Muslims have their madrassas and Jews have their yeshivas. The problems come when these religious schools—schools that teach only religion—are used as substitutes for the broader education required by most Western countries. Sadly, that is happening with both Jews and Muslims in Britain, according to new articles in East London Lines (ELL), in The Guardian, and in The Independent. These pieces concentrate on the problem with Jewish schools, and mention that the religious-education issue certainly extends to some Muslim schools.
But the evidence we have is for Jewish schools. Apparently these include both secret “unregistered” schools as well as schools that have applied for legal status, but which have been rejected on the ground of their hyper-religious education. One of the latter includes the Charedi Talmud Torah Tashbar School in Stamford Hill (an area of London), which has just been ordered to close in February. Why? Because its 200 pupils, who attend only that school (students are between ages 3 and 13), are taught exclusively in Hebrew and have no subjects other than religion and a bit of mathematics. Some of the graduates, even in their late teens, can barely speak English!
Between 2012 and 2014, the school was inspected three times, failing every time. And yet it was permitted to operate—because of excessive respect for religion combined with some bigotry. From the ELL:
Campaigns manager Stephen Evans [from the National Secular Society] claimed that a desire not to upset religious sensitivities had led to a ‘softly-softly’ approach. He told Eastlondonlines: ”The lack of political will to make progress has been down to what I’ve previously called a ‘bigotry of low expectations’ – the mindset that says children from certain backgrounds are less entitled to a proper education than others. I hope we’re starting to see this change, nurturing integration rather than promoting segregation and social isolation.”
This kind of religious instruction, of course, not on propagandizes the children and basically forces them into a lifelong religious path, but constricts them and balkanizes them with respect to other children.
The Independent quotes the government inspectors’ conclusions:
Inspectors who investigated the school, which has more than 200 pupils, said that its curriculum, taught in Hebrew, encouraged “cultural and ethnic insularity because it is so narrow and almost exclusively rooted in the study of the Torah”.
The school was found to “severely restrict the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils” and prevent them from “developing a wider, deeper understanding of different faiths, communities, cultures and lifestyles, including those of England”.
But it gets worse. After 13, the age of bar mitzvah, these children are then shunted into completely secret yeshivas to continue their education—again, a wholly religious one. The Guardian gives data from one London borough:
According to the DfE’s 2012 briefing note, there are 800-1,000 Orthodox Jewish boys between the ages of 13 and 16 missing from the school system in the London borough of Hackney. And while this is the UK’s biggest Hassidic community, it is likely that similar situations exist in other areas where smaller groups live, including Salford and Gateshead.
Apparently these unregistered yeshivas are known to the British Government, but the authorities are slow to take action.
We tend to think mostly of Islam as the faith whose children are kept isolated from the greater society of Western countries—and the problem with secret madrassas in England has yet to be addressed—but the isolation is at least as bad for these Orthodox Jews. If you know anything about that way of life, you’ll know how dreadfully oppressive it is. And the children shunted into these faith schools have no choice. They will wind up as bearded and black-garbed promoters of superstition, and will force their wives and daughters into an equally constricting but even more submissive way of life.
It’s time for Britain to stop osculating the rump of faith, crack down on these reprehensible substitutes for “education,” and get rid of faith schools entirely.