People's mandala - 12 hands

An interesting news story appeared on BBC news this morning in London. Manchester City council is considering passing a new law where a school could close for a day if more than 40% of the students are absent, presumably because of religious holidays.

The possible decision is arising out of the fact that large numbers of Islamic students are absent from schools on some Islamic holidays. While in and of itself this appears to be nothing abnormal, it has been asserted too many muslim students missing school due to Islamic holidays in a ‘Christian’ country could cause social cohesion in England to deteriorate. The logic supposedly goes that if religions are allowed to take days off from school from their own holidays, this could encourage segregation within communities.

What concerns me about this assertion is that it places the burden of ‘social cohesion’ on schools. While I agree schools are one of the primary focal points of any community, the schools primary purpose is education, not to create social cohesion. But critics argue Christianity remains our state religion and claim communities risk becoming more segregated if different religions dictate school calendars. It is this kind of thought process that seems to dilute a school’s ability to deliver a quality education and give a child the environment they need in which to work on individuating.

Second to this, it is surprising as a Canadian who has lived in the United States and now lives in England, to move from one country where they still think they are a Christian nation (when it certainly appears on every level that it isn’t) to a post-Christian nation and to hear people assert that Britain is still a Christian nation. Third, i’m shocked that someone would assert that in order to be ‘british’ means you have to have one holiday calendar. ‘Either people are British and have a particular holiday system, or we decide to carve the country up into areas that are Muslim and non-Muslim, and I think that’s what this does.’ I’m an evangelical Christian who is still modern enough to believe it is the one true way but post-modern enough to see the danger in statements like this…the right to religious diversity must be preserved…schools must be allowed to deliver quality education, not be charged with the preservation of social cohesion.

The ultimate victims in this kind of thinking are the kids.