Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Cult of the Amateur

Parents, pupils, staff and teachers turned out in force at a public meeting to oppose plans to turn Heartsease High School in Norwich into an Academy. In exchange for a donation of £2 million the Bishop of Norwich and second hand car dealer turned evangelical preacher Graham Dacre would gain control of staffing, curriculum and ‘ethos’ at the new school.

Graham Dacre is a former member of Proclaimers International who have links with the American Pentecostalist group Assemblies of God (AOG). Their belief system?

Homosexuality – “Christians should do all they can to assist the person who has struggled with homosexual behaviors to find deliverance. Change is not always easy but it is possible. It may require the help of others in the body of Christ, such as counselors and pastors, as well as a supportive church fellowship. Christian organizations are also available to help those who seek to change their lifestyles.”

Abortion – “The Assemblies of God views the practice of abortion as an evil that has been inflicted upon millions of innocent babies and that will threaten millions more in the years to come.”

Evolution – “[The] Bible record of creation rules out the evolutionary philosophy which states that all forms of life have come into being by gradual, progressive evolution carried on by resident forces. It also rules out any evolutionary origin for the human race, since no theory of evolution, including theistic evolution, can explain the origin of the male before the female, nor can it explain how a man could evolve into a woman.”

Of course it is possible that Dacre left the group because he found these views repugnant. Since then he’s set up his own Pentecostalist group the Norwich Family Life Church. Does he still think abortion is a ‘sin’, what are his views on homosexuality and did dinosaurs and humans co-exist 6,000 years ago? These and other questions need to be answered.

A dodgy Christian evangelist running a school might have attracted unwelcome media attention, how to solve the problem? Bring on board the Church of England Diocese of Norwich. But just who is leading the bid to turn Heartsease into an Academy? When you examine the breakdown of the £2 million donation it becomes clearer, Graham Dacre will donate £1.95 million and the Diocese of Norwich £50,000.

Dacre claims that the new Academy will be ‘inclusive’ and won’t discriminate against any faith and children will be able to make up their own minds about religion. Somehow I don’t think so. If you invite a double glazing salesman into your house he’s not coming round for a cosy chat, expect a high pressure sales talk, constant calls to his boss to get you a better deal and you’ll never be able to get rid of him. Christian evangelist = proselytising, conversion and moralistic preaching.

The other issue that amazes me is how in education we have the ‘cult of the amateur’. I don’t believe that ‘experts’ have a monopoly on wisdom. Every profession should be open to the widest possible public scrutiny. It’s just I wouldn’t want to see a faith healer running an A&E department, plane spotters in charge of air traffic control or Russell Grant having responsibility for the Hubble telescope. When it comes to education it seems that any old evangelical millionaire ex-second hand car dealer will do. Just what experience, knowledge or understanding of education does Graham Dacre have?

Anti-Academies Alliance


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