You’ve attended a church for years – maybe even a lifetime. You faithfully show up for Mass on Sundays, you volunteer when they ask you, and you pay your dues when they ask for collections. You want your child, now school-aged, to attend the school affiliated with the church. It makes sense that your family should be given priority over other applicants, right?
However, we cannot assume that all people are faithful like that. What about the people who abuse the power or privilege that comes with being a long-standing member of an institution like a powerful church? What about the people who just start coming to Mass out of the blue just to get their kids into the church’s prestigious school? Should they be afforded the same priority?
The London Oratory School, one of London’s most prestigious faith-based schools, has been battling this for years. A recent ruling has finally told them that they cannot discriminate based on faith when it comes to their admissions process.
Before this ruling, the school required that families who wanted their children admitted to the school volunteered with the church in several ways for three years before the child could be even considered for admission. While getting involved with your church is not bad in and of itself, it is when you consider that this is, in fact, a form of discrimination. By saying that children cannot be admitted into this incredibly prestigious school — so prestigious that Tony Blair selected it for his children — if they are not Catholic. Or if they don’t pretend to be Catholic.
Faith-based discrimination has been allowed for so long because schools attached to churches often don’t receive government funding. As such, they don’t have to do what the government tells other, public schools to do, from discrimination at admissions to standardized testing to adopting educational standards the government puts out. It’s no wonder these schools are so wildly successful, considering they can choose whoever they want to attend (and kick whoever they want out) and don’t have the same ways of measuring success as public institutions.
Is this success, though? Having students surrounded by people who religiously believe the same thing as they do and being taught the same beliefs in classes, are their minds ever opened to other possibilities? Are their beliefs ever challenged, thus molding and shaping the way they view the world, whether solidifying those beliefs or changing them? I’d argue no. It’s also ridiculous to think that these students will not, one day, be confronted with people who think differently from them. How will they ever learn to interact in a healthy way with someone whose belief set is different than their own?
The ruling that London schools like The London Oratory School cannot discriminate based on faith might shatter some people’s views of the private school system in London, but it is a good thing. Students of all beliefs will now have the same opportunities at a prestigious education, and they will be exposed to more than just their own beliefs. Hospitals and libraries cannot discriminate based on faith, so schools shouldn’t be able to, either.
Photo Credit: Phil Whitehouse