Changes to implementation of the new RSE guidelines

Press statement 5th June 2020

An intrinsic element of the process of bringing Relationships Education into primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) into secondary schools is parental engagement. Most schools would have been following the parental engagement process this term prior to the compulsory start of Relationships Education and RSE teaching from September 2020.

Due to school closures this term it has been difficult for schools to conduct this statutory process. The Department of Education has now informed The Values Foundation that all schools can “have flexibility over how they discharge their duty within the first year of compulsory teaching”.

Whilst RSE will still be “compulsory” from 1st September 2020, the active word is “from”. Schools can now decide on their school readiness to provide effective RSE suitable for their cohort and have until the start of the summer term 2021 to actually begin teaching RSE. This will allow enough time for schools to follow consultative procedures with parents, including engaging parents on their RSE policy as well as planning their curriculum provision and sharing resources.

The DfE is mindful of sensitivities in teaching RSE whilst also being aware of concerns raised about Ofsted inspection, particularly in this matter. The DfE reassures schools that currently Ofsted inspections are suspended and when routine inspections do re-start, inspectors will “be sensitive to, and will take account of, the context and circumstances of each school”.

Faith schools must create and publish a robust RSE Policy taking into account the school’s ethos, cohort and age appropriateness. The Statutory Guidance states that: “Schools must have regard to the guidance, and where they depart from those parts of the guidance which state that they should (or should not) do something they will need to have good reasons for doing so.” Therefore, schools can justifiably make a strong case regarding their choice of topics and teaching strategy that can match all sensitivities, as long as they fulfil their legal requirements in RSE.

Health education is also mandatory for state-funded schools; in independent schools, Health Education is taught as part of PSHE. The DfE is highlighting prioritising the support of both staff and pupil emotional and mental well-being, particularly as all school stakeholders return from a period of extended lockdown which has been stressful for all involved. It is highly recommended that all schools take advantage of the resources that will be available regarding mental wellbeing as pupils return to school.

There will now be ample opportunity for schools to go through a full process of consultation with parents.

Faith and family play a bigger role in academic achievement than race or socioeconomic status

By William Jeynes

The phrase “achievement gap” refers to the well-documented discrepancies between the scholastic achievements of African American and Latinos on the one hand and white students on the other. What explains the gap? My meta-analysis revealed that if an African American or Latino student was a person of faith and came from a two biological parent family, the achievement gap totally disappeared, even when adjusting for socioeconomic status.

“In the academic and think tank world”—Ronald Roach, the prolific academic writer for Diverse: Issues in Higher Education has rightly observed—“pondering achievement gap remedies takes center stage.” The phrase “achievement gap” refers to the well-documented discrepancies between the scholastic achievements of African American and Latinos on the one hand and white students on the other, as well as between those of students from higher and lower levels of socioeconomic status.

There are two schools of thought regarding how best to eliminate the achievement gap. The first group calls on society to focus its attention on eliminating “opportunity gaps,” arguing that this will lead to higher academic achievement among currently disadvantaged students. These opportunity gaps include factors such as being a member of a racial minority, discrimination, poor nutrition, inadequate health care, not having access to high-quality public education, coming from a family in which the parents are poorly educated or do not speak English as their first language, and lack of internet and computer access.

A second group of scholars and community leaders is focused on reducing the “achievement gap.” They agree that addressing “opportunity gaps” must be part of the solution, but they caution that the causes of the achievement gap are complex. They go beyond the factors commonly identified as “opportunity gaps.” For example, this “achievement gap” group emphasizes that the personal decisions parents and children make regarding school have a considerable impact on the achievement gap. How involved will parents decide to become? How much will the household decide to emphasize faith in God, and the sense of purpose in life, and working hard to realize that purpose and please God, which normally follows?

“Opportunity gap” researchers are clearly well-intentioned. But is it wise to relabel the “achievement gap” as an “opportunity gap”? Does the evidence support this change, or is an “opportunity gap” simply a small part of a much broader challenge? Whether American society emphasizes one or the other is particularly important, because most of the components of the “opportunity gap” are external to the family and beyond the realm of the family’s control. In contrast, those who support the “achievement gap” perspective believe that a sizable number of the solutions to educational differences exist internally, within the family’s control. Psychologists have a phrase to highlight this distinction: they assert that, when it comes to solving life’s challenges, generally one has either an internal or an external locus of control. Moreover, they aver that having an internal locus of control is far healthier than settling for an external locus of control; that possessing an external locus of control leads to what is often called “learned helplessness,” that is, a feeling that one can do little or nothing to ameliorate one’s circumstances.

So which is primary, opportunity gap or achievement gap? To answer this question, I recently conducted a meta-analysis of thirty studies that examined attempts to reduce the achievement gap. A meta-analysis statistically combines all the relevant existing studies on a particular subject in order to determine the aggregated results of the research. Mine is the first published meta-analysis to examine the factors that most reliably reduce the achievement gap. This meta-analysis yielded results that will surprise many: the variables that most reliably reduce the achievement gap are family and faith.

The surprising importance of family and faith

The data are clear: parental family structure and parental involvement were major explanatory factors and solutions with respect to the achievement gap. Even researchers Wade Boykin and Pedro Noguera—who advocate a school-based approach based on the “opportunity gap” model—admit, “These gaps show up even before students start formal schooling—in their knowledge of vocabulary, for example.” If the gaps exist even before children begin to attend school, why is so much attention given to school-based opportunity gaps rather than family factors?

Research by Dick Carpenter, Al Ramirez, and Laura Severn found that gaps caused by family factors were often larger than those caused by race. There is an old adage among many family scientists that when a Caucasian comes from a single parent or a blended family structure, he or she loses the advantage of being white. It is still rather unusual for a white child to be born out of wedlock (a 28.2 percent chance), but it is common for an African American student to come from a single parent family (a 69.4 percent chance).

The family elements that were most strongly associated with a reduction in the achievement gap were coming from a two-biological-parent family and high levels of parental involvement. These are interrelated: when two parents are present, this maximizes the frequency and quality of parental involvement. To be sure, there are many dedicated single parents. However, the reality is that when one parent must take on the roles and functions of two, it is simply more difficult than when two parents are present. Unless we improve family stability, and thus parental involvement, the achievement gap is likely to remain for decades to come.

In addition to family structure, a student’s faith also has a significant impact on his or her academic performance. Regularly attending church, or another house of worship, and defining oneself as being a very religious person yielded the most significant reductions in the achievement gap. There are likely a number of reasons for this relationship; faith can give a person a sense of purpose in life and a disciplined lifestyle that supports academic success.

Perhaps most significantly, the meta-analysis revealed that, if an African American or Latino student was a person of faith and came from a two-biological-parent family, the achievement gap totally disappeared, even when adjusting for socioeconomic status. Various other studies have confirmed that people of faith do better in school by a pretty sizable margin. One recent example is a study by Ilana Horowitz of Stanford University, who asserted that there is, as she called it, an “abider-avoider achievement gap.”

Numerous research studies have concluded that family factors are far more salient than school factors in influencing achievement. Why is it so difficult therefore for so many academics and politicians to understand that the same truth holds with respect to the achievement gap? With all the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been poured into reducing the achievement gap with only marginal success, recognizing—and working to improve—family and faith factors would likely be much more effective in reducing racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps.

What Should We Do?

To the extent to which the personal faith of students is associated with higher achievement and a reduced achievement gap, the U.S. Department of Education may want to consider adopting policies that are more faith-friendly. First, it should consider more aggressive policies to promote a school choice program that includes private schools. This would encourage the growth of private religious schools. Second, it should consider clarifying and expanding the public school religious liberty guidelines first released by the Clinton administration in 1995 and then updated by the G.W. Bush administration in 2003.

Those who suggest focusing on the “opportunity gap” do not generally acknowledge that this has been the primary strategy in the United States for the past fifty-five years. With the exception of the end of the 1970s and early 1980s, this strategy has done little to reduce the achievement gap. One would think that this would make it clear that a more comprehensive approach to reducing the achievement gap is needed. However, it appears that the more things change, the more they remain the same. There is a tendency among many academics to once again try an old initiative that has not worked especially well and to pretend that it is a new effort, simply by calling it by another name.

My meta-analysis summarizes what studies show actually works to reduce the achievement gap. Although the “opportunity gap” strategy is very appealing on an idealistic level, the meta-analysis points to a broader combination of contributing factors, supporting the perspective of “achievement gap” scholars and leaders.

Is part of the reason for educational differences captured by the idea of opportunity gaps? Yes, of course. Inequalities, racism, and stereotypes still exist, and we must work to eradicate their harmful effects. However, we must also acknowledge that there are other forces at work here. My research indicates that a combination of factors is at the heart of the achievement gap, factors that include, among others, decisions that parents and children make regarding school. These decisions include the decisions by parents regarding how much to be involved in their child’s education and how much to emphasize faith in the home, including one’s purpose in life. If we are to close that gap, we must take a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach.

William Jeynes is Professor of Education at California State University, Long Beach. This essay originally appeared at Public Discourse: The Journal of the Witherspoon Institute and is reprinted with permission.

The faith education that must never be tampered with

By Judith Nemeth

TEN days ago, 90,000 people spent five hours in the freezing Met Life Stadium in New York. Young and old, teens and pensioners. Football game of the year? No. Baseball game of the year? No. The gathering comprised orthodox Jews celebrating the completion of the seven-and-a-half-year cycle of learning a page a day of Talmud, called Daf Hayomi. At least half of the audience had completed that cycle, and the other half came to celebrate with them.

This celebration, known as Siyum HaShas, is being repeated across the world in numerous locations (although maybe not with such high numbers). Last week more than ten thousand were at Wembley Stadium – the largest gathering of Jews in Europe on record. Families attending span three or sometimes four generations; Holocaust survivors celebrate not only their survival but their successful learning.

You may ask what is their secret? What is the background that has led to this multi-generational celebration mingled with admiration for lifelong learning that takes place every day for seven and a half years?

The secret is twofold: it lies in the combination and seamless join of the coherent education that is given to the children at home and school that leads to the lifelong learning commitment of teenagers continuing through adulthood to pensioners. And the latter is all voluntary!

This is why orthodox Jews will not allow any authority to dictate how to educate their children. They have a winning education ticket, evidenced in events like the Met Life and Wembley, and they will not change this for anything.

Similarly, other faiths which have remained steadfast to their religious teachings, as well as people of no faith who wish to maintain a traditional lifestyle, will not be persuaded to teach their children to adopt new ideologies regarding relationships and family structures.

Some national organisation leaders who do not understand the strength of faith teaching often refer to people of faith who steadfastly remain true to their teachings as bigots, defined as ‘obstinately or unreasonable attached to a belief, opinion or faction and intolerant towards other people’s beliefs and practices’. There is nothing unreasonable or obstinate about being attached to a belief that carries a responsibility to maintain that faith. As former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks says, ‘Let their eternity live on in you’. That responsibility starts with the way parents choose to educate their children.

Just south of the Brandenburg Gate is Berlin’s Holocaust memorial which comprises 2,711 grey concrete slabs. The Berlin memorial signifies, in concrete, that a nation cannot be destroyed. It is sustained by that learning cycle. There are, significantly, 2,711 pages in the Talmud which tens of thousands of people worldwide have already started learning on the next cycle. The education that people of faith give their children must never be tampered with.

Judith Nemeth is Executive Director of The Values Foundation. This article first appeared in The Conservative Woman on 12 January 2020.

School is no place for gender identity meddling

By Judith Nemeth

The Government sets legislation, the Department for Education issues policy and education guidelines and Ofsted inspects schools. However it is ultimately parents, headteachers and teachers who carry the responsibility of educating children. Indeed, the previous Minister for Education, Damian Hinds, publicly placed this decision-making into their hands.

In August 2019, The Values Foundation sent letters to all relevant Ministers of children, schools, welfare, flagging up serious concerns and misgivings, supported by strong evidence, about promoting gender identity.  The eventual outcome was a meeting in October between TVF and the DfE’s RSE Department. We presented to them a folder of over 500 pages documenting fears and apprehensions emanating from schools and parents who had experienced the first half term of early adoption of RSE from September 2019.  The password is (all lower case): values

Whilst some of those documents evidenced highly unsuitable resources used to sexualise young children, most concerned gender identity.

The BBC Newsnight programme 25/11/2019: via @bbciplayer as well as Radio 4’s File On 4, both aired last week, focused on transgender, again highlighting this gravely concerning issue.  Whilst it is difficult to assess the numbers of de-transitioners, what was clear was the paucity of robust research. We do not have evidence of the long-term effects of puberty blockers and transitioning surgery. Neither have the reasons for the hike in numbers in those seeking transition been investigated.

In the DfE’s Relationships and Sex Education most recent FAQs (5th November 2019), schools are advised that they ‘should meet the needs of all pupils, whatever their developing sexuality or identity’. This subject of developing identity in children is an unsubstantiated, highly complex and an extreme minority issue often reflecting a complex potpourri of challenges that the child is facing. Schools are not equipped to meet those needs adequately.

Parents and teachers of children who exhibit such tendencies should of course have access to specialist help. Asking a teacher or headteacher to deal with this is like asking your doctor to teach times tables. It is abundantly clear that both the DfE and the NHS are wading in uncharted waters.

Ten years ago gender identity was not even on the horizon of 99 per cent of the UK population. This new phenomenon urgently needs qualitative and quantitative, multi-disciplinary research in order to inform all primary carers, whether in the education, health or parenting fields, how to deal with this sensitively and appropriately. It is our children’s ‘right’ that this is done without delay.

A society which over-affirms gender identity is creating unnecessary problems for itself. This is not the domain of relationships and sex education, it is a medical, psychological and moral issue. The ‘moral compass’ of our country and the ‘soul of our nation’ mentioned in Chief Rabbi Mirvis’s article in The Times refers not only to anti-Semitism; considerations on how we look after, educate and nurture our children into healthy human beings also reflects our morality and our soul.

Judith Nemeth is Executive Director of The Values Foundation. This article first appeared in The Conservative Woman on 6 December 2019.

What you should know about Relationships and Sex Education

By Roger Kiska

While there are definitely some troubling elements about the new RSE regulations coming into force in September 2020, one of them is not the mandatory teaching of LGBT elements in primary schools. While campaigners and some schools may insist that such a legal requirement exists, the reality is that it does not.

No LGBT requirement for primary schools

Nick Gibb, Minister for School Standards, has said as much during the Parliamentary Question Period on 25 June 2019, that primary schools are not required to teach LGBT elements.

The Department for Education (DfE) has further reaffirmed its position elsewhere. In a letter to a Christian Concern supporter dated 24 October 2019, the Department’s Relationships Education and Health Education Policy Team wrote:

Although there is no requirement to teach about LGBT relationships in primary schools, primary schools are strongly encouraged to cover LGBT content.”

This response, which essentially rehashes what the Minister for School Standards told Parliament, tells us two things. First, and most importantly, that LGBT elements need not be taught at the primary level. This is great news for faith schools, for example, who want to stay true to their ethos’. Its also incredibly helpful for parents to know in advance of consultations their children’s schools are legally obliged to have with them in developing their RSE policies.

Reason for concern

Second, and more concerning, is the ultra vires push by the DfE to have schools teach LGBT elements at the primary level, even if no legal requirement exists to do so. Legally speaking, whether strongly encouraged to or not, there is absolutely no statutory obligation to do so – meaning that the DfE is exceeding its powers by implying that more of a duty actually exists than what Parliament has actually intended.

This is particularly problematic as some schools will be using this ‘strong encouragement’ to veto parental objections to their primary aged children being exposed to LGBT elements. Other schools might read ‘strong encouragement’ to be a means to receiving a more favourable Ofsted inspection rating.

Lack of safeguards

This ultimately leads us into the most fundamentally flawed aspect of the new regulations and the guidance; that schools are being left to choose their own materials with moral signaling from the DfE that the more and earlier they introduce these materials the better. Despite there being a statutory obligation that any material or themes presented to pupils be age appropriate and have regard to the religious background of pupils, there has not been a single occasion where either the DfE or Ofsted have suggested that anything currently being proposed as part of RSE has breached either criteria.

It begs the question, for example, of how the DfE could defend the teaching of My Princess Boy, a book about childhood transvestitism, to a majority Muslim background primary school as being either age appropriate or having any regard for the religious background of those families. We would undoubtedly scoff at the idea of 6-year-old predominately Muslim pupils being read a story book about how normal and even wonderful it is to eat pork. Why should a book promoting the normalisation of cross-dressing or gender ideology be any different?

Things have come to the point of such absurdity, that one local authority has even promoted the teaching of childhood masturbation to primary aged students. Rather than jumping to condemn such teaching as wholly age inappropriate, the DfE has remained silent. Precisely stated, no matter how outrageous the material currently out there being labelled as RSE might be, the DfE has either directly supported it or indirectly affirmed it (by not denouncing it). That means, in essence, that the statutory protections put in the law to protect our children from corruption are quickly becoming dead letter. They are useless in the sense that the DfE, seemingly, has deemed any and all material to be both age appropriate and to have regard to the religious background of pupils on the sole basis that schools have claimed them to be materials fit for teaching.

Equality and Human Rights Commission encourages schools to break the law

To add to how quickly the RSE row is spiraling in an anti-parent direction, David Isaac, the Chair of the tax-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), has gone so far as to suggest that head teachers need not consult parents when introducing LGBT elements into their children’s education. He has even criticised the existing DfE guidance for telling schools to follow what the statute actually requires, which is to have due regard to the age of pupils in relation to LGBT teaching.

I would direct Mr Isaac and the staff of the EHRC to Section 80B(3) of the Education Act 2002 and Section 2A(f) of the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 where Parliament explicitly made the duty to consult parents a statutory obligation. Sections 80A(2)(b) of the Education Act 2002 and Section 2A(d) Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 similarly makes having regard to the age and religious background of the pupils a statutory obligation.

The EHCR’s public position that these legal duties, meant to safeguard parental rights and protect the innocence of our nation’s children, be wholly ignored is nothing short of a scandal.

It is time to take a stand

So, parents beware. This is the environment in which RSE is being launched. It is incumbent on concerned parents to know three things: (1) schools MUST consult with you before implementing their RSE policies; (2) whatever schools do decide to teach as part of RSE, it must be age appropriate and it must have due regard for the religious background of the school’s pupils; (3) there is no legal duty to introduce LGBT elements at the primary school level.

I would encourage parents to be active participants in those mandatory school consultations. Understand what RSE entails. And if your child’s school wishes to introduce LGBT elements at the primary level, make them evidence the need to do so and to prove that they are having regard to your Christian faith and the age and vulnerability of your son or daughter. Now is the time to act while school policies around the nation are being developed. If parents fail to act now, they will be setting a precedent for what RSE will be for years to come. There is too much at stake to remain silent.

Roger Kiska is legal counsel with the Christian Legal Centre. He was a contracted legal consultant for a Member of European Parliament on legal and legislative matters and previously served as vice-president and senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom International. He has also served on the Advisory Panel of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency.

6 November 2019

This article was first published on the Christian Concern website.

The need to Reaffirm Traditional British Values

By Rabbi Mordechai Rose

Modern liberal society has created a new system of values which it believes are superior to those of any society that has existed up until now. The primary principle of this system is that the individual should have the freedom to do whatever he or she wants — as long as it does not limit the freedom of another individual. Almost the only yardstick to judge the rightness or wrongness of any action is — “does it respect the freedom of the individual?” If it does then it is good; if it does not, then it is bad. Intolerance of the freedom of individuals to do whatever they want is to be abhorred; such intolerance contradicts the primary value of neo-liberal thinking. In this worldview, there are no ultimate rules of what is right or wrong. In fact, the belief that certain actions are inherently bad, even if they are freely chosen, is unacceptable because it is inherently intolerant.

All this puts modern liberal ideology on a collision course with traditional religious belief. Religion says that there are certain actions that are inherently wrong even if they are freely chosen and even if they may give the individuals personal satisfaction. Pre-marital relations and promiscuity in general would be examples of this, since traditional religions encourage only committed marriage relationships. Yet to the modern liberal way of thinking, the concept that certain freely chosen actions are inherently wrong clashes with the fundamental freedom of the individual to choose.

The recent proposal that RSE (Relationships and Sex Education) should become compulsory in all schools has inevitably become a battleground where the liberal and religious ideologies clash head-on. The liberal ideology demands that children are presented with all the possibilities of relationships so that they can choose which one they want. It would still be permissible to teach that religion does not allow certain types of relationships — as long as educators present the child with all the alternative views as well. The child must know that it is also possible to choose a promiscuous life-style if he or she wants. He or she must know that there are alternative same-sex relationships as well. Only in this way will the child or young adult be able to choose freely what he or she wants. Not to present all the possible choices would be an infringement on the freedom of the individual to choose.

The religious view wants to teach that only committed male-female marriages are permitted and any other type of physical relationship is undesirable and wrong. This is part of the absolute value system of religion. But from the secular liberal point of view, to teach the child that certain actions are wrong, even though they are freely chosen, is in total contradiction to the ultimate value of life — that the individual should be free to choose. According to this way of thinking, deeply held religious ideas of absolute right and wrong are inherently intolerant and are therefore unacceptable.

Modern liberal ideology presents itself well. It is the defender of human liberty, the promoter of tolerance and equality. Yet it does not seem to produce a stable and successful society. Before our eyes, we see a breakdown in values. Youth gangs, muggings, robbery, sexual and racial abuse seem to be on the rise. Respect for authority and the rule of law is waning. Why should this be when the aims of liberal society seem so positive and praiseworthy? The answer may become clear if we try and define some of the essential elements necessary for the existence of a harmonious and successful society.

If a group of a thousand people suddenly found themselves washed up on a desert island without communication with the rest of the world, what type of rules would they need to establish in order to survive, succeed and prosper? It is clear that if each person were only to think about his or her own survival on that island, about his or her freedom to do what he or she wants, there would be nothing to bind the group together and there would inevitably be conflict. They would have to put the value of the common good as their first priority. Each individual would have to work out what part he or she could play in helping the entire group. The members of the group must say to themselves, “If we are to survive, we cannot afford to think only about ourselves but about what is good for everybody — even if this is not what each one of us might want individually.”

Herein lies the fundamental flaw of modern neo-liberal thinking. If the overriding value is that all individuals should be free to do what they want and enjoy themselves as much as they can, this will create a society of individuals where each person seeks their own personal pleasure. There will be nothing to bind them together into a cohesive group. Our children are being educated to know all the choices and to see the world as not much more than an arena to fulfil their desires. We are producing a society of self-seeking individuals where the major value is to tolerate all types of life-choices and the major enemy is the intolerance of alternative life-choices.

Going back to our desert island scenario, another factor that would have to be considered would be the creation of stable family units. Human physical relationships are inherently volatile. If every individual will feel free to indulge his every transient feeling of attraction and desire for another individual, this will be a recipe for disaster. There will be conflict and jealousy. Once again the individuals will have to subordinate their transient desires for self-satisfaction for their own good and for the good of society. Every successful value system in the history of the world has come to the conclusion that stable relationships of fidelity and total commitment of one partner to the other are an essential requirement for the long-term survival of society. Sexual promiscuity and the breakdown of the family unit have always been the first signs of the collapse of society. Furthermore, children ideally need to be brought up with the security of having two committed parents who are a constant presence in their lives. This involves the parents committing themselves not to have physical relationships with others even if they might be tempted to do so. This is not a moral judgement, but a practical analysis of what makes society work.

Contrast this with the nature of modern liberal society where promiscuity is rampant and long-term sexual fidelity is extremely rare. But this is inevitable when the overriding value is the freedom to seek pleasure in this world. That individuals should freely choose to be intimate with whatever partners they may choose is seen as a fundamental value of modern liberal society. To discourage such an approach is considered oppressive and the result antiquated and backward belief systems. This may sound logical, but does it not threaten the essential building block of a stable society — the traditional family unit as outlined in the previous paragraph?

A society of free-thinking individuals, aware of all the choices, tolerant of every lifestyle, living for the moment may sound appealing but it is antithetical to the basic requirements of a functioning society. Does such a society have a future?

Another vital requirement for our friends on the desert island is to have some sort of higher ideals beyond just living for the moment and tolerating every lifestyle. If life has no ultimate meaning and we are no more than the most advanced animal on earth, we will not have the motivation to look beyond ourselves towards the needs of others and the benefit of society at large. But if we believe that we are on this earth for a purpose and that our every action is intrinsically meaningful for all of humanity, we will be roused to become better people and to rise above the quagmire of self-seeking desires. We may often be faced with a clash between the indulgence of an immediate intense pleasure and the knowledge that this indulgence might upset or cause harm to another. If life is ultimately meaningless, just a pattern of chance events, why should I forego the immediate pleasure? The challenge will be extremely hard to overcome.

For most of human history, this belief in a higher purpose has been provided by religion in one form or another. The common element of major religions in their refined form is that life has ultimate meaning and that we are here for a purpose and that everything we do is tremendously important. But now neo-liberal ideology has used science as a tool to prove to every sensible individual that all religions simply consist of nice stories that have no scientific basis in reality. They have a role as romantic folklore and no more. But to the serious scientist, it not so clear that we can explain the world without a first cause. The serious scientist knows that scientific theories about the nature and origin of the universe are no more than the theories based on the evidence we can presently observe. Science has not solved the mystery of the origin of life. A person is not a superstitious fool for believing that there is a first cause and that life has ultimate meaning and that there is a purpose and direction to human history. Yet to many neo-liberals, all deeply religious individuals are relics of the past living in a fantasy world. They are the only group of people that are not to be tolerated in a tolerant society — since religious individuals are inherently intolerant!

For centuries Great Britain has developed a stable and ever-more prosperous society based on values that have been developed carefully and gradually over the course of time. These traditional ideas emphasise the importance of marriage, family, honesty, hard work, loyalty and patriotic belief in the role of this country in the development of the world. This was all underpinned by a religious belief based on the Christian tradition. In a very short space of time these inherited ideas have been thrown by the wayside and replaced by a new worldview. In this new worldview all deeper meaning has been removed from life and nothing has ultimate meaning. The much touted “Fundamental British Values” that must now be taught in schools have virtually no connection with the inherited British values that gave this country stability and greatness and brought it to a position of moral leadership amongst the family of nations. They are a strange new hybrid creation that threatens the stability of this great country.

It is the belief of The Values Foundation that we need to return to the treasury of our inherited British values and rebuild the ambitions and aspirations of our society. We need to look once more for a vision which will unite us a country, built on a belief in the carefully nurtured values of British tradition — the importance of stable families, the importance of community and the belief in an ultimate purpose in life. If we fail to do this, who knows what the future will bring?

Rabbi Mordechai Rose is an author of works on classical Jewish thought, academic and lecturer on subjects of Jewish interest.

The Public Benefit of Belief

Why policies should favour education that respects families with faith backgrounds

By Roger Kiska

Introduction

Thou shall love thy neighbours as thyself” embodies the Judeo-Christian principle commonly known as the ‘Golden Rule’. Immanuel Kant notes that this external commandment to further your neighbour’s welfare from good-will that is immediate and not derived from motives of self-advantage, is premised on the internal commandment to love God above all.[1]

While the ‘Golden Rule’ can certainly be applied as a secular truth, forgetting its faith-based origins and creating educational policies which focus on values that are hostile or indifferent to faith becomes self-negating and does not guarantee full respect for others.[2]

Respect and promotion of faith-based values provide a conceptual underpinning for loving your proverbial neighbor. Moral relativism and secular humanism on the other hand do not have a moral anchor, providing no core source from which true equality based on equal dignity can be sustained. Rather than being a shield to defend the principle of equality, moral relativism often can be a sword which inspires division and the denial of dignity for all.

The fact is that Parliament, and by extension the Department of Education and Ofsted, have a compelling state interest in promoting and guaranteeing values-based education which respects families with faith backgrounds.

Parental rights

As detailed in the next section, there are quantifiable evidence-based reasons to promote education which respects parents who are people of faith, but for now let us now turn to the legal obligations, both positive and negative, which sustain why policy must do so.

Protocol 1, Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, as transposed into our domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998, states: “In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions”.[3] It is therefore a legal requirement that schools in England respect, and neither undermine nor interfere with, the ability of parents to bring up their children in accordance with their own religious or philosophical worldview. This same requirement, in nearly identical language, has also been ratified by the United Kingdom in no less than 5 other international treaties.[4]

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly held that “it is in the discharge of a natural duty towards their children – parents being primarily responsible for the ‘education and teaching’ of their children – that parents may require the State to respect their religious and philosophical convictions. This right thus corresponds to a responsibility closely linked to the enjoyment and the exercise of the right to education.[5] The Court has also held that “a balance must be achieved which ensures the fair and proper treatment of minorities and avoids any abuse of a dominant position.[6] The State, and by extension its schools, being the organiser of educational curriculum, must therefore not abuse its dominant position to force onto parents and their children views and positions about sexuality or other intimate moral matters, which many parents may find harmful to the development of their children. Universal values, on the other hand, like the ‘Golden Rule’, the promotion of individual and collective human dignity, prudence, charity, and temperance are all actualised in a values based education.

Again, as the Court has laid out: “The second sentence of Article 2 (P1-2) implies on the other hand that the State, in fulfilling the functions assumed by it in regard to education and teaching, must take care that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner. The State is forbidden to pursue an aim of indoctrination that might be considered as not respecting parents’ religious and philosophical convictions. That is the limit that must not be exceeded.[7] Unfortunately, experience shows that some schools are going well beyond their statutory equality duty and promoting ideas and behaviour which is antithetical to the beliefs of many families with religious backgrounds in a manner which sometimes aggressively undermines parental rights. Rather than promoting tolerance, this style of education calls upon students to go much further and celebrate certain protected characteristics. In doing so, traditional values and faith-based beliefs are often discarded as antiquated and bigoted.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, at Article 14, is another legally binding instrument which clearly states that in the provision of education schools must respect the right of parents to raise their children, commensurate with their evolving capacities, in accordance with the parents’ religious convictions.[8] The Convention also requires, pursuant to Article 18, that parents, being the ones who love their children the most, have the primary role in deciding on the education of their children. The job of a school is not to usurp this role, but to assist parents in their task.[9] Policy which promotes a values based approach to education which respects parental rights provides the best vehicle for maximising the public benefit of faith and minimising interference with parental rights.

The public benefit of promoting values based education

Kathryn Chan, in the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, provides an illuminative definition of what is sometimes referred to as the ‘wellspring’ argument supporting the advancement of faith and religion as a public benefit: “The advancement of religion is for the public benefit because persons who ‘have and practice a religion’ contribute disproportionately to the general ‘redistributive’ project of charity law – namely, the transfer of resources from persons to charitable purposes without the direct coercion of the state.[10]

She notes that evidence to substantiate the ‘wellspring’ argument is readily available, citing a Canadian study suggesting that it is uncontroversial that religious institutions have historically played an integral role in the provision of social welfare services, caring both for their own members, and for the broader population.[11] Credible studies also evidence that faith-based organisations and churches represent physical safe spaces not only for their congregations and members, but also for the community at large through complex social networks.[12] The National Congregations Study (2006–2007), for example, found that 45% of congregations were involved in formal delivery of social services, while another 27% were involved informally.[13] Furthermore, figures from the Charities Aid Foundation have shown that people who are religious donate twice as much money to charity as those without a faith, with just under 70% going towards causes such as medical charities, overseas aid and homelessness.[14]

Studies done here in the United Kingdom have shown that children who grow up in faith-based households tend to do better academically than other children at O level, A level and at university.[15] The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion has also found that students who attended church weekly while growing up had significantly more years of total schooling by their early thirties than peers who did not attend church.[16] A Pew Research Study on religion and education also found that students of Jewish and Christian background are more likely to receive Higher Education degrees than the non-religious.[17]

A study conducted by an Australian government foundation revealed that “religiousness may protect against depression, be associated (albeit less strongly) with reduced anxiety levels, assist in psychological adjustment following trauma, protect against suicide and improve overall psychological wellbeing and life satisfaction.[18] The report also found that there is consistent evidence demonstrating that faith is associated with greater longevity, indicating that those who take part in faith-based behaviour are more likely to live longer and enjoy a better quality of life than those who do not associate with a religious tradition.[19]

The Journal of Psychology and Theology has found a correlation between regular church attendance and drug abstinence.[20] They also found that those with a higher religious involvement are less likely to abuse alcohol. Further studies have concurred with these findings, adding that this is likely to be due to a combination of faith doctrines guiding people how to live, as well as positive life satisfaction resulting from religious resources for coping with stress.[21] American studies have demonstrated a negative relationship between religious activity and delinquency, particularly in young people, as well as a negative correlation between religion and crime.[22]  This indicates that young people who receive a values based education are more likely to grow up to become law-abiding citizens and positively contribute to society.

Conclusion

Children who grow up within a framework where faith and values are sincere and dynamic have been shown to do better academically and on average, achieve greater success in higher education. Studies also show that having faith-based values leads to lower rates of alcoholism, drug use and other delinquent behaviour. As adults, studies prove that people of faith provide a disproportionate benefit to society by way of charitable giving and social outreach when compared to those who do not regularly attend a place of worship. Given the legal obligations surrounding parental rights in education, it would be sound policy and legally advisable to support the promotion of values which are in harmony with and respect the rights of families with faith backgrounds.

Roger Kiska is legal counsel with the Christian Legal Centre. He was a contracted legal consultant for a Member of European Parliament on legal and legislative matters and previously served as vice-president and senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom International. He has also served on the Advisory Panel of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency.

 

Endnotes

 

[1] Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, Book IV, Part 1, Section 1.Cf. Matthew 22:38.

[2] See e.g.: Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2011, §3.

[3] Council of Europe, European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as amended by Protocols Nos. 11 and 14, 4 November 1950, ETS 5.

[4] Convention against Discrimination in Education, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), 14 December 1960, Article 5(1)(b); International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 993, p. 3, 16 December 1966, Article 13; Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, UN General Assembly, 10 December 1948, 217 A (III), Article 26(3); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, UN General Assembly, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171 Article 18(4); and Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN General Assembly, 20 November 1989, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, p. 3, Articles 14 and 18.

[5] ECHR, Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pedersen v Denmark, Judgment, Merits, App No 5095/71 (A/23), [1976] ECHR 6, IHRL 15 (ECHR 1976), 7th December 1976, European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR], § 52.

[6] ECHR, Chassagnou and Others v. France, 29 EHRR 615, 28331/95, § 112.

[7] Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pedersen v Denmark, op.cit., § 53.

[8] UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 1989, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, p. 3.

[9] Id.

[10] Kathryn Chan, The Advancement of Religion as a Charitable Purpose in an Age of Religious Neutrality, vol. 6 Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 112, 127 (2017).

[11] Paul Bramadat and David Seljak (eds), Christianity and Ethnicity in Canada (University of Toronto Press 2008)(as cited in Chan, 2017).

[12] Dr. Chisara N. Asomugha et al., Faith-Based Organisations, Science and the Pursuit of Health, vol. 22, no. 1 Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Undeserved, 50, 50-51(2011).

[13] M Chaves, SL Anderson, Continuity and Change in American Congregations: Introducing the Second Wave of the National Congregations Study, Sociol Relig. 2008; 69: 415–40 (as cited in Asomugha, 2011).

[14] CAF, Religious donors give more than double those of no faith (21 Feb 2012) https://www.cafonline.org/about-us/media-office/media-office-archive-article/religious-donors-give-more.

[15]Alice Sullivan, Samantha Parsons, Francis Green, Richard D. Wiggins, George Ploubidis & Timmy Huynh, Educational attainment in the short and long term: was there an advantage to attending faith, private, and selective schools for pupils in the 1980s?, vol 44, no. 6 Oxford Review of Education, 806, 818 (2018).

[16] L.D. Loury, Does Church Attendance Really Increase Schooling?, 43 Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 119-127 (2004).

[17] Pew Research Center, “Religion and Education Around the World” (December 2016), available at http://www.pewforum.org/2016/12/13/religion-and-education-around-the-world/.

[18] VicHealth, How does freedom of religion and belief affect health and wellbeing? (2011) p.28.

[19] Id p.29.

[20] John Gartner, Dave B. Larson & George D. Allen, Religious Commitment and Mental Health: A Review of the Empirical Literature, Journal of Psychology and Theology (1991) vol 19(1), p.6-25.

[21] Harold G. Koenig, Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications, ISRN Psychiatry (December 2012), available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671693/#.

[22] Jeffery T. Ulmer & Casey T. Harris, Race and the Religious Contexts of Violence: Linking Religion and White, Black, and Latino Violent Crime, The Sociological Quarterly (September 2013) vol. 54(4), p.610-646.

The Meaning of Values

By Timothy Vince

November 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the Armistice following the War to end all wars, when there was – and still is – a consensus that Britain and her allies were fighting for the preservation of shared values in the face of tyranny. During the Second World War, the Directorate of Army Education published a book entitled The British Way and Purpose (B.W.P.). This publication set out respectfully and thoughtfully the importance of faith, acknowledging that although our soldiers had a broad outline of what they were fighting against, there was a shortfall in understanding what they were fighting for.

In a similar vein the secular UK government of today, faced with real and perceived dangers of religious fundamentalism, have attempted to draw up a secular code to which every citizen can/must subscribe. This has variously been described as ‘modern’ values, ‘democratic’ values and more pointedly ‘British’ values, but the meaning has become confused even in the title. Adding the epithet ‘fundamental’ hasn’t added clarity. The wording used in legislation can often be clumsy. The advent of the term ‘Fundamental British Values’ (FBV) is a classic example. Leaving aside confusion of what British represents in a devolved UK (and notwithstanding the observation of C.S. Lewis, “England is wonderful but Britain is wicked!”) there is the problem of the meaning and ‘value’ of values. By definition they can change and be subject to differing interpretation depending on one’s beliefs. The fact that one of the four headline definitions of the British Values legislation contains the respect of belief gives little comfort when others contradict a particular belief. Society has moved over one hundred years from the relative comfort of a common values system – which prevailed prior to the Great War – to progressive (some would say regressive) relativism.

Situational ethics – where one person’s value system can have the opposite or inverted meaning (or value) to another person’s value system – has essentially replaced law as a concept. Laws have increasingly become honoured more in the breach than the observance and legislation has followed trends rather than uphold standards. Law making has moved from a ‘natural’ and ‘universal’ framework to the ‘progressive’ and ‘scientific’. The framework of an ordered universe created by an infinitely good transcendent lawmaker has been replaced by humankind being the masters of their own destiny. The law takers have collectively become the law makers. Values have become subject to ongoing ‘enlightenment’ based on the innate goodness of humanity and instinctive collective desire to preserve and progress the species. This increasingly prevalent belief or ‘worldview’ has become increasingly intolerant. It could be argued that the seeds of such intolerance are inherent in the worldview.

FBV has become tied up in knots trying to implement ‘equality’ values. It has extended the innate value of all humanity shared by most faiths to an innate value of all beliefs and choices and even opinions. This directly contradicts the teaching of right and wrong held by traditional beliefs. The danger of applying a secular code to values that breaks with tradition is that the definition of such values has no reference point and ultimately no meaningful definition. Since the Great War – and partly as a result of it – there has grown a lack of confidence in the fixed values/absolutes taught by traditional religions. The British Way and Purpose that protected us then should not be jettisoned as we move into more uncertain times – which it could be argued have directly resulted from the confusion of untested and unstable so-called ‘fundamental’ values.

Timothy Vince is Director of Christian Education Europe.

Religious Liberty

By Dr James Orr

We are, nowadays, predisposed to think that the language of rights and equality is synonymous with the language of justice and goodness. We who believe in a free and plural society used to think that rights were meant to protect difference and ensure equity between those of different dispositions, faiths and creeds. But a curious inversion seems to have taken place, where once rights used to defend difference and were deployed to ensure society’s plurality and diversity, now rights are utilised to erode difference and enforce a uniform and unwelcome conformity on society in general, and on religious minorities in particular. Since we live under a liberal understanding of rights, it is almost as if liberalism has moved from a modus vivendi approach in which a reasonable accommodation is made between conflicting parties to allow them all to live in peace, to a ‘be like me’ liberalism that insists that all share its world view or suffer the consequences.

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