Though she's not herself a Christian or religious in any way, Susan Elkin argues that Christianity should be taught in this country's schools. She thinks it should be because the country 'has been culturally Christian for over 1700 years', and its history and literature can't be understood except by knowing something about the Christian religion. Nothing about that argument unsettles me, but what did surprise me in Elkin's column was this:
I have no patience with teachers who say they can't or won't teach any of this because they are atheist, agnostic or belong to another religion such as Buddhism or Islam. I don't believe in the polytheism once practised by Greeks and Romans, but it never stopped me sharing the, often very dramatic, stories of Zeus, Mercury, Aphrodite, Neptune and co with children so that they would understand the classical references in literature, art and music as well as getting a clearer idea of how those ancient peoples thought and felt.
But it doesn't happen. Or at least not enough. It was reported yesterday that an Oxford University study has found that teachers are reluctant to teach children about Christianity because they're afraid of being thought to be evangelising.
To say it surprised me is too weak (though it did). I don't understand it at all. I cannot even imagine an anarchist political philospher in a British university declining to teach Hegel, or a liberal political philosopher declining to teach Hobbes or Marx, or a Hegelian declining to teach Locke. They might not want to run specialist options on thinkers with whose ideas they disagreed (though some well might), but they would take as unproblematic their own participation in general courses on the history of political thought that included such thinkers. It's no different in the case to which Elkin refers. As she says, 'the encouragement of interest and free thought is not, definitely not, the same as indoctrination'. (Via.)