[personal profile] matgb
Spent the last weekend at the spring Liberal Democrat conference just up the road in Harrogate. It's one of those events that holds a soft spot for me—my first one was 2 years ago, just 2 weeks after I'd met [livejournal.com profile] theyorkshergob, so I spent both evenings with her in Leeds—we both think we'd have ended up together regardless, but the ability to meet up in Yorkshire really did speed things up. Anyway, it was a damn good weekend.

Met Howard Dean

Attended main fringe and training events. Got invited to a private discussion with a bunch of Lib Dem geeks, chaired by Lynne and with the guest speaker of, um, Howard Dean. Yes, that Howard Dean. The guy who did all the groundwork as DNC to make sure that Obama could win. The guy who pretty much took the idea of internet campaigning and turned it into something effective. I Learnt Stuff. Much of it stuff I, um, already knew (You need to be CREATING activists).

big debate on Faith Schools

But, perhaps more importantly, I was there, with Jennie, as fully accredited official voting representatives of the Calderdale local party. There were policy motions to vote on, and amendments to debate. There were, for me, two big issues, transferable parental leave (passed without objection, a damn fine policy that Jennie helped form while at Bournemouth last Autumn) and schools policy. The big debate was on Faith Schools.

Those of you that know me can probably guess my opinion on faith schools, but, y'know, for those that don't, have a summary. You have the right to your religion. You have the right to educate your kids in that religion. I'm uncomfortable having them classed and counted as member of the religion until they're old enough, but I'm currently in a minority. What you should not have the right to do is send your kids to a divisive school that excludes other kids based on their parents lack of faith. What you don't have the right to do is voluntarily ghettoise the nations childrens, dividing them from each other and making sure they grow up mistrustful.

insane and counter productive

Northern Ireland and the Bradford riots both show what an insane and counter productive policy that is. And this government is encouraging it to happen. It used to be that a VA CofE school was a pretty good school that got the vicar in every so often and took morning prayers seriously. Now? Jennie's 5 year old daughter gets religion shoved down her in every lesson, gets taught songs about how God made the Earth in 7 days and how Jesus really really loves you Mummy.

Apparently, a lot of those with religious faith think it's their right to spend taxpayers money indoctrinating everyone's kids in their faith. Unless you happen to be in a minority faith group in your area too small to support a school. Unless you happen to be one of the 34%(ish) of the population who think that belief in God is absurd.

big two parties think this is wonderful

If all state schools were secular, you could still indoctrinate your kids. You do it in the traditional way, you do it yourself, or take them to church/temple/mosque/whatever, you teach them to read and understand your holy books. As it is, those with a significant presence in the local area get to dictate to the rest of us what our kids get taught. And the big two parties think this is wonderful.

Well, on Saturday, the Lib Dems, for the first time, actually agreed on a policy on the issue. Specifically, they voted to introduce controls on faith schools, remove their exemptions from employment discrimination law, and allow local authorities to audit their policies on inclusion and, crucially, shut them down if they fail.

Sane, sensible religious people

Of course, the media wants to say that's not what the policy is. The BBC says Lib Dems back state faith schools, which is a very creative interpretation of the policy. Read the article through, and it looks like we voted to maintain the status quo, as Vince and allies wanted. They didn't. Anti-faith school alliance Accord have welcomed it strongly. What I really like about Accord? It's mostly religious people running the campaign. Sane, sensible religious people, who can see that faith schools are damaging and divisive.

There's a write up of the debate by Alix at LDV, but the site keeps crashing for me, so I can't comment there—this post is basically a rehash of what I'm trying to post, server trouble (again) it looks like.

ban the lot of them

There was a ban the lot of them amendment was proposed by two of my local councillors (who I get on well with), and I voted for it, the vote was close but it was defeated. TBH, I think that's actually for the best—I'd like to see the end of them, but it has to be a medium term goal I think.

Until such time as society accepts that faith should be a private thing, I think we're lumbered with them. I think society is moving in the right direction, but it isn't there yet.

I also think Vince is partially right, an attempt to ban faith schools wouldn't really hurt our voter base too much, but it would mobilise a lot of people to get out there and specifically vote against us, not something that will get us anywhere.

move in the right direction

This is a move in the right direction, it allows for controls, removes some egregious objections, and the overall policy is a good start towards a much better system.

Anyway, that was supposed to be a short summary. The debate itself had some idiots (including at one of the fringes a Liberal Democrat member assert that without religion there can be no morality, FFS) but was heartening. To find the media misreporting it, again, is just really annoying.

If, like me, you want to see the end of faith schools, take heart from this policy, it's a damn fine step in the right direction, and much better than what any party had before. If you think they're a good idea? I refer you to the words of the Accord chair, Rabbi Jonathan Romain:
I want my children to go to a school when they can sit next to a Christian, play football in the break with a Muslim, do homework with a Hindu and walk back with an atheist - interacting with them and them getting to know what a Jewish child is like. Schools should build bridges, not erect barriers
Amen to that.

G'night all. Gotta take the Shrub to school in the morning, and Jennie's getting an 8am train back.
ext_27872: (Default)

Date: 2009-03-10 07:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] el-staplador.livejournal.com
FWIW, I think you're bang on the mark with regard to faith schools. 'K, so I went to one and it didn't do me any harm, but that was because the topic rarely made it outside assembly. Plus, it was the only primary school within a five mile radius, and it had to take everyone, and let the JW sit out of assembly. Etc. But when my little brother comes home from school having been taught how to cross himself, I do start to worry.

I may rant about this at greater length, and including how profoundly unChristian the whole idea is anyway, when I'm not meant to be getting dressed...

Date: 2009-03-10 08:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-s-b.livejournal.com
how profoundly unChristian the whole idea

This is what the very Christian Fragrant Mary Reid was saying too, and she wasn't alone. There were a bunch of Christians saying this. Sadly Vince was not among them.

Mister Mat? You're ace. Will be giving you big snuggles very soon.

"Any party," my arse ;-)

Date: 2009-03-10 08:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raggedhalo.livejournal.com
ED332 No publicly-funded school or learning centre will be run by a religious group. Schools or centres may teach about religions but are prohibited from delivering religious instruction in any form or encouraging adherence to any particular religious belief.

From here. :-p

Nevertheless, it sounds like you guys came up with a pretty good policy.

Re: "Any party," my arse ;-)

Date: 2009-03-10 09:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raggedhalo.livejournal.com
Yeah, yeah, I figured you meant "major party" but I'm a pedant, so I kinda had to, I'm afraid.

I think you and I have talked before about how a proportional voting system would likely reorganise party politics back along ideological lines -- the specific example you gave was that you and I, for example, could well find ourselves under the same metaphorical roof.

I'm feeling the pinch of ideological voting at the minute, actually; next General Election, the Tories have a really good chance of taking the constituency I live in, and Labour are the only realistic option for keeping them out. But I really don't want to vote Labour...

Maybe I'll see if I could trade my vote with someone in Brighton & Hove to help get Caroline Lucas elected or something.

Re: "Any party," my arse ;-)

Date: 2009-03-10 10:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raggedhalo.livejournal.com
Yeah, the Co-operative guys are pretty solid. Apparently they made an approach to the Greens a few years ago but we knocked them back for some reason. It seems odd that, functionally, they have no separate identity to the Labour Party.

Re: "Any party," my arse ;-)

Date: 2009-03-10 11:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] burkesworks.livejournal.com
But just where do the Co-Operative party stand? Looking at their MPs, they're an eclectic bunch ranging from the egregious Balls and ID cards apologist Hillier, and containing some of the worst time-serving lobby fodder (Lazarowicz, Lepper, Ellman) along with some members that actually have principles (Drew, Love, Riordan).

Re: "Any party," my arse ;-)

Date: 2009-03-10 03:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] joeotten.blogspot.com (from livejournal.com)
I guess the "any party ..." construction is used by all parties to mean "us and anybody bigger". Because smaller parties really ought to be ignored anyway.

Labour and the Tories do it to us, we do it to the Greens, the Greens do it to a thousand other parties. It's not meant to be fair, just competitive.

Date: 2009-03-10 10:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] davidnm.livejournal.com
Interesting post. I agree with you strongly on faith schools. Weirdly enough, I actually went to a voluntary-aided secondary (St Edmunds in Portsmouth). It was selected basically on sectarian grounds rather then practical and it probably wasn't the best choice.

The religion thing wasn't massively overt, but it was there lurking in the background; it did add a layer of inconvenience to everything. (At the end of every term they insisted we had to go to a special 90-minute service at the cathedral, which meant hauling 900+ boisterous kids halfway across Portsmouth...)

Ironically enough, in hindsight my RE class at that school was one of the best things there. We spent so much time arguing with our teacher that we ended up learning free thinking. It wasn't their plan, but it was how it worked out!

Date: 2009-03-10 10:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ginasketch.livejournal.com
They should just use me as an example of why Faith Schools are a bad idea. Look at how warped I am.:P

Date: 2009-03-10 06:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ginasketch.livejournal.com
Can I say it was something in the drinking water?

Date: 2009-03-10 12:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tiredstars.livejournal.com
Can we have "Faith" schools and "Reason" schools?


Date: 2009-03-13 02:11 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Accord are not anti-faith schools. They are anti-pupil selection and staff recruitment by means of faith.
Posted by Simon Wilson simon.wilson@norwich.anglican.org
matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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