools and secular schools?


Short answer: I don't know.

Long answer: I think so, to some extent. And to an degree that's perfectly reasonable - a school that is *supposed* to have a religious focus is going to be more religious than one that isn't. And I can see the argument that people who want their kids raised in a conservative religious environment should be allowed to arrange for it, while people who don't shouldn't have it thrust on them by a minority of interfering governors. On the other hand I'm aware that it's easy to see your own politics as neutral (secular liberalism is, after all, as much of a religious and political value system as religious conservatism).

Ofsted-wise I suspect that part of the problem is that Ofsted tend to be quite blinkered by their criteria. As long as you've got your schemes of work in order, integrate numeracy and literacy into your lessons, and jump through whatever other hoop they've decided you're supposed to jump through this term, they don't pay very much attention to what you're actually *teaching*. And often they won't be qualified to assess content anyway. I suspect the average Ofsted inspector has no idea where the Sun gets its energy from, or what the actual evidence for or against Darwinian evolution is. I suspect that the trappings of a religious education also seem a lot scarier when it's a "foreign" religion. I can see ACE looking quite benign to an outsider who is perfectly used to Jesus and the Bible and prayer being seen as either Perfectly Harmless or Jolly Good Things, while Koranic Arabic and *Muslim* prayer look all scary and alien.
Shim at 00:43 on 2014-07-17
Some scattered thoughts, sorry quite long.

My first question would be, “what is a value”? There’s obviously the rather dubious list, but leaving that aside, what is meant by values in terms of teaching them; what sort of status is being claimed for these? Because that would reflect the kind of classroom coverage you might expect. Are they supposed to be things that are ambient facts of life by mutual consent, if not necessarily consciously recognised? Things society at large agree are important and support enthusiastically? Issues of morality that we have essentially agreed on and brought into being? Things the people agree are moral concerns but are in no way achieved?

So for example, let’s say a value is gender equality: if it’s am ambient “value” you want to enculturise children into, you could bring them up with this value instilled by demonstrating gender equality throughout school practices, such as equal attention in classrooms (oops), equal expectations on behaviour (oops), avoiding gendered language especially where praise or criticism is involved, normalising cross-gender interaction, not dividing by gender for sports or other activities, gender-neutral uniform policies, and so on and so forth. If it’s a decided moral issue, then you’d expect a kind of low-level exploration with a lot of assumptions in the same way as we do for theft and murder and slavery. If it’s a moral issue that clearly needs work, you’d expect it to be given explicit attention, with exploration of the subject and reasoning, to encourage pupils to accept it.

Another point that occurs to me is, whose values are they talking about? Leaving aside religious or nation-of-origin differences*, I suspect that if you a) knew what a value is; and b) examined people across the country, you’d probably find substantial differences in values, and perhaps most prominently in how different values are ranked. I don’t pretend to know what they are. It seems likely, though, that there might be differences between say:
“C”, an independently wealthy, privately-educated member of the political elite, with a circle of powerful friends in media and celebrity, a privileged background, several homes in expensive parts of the country and a jet-setting lifestyle;
and
“W”, a state-educated minimum-wage employee from a community of minimum-wage employees, in a run-down provincial town with a fairly homogenous population, friends in similar jobs, a rented house and cheap motorbike, who sometimes holidays in Spain or Prague;
and
“R”, a retired middle-class bank worker and housewife from a close-knit community of like-minded people, now largely housebound and confronted with demographic and cultural changes, health problems and life on a pension.

How do they value, say, freedom of movement? Free speech? Democracy? Free healthcare? Respect for the elderly? Age equality? The welfare state? Universal education? Public transport? I dunno, but I bet there are some differences. For example, it’s well-recognised that politicians put a lot of effort into appealing for retired voters in swing constituencies, and very little into appealing to young voters in heartland constituencies, who tend not to vote much, so democracy may well be ranked differently. Would the British Values, on inspection, turn out to be mostly the values of privileged political élites?


*I’m not sure this is necessarily possible in Britain, as I’ve seen some argument that historic ethnic group (Celtic, Anglo-Saxon or Norman) has a measure of influence still, partly because it ties in with things like geography and family background.

Next random point: familiarity bias and cultural weight. Because of the weight of historical Christian influence on British culture and language, I suspect that a majority of lessons will feature something you could trace back to that, be it expressions used in class, moral positions taken, off-the-cuff examples, historical titbits or whatever. Many people will not notice these at all, especially people who aren’t actively interested in religion, comparative culture and so on, i.e. most people, or they will seem familiar and British and neutral with perhaps a slight tinge of Anglicanism. If you swapped all of those out with historical comparisons from Egypt, Japanese sayings and so on, it would immediately seem foreign and strange, even if they were equivalent. In fact, I reckon even swapping out proper names would do the trick. Even in maths.

On hair: I’ve been meaning to say something about this for a while, but the agonising over headscarves seem somewhat ironic to me, because when I was growing up I saw headscarves everywhere. In my largely-white, small provincial town, most women over 50 wore headscarves until perhaps ten or fifteen years ago. I have no idea what it was like elsewhere in the UK. Now they have largely disappeared, and I can’t help wondering if there’s a connection between that and the hijab issue: either people feeling more threatened by the hijab because white women tend not to wear headscarves any more, or people feeling reluctant to wear headscarves because they’re now associated with cultural otherness. For reference, according to conversations I’ve had, it was due to a mixture of lingering cultural-religious views about covering hair (hence hats or headscarves) and the rather more pressing need to protect ubiquitous and expensive perms or blue-rinses, which meant many women covered their hair whenever they left the house.

On anti-extremism: this seems like one of those very dodgy areas to me, where I find it hard to believe it isn’t essentially targeted at Muslims. Unless every single school is obliged to feature anti-extremist education, it’s immediately going to come down to inspectors judging which of them require it. Middle-class school in privileged all-white area of the home counties? Probably not. Harrow? Doubt it. School with lots of Buddhists? Unlikely. Majority Muslim school? You betcha. I’d be genuinely interested to know if schools in poor but minimally-Muslim areas are expected to educate against things like the BNP, especially considering some families may be affiliated with that strand of politics and willing to say so, so it wouldn't just be box-ticking.

“I'm not sure that having a different idea about what counts as appropriately modest dress for a woman counts as a deviation from the fundamental ideals of a democracy.”


This makes me think of the whole Essex Girl stereotype, to be honest. Regionally and economically there’s probably a fair swathe of difference of opinion about this stuff.
@Dan H

I'd also point out that Christianity is at least as important to American culture, history, and national identity as it is to that of Britain, but the USA is very scrupulous about keeping religion out of state schools.


Having grown up in the American South, I would respectfully disagree with that statement. Actually, I would do so, but am too busy cleaning Coke off the wall. I had teachers in school teaching Christian ideas - as Christian ideas - and actively scoffing at the idea of separation of church and state in a state school. We had a biology teacher reamed out for not stating evolution was a Communist lie and God made the Earth and all creatures in 7 days in 4004 BC - to an Honors class, no less. We had school assemblies during the school day specifically to be proselytized at. I got more Jesus thrown at me in my state school than I did actually sitting in my reasonable conservative Methodist church on Sunday. My home county sets up an official Nativity creche on the courthouse lawn with the sort of belligerent deliberateness you get from a gaggle of Orangemen on a stroll in Belfast. The wall of separation of church and state was made of tissue paper and gasoline - and the fundiban were wielding flamethrowers.

And then you get charter schools. They are privately run, yet publicly funded, schools. Some are okay, but the vast majority teach a curriculum straight from the Piney Woods Primitive Baptist Lernin' iz fer Commie Faggots line of "educational" aids.
Daniel F at 06:24 on 2014-07-17
Arthur:
I think to a large extent it comes down to the experience of immigrant communities in general rather than Islamic communities specifically. A lot of anti-Islam rhetoric over here is actually anti-immigrant rhetoric after a find-and-replace job when you look at it closely.

That fits well with what we get over here as well. Fears about Islam are bundled up with fears of the hordes of boat people, and of course we’ve inherited a lot of ‘Arab terrorist’ stereotypes from the US. Islam is particularly convenient for xenophobic rhetoric because it is not technically a race.

Dan:
This is true, and actually raises a point I'd been intending to address in the original article, which you *could* make a case that, since England is an officially Christian country, it makes sense for Christianity to have a privileged place in our educational system and that, therefore, a school which doesn't teach its children about Christianity is more of a problem than a school that doesn't teach its children about Islam.

I suppose you could make a case that British students need to learn the history of Britain, so that they can understand how the society they live in came to be. That’s not something you can teach without teaching people about Christianity (as distinct from teaching Christianity). That sounds superficially reasonable, at least to me, but it does mean that you would be teaching all children the basic elements of Christian doctrine without touching on other faiths.

It’s particularly difficult because, well, there are an awful lot of things regularly taught in British schools that you can’t teach without a background knowledge of Christianity. You can’t teach history: Henry VIII or Richard the Lionheart or the English Civil War or whatever are all topics that necessitate some teaching about the church. You can’t teach a lot of literature or English: Shakespeare makes very little sense without knowledge of the religious background of Elizabethan England, for instance. When I studied Jane Eyre at IB level, I had to read a lot about the Christian context. And so on. If you don’t want to overhaul the entire syllabus, you must teach people what Christianity is, and how it fits into British culture.

Whereas non-Christian religions – assuming that my experiences were in any way similar to those of UK students – are lucky to get some time in social studies. I generally approve of classes on world religions, so that everyone has a basic idea of what Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., are, but those overviews don’t compare to the background Christianity that suffuses the rest of the syllabus. There’s always an imbalance, and I can’t quite bring myself to think that British schools shouldn’t teach British history or literature or whatever out of fear that it carries Christian baggage.

Shimmin:
Next random point: familiarity bias and cultural weight. Because of the weight of historical Christian influence on British culture and language, I suspect that a majority of lessons will feature something you could trace back to that, be it expressions used in class, moral positions taken, off-the-cuff examples, historical titbits or whatever.

Yes, exactly. The difficulty is that since the development of a British national identity is so closely intertwined with religion, separating out British-ness from Christian-ness is really hard. There is an assumed background level of Christianity in British culture, to the point where even the most dramatic defectors from it still share many of its assumptions. (It’s hard for me to not see, for example, Richard Dawkins as an Anglican atheist, for instance: his entire protest against religion is marked by the ideas and structures of the Church of England.)

You could in theory have a school that cuts out as much of that background Christianity as possible. It might replace it with background knowledge from another tradition: an Islamic school might teach Muhammad’s campaigns instead of the Reformation in England, say. It’s just that it doesn’t take too long before you reach the point where it’s hard to see how they’re teaching anything of British culture or history.
Dan H at 12:01 on 2014-07-17
@profiles.google.com

Having grown up in the American South, I would respectfully disagree with that statement.


I stand corrected. Although I would assume that these teachers were working on their own initiative, not following a state-sponsored curriculum. Effectively you went to the equivalent of one of the Trojan Horse schools - a school with a religious ethos which deviated from the one mandated by the state.

Indeed, ironically, my understanding is that one of the arguments people make in favour of teaching that evolution is a communist lie is the notion that evolution is an atheistic, and therefore explicitly religious theory, and should therefore be prohibited *because* of separation between church and state. People interpret their own beliefs as neutral, after all.

I'm not suggesting that religion isn't a presence in American schools (it manifestly is) but that there is a state mandate to keep it out of education rather than to put it in (although this manifestly fails to work, not least because scientific facts seem to get labelled as religious assertions). The fact that officially secular American education winds up being more religious than officially religious British education is a phenomenon which both countries could probably learn a lot from.

@Daniel F

I suppose you could make a case that British students need to learn the history of Britain, so that they can understand how the society they live in came to be. That’s not something you can teach without teaching people about Christianity (as distinct from teaching Christianity). That sounds superficially reasonable, at least to me, but it does mean that you would be teaching all children the basic elements of Christian doctrine without touching on other faiths.


True, although even then I might suggest that you don't need to know as much about Christianity as you might think. The way that things like Henry VIII, Richard the Lionheart and the Civil War get taught in schools tends to be extremely superficial. I'm pretty sure I studied the Tudors in primary school, but I'm equally sure that I was in my 20s before I heard the word "Lutheran". I learned that the Crusades happened but learned very little about what they were about - and mostly what we learn about Richard the Lionheart was that he was a jolly good King who did jolly fine things like fighting bravely for Christendom.

I'm also pretty sure that most people in the UK believe the Civil War was primarily a disagreement about haircuts.

I'd also point out that the Trojan Horse schools were uniformly performing well academically, so they clearly *can't* have had any problems teaching their students history, or literature, or anything else.

Indeed I might suggest that the "background level" of Christianity you pick up going to an English school is actually completely different from the "background level" of Christianity that informs most of British history and literature. The kind of background level Christianity you get in school is grounded in things like the way people use "Christian" as a synonym for "good" or assume that you will get time off school for Christmas and Easter. It's things like recognizing that a man with long hair and a goatee is Jesus even though he looks nothing like a man from first-century Judea would have looked. It's things like assuming that weddings happen in churches and that vicars are necessarily nice people. It's vaguely associating Catholicism with Irish terrorists.

I suspect that the understanding of Christianity you would need to actually understand its influence on British history and literature is, ironically, one that most Britons lack.
@Dan H

Although I would assume that these teachers were working on their own initiative, not following a state-sponsored curriculum


To avoid the confusion I created in myself the first couple of times, I will define a few terms/spellings to try and keep this all straight (maybe)

Federal = over-arching government of the USA
State (note capitalization) = over-arching government of one of the 50 constituent parts referenced in the S in USA
County = local government for one of several administrative units in each State (varies from 3 to 254, depending upon the State).

Unfortunately, there is no state-sponsored curriculum in the US, if by that term you mean a curriculum devised by the highest level of government in the nation. The Federal government has a Department of Education, but it has essentially no real power over education beyond some rah-rah cheerleading duties and vague suggestions that virtually no one listens to. Most States also have Departments of Education that are completely separate from the Federal one. Each State essentially runs its own education system to whatever standard it feels like - and considering that the party in control of most state governments is also the one actively denigrating having _any_ education is a sign of pure unadulterated evil, let's just say those standards are pretty low. Furthermore, most states only provide rough outlines of desired outcomes, not anything resembling a proper curriculum. Most "you will teach _this_" planning happens at the County level, if not the individual school level. The guy determining the curriculum at my high school was at most four administrative steps above the teachers teaching the Jesus-talk. And he was directly involved in hiring them - there was no renegade teaching, because there was no room between idea and implementation for reneging.

There has been a recent push for a voluntary, non-Federally-mandated common curriculum across several states. The polite way to describe the response by most Counties and States is batshit insane frothing rage. And these are pretty low standards too. Along the lines of "we would like for your child to graduate secondary education not being a drooling moron" low - and yet the howls of outrage can be heard echoing across the Great Plains well-on nightly. Oh, and the state with the largest number of school systems, and thus the one that buys the most textbooks, and thus the one that drives what goes into the textbooks regularly demands less evolution and more Jesus in the biology texts.

To me, the idea that y'all are arguing over a few schools only somewhat not hewing to a nation-mandated curriculum is like listening to the inhabitants of Heaven complaining the ambrosia is a couple of degrees too warm.

And as an aside: Besides the obvious Jesus-clobbering, I received a pretty good education from what I can only attribute to blind chance. Of particular note was the inclusion in my 10th grade (out of 12) literature class of Lysistrata as the Greek drama selection. 19 students blandly reading the text in a dutiful manner, and 1 me giggling like an idiot because I got the dildo references. My (non-Jesusy) teacher for that class was mildly amused at the fact I was the only one who recognized any of this.
http://mmmarcusz.livejournal.com/ at 21:58 on 2014-07-18
I have several things to say about this. Firstly, I see nothing uniquely British about these values at all. Indeed if anything they have a distinct whiff of revolutionary France and its values of liberty, equality and fraternity.

Moreover, it seems like an odd set because it excluded property rights, which are at the centre of any traditional view of English/British liberty, but might seem a bit too pro-rich people to actually say out loud.
Cheriola at 18:09 on 2014-07-26
Does anyone else read "required to teach British Values" as a gigantic red flag?


Oh yes. I can just imagine the kind of shitstorm something like that would start here in Germany.

I don't have anything worthwhile to add to the topic, since I don't understand the situation in Britain, and don't pay enough attention to immigration / Islamism issues in my own country. (It's just too depressing.)

The initial words about not teaching any extremism in school just made me smile and fondly remember my highschool politics teacher, who was clearly sympathising with the RAF (which led to us staying on that topic for several months), and once called a boy "traitor" for admitting that he wouldn't actively try to avoid military service. (We still had general conscription until 2011, though you could get out of it on ethical grounds if you did a similarly long period of community service instead.) Oh, and the music teacher who taught us that awesomely bitter left-anarchic anti-government/church/capitalist song. And the history teacher who did half a year on the Russian revolution once we were done with the mandatory curriculum. (She would have done Chinese history, too, but couldn't find highschool-appropriate textbooks on that.) And the English teacher who had us read IRA-themed literature. ("Cal" by Bernard MacLaverty)
I guess that's what happens when you take a bunch of socialism-educated teachers and then force them to evangelise about the new capitalist system. (Whether or not they actually supported the dictatorship, most people here did believe in the general ideals.)


I'm curious, how would one push atheist extremism on kids? I'm not being facetious - I live in what is now officially known as the most godless place on Earth. 52% atheists, and about 40% agnostics who just don't care one way or another. (A statistic that I only saw in German said that about 85-95% of East Germans, depending on the state, said that religion didn't play much of a part in their life.) I literally have known only 3 people in school who were part of any religion, and for 2 I only know that because they once mentioned being forced to attend Christmas mass by their parents instead of being able to visit their romantic partners. (The 3rd one was an apprentice of my Mother's who belonged to some American Evangelical sect and was a hardcore believer. Everyone thought she was weird and faintly creepy.) Well, okay, 4 - if we include the vaguely neopagan goth girl.
I can't imagine what it's like for religion to play any role in school other than as context information in history class, and maybe when the arts teacher goes over the differences between romanic and gothic architecture (only time we ever visited a church in school). It's not like they actively told us Religious beliefs were wrong. (Well, okay, I did a presentation in 12th grade Biology once on the topic of Creationism and why it's ludicrous.) It's just... The non-existence of any god was taken kind of as a given by pretty much everyone, nothing worth discussing. Religion was always talked about as a cultural phenomenon to establish group identity, a form of oral history keeping(we did go through the Old Testament as part of a module on Jewish history), or like as a way for the powerful (mainly feudal lords) to subdue the lower classes and to appropriate lands/money from the Catholic church.

Though I think they do have 2 years of a general cultural class called "Lifestyles, Ethics, Religions" these days, in 8th and 9th grade, and you can substitute Protestant Christianity for that if you find a pastor to teach it. I suppose a general cultural primer like that is helpful, especially to better understand the ethnic minorities who make up most of the single-digit percentage of religious people here, but also because the bible is still the source of a lot of cultural touchstones in central Europe. (Not so much in terms of values, more in the sense that you should know what the nativity scene is about, and why you get a day off on Pentecost.) My parents certainly made up for the lack by giving me a few kid's bibles to read in elementary school (along with Greco-Roman mythology and Grimm's Fairytales) - I actually ended up far better informed than my 2 friends who were christened and everything, which tells me they didn't take their religion seriously at all.

Cheriola at 18:38 on 2014-07-26
Addendum because the linked article says that there are 21% protestants in East Germany: That's probably the official number of how many belong to the Church and pay church tax. (You mention it on your work papers, tax returns etc., so it's an easy statistic to collect.) However, most people are only in the Church for greatful nostalgia reasons (like the artile mentions, the Protestant churches played an important part in the revolution), or because the tax is a very easy way to give to charity. My parents were such a case - both christened Protestant during or right after the war; Mom attended a private Catholic highschool because the state highschool wouldn't let her study to university-level (because her father was bourgeois and she had no special talents); both atheists and never attended any service other than their parents' funerals; married in a civil servant's office; they never christened me; but both stayed in the Church to the end. And as for the younger generation: one of my teenage nephews just joined - not because he believes in god, but because he wanted the pomp and circumstance (and the money gifts) of a confirmation, and the humanist/atheist Jugendweihe wasn't offered in his area.
http://scipiosmith.livejournal.com/ at 09:31 on 2014-07-27
I can't help thinking that all the 'British values' stuff is because we're jealous of the Americans, with their flags in classrooms and all that god bless the president, my country 'tis for thee stuff.

That, and there's a certain strand in British thinking that says that ever since our pomp of yesteryear became one with Nineveh and Tyre we haven't really known what to do with ourselves. I think the government is hoping that if they talk about British values enough someone will actually work out what this country stands for now.
Dan H at 10:43 on 2014-07-29
@Cheriola

I'm curious, how would one push atheist extremism on kids?


You'd take the Richard Dawkins approach. Ban fairytales because they aren't true. Teach that religion, by its nature, is essentially harmful. Actively and deliberately deride the beliefs of your religious pupils. Teach that the Catholic Church is full of paedophiles, that Muslims are all terrorists, that Buddhism is perfectly okay because ... I mean ... it isn't really a religion anyway is it? Quietly ignore the Jews because you don't want to look antisemitic.

Routinely indoctrinate your students in the idea that God provably does not exist, that anybody who claims to believe in God is deluded or, more probably, lying. Blame religion for all of the world's problems. Job done.

@scipio

I can't help thinking that all the 'British values' stuff is because we're jealous of the Americans, with their flags in classrooms and all that god bless the president, my country 'tis for thee stuff.


A lot of the senior Tories do seem to really wish we still had an Empire to bang on about.
Jamie Johnston at 16:28 on 2014-08-03
tombolae?

:) Apparently the word 'tombola' is originally Italian, so taking that approach I guess it would be 'tombole'.
Robinson L at 20:00 on 2014-09-30
Some random scattered thoughts, not so much on the subject of the article - I was not previously aware of this whole kerfuffle, but I find your analysis all too plausible - more a couple tangential points.

this definition includes people like libertarian “sovereign citizens” who believe that their personal rejection of government means that they are not bound by the courts, and also includes people who legitimately resist unjust laws in despotic regimes. Whether this is a strength or a weakness of the definition depends on your point of view.

Not even just despotic regimes. By this definition, MLK would qualify as an extremist, as would the people who participated in civil disobedience in favor of universal suffrage, and against segregation and the Vietnam War in the US and other liberal democracies, to name just three.

Daniel F: I suppose the point I'm wavering towards is that there's probably no such thing as a religiously neutral or truly secular society.

I've heard it argued - including by my Postcolonial Theory professor - that secularism is, in fact, an inherently Christian institution; it could only arise in a Christian context (your point about it being hard to see Dawkins as an Anglican atheist is, I think, highly salient). So yeah, even a truly secular society might not actually be religiously neutral.

On the other hand, he also asserted that many non-Christian cultures have historically managed to balance multiple faith traditions comfortably enough. The example he gave were kingdoms in India which had majority Hindu populations with Muslim rulers for hundreds of years before colonization, but little or no religious oppression or repression. These were just two of the many points which came up during my studies that I did not get the chance to pursue further to reach a good understanding of the broader implications, sadly.

I guess my sense would be that perfect religious neutrality is probably impossible, but religious harmony (including for the a-religious) may still be on the cards, given the right circumstances.

Dan H: I'm also pretty sure that most people in the UK believe the Civil War was primarily a disagreement about haircuts.

What, as in whose was most extreme? 'Cause I'm pretty sure the king won that one, didn't he? *rimshot*

Cheriola: I'm curious, how would one push atheist extremism on kids?


Dan: You'd take the Richard Dawkins approach. Ban fairytales because they aren't true. Teach that religion, by its nature, is essentially harmful. Actively and deliberately deride the beliefs of your religious pupils. Teach that the Catholic Church is full of paedophiles, that Muslims are all terrorists, that Buddhism is perfectly okay because ... I mean ... it isn't really a religion anyway is it? Quietly ignore the Jews because you don't want to look antisemitic.

Routinely indoctrinate your students in the idea that God provably does not exist, that anybody who claims to believe in God is deluded or, more probably, lying. Blame religion for all of the world's problems. Job done.

Yep, pretty much this.
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