I’m not prejudiced……

As I said I was the headteacher of a larger than average primary school in the North East of England. I have to say now that it was a faith school, (Roman Catholic to be precise.) I don’t want to get into a debate about whether we should have faith schools but perhaps the following true story will show why we need Religious Education.

As I said I was the headteacher of a larger than average primary school in the North East of England. I have to say now that it was a faith school, (Roman Catholic to be precise.) I don’t want to get into a debate about whether we should have faith schools but perhaps the following true story will show why we need Religious Education.

As a Catholic school we followed a religious curriculum that was very much based on Christianity, however each term we did study another world religion. Whenever we did this there were always some parents who objected. What follows is true.

It was a Tuesday morning and the secretary came to my office to say that a parent was demanding to see me.(The joys of an open door policy!) So I politely invited her in and offered her a seat which she declined.

“What can I do for you today?” I asked, even though I knew the answer, but what followed was not what I was expecting.

“I’m not happy about this trip to the mosque next week. My child will not be going and I think its disgusting that you are going to get the children to pray like Muslims. I chose a Catholic school for my children and I want them to have a Catholic education!”

What surprised me was that this was the first I had heard about a trip to a mosque. Perhaps I needed to have a word with my RE coordinator, especially since we were studying Judaism, not Islam. And perhaps it was because the trip was to a synagogue, not a mosque.

“We are not going to a mosque, we are going to a synagogue. But even if we were going to a mosque what would be the problem?” I enquired gently.

“Mosque, Synagogue, what’s the difference?” (Please note that I have cleaned up the language used a bit.) “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not prejudiced or racist, I just don’t like them. I don’t agree with them.”

At this point we could have engaged in several topics of conversation, the differences and similarities between Judaism and Islam, how we are all “Children of the Book.” I could have asked what exactly she didn’t agree with, whether it was Islam as a whole she didn’t like or was it just individuals. I could have pointed out that her son’s best friend was Abdul (who was the only Muslim child in the school at the time.) I could have asked what she knew about both religions and the contributions they have made to the world but I didn’t get the chance.

She then launched into a tirade about Islam which, despite her protestations of tolerance and equality, included some very offensive views which I shall not go into here. I decided to try and move her on to the real school visit and to the fact that we were studying Judaism.

“Well, they’re just as bad, their funny language, the clothes that they wear and the things that they have hanging out from under their shirts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not racist, live and let live is what I say. Anyway I want a Catholic education for my children, I want them to learn about the bible, I want them to do what the church says and not follow some other religions or learn to pray to other gods. I want them to look at the example of Mary!” (The school was named after one of her titles but I am not going to say which one)

As you can imagine I was very taken aback by this ignorant attitude even though I had had various conversations with the person in question over the years and wasn’t surprised. I asked her if she was a Catholic and that the study of other religions was part of the curriculum that had been agreed by the Bishops of England and Wales. I also said that it was possible that Fr Bob would be coming with us.

“Who?”

“He’s the parish priest. I’m sure you see him at church every week as it is so important to you that your children receive a Catholic education.”

Unfortunately she didn’t pick up on the sarcasm but went on to reiterate that she didn’t want her children to learn about any other religion than Catholic, that she didn’t agree with other religions and that in her opinion a Catholic School should not be talking about Judaism at all, or anything to to with it. I could have pointed out that Jews, Christians and Muslims all pray to the same God. I could have gone into the fact that the Old Testament in the bible is in fact the Hebrew scriptures, I could have mentioned that Mary is mentioned more in the Koran than she is in the bible but I thought I would keep it simple.

“You do know that Jesus was Jewish, don’t you?”

She turned and left.

And some people say that Religious Education is a waste of time?????

One thought on “I’m not prejudiced……

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