Secular or atheist?

The New Humanist asks if it would be a good idea to set up avowedly atheist or humanist schools. I think it would be a terrible idea. I think all schools should be secular, and no schools should be doctrinaire. A secular school would have all the atheism that is necessary for education.

It’s not that I think atheism is inherently doctrinaire, of course, but in a context where religion is pervasive and granted lots of respect and deference and special privileges (tax exemptions, seats in the House of Lords, access to major media), it is contingently doctrinaire. It’s political. It differs from a status quo. Schools that take positions in that way are automatically excluding some students; that seems not ideal for schools in general.

Secular schools are de facto atheist, because god is not part of the curriculum. That’s all that’s needed, and it’s better than avowed atheism because it needn’t exclude children whose parents aren’t atheists. Some parents of course want god to be part of the curriculum, which is most unfortunate, but avowedly atheist schools wouldn’t address that in any case.

Francis Beckett is actually arguing for secular education, not avowedly atheist or humanist education, but the NH added a poll asking about the latter. I didn’t vote, because I didn’t want to say no but I also didn’t want to say yes.

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