An ambitious scheme to put a copy of the Bible in every English school has started this month, amid controversy over whether or not it should be implemented at all.
The scheme, which will cost £370,000, is being privately funded by philanthropists and charity donors, but there have been questions over whether it is appropriate – or indeed necessary at all. Many have questioned the assumption that most schools don’t already have a copy of the Bible, whilst others feel it is inappropriate to force schools which are not religious and do not teach religious pupils into incorporating the traditional text.
The scheme is planned to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible and is supported by Education Secretary Michael Gove, not, it seems, for particularly religious reasons, but because of the literary and historical value of the text, which he claims has played a hugely important role in the development of our language and culture.
Ironically, in spite of complaints against the distribution of the Bibles, leading atheist Richard Dawkins publically voiced his support for the idea in an article in the Guardian, in which he explained that the book holds enormous literary value. Dawkins referred to the importance of the King James Bible in the evolution of the English language, describing any English speaker who has not read it as almost akin to a barbarian! He also espoused the important historical references contained within the text as an important learning resource for young people. He did, however, express his surprise that all English schools did not already possess at least one copy of the Bible.
This view has been shared by protesters against the scheme, many of whom have suggested that regardless of whether it is a sound idea philosophically and educationally, it is a waste of a great deal of money that could be better spent elsewhere in the struggling education system.
Meanwhile, atheist protesters, freshly smarting from the recent allegations of pupils at Catholic schools being encouraged to sign a petition against gay marriage, maintain that school should be a ‘safe space’ entirely free of religious ideology, in which young people are free to grown and develop before they are pushed into institutionalized beliefs of any kind.