Pupils must be free to ques­tion ev­ery­thing

Daily Mail - - Letters -

OFSTED chief Amanda Spiel­man has warned that ex­trem­ists are us­ing schools to ‘ac­tively per­vert the pur­pose of ed­u­ca­tion’, ped­dling re­li­gious ide­olo­gies that nar­row chil­dren’s hori­zons and cut them off from so­ci­ety. Par­ents and com­mu­nity lead­ers have founded schools to use them to in­doc­tri­nate im­pres­sion­able minds with ex­trem­ist ide­ol­ogy. Rightly, Ms Spiel­man is de­ter­mined to tackle such peo­ple, and she has called on school lead­ers to use ‘mus­cu­lar lib­er­al­ism’ to de­fend de­ci­sions they make, rather than fear caus­ing of­fence. I’m sure many will say: ‘Hear! Hear!’ As head­mas­ter of The Fulham Boys School, a Church of Eng­land free school in West London, I heartily agree that such ex­trem­ists should be tack­led. How­ever, I have no time for a mus­cu­lar lib­er­al­ism that ap­pears to be hold­ing the mega­phone on so­cial me­dia. Far from en­cour­ag­ing young peo­ple to ques­tion and think about the world around us, how so­ci­ety is framed, the laws we pass and our val­ues, it dic­tates how we think. By in­sist­ing on their own rights and free­doms, mus­cu­lar lib­er­als deny oth­ers theirs. Their lib­er­al­ism pre­scribes that some things can no longer be de­bated and dis­cussed, and that peo­ple who hold views that are not lib­eral are to be la­belled as dan­ger­ous ex­trem­ists. But isn’t that wrong? I de­test ex­trem­ist ide­ol­ogy that makes young peo­ple adopt a view with­out ques­tion, to hate rather than con­sider, and that leads them into vi­o­lence, ter­ror­ism and mur­der. But I also hate mus­cu­lar lib­er­al­ism that tells us how we should think and live our lives. I want my young pupils to ques­tion ev­ery­thing: where have we come from, the ori­gins of the uni­verse, abor­tion, eu­thana­sia, views on sex, mar­riage, re­la­tion­ships; to have the right to be a boy and be called one; to say men and women are equal, but dif­fer­ent. As a Chris­tian head­mas­ter, lib­er­al­ism should al­low me to be­lieve the Bi­ble, and in a school built upon the Chris­tian faith, to ex­pose boys to it, en­cour­ag­ing them to ques­tion it. As Ms Spiel­man pointed out, quot­ing Psalm 119, our duty as lead­ers is to ‘teach knowl­edge and good judg­ment’. Surely this is part of it. Fur­ther­more, lib­er­al­ism should al­low schools to have a dis­tinc­tive ethos and give peo­ple choice in the type of school they want to go to. Ms Spiel­man de­fends the right of head­teach­ers to set uni­form poli­cies to pro­mote co­he­sion, rather than adopt a pas­sive lib­er­al­ism that says ‘any­thing goes’ for fear of caus­ing of­fence. As long as we make it clear what we are about, are trans­par­ent and open to scru­tiny, it should surely be up to par­ents and pupils to de­cide if they want our schools or not. And if they do, to re­spect their ethos and cul­ture.

ALUN EBENEzER, London W14.

Open closed minds: Alun Ebenezer

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