Inclusivity in Education

As already described (, education can make an important moral contribution to peaceful pluralism – but education is also a political issue.  There are two sides to the argument:

Richard Dawkins argued, in chapter 9 of The God Delusion (4.3.3), that children should not be brought up to believe in any religion;

It is widely regarded as a parent’s right to teach religion to their children, for example in Article 26 of the UDHR (Appendix 1).

The Dawkins position is clearly unrealistic, not least because it would be unenforceable.  A more practical approach is to ensure that children are also taught to have a wider perspective and a respect for other ‘people of the book’, and to ensure that they are free to change their beliefs in adulthood.

Public education policy can be careful to be neutral in terms of religion and to foster understanding between ethnic groups.  In most countries, though, there are also schools which are supported by a single faith – and it would be an impractical and undesirable curtailment of personal freedom to insist upon the State being the only authority allowed to educate children; it would allow a government more control than many people would accept.

Faith schools tend to encourage the adoption of particular beliefs, so they can be seen as potentially divisive; it is therefore of fundamental importance, in support of peaceful pluralism, that every school should be required to teach a basic level of understanding of other faiths.  Public examinations could test such knowledge, regardless of which type of school the pupil attended.  Such arrangements already exist in some places.  They need, though, to be continually reviewed as each society continues to evolve as a consequence of pluralism.


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This is a current page, updated since publication of Patterns of Power Edition 3a.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6749b.htm