Secular schools are failing to provide children with a system of values to prevent them being led into extremism, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
Schools have an unduly individualistic outlook which does not make children feel they are part of a community, leaving them vulnerable to radicalisation, he said in a House of Lords debate on education.
Justin Welby said: “We live in a country where an overarching story, which is the framework for explaining life, has more or less disappeared.
“We have a world of unguided and competing narratives, where the only common factor is the inviolability of personal choice, which means that for schools that are not of a religious character, confidence in any personal sense of ultimate values has diminished.
“Utilitarianism rules, and skills move from being talents held for the common good, which we are entrusted with as benefits for all, to being personal possessions for our advantage.”
The Archbishop argued that the secular education system prepares children for a career or to earn money, but does not teach them how to be effective members of society.
He later added: “The challenge is the weak, secular and functional narrative that successive governments have sought to insert in the place of our historic, Christian-based understanding, whether explicitly or implicitly.
“Functionalism, or utilitarianism, offers neither a meaningful alternative to those who are threatened by peddlers of extremism, nor a confident framework within which to educate those of different cultures and beliefs.”
The Archbishop had called the debate, which also covered the impact of Brexit and education standards for underprivileged children.
He said that an expansion of Church of England schools could help solve educational inequality.
“Not enough has been done to break down entrenched disadvantage, or to improve integration and cohesion.
“The Church of England, with its wide and widening schools network, can and must do more to address this problem,” he said.
However, secular campaigners called his comments “an appalling and cynical abuse of religious privilege”.
Stephen Evans, chief executive officer of the National Secular Society, said: “Welby is absolutely wrong to attack community schools over their lack of transmission of values.
The challenge is the weak, secular and functional narrative that successive governments have sought to insert in the place of our historic, Christian-based understanding, whether explicitly or implicitly.Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
“Non-faith-based schools actively promote the same universal values as church schools. By promoting these values as uniquely “Christian”, it’s church schools that give their pupils a skewed and very poor understanding of ethics.”
Speaking at the same debate, Labour peer Lord Adonis called for the Archbishop to lead an enquiry into the scandal of university vice-chancellors’ pay.
Earlier this week it emerged that the departing vice chancellor of Bath Spa University, Christina Slade, was paid £800,000 in her final year in the role.
Lord Adonis also said Theresa May should appoint a “minister for good schools” to be based in Grimsby or Blackpool with responsibility and funding for improving standards in poor-performing areas.
He added that schools should be barred from expelling pupils unless they had broken the law.
“We’ve got to tackle the cancer of school expulsions, which is such an important cause of young lives going completely off the rails.
“This is a difficult issue but after much consideration I’ve come to the conclusion that the right course is to forbid schools from expelling pupils or even temporarily excluding them unless they have broken the law,” he said.
Source: The Telegraph
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