Breitbart London reports that the Durham Free School will be forced to close. The Christian school of ninety-four students, ages 11-14, have been found to be bigots, and, thus, the British government, which funds the school, will withdrawal its financial support at the end of this month.
I know what you’re thinking. How can students of that age possibly be labeled bigots? One’s imagination runs wild, doesn’t it? Do the students cast racial slurs at minority students, or, worse yet, physically attack them? Are there racially insensitive paintings or pictures on the school walls? Are the teachers inculcating white supremacy? Is the school mascot a degrading caricature of a minority? Is the school team the Thundering Lynch Mob?
No, none of those things. The students at Durham Free School are guilty of (wait for it) not knowing what a Muslim is. No, I’m not kidding. Apparently, one student, when asked about Muslims, made a rather vague remark about terrorism, and that turned school inspectors apoplectic. They concluded, “Leaders are failing to prepare students for life in modern Britain. Some students hold discriminatory views of other people who have different faiths, values or beliefs from themselves.”
One of the parents pointed out that the city of Durham is primarily white with very few minorities, so it is not surprising that the children know little about other faiths and values. Seems like a plausible explanation, unless, of course, you are dealing with the government.
Speaking of government, this past year, the Labour MP for North West Durham in the House of Commons, described the Free School as “a haven for every crap teacher in the North East.” In defense, a school official described the staff as “highly skilled individuals who have been frankly slandered in the House of Parliament under the protection of parliamentary privilege.” The MP later apologized for her “unparliamentary language,” but an objective observer didn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind was blowing.
Many students wrote letters to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, begging her to visit the school herself and to not let politics determine the future of their school. But last week the school received a letter from the Department with this conclusion:
. . . the Secretary of State has considered your representations. She has also taken into account representations made in letters and emails from parents and pupils of Durham Free School and others. Having considered all these representations carefully, the Secretary of State remains satisfied that it is appropriate to terminate the Funding Agreement.
I have recounted this story because, although this has happened in Britain, this should be a wake-up call for Catholic parents who send their children to public schools. There is an excellent chance that your children might also be labeled bigots in the near future.
Before you dismiss this claim out of hand, consider this possibility:
Let’s assume that later this year the Supreme Court declares that homosexual marriage is a Constitutional right. On that very same day, your twelve-year-old daughter is in her social studies class. The teacher announces the Court’s decision and asks for comments from his students. Given that polls seem to indicate that a majority of young people are in favor of this kind of “marriage,” most of the students reply in a positive manner.
But you have explained to your daughter why the Church is opposed to the homosexual lifestyle, and you have encouraged her to defend her faith. So she raises her hand and says, “Mr. Smith, I am totally opposed to the entire homosexual lifestyle. So-called “gay” marriage is a perversion of God’s plan for marriage, and it is destructive to society.”
Mr. Smith gives a condescending smile and says, “Well, some people used to defend slavery by using quotes from the Bible, so you should keep that in mind.” Very subtly, Mr. Smith has just suggested that your daughter is a bigot.
In your daughter’s English class, students are handed a novel in which the main character is a lesbian. Your daughter politely tells the teacher that she is uncomfortable reading the book and asks if she can choose an alternative. The teacher refuses and says, “I suppose you won’t want to read books about black people, either.” And the bigot card is played again.
A few days later, your daughter is summoned to the counselor’s office, where she is subjected to questions about her family, the church she attends, who her friends are, what her parents’ political leanings are, what she thinks about sexuality, and other personal information. Without coming right out and saying it, the counselor implies that there is something seriously wrong with your daughter.
Eventually, you get a call from the Department of Social Services, Abuse Division.
Far-fetched? Never going to happen? My guess is that the parents of the students at the Durham Free School once thought the same thing. They don’t anymore.
So, what can you do? If possible, homeschool your children, or, if you can afford to, send them to an orthodox Catholic school. If neither of these is a viable option, then raise your children to be wise, courageous, and very thick-skinned. Otherwise, they may not survive, much less thrive, in their public school.
THOMAS ADDIS is a retired high school teacher and published author, most recently authoring a children’s book, A Gift of Light, which is available at Amazon. An M.A. graduate of Oakland University, he is Associate Editor of Catholic Journal. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and cycling.