Mixed schools

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David Robertson (Friends of The Scotsman, 7 July) strongly believes that Scotland would benefit from having more schools segregated on the basis of religion.

He says people have a right to segregated schools and the state has a duty to provide them. He acknowledges that a plethora of religiously segregated schools will mean a huge increase in the cost of education, but he claims a voucher system will deal with that.

The timing of his article could not be worse. The Greek economy is at crisis point due to overspending and an accumulation of debt, and the UK is likewise being forced to cut back its public spending to bring its debt under control.

Providing segregated schools for all the various beliefs held in our society – Presbyterian, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Humanist etc – would require a huge increase in spending on education.

Such an increase, simply to satisfy the prejudices of those who favour segregation, is not the sort of policy that will appeal to anyone of sound economic sense.

But the argument is not just financial. The well-being of society and the nurture of social harmony are also involved. In a society like ours where people of differing beliefs live and work together, children should mix with others of different outlooks and learn how to respect and tolerate difference.

Children who go to school together have a better chance in later life of knowing how to get on with people of very different outlooks.

We should take heed of what happened in Northern Ireland. There the education system is split between Protestant and Catholic.

Sociological studies carried out by the Coleraine University have shown that children in that segregated system soon adopt “them v us” attitudes and regard the other side with suspicion and distrust.

Furthermore, patterns of social behaviour acquired in childhood shape later adult life, such as making friends across the religious divide. Years of segregation, ignorance and distrust preceded the terrible violence there in the 1970s and 80s.

The case against religiously segregated schools and in favour of integrated schools which respect all faiths and beliefs is strong and it is grounded in evidence.

Perhaps David Robertson should take stock of the arguments and then try to put into practice the faith that he professes – if you love your neighbour, you will send your children to the same school.

Les Reid

Morton Street

Edinburgh

David Robertson is wrong in saying church schools were taken over by “atheistic secularists”. There were very few atheists then and they had no influence on education. Religious services and indoctrination remained compulsory at the insistence of churches. Many teachers were “Christians”.

When I was at school in the 1940s few parents had any interest in religion but they were not given any choice about what was taught in schools.

That many eminent scholars did not believe in the existence of any “gods” or “creation” was not disclosed to us. I never heard the words “atheism” or “evolution” or of Paine, Hume, Huxley or Darwin.

Questioning of the “Christian” teaching was unheard of and non-attendance at daily services was punishable.

These and the scripture lessons were deadly boring and of no value to us as well as being a gross waste of pupils’ time and public money. That there were many basic disagreements among “Christians” was not mentioned. Nor were any other religions. I have since studied the works of eminent philosophers and Bible scholars. As a result I am an atheist but willing to allow religious people to think as they like and to indoctrinate their own, but not other peoples’, children.

Those who are interested in the subject and creationism can study these outside school.

Mr Robertson opposes “secularism” meaning freedom to follow the religion of one’s choice or none without state interference. Does he want a theocracy like Calvin’s Geneva?

Euan Bremner

Perth Road

Dundee

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