Would you refuse a child an education based on religion?
My ex-husband and I had a meeting today to discuss our daughter’s wishes to attend a private school for the next 4 years.
We have an interview booked in at one of the private schools we are considering next week. So today we went through the list of questions and requirements sent to us as parents of a perspective student.
Now I have nothing against private schools per se except that much of the information both given to us and requested from us focused on religious beliefs and our family’s ability to accommodate the schools strong stance on this.
The school in question is a catholic school and indeed all of the private schools in our area are associated with a religious institution of one kind or another.
The thing that bothers me about this is that neither I, nor my family, are particularly religious.
It seems somewhat bizarre to me that in order for my daughter to receive an advanced education our family must offer assurances to a religion that none of us feel strongly bound too.
In public schools there is at least the pretense of a separation between church and state when it comes to the sanctity of education .
Perhaps this is why I find it increasingly difficult to understand how such a strong religious stance is allowed to continue in private schools. Especially considering that private schools have notoriously secured greater levels of governmental funding per student than many public schools receive.
This leaves me questioning, if government funding is non-denominational, and private schools are operating on the support of that funding, then why are they able to openly discount those who do not hold the same level of religious belief?
Is this discrimination? If so I can’t think of too many other areas in which such levels of discrimination are openly allowed to flourish in our society.
So just why is it, that if you are prepared to pay for your child to be exposed to an education system that caters for the highest educational common denominator, instead of the lowest as is so often the case in public schools, that you also have to be prepared to fit in with that schools religious system?
To me it feels somewhat disingenuous to have to answer questions on my own religious beliefs simply in order for my child to access a school that has a better arts and music curriculum than the local public high school.
I know many would say; ‘well if you don’t agree with it, don’t send her there’. But it’s not that simple when the only alternative choices you have to engaging with a sub-standard public school system are to access religiously based schools.
In all fairness, why should my daughter miss out on receiving the best education she can, simply because her parents do not hold the correct religious currency?
No one questioned our religious beliefs when we enrolled our son into a special needs school. All that mattered was that he fit the requirement of being a special needs child.
Similarly no one questioned our religious beliefs when we enrolled our middle son into the local public high school, as was his choice. All that mattered was that he was a child, at the appropriate age and in the appropriate zone to attend that school.
So why should it be that private schools are allowed to question that which is normally, for all intents and purposes considered an individual and private choice as to which religion, if any, you choose to abide by?
I can understand the school questioning our daughter’s academic record, or questioning our ability to pay the school fees, I can even understand them questioning our standing in the community but what gives them the right to question that which is normally considered a private matter?
It is my belief that we are attempting to enroll our child into a school, not a church.
Whilst it may indeed be a school that is run on the principles of a particular a church, it none the less receives its government funding as a school, not a church.
So therefore shouldn’t there be some onus on the school to conduct itself in a less religiously discriminatory manner?
One that is more in line with the ideals of education for all, regardless of religion?
Is this yet another case of cultural capital being seen to be more important than fiscal capital?
Or am I merely trying to justify my own sense of displacement regarding this issue?
What is it about this way of doing things that makes me feel so uneasy?