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my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

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Alan H
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#21 Post by Alan H » September 15th, 2008, 9:53 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

If it is the law that you have the right to remove your son, then they cannot refuse. Just mention the Human Rights Act.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

cosmicpixie
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#22 Post by cosmicpixie » September 15th, 2008, 10:03 pm

hi alan
yes, I know it's my right. That's not the issue, I've been told he can skip it. you'll have to read through all of my posts to get the full gist, it's not so simple as you assume!

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Alan C.
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#23 Post by Alan C. » September 15th, 2008, 10:50 pm

cosmicpixie
yes, I know it's my right. That's not the issue, I've been told he can skip it. you'll have to read through all of my posts to get the full gist, it's not so simple as you assume!
cosmicpixie! do you assume that anybody has been following this thread without reading all your input?
What do you think? People just read the thread title? and then dive in?
Come on! Credit us with a bit of intelligence.
I gave you an acceptable solution some three or four posts back, but you choose to ignore it and continue to play the victim card.
I don't think you will win many friends here by taking that route.
Regards, Alan.

P.S
Have you thought about home schooling? My sister was a big advocate of it, untill her untimely death two and a half years ago.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

cosmicpixie
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#24 Post by cosmicpixie » September 15th, 2008, 11:08 pm

Hi alan
I don't view my frustration as me playing the "victim", I am simply trying to figure out the best course of action. I've only seriously begun to consider it all as of today, after hearing a few things this past week. I'm not dismissing your suggestion - it may turn out to be the only viable one- but it doesn't satisfy me. Reason being, it's all well and good me suggesting to Jake that what he hears are fairy stories, but there is the real risk of him taking it all to heart, believing it all, and so the seeds of the prison-mind get sown. At 5 yrs old kids are highly impressionable. As intelligent as kids are, they lack the ability to properly reason at this young age.

I don't want Jake worshipping God but nor do I want him being singled out in front of the entire school each day. I am going to speak to the headmistress to see if I can drop him off to school late and pick him up early, to avoid morning worship and end of day worship. If she agrees, I'll test-run it to see how Jake reacts and go from there.

Home schooling : well I run a business (from home) so this isn't an option. Also,I like working and do not have it in me to completely sacrifice my need for and enjoyment of work and replace it with spending my days as "teacher". If I wanted to be a teacher I'd have trained as one. No thanks !!

Anyway, no offense was intended. It's just not simple for me to take him out of worship and let him stay for the other parts, the whole room (500 pupils) will see him get up and walk out each day, the only kid to do so. He either misses the entire assembly or I follow your suggestion as far as I see it. But there is the issue of the religious song in class and prayer at the end of the day to sort out too.

He's been in the school a year now, having started in nursery. He has friends there and is used to it. It would be a pretty radical move to take him out of there now. These ideas may sound simple enough but when you are faced with acting on them, it's VERY difficult to decide what to do. Guess I just need to ruminate more, talk with the head, and go from there.

tubataxidriver
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#25 Post by tubataxidriver » September 15th, 2008, 11:31 pm

Pixie, I appreciate how you feel about singling out your child as special in front of 500 others. It is important for children to belong to their peer group at this age and any "special treatment" might cause self-esteem issues or result in bullying down the line. However, people in your position who feel very uncomfortable about any form of religious worship / indoctrination are put into an almost impossible situation.

I would suggest throwing the problem back on the school. It is possible that the class teacher is a very strong Christian who goes beyond their agreed remit. Talk to the headteacher and say to them that you are uncomfortable about your child being involved in or subjected to any form of religious indoctrination or worship at any point in the school day, including religious songs, prayers and religious assemblies, and ask the school what they suggest they do about it to avoid you having to assert your rights and remove your child. Jehovah's Witnesses have similar issues, so schools must be aware of this potential problem.

The best solution is "immunisation" against religious nonsense by teaching a child to think and to consider and reject inappropriate matter. This may not be appropriate for some, but seems to have worked for my 6 year old, to the extent that I am happy to send her to the Baptist Church summer play weeks along with her friends, in the pretty sure knowledge that she would not succumb, and with luck she might annoy them with her questions. Who would turn down free childcare!

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jaywhat
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#26 Post by jaywhat » September 16th, 2008, 6:00 am

It would be good for the governors and the head and the staff (or some) to read this really moving thread. It would make it clear to people that they are acting thoughtlessly. It would be more powerful than a letter or a meeting - but how do you do it. It needs a bit of magic.

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#27 Post by Nick » September 16th, 2008, 10:03 am

Hi there, Cosmicpixie (and welcome!)

Though I have no children, I'd like to comment and take a slightly different perspective on the matter in hand. When I was in the infants school, there was one boy who was excused assembly at the request of his Catholic parents. At no time did it occur to me or any of my classmates to single him out for teasing or such like. We were all rather envious of his privilege. I wonder if you are deciding in advance how Jake and his classmates will react. I also think you should be able to organise it so that he is not having to be different in front of the rest of the school. I reckon going home early is distinct oneupmanship! If you put a positive spin on it, and express your concerns to the teacher responsible for his care while not in assembly,I think it is definitely worth a try.

I'm also wondering quite what non-religious assembly a youngster will miss anyway. I would doubt that any notices or important information would be given to such young children for them to remember, as virtually all of them would have forgotten it before leaving the assembly.

I also agree with others here that you should complain about the classroom prayers.

cosmicpixie
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#28 Post by cosmicpixie » September 16th, 2008, 10:10 am

Good morning Alan,

they will not refuse my request, but he'll have to miss the entire assembly, not just the worship parts . I don't really want him to miss school notices and general chat, but this is the only option. They have a hymn/song at the beginning of assembly you see then sometimes a prayer at the end. He can't be walked into assembly later than the other 499 pupils in order to skip the song...then taken out earlier to avoid the prayer. That's two separate adjustments for one child, who will also have the eyes of the entire room on him as he walks in late and leaves early.

Looks like he will have to miss the entire thing. I guess notices could be given out to him personally if important. My gripe here is it seems pointless to bring him into school at 8-55 am to have him in class for just 10 minutes then be separated off from the rest of the school for 20-30 m while assembly takes place. It would be more practical for me to simply bring him to school around 9-30 or whatever, but I don't know if this will be agreeable. I'm going to find out.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#29 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » September 16th, 2008, 12:03 pm

The relevant legislation is the Education Reform Act 1988 (see the section on Collective Worship). There does not seem to be any kind of upper limit on the amount of collective worship or religious education a school should provide. There has to be an "act of collective worship", and it has to be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian nature, but there is nothing to say that there should be only one such act, and that it should not be mixed up with secular school business. However, since parents have the right to withdraw their child from both collective worship and religious education, and since having religious songs in the middle of of the day, and having prayers and hymns at both the beginning and end of school assembly, makes it impractical for parents to withdraw their children from all acts of collective worship and only those acts, then such practices are, to all intents and purposes, interfering with those parental rights.

However, having said that, I think that if I were in your situation, cosmicpixie, and given Jake's clear dislike of assembly, I would simply withdraw him from the whole thing, and from the end-of-day prayers, and be extremely positive and upbeat about that, as Nick suggests, so that Jake sees it as a treat, rather than as a huge problem for him and for you. Of course, it would be nice if other parents followed suit, and you'd think that in a school of 500 pupils one or two of them would, but you can't count on that. So Jake needs to be comfortable with the idea of his being the odd one out. If he is, and if he's given something to keep him happily occupied for the half-hour of assembly, then I don't think missing a few school notices is going to be a significant problem.

What would bother me more, I think, are those impromptu religious songs in the middle of the school day, which must surely be included for the purposes of indoctrination. There are hundreds of wonderful songs available for children to sing and bang drums and jig around to, with much more entertaining lyrics than "My God is so mighty, my God is so great" (how about Leon Rosselson's "Don't put a banana in your ear"?). So there is no justification for including the Christian songs. They amount to acts of collective worship and/or religious education in themselves, and so if it's not practical for children to be withdrawn from class when they are carried out (and surely it's not), then they should be stopped. Image

Of course, I've no idea what I'd actually do about it if I were in your situation. Not having children of my own, it's not a problem I've ever had to face. Good luck with it all, and keep us informed.

Emma

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#30 Post by cosmicpixie » September 16th, 2008, 12:25 pm

Thankyou Emma,

I have just completed a draft letter to the headmistress, outlining my complaints and suggestions.

I have requested that any religious/creationist songs and prayers outside of assembly be stopped, pointing out that they are not a faith school and such practice is not a requirement of the daily curriculum in light of said practices already having been executed in assembly. That if no moves to stop them were implemented, I will complain to the relevant authorities and that meanwhile would appreciate any song be sung right at the end of the day, along with their little prayer, and that I be allowed to collect him from school early.

Re assembly, I've suggested that the guidelines for a broadly christian collective worship theme in assembly can be legally met without the inclusion of songs and prayers that are obviously religious, that Christian values and religion should not be made out to be one and the same, that prayers do not need to include mention of god/jesus/amen etc in order to be a "prayer", but that a time for silent reflection would suffice. Don;t know if this will be taken on board, so if not have requested he be withdrawn from the entire assembly.

He woke up again today saying school was "stupid" and not wanting to go. The reason ? Assembly. He finds it all a bore and the songs make him feel sad and on the verge of tears.

If the school fails to comply to my satisfaction I will look for a new one, as no child of mine is going to be exposed to this kind of subtle manipulation. Prayers in class ? songs to an invisible being we are meant to feel inferior about ? I do not think so. It's a total abuse of his rights to mental freedom.

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#31 Post by Maria Mac » September 16th, 2008, 9:07 pm

Good for you, cp! The letter sounds excellent.

I was thinking about what has been said on this thread about assembly and "a few notices". I think if it were just a few notices he'd be missing, then withdrawing him from the whole lot wouldn't be so bad, notwithstanding the being singled out aspect. But if it isn't just a few notices then it would be a real shame to miss it. I know my kids got really interesting assemblies. The Head tried to say something of value and there was a lot pupil participation e.g. any child who's birthday it was, or who'd been on an interesting family outing or holiday would be invited to say a bit about it and class assemblies i.e. different classes taking responsibility for conducting an assembly in front of the rest of the school were held frequently. It was at assembly that a sense of community was fostered in the school and the more I think it, the more outrageous this bullying of children into participating in acts of worship if they want to attend assembly becomes.

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#32 Post by Alan C. » September 16th, 2008, 9:32 pm

Maria, your kids assemblies at school bear no resemblance to what I remember about assemblies, we would have a teacher stand on the stage and do a roll call (get a mate to shout "here" when you were truanting) followed by a hymn, and then a prayer.
That was it!
I don't even know what "notices" are? And there was certainly no pupil participation.
But having said that.........................Our school was crap :smile:
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cosmicpixie
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#33 Post by cosmicpixie » September 17th, 2008, 8:02 am

My mother thinks I am over-reacting to the assembly thing, saying 10 m of exposure to worship isn't going to turn him into a "sheep" like I fear. She is saying I may ostracize him and he will not fully understand why he is not with everyone else.

Does anyone think it possible that I could affect change if I did the following:

re-think my letter to the head. Suggest the hymn they do at beginning of assembly be sung right before the prayer at the end, so that the worship part is clearly separate from the rest of assembly.
Suggest that she send letters to all parents notifying of said changes , clearly giving them notice they have a legal right to withdraw their child from the worship part.

My thinking is this : presently, the issue of having a right to withdraw your child from assembly is not obvious in the school's literature. Many parents probably don't even realize. Given half a chance SOME parents might act on the act-out option, which means then that there would be a small group of kids each day being ferried out of assembly early, and Jake would not be the ONLY one, so would not feel so odd/different ..........?

If the head refused this suggestion, what about ME printing up letters and standing on the school gates handing them out, the letter would inform parents of their rights and discuss the way assembly is conducted currently etc. There are ALOT of different faiths in the school , likely a few atheists/humanists too and some who just don't like religion.I am sure some parents would appreciate the info.

Or is this being too vigilante- like, too dramatic ?

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#34 Post by Paolo » September 17th, 2008, 9:28 am

I think that sounds like a great idea - nothing changes unless interested parties get up and do something.

I sat through the hymns and prayers in our assembly at primary school, but to be honest it doesn't seem to have done me much harm. My mother went through a similar situation to you if I remember correctly (I seem to recall being ushered in late and out early a few times), but in the end I just asked the teacher if I could do the same as the other kids. It was fun to change the lyrics or words of the prayer and since my mother had spoken to me about religion and how it was my choice to do what I thought was right I ended up thoroughly atheist and with a good idea about what my peers based their beliefs on.

Best of luck with persuading the head teacher!

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#35 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » September 17th, 2008, 10:26 am

I think Maria's point is a good one, and I think your mother is right, cosmicpixie, in arguing that ten minutes of exposure to worship isn't going to turn Jake into a "sheep". And if Jake were perfectly happy to attend assemblies, and could think of the hymns and prayers simply as harmless nonsense songs and poems, then perhaps withdrawing him from assemblies might not seem the best option. From what you've said, though, it seems that he finds the experience of attending assemblies quite unpleasant, and that it's even putting him off school. So it would seem that just leaving things as they are is not going to be satisfactory for him. Although I suppose he probably would, eventually, just get used to it all. Seems a shame that he has to, though.

Anyway, I've just found another piece of useful bumf (if that's not an oxymoron). The DFES Circular 1/94 on Religious Education and Collective Worship (downloadable as a pdf file) has some relevant guidelines for schools:
Exercise of right of withdrawal

85 The parental right to withdraw a child from attending collective worship should be freely exercisable and a school must give effect to any such request. Parents are not obliged to state their reasons for seeking withdrawal. [my emphasis]
86 The right of withdrawal from collective worship would normally be exercised through the physical withdrawal of the pupil from the place where the act of worship is taking place. Indeed the school could insist that this is the way the right is to be implemented. If, however, both the parent and the school agree that the pupil should be allowed to remain physically present during the collective worship but not take part in it, nothing in the law prevents this.
87 Experience suggests that, to avoid misunderstanding, a head teacher will find it helpful to establish with any parent wanting to exercise the right of withdrawal:
  • the elements of worship in which the parent would object to the child taking part;
  • the practical implications of withdrawal; and
  • whether the parent will require any advanced notice of such worship, and, if so, how much.
Information in the school prospectus

123 All maintained schools are required under the Education (School SI 1502/1993 reg 8 Information) (England) Regulations 1993 to include in their annual prospectus information about:
[inter alia] ...
  • parents' rights to withdraw their children from religious education and collective worship, either in whole or in part, and any alternative provision for pupils who are withdrawn
Do you have a copy of the school prospectus, cosmicpixie? If so, you should check to see whether parents are informed clearly about their rights, including the bit about not having to give a reason (I've seen primary school web sites that state that parents are allowed to withdraw their children from RE and collective worship "for religious reasons", which is terribly misleading). And if parents are not informed clearly, then you have a strong case for requesting that the school should so inform them in a letter. If the prospectus does include such information, however, then your case is weaker.

You could resort to handing out letters outside the school gates, I suppose, but I'd have thought a better tactic would be to canvas parents' opinions, in a friendly, inquisitive way, perhaps even ask them to respond to a very brief questionnaire (including the question: "Are you aware that you have the right to withdraw your child from RE and collective worship?"). It might seem a bit less vigilante-like and dramatic. And you might learn something useful.

Emma

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#36 Post by cosmicpixie » September 17th, 2008, 11:01 am

Hi Emma
thanks for all that. It's very helpful and much appreciated.
Here is what the school prospectus says :

" It is also statutory that all pupils on each school day take part in an act of collective worship. This tends to be "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character". The context is related to the day-to-day life, aspirations and concerns of the school. This might also include the presentation of drama, singing, artefacts, poetry, art and visiting speakers. Children often take part in these acts of worship and classes lead worship on a regular basis, when parents are invited to join us for the occasion. Parents have the right to withdraw their children from collective worship and/or RE lessons. Such children may be accommodated in a supervised area for the duration of the assembly/lesson."


Emma, this small passage is all that's mentioned. They do not specifically point out that the hymns they sing are often God-Jesus orientated, which often give thanks and praise to "God" ....nor do they clearly state prayers often take place, thanking and/or praising God , where the kids all listen while the teacher/head says a prayer and ends it with "Amen". And apart from the mention of "assembly/lesson" at the end of the passage, there is no clear presentation of the fact that many classes include a religious/god song and/or prayer at unspecified times of the day, ie that "worship" is not solely confined to assembly but may take place IN CLASS.

I think a few points need to be made more clearly if parents are to be properly informed of what goes on ? It's all a tad "vague"........?
They certainly do not offer to inform you in advance of specific acts of worship nor make it clear that parents do NOT have to state their reasons for withdrawal.

There is nothing at all about it on the school's website by the way.

Also, the school MAKE it impractical for parents to withdraw kids given the period for collective worship is not at one specific time : there's a hymn at the start of assembly, then a prayer at the very end. In class, a song may be sung but at no specfic time, then at the end of class there's a prayer. so there we have FOUR separate times to potentially withdraw your kids instead of one !!!

I think I have a few good, strong points to present to the head...?

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#37 Post by xman » September 17th, 2008, 6:57 pm

Hi Pix, welcome. :)

You CAN make a difference! The school should make provisions for non Christians. It seems to me and easy thing to have their worship as a separate part of the assembly. Their non compliance is an attempt to force their beliefs on your child and at such a young age this can be disastrous. I say make a fuss. Make a big fuss and don't stop until you get what you need. Let them know what the consequences of trying to bully you and your family into worshipping their religion are going to be and go for it. It's easy for your son and others to simply wait outside at the beginning or end of the assembly until they are done. The easiest solution for them would be to let religion stay in the church, but I doubt that is going to happen easily.

I agree with Alan and tubataxidriver. I also offer this further suggestion. Until things are more to your liking, instruct your son NOT to bow his head and pray, but to sit quietly and observe what they are doing, then discuss what happens with him daily. This way you can counter any irrational thinking they are trying to seed in him. This also gives him a critical thinkers eye which can be useful to him for the rest of his life, and it also enacts his separation from the faith and the faithful. With luck, he will always be on the outside looking in on them, but not necessarily centred out. Also, instruct him that if he is particularly and individually instructed to obey the prayer, to politely insist, "No thank-you", and if pressed to explain, "My mother told me I don't have to and I'm not going to. You have to talk to her about it". This should entrench your superiority on the issue over theirs if they should try to press their point and further empower him against their faith.

I hope this helps. If anybody feels I am giving bad advice or has a better idea, please chime in, but I think this is the best course of action to preserve a young mind.

Peace and Love always,

X
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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#38 Post by cosmicpixie » September 18th, 2008, 8:56 am

Hi Xman
thanks for your views, I agree with all you have said.
Some people may view it as over-reacting, but to my mind, the patterns that form the foundation of ones subconscious mind and go on to influence our thinking/reasoning/attitudes on an unconscious level begins from the day we were born.

My son's mind is pure and free at the moment, but that purity and freedom will begin to get sullied the moment he starts hearing falsehoods, unproven facts or half truths. Sure , the conditioning is low key, but for some kids, that's all it takes for them to begin developing certain responses to the world, ingrained ways of doing things or looking at the world in certain ways that can be impossible to undo in later years. I cannot sit by and passively watch this happening to him. I certainly will not tolerate any specific religious belief systems and practices being introuduced to him at an age where he totally lacks the ability to reason about them. It's a form of mind control, albeit a subtle one in this case as he is not in a "religious" school as such.

I have seen , experienced and read about many unexplainable things in my life and have heard plenty of similar tales from people I know , undoubtedly there are things in life we do not fully understand as yet BUT to presume anyone knows all the answers is preposterous. I won't have Jake being told there is some supreme being worthy of his praise and thanks, and/or to whom he is any way accountable. There is no proof of such a being and who has decided this divine source is a physical person ?! Man ! Religious worship externalizes ones power and suboordinates the mind/spirit . My Father had a nervous breakdown 4 years ago and died, I'll never forget the rambling talk of God wanting to punish him, God telling him he was unworthy, God saying he was bad etc etc.....THIS stemmed from the Catholic mind evil he was exposed to in school, a faith he never even followed after school yet it all stuck in his subconscious mind and became the tipping point in his breakdown and subsequent suicide !!! An extreme example, but it goes to show how insidiously corrupting such early conditioning can be.

It's a bloody virus .

ps) I would add that what happened to my Dad is not the reason for my stance on all this, I've felt the same way for many years having been through some catholic schooling myself, a stint studying with Jehovah's witnesses and reading countless books about various religions, philosophies and so on. I've been in the thick of it all but came out the other end, un-schooled and freed and what a glorious mental libery it is.

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Re: my 5yr old : collective worship, prayers at end of class etc

#39 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » September 18th, 2008, 10:11 am

I feel a "Yes, but ..." coming on.

Bear in mind that people in the UK, where religious education and (mainly Christian) collective worship are compulsory in all schools, are far less religious than people in the United States, where religious education and collective worship are (currently) forbidden by law in public schools. (I gather that in Canada it's rather more complicated.) In the UK, 60 per cent of the population believe in God, compared to 90 per cent in the USA. And more significantly, in the UK we seem to be getting progressively less religious, while I don't think the same can be said for the United States. There was some interesting research from the University of Manchester (15 August 2005):
Findings of a new study by Dr David Voas of The University of Manchester, funded by the ESRC, suggest that religious belief is declining faster than attendance at services in the UK, and that parents' beliefs, practices and affiliations have the biggest impact on children.

The catchphrase 'believing without belonging' [--][/--] found in much European research over the past decade [--][/--] is wrong, at least in its usual interpretation, says the team led by Dr Voas.

Far from religious belief being relatively strong and robust, fewer people now have real faith than passively 'belong' to a religion. While ethnic minorities are increasingly important to religious life in Britain, the trend for them is similar, albeit from a much higher starting point.

However, one factor which might yet slow the decline, says the report, is that religious parents have more children than others. The report argues that institutional religion now has a 'half-life' of one generation. In other words:
  • two non-religious parents successfully pass on their lack of faith
  • two religious parents have roughly a 50-50 chance of passing on their beliefs
  • one religious parent does only half as well as two together
However, whatever the parents' beliefs, roughly one child in 12 will opt for a denomination not mentioned by either parent, especially women. And women in their 20s are more likely than men to attend church, particularly when only one of their parents did the same.

Dr Voas commented: "How children are brought up has an enormous impact on whether they will identify with a religion. Once people become adults, their religious affiliation is less likely to be affected by influences around them." ...

Secularization has also changed the environment in which children are raised, says the report, reducing the likelihood of their socialising with religious people ...

Among those with non-traditional beliefs, people most likely to call themselves spiritual are those who once went to church, often as children. Older people mostly describe themselves as religious, though not necessarily orthodox, whilst the middle-aged see themselves as spiritual rather than religious. Younger people most often hold their beliefs as part of a view of life which they do not even recognise as spiritual.
Now, of course this isn't to say that religious instruction and collective worship at school are always completely harmless. And perhaps your father's terrible experience did illustrate the harm that can be done, cosmicpixie. But I don't think it's as corrupting, on the whole, as you suggest. And I strongly suspect that in UK secondary schools, where a majority, or significant minority, of children in a class find RE boring and prayers silly and hymns dreary, and say so frequently to each other (and that was my experience at secondary school), the effect is much more likely to be to push children away from religious belief.

It's different at primary school, though. Because, from what I can make out, religious education is much more like religious instruction. There seems to be a widespread assumption that everyone believes in God, or should do. Everything is expressed in simple language that young children can (at least on one level) understand. And it takes advantage not only of children's credulity and trust, but also of their innate concern and empathy for others. And it creates false hope. How can atheist or agnostic parents respond to children whose teachers have been encouraging them to pray to God to alleviate the suffering of people who are experiencing famine or disease or war? It must be very difficult.

Still, children do need to learn early that adults are not always right or sensible. Any child who watches commercial television will hear "falsehoods, unproven facts and half truths". For that matter, any child who talks to other children will hear "falsehoods, unproven facts and half truths". No child's mind can remain pure for long. But if their critical faculties are developed early, then surely they should stand a much better chance of remaining (or becoming) free.

Nevertheless, it would, of course, be much better if critical thinking skills were developed within school, for all children, rather than by a few enlightened parents as a counter to the school's teachings.

Emma

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