Met Howard DeanAttended 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 SchoolsBut, 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 productiveNorthern 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 wonderfulIf 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 peopleOf 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 themThere was a
ban the lot of themamendment 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 directionThis 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 barriersAmen to that.
G'night all. Gotta take the Shrub to school in the morning, and Jennie's getting an 8am train back.