Wednesday 16 April 2014

Shock horror and outrage

The ‘Trojan Horse’ letter concerning the alleged attempts to take over schools in Birmingham and change their religious ethos has caused something of a stir.  Although the letter seems to have been in the public domain for a while, little seems to be known about its provenance so far, which made me wonder whether there isn’t something a little Zinovievian about it.
Genuine or not, it’s given the press, and not just the tabloids, something to be outraged about, and it’s an opportunity they’ve seized with gusto.  Hopefully, the extent of the problem, if there is one, will become a great deal clearer as a result of the formal investigation – and then we can properly decide whether to be outraged or not.
One aspect of the ‘Islamification’ of some schools which has caused particular ire is the idea that boys and girls should be to some extent segregated in schools, accompanied by pictures of boys on one side of the room and girls on the other.  In 2014, it does indeed seem a strange concept to us, but we forget that it’s not that long ago that it was entirely normal in the state system for a degree of such segregation to take place.
I remember that my primary school had two entrances; one for boys and the other for ‘girls and infants’.  And the secondary school that I attended had, according to the teachers, an imaginary line running from the school buildings to the far end of the school field, and girls had to stay to the left of it, whilst boys remained on the right, under threat of lines or detention for daring to commingle.  And unless my school was somehow unique,  wasn’t it thought perfectly normal for the boys to sit on one side of the classroom whilst the girls took the other?
It all sounds very old-fashioned now, of course – and I would neither suggest nor defend returning to such practices.  They’re in the past and we should ensure that they stay there.  It's just seems that, on this specific at least, whilst I oppose what seems to be happening, I find it hard to work up a great deal of outrage about something which would have seemed perfectly normal to our parents or grandparents. A little bit more perspective would be helpful in dealing with the situation.

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