The Passing of a Country Grammar School
Faith-based Schools and the State
Harry Judge, 2002
Oxford: Symposium Books
279pp., £price? (paperback), ISBN 1 873927 39 8
Review by Derek Gillard
© copyright Derek Gillard 2002
One of the tutors on my initial teacher training course at Westminster College Oxford back in the sixties always used to say you should tell the children everything three times. 'You should tell them what you're going to tell them,' he used to say, 'then tell them, then tell them what you told them.' Harry Judge seems to have heard this advice, too. In the first chapter of Faith-based Schools and the State he tells you what he's going to tell you, in the following twelve chapters he tells you, and in the final chapter he tells you what he told you. It seems to make good sense, especially since the order in which he tells you appears, at first, decidedly odd, even perverse. He starts in the middle, then goes back to the beginning, then recounts more recent events. His justification for this non-chronological arrangement is that 'in all three countries a critical point was reached, and some key issues resolved, at about the year 1900.' I'm not sure that I'd have arranged it like this, but it seems to work.
The book concerns the development of the relationship between the church - mainly but not exclusively the Roman Catholic Church - and the state's provision of education in three countries - England, France and the US - over the past two hundred years. It aims, therefore, to be 'comparative, and not simply expository'.
After the introductory chapter, the next three chapters - one for each country - focus on 'the lives, work and prejudices of three contemporaries at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Archbishop John Ireland opens a window into the American case, and Emile Combes and Robert Morant into the French and English respectively.'
The following three chapters take us back in time in order to explain the antecedents of the events described in the previous three chapters. 'These antecedents further illuminate what is common and what is distinctive in the three national cases.' Again, biographical case studies form the basis of these chapters - Horace Mann for America, Francois Guizot for France and Archbishop Ullathorne for England.
The next three chapters - covering developments during the twentieth century - describe 'the distinctive ways in which each of the three countries addressed the unsolved problems.' The US has looked to its courts - especially the Supreme Court - as the arena in which to settle arguments about the involvement - or otherwise - of religious groups in educational provision. In France, the debating arena has largely been the streets, with huge demonstrations supporting rival arguments. In England, decisions have been made in 'the Corridors of Westminster and Whitehall'.
Three further chapters describe the present situation in the three countries. In America, the high proportion of the population claiming religious affiliation, the presidential campaign of 2000 - characterised by claims of religiosity on the part of the candidates - and the events of 11 September 2001 have all heightened the sense of urgency in the continuing arguments about the 'wall of separation' between church and state. Opinion on state funding for religious schools remains 'deeply divided'. In France, people now seem less inclined to take to the streets to fight for - or against - Catholic schools, but the arguments rumble on. England, having endured the Thatcher years, when testing, league tables, grant-maintained status and the rest comprised 'a cluster of principles and practices' which could be appropriately described as 'an educational equivalent of monetarism', now has a New Labour government with a commitment to greater involvement of the voluntary sector in education.
The final chapter draws together the comparative threads running through the book and offers three cautions. First, 'there is nothing automatic or self-explanatory or self-justifying about the extension of public support to private denominational schools.' Second, while states may impose certain conditions on religious schools in return for public funds, history shows that these conditions 'will subsequently be adapted in ways rarely anticipated at the time of the original compromise.' And third, once funds have been granted to specific groups, they will subsequently be 'extended in ways which, again, no one had anticipated and few would have welcomed.' The issues remaining to be settled include, for the United States, the matter of vouchers; for France, the rise of Islam - now numerically the country's second religion - and the demands for state-funded Islamic schools (already acceded to in the UK); and for England, the government's intention that there should be a marked increase in the provision of voluntary faith-based schools. 'Several worried critics, by no means all of them committed to a secular form of education, have already pointed out the divisive dangers of a further fragmentation and a splitting of a unified school system along religious and racial lines.'
Harry Judge notes that the policy options open to states range from Prohibition (no schools other than secular state schools), Separation (respecting the right of people to pay for private religious schools but denying them any state funding), Accommodation (varying forms of which operate in the three countries studied) and Extension (the policy chosen by the Blair government). He concludes by offering some policy recommendations (which are all the more powerful given the non-judgemental nature of the rest of the book). 'America would be wise to stand where it is, and lean towards Separation', France should 'prudently maintain the present position' and the British government 'would be wise to reverse its present Extensionist leanings.'
Harry Judge has made an extensive study of the sources and commentaries listed in the bibliography and has spent four years visiting schools and conducting interviews. He has succeeded in producing a book which contains a vast amount of detailed information but which nevertheless tells an extraordinarily compelling and enjoyably readable story and offers some important lessons to today's educational policy makers.
See my articles about faith schools:
Gillard D (2001) Glass in their Snowballs: the faith schools debate.
Gillard D (2002) Creationism: bad science, bad religion, bad education.
Gillard D (2007) Never Mind the Evidence: Blair's obsession with faith schools.