An article in today’s Guardian presents a report by Islamic academics and educationalists, calling for single-sex Muslim state schools, with Islamic teachers and prayer rooms.
In America, with the separation of church and state, you would be constitutionally barred from using public money for such desires. However, with no such separation in the UK, and Britain’s historical tradition to promote multiculturalism, there is political support for mono-cultural institutions. Not by all, though. UK Home Secretary, David Blunkett, endorses cultural diversity, but also underlines the importance of a ‘shared understanding’, and has introduced a citizenship test (along the lines of that in the US).
What impressed me about this report for (taxpayer funded) separate Muslim institutions is the naive belief that separateness will not lead to insularity:
The study rejects proposals for twinning schools of different cultures, and insists: “Mono-cultured schools are not necessarily insular and ignorant of other cultures. Culturally separate groups, communities and institutions do not have to be causes of social instability.”
Let me tell you, living in Northern Ireland, the opposite is the case.
See also my history of the education system in Northern Ireland (9 April 2004), where the attempt to implement a more secular system was attacked from both Protestants and Catholics.