Richard Dawkins presented a TV programme recently which I found profoundly depressing ('Faith-schools, a hidden menace?' More4, August 19th, 9pm). He was trying to make the point that children should receive a broad education about all types of religion as well as a good scientific education and then eventually make up their own minds, rather than being segregated and brain-washed from an early age, as happens in many faith-schools.
He interviewed a science teacher in a Moslem girls' school who assured him that she taught all her students about evolution as well as the Koran and they were free to make up their own minds once they knew all the facts. She said she had around 60 students who had all decided that the story of evolution was wrong and the creation story given in the Koran was correct. The girls supported this claim and asked Dawkins why, if Man came from apes, were there still apes here on Earth.
Dawkins turned to the teacher and asked her how she would answer this question. She smiled helpfully and shrugged. It was clear to her that there was no answer. Dawkins tried to clarify the situation by saying that we are all apes. You could see the girls and their teacher thinking 'What a load of cobblers, the man's an idiot'.
The Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland wouldn't even let him film the children in their science classes. A rotund rubicund gentleman in clerical garb was interviewed and was as unctuous and avuncular as such clerics often are.
A headmaster of a faith-school then appeared to demolish Dawkins simply by repeatedly asking him, Paxman-style, 'Do you not agree that parents have the human right to educate their children in their own way according to their own faith?' Dawkins has so often been accused of being an angry polemicist that on this occasion he leant over backward to be reasonable and see the other fellow's point of view and so he seemed to agree with this idea. However he didn't make the point that parents have the duty to educate their children, full stop, and children can't be said to be properly educated if they only know about one religion or have been taught that all other religions are wicked, and they have been given a very sparse or even erroneous scientific education. Then there's the small question of tolerance.
Now just remind me what time the King Billy Marching Bands start their procession, because I don't want to miss the art lesson on how to spray-paint a mural with 'F*ck the Pope' in letters six feet high. Then we're taking the grandchildren off to Saudi for the weekend to see the stoning.