So Nick Clegg, the Lib-Dem leader, and Deputy Prime Minister, is being given a hard time by the red-top press for his apparent hypocrisy in considering sending his Catholic kids to a Catholic school. “Where’s the hypocrisy in that?” I hear you ask. Well, Nick himself is an atheist. He doesn’t believe in any god, man in the sky, supreme being, or other variation on religious superstition. In fact he has often bluntly answered that very question in interviews.
His kids, however are Catholic, as is his wife. This of course then leads to the insinuation that he clearly doesn’t wear the trousers in his own house, and shouldn’t then be trusted with matters of state. Maybe journalists say this because they would always insist that their own children be the same religion as the father, regardless of the mother’s wishes. Couldn’t they just accept that Nick and Mrs Clegg have formed a coalition marriage, where neither side gets to implement all of their own policies?
I have frequently been accused of being the very same kind of hypocrite. For as long as I can recall, I have been a big old atheist. I change between tolerant and evangelical atheism, depending upon my mood, but having been brought up through all the Catholics rites and schools, I see the Catholic Church as merely strange, and not sinister. “How dare you send your kids to a Catholic school, when you are not a believer, and don’t take them to Mass each Sunday?” Apparently I am taking advantage of the system, and making a mockery of the long fought for right to separate schools in Scotland.
I’ll plead guilty as charged, on all counts. I am absolutely taking advantage; but I believe I am doing so with a purpose. Firstly, my kids have indeed been through the relevant sacraments of baptism, communion, confirmation etc. These however are family traditions, and of no inconvenience to me. It also furnishes them with the relevant paperwork. In contrast with England however, the paperwork is simply not necessary in Scotland, as faith schools are not allowed to exclude any applicants on the grounds of religion (or lack thereof). In fact my kids’ secondary school has a large proportion of Muslim, Jewish and Sikh children attending, as their parents actively wanted the ethos and work ethic that the school offered. I am currently the Vice Chair of the Parent Council (formerly the school board).
The way I see it, I have offered the priests full access to my kids for 12 years. If they can’t deliver a persuasive argument in their most formative years, then it really mustn’t be that compelling. As it turns out, the best efforts of the church have foundered and, with little help from me, sons 1 and 2 have turned out to be as adamantly irreligious as I am. No 3 son is only 8, and still believes in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, so he is still to play for.
So where do I stand then? I am dead against any kind of discrimination and separation, as is seen in schools that are selective either by religion, money, race or class. It is outrageous that this is still legally allowed in England. Like golf clubs who deny membership to women, black people and Irish, the end of selective schools can only be brought about by infiltration of those who were previously denied entry.
PS. It seems to be working out well too. Both eldest sons are straight ‘A’ students, independent thinkers, who go/will go to the university of their choice.
Related post: The apartheid of private education