Up until the late 19th century most, if not all schools had some kind of religious affiliation. This was especially true of the Church of England. Consequently, religious instruction enjoyed a central place in the curriculum. After a number of education Acts, including the Forster Act of 1870, elementary schooling became compulsory for all. Although compulsory, Christian education was to be strictly non-denominational. The basics of Christianity were taught including the Bible stories of the Old and New Testaments and the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul. In addition, pupils were instructed in the importance of the Ten Commandments and taught to say the Lord’s Prayer, often learning much by heart along with a number of Psalms. In Church of England Schools prayers were taken from the Book of Common Prayer and hymns sung from Hymns Ancient and Modern. The result of this was that many of the things learnt by heart remained in the memory even into old age. The teaching of religious instruction was continued under the Butler Education Act 1944. Changes were inevitable once the ‛multi-cultural society’ arrived. The Education Act of 1996 says:
“Religious education must reflect the fact that the religious traditions in Britain are in the main Christian, whilst taking account of the teachings and practices of the other principle religions.”

The 1944 Act was modified by later Acts of Parliament. Previously, ‛religious education’ had been taught as knowledge and something that was true just as mathematics or history. The Acts after 1944 relativised the teaching of religion, so that pupils were taught about Christianity rather than as something that was true. In the 1996 Act, Christianity was ‛taken account of’ alongside other world religions. Pupils study different religions and moral themes, and also carefully selected ‛religious’ and ‛moral’ leaders. In fact, these days religious education is hardly Christian at all.

All schools are still required by law to conduct a daily act of collective worship of which 51% must be Christian in any academic year. According to OFSTED, four out of five secondary schools no longer hold an act of worship as they are legally required to do. A third of all comprehensive schools in Britain are also breaking the law because they provide no religious education at all. Schools have been reducing the number of qualified RE teachers so that many lessons are in the hands of staff untrained in the subject. No serious action is ever taken against them. On the other hand, severe censure is to be expected should any school be deemed by inspectors not to be sufficiently multicultural. Otherwise academically excellent schools, but with a distinctively Christian ethos, have on occasions been deliberately targeted and threatened with closure for no other reason than failure to implement to the inspectors' satisfaction some element of the government's multi-faith agenda. No inspectors now carry through a purely academic or ‛neutral’ inspection. They are charged with enforcing a multi-faith, multi-cultural programme in British schools. In all fairness, a Christian school should have the freedom to be just that: Christian. Noises coming from government ministers suggest that Christian schools of this kind are now likely to fall foul of the law for promoting ‛extremism’. One member of parliament has made government policy clear: that courts will be instructed to prosecute any teacher suggesting that same-sex marriage is wrong let alone sinful. This is something even the National Secular Society, supporters of same-sex  unions, finds a severe threat to free speech. Under the terms of the 1996 Act it is, in any case, illegal to teach that the Christian faith is true. Anyone now saying that Christianity is true will as likely as not be accused of indoctrination. To say that the Christian faith is true will lead to the accusation of inculcating outdated and unfounded dogmas and prejudices. Yet teaching about Christianity is hardly neutral or impartial, but is done from the perspective of secular indoctrination. What is being insisted upon in the underlying approach is that a secular view of the Christian faith is the only correct one and that secular values are now the only true ones. Religion is what people ‛used to believe’.

It would be better were the kind of religious education taught in schools today scrapped altogether. The instruction is full of anti-Christian prejudice and bias. Overseas missionary activity of the past was such a blessing in so many ways, but it is now despised and taught as being part of an ‛imperialist’ past by teachers who ought to know better.  Not only did the missionaries bring the Gospel, but built hospitals, schools, providing doctors, teachers and teacher training. They brought agriculture and work, taught hygiene and much more besides. The missionaries were chased out behind the lie that the people must shake off their colonial past. Many of these same countries today are defrauded by dishonest leaders hoarding unimaginable riches for themselves culled from the ‛foreign aid’ programmes of western countries; yet they are ravished by war, frightful cruelty and terror. Such is the cost of turning their backs on the Gospel once preached to them. RE lessons will include, in the place of Christian figures and Bible Stories,  the unquestioning hero worship of Marxist liberationist and socialist icons such as Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther King and others like them. Even environmentalist slogans appear and are accepted uncritically as truth close to the Gospel. Global warming, climate change is an unassailable doctrine, today accepted by churchmen as being such. The slave trade is bewailed, teachers almost striking their breasts in horror. Yet hardly anything is said about the Christian figures such as William Wilberforce and others, who in the end brought about its abolition. There is a strange silence about the fact that the biggest slave traders were Arabs, Muslims - and so it remains to this day.

Religious Education in England is a compulsory subject within the state system. Although a compulsory subject, what is not understood is that it is also not compulsory that any students must actually take the subject. Schools will often emphasise the compulsory nature of RE and not disclose or even lie to parents about their legal right to withdraw children from RE lessons. This position has not been changed in any recent legislation and schools find it convenient for this confusion to remain in place as it makes their life very much easier, especially when organising such things as visits to mosques. Students are unfairly subjected to tremendous pressure almost to the point of blackmail to participate in such visits. Under Section 71 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, parents have the right to withdraw children from RE lessons and acts of collective worship. Schools must agree to any formal request for withdrawal, generally made in writing to the school. At 18 pupils can withdraw themselves from RE without parental permission. Section 55 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 provides for sixth-form students to withdraw themselves from acts of collective worship without parental permission should they so wish. In 2010 the Department of Education provided schools with non-statutory guidance about meeting with parents who wish to withdraw their child from RE and collective worship, one section showing how to persuade parents to reconsider. Given the purpose, content and aims of RE, it is surprising that more parents, Christian or otherwise, do not insist upon their legal right of withdrawal.

From the government’s own published guidance to schools, the purpose of teaching RE can be summarised as follows:
“RE provides a positive context within which the diversity of cultures, beliefs and values can be celebrated and explored. The community within which the school is located - RE provides opportunities to investigate patterns of diversity of religion and belief and forge links with different groups in the local area. The UK community – a major focus of RE is the study of diversity of religion and belief in the UK and how this influences national life.
The global community – RE involves the study of matters of global significance recognising the diversity of religion and belief and its impact on world issues. RE subject matter gives particular opportunities to promote an ethos of respect for others, challenge stereotypes and build understanding of other cultures and beliefs. This contributes to promoting a positive and inclusive school ethos that champions democratic values and human rights. ... This also builds resilience to anti-democratic or extremist narratives and enables pupils to build their sense of identity and belonging, which helps them flourish within their communities and as citizens in a diverse society. It teaches pupils to develop respect for others, including people with different faiths and beliefs, and helps to challenge prejudice.”

Most parents erroneously believe that children are sent to school to learn things, reading writing and arithmetic will do for a start. It should be clear from the government’s own statements above that RE, indeed the whole of school life, is about something more than learning or education in any sense that most parents would understand it. Children suffer daily incarceration to the end that they may be subjected to progressive indoctrination using a teaching methodology derived from the brainwashing techniques of Pavlov, behaviourist and constructivist psychology, as any teacher training syllabus will show. Our children are being systematically moulded into passive, unthinking clones, to be used for whatever purpose governments deem fit.

Although well suited to this purpose, undermining the Christian faith is not something that is confined to RE lessons, but pervades every other subject in both its content and the way it is taught. Education goes way and above the imparting of knowledge or development of skills whether this is learning to read, write, do maths or learn a foreign language. Going to school has the purpose of conditioning students for their role in life. Writing as far back as 1926, the behavioural eugenicist, Paul Popenoe wrote:
“The educational system should be a sieve, through which all the children of the country are passed. ...It is very desirable that no child escape inspection. ...”
The older forms of education are no longer relevant today - ‛dead facts’ help no one, or so it is said. Instead of filling the mind with knowledge, it must be broadened by ‛problem solving’ and ‛critical thinking’. What transpires in the classroom must be translated into deeds in the lives of students as individuals and citizens. Many educationalists have tried, for example, to redefine literacy. Harvard professor Anthony D. Oettinger wrote in 1982:
“Our idea of literacy, I am afraid, is obsolete because it rests on a frozen and classical definition. ...The present ‛traditional’ concept of literacy has to do with the ability to read and write. But the real question that confronts us today is: How do we help citizens function well in their society? How can they acquire the skills necessary to solve their problems?” It is an outrage that so many students still leave the school system unable to read and write and unemployable?

A student having passed through the State school system will generally emerge, despite having perhaps received Christian training at home, using humanist and relativist assumptions even when attempting to defend the Christian faith. Having sent children to schools designed to prejudice them against traditional Christian values and teaching, it ought then to be no surprise to find them turning their back on the Gospel and teachings of Scripture. It is our Christian duty to ensure that our children receive an education outside the State system. Governments have no business dictating what or how the children of our nation should be taught. It is beyond their remit and competence. The responsibility for bringing up the children we bring into this world lies foursquare with parents and this includes education. The interfering parliamentary busybodies should keep their noses out. They will not do so, of course. Education is the way our tyrannical rulers have chosen to mould young people into what they want them to be: quiet, docile citizens who will do as they are told and allow them to stay in power. There are many alternatives still available to parents, but only if we are prepared to make the sacrifices such a step demands. This ought to be something we take on board when determining to bring children into the world.

David W. Norris