The world’s religions have an enormous influence in education, involved in the running and support of more than 50% of the world’s schools. Through such schools and also via various relief and aid organizations they play an essential role in tackling female illiteracy and population issues, and providing health education and services.
In America such parochial schools, as they are usually known, are mostly Catholic, and have faced dwindling numbers and threats of closure. Why is this, because in the UK the situation is quite different? The UK 'faith schools' tend to be very popular amongst parents, not necessarily for the implied teaching of a particular faith, but for the values that they teach. Indeed our own local Anglican Church school has been turning children away for lack of space and is now busy finding that extra space to accommodate two further classes. Soon there will not be enough room in church to accommodate all the children and their parents and guardians at the regular services held for them.
As far as I can tell the value of American parochial schools is also recognized beyond simply the teaching of faith. So why do such schools struggle when in the UK their future seems so secure?
And are we dangerously brainwashing impressionable young children?
That rather depends on how the children are taught. It is vitally important to teach them from an early age about the world’s different religions, but emphasis should be placed on the many features common to them all, so that these can be appreciated and celebrated whilst helping the children to understand and respect the smaller number of differences.
I would add that most important of all is the need to nurture the spirituality within these children so that they grow in spiritual as well as religious literacy.
My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.
"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden