Teaching RE in schools

Not wanting to be outdone by fellow bloggers Adam Price and Normal Mouth, I managed to get mentioned in Golwg this week too. Here is the translation of the article (written by Ifan Morgan Jones):

Complaint About Changing the Ten Commandments

A preacher from the Conwy Valley is unhappy, because he claims that a school in his area has re-written a part of the Bible in order to make it politically correct

Alwyn ap Huw claims that his children have received a new version of the Ten Commandments that changes the Christian message.

In place of: Thou shalt have no other gods before me, he claims that the children had received a commandment that said: Respect your god and the gods of others.

That, he said, is the complete opposite of the central Christian message that God alone can give salvation.

"They are trying to teach respect for other religions, but lying about religious beliefs doesn’t show respect to them at all"

"They shouldn't try to change a child's understanding of religion by trying to make it more nice".

"Teaching things such as tolerating and respecting the views of others belongs to another subject".

"If lies, that do not reflect the facts of faith, are what is taught in Religious Education lessons, is there any point to such lessons?"

For the sake of his children, Alwyn ap Huw wasn't willing to say which school had made the change, but he said that this sort of thing was common in religious education thorough Wales.

Ifan got the gist of what I said, but not quite!

My children were not given a new commandment. Respect your god and the gods of others, was given as an explanation of the meaning of the first commandment. However I did say that this was a totally false explanation of the meaning of the commandment, indeed, it is quite the opposite of what the first commandment says.

The point that I was trying to make is that most religions are exclusive they are totally intolerant of other religious viewpoints. One might think that this is unacceptable in a modern, diverse society, but it is still true!

Traditionally RE taught children how to live as good Christian citizens in a Christian country. Today RE attempts to teach a child about many faiths but it still has a role in teaching morals and citizenship. However, the moral and civic values that it teaches are secular, not religious. My complaint is that because secular mores are taught in RE the religious aspect of the education is falsified in order to fit into the secular mould.

Learning about religions is essential to understanding the arts, the humanities and, if not pure science, the antecedents of science. Teaching false religion for the sake of political correctness hinders such understanding. (Try teaching the end of the Tudor period to kids who are taught that Christianity is a lovey-dovey nice religion!)

During the next 15 days children in schools thorough England & Wales will pretend that a plastic doll is the baby Jesus, and will be loved by their parents for doing so. At the same time an English woman brought up on the fallacies of religious equality and religious tolerance will be in gaol for calling a teddy bear Mohammed!

On a final point of clarification, it wouldn't need a Miss Marple to work out which school my kids attend! I didn't want to name "the" school because I didn't want to blame one school for what I see as a general problem. The RE problem is one that exists on, at least, an England and Wales basis - so picking on the school that my boys attend would be unfair!

Ultimately, the problem is more than educational, it is constitutional! The United Kingdom is not a secular state it is a .. ym .. sort of... Christianish, if you can work it out let me know state!!!


Sir Emyr's Convention

I'm sure that Sir Emyr Jones-Parry is a perfectly decent person who doesn't need a sat nav to find his way around Wales. Don Touhig's campaign of kicking the man not the ball by being rude about Sir Emyr is un-needed, unacceptable and probably harm's Mr Touhig's view more than it harms Sir Emyr. However, having said that I do agree with some of Mr Touhig's doubts about The Convention.

In theory The Convention will be inclusive and will ensure that all opinions are heard. The convention may hear diverse opinion but I fear that its true purpose is to listen to just one.

Independence on the one hand and the abolition of the Assembly on the other are both legitimate views which are held by thousands of Welsh people. No matter how good an argument is made for abolition or how fervently the case for independence is made there is no doubt that The Convention will reject these views out of hand.

Some options will probably not even be put to The Convention. What the Scots call devolution max - devolving everything other than defence and international affairs will not be considered, despite the fact that this option is likely to be what is desired by many as the next stage of devolution after the referendum.

The truth is that only two options will be given serious consideration: The status quo and the option proposed in the Government of Wales Act 2006. It is a foregone conclusion that The Convention will support the GoWA proposals.

As it is a foregone conclusion what view The Convention will favour and what it will decide one has to ask whether spending millions of pounds on such a convention is the best use of public funds at a time of tight public spending.

Indeed, as the Convention actually has a practical remit that is political; to smooth over difficulties between Labour AM's and MP's and to promote the GoWA option it is fair to ask if The Convention should be paid for out of the public purse at all. The Convention in reality is a smokescreen for a political campaign and political campaigns should be financed by the supporters of the campaign, not by tax payers, many of whom may disagree with the campaign's aims.


Too Many Councils in Wales

Normal Mouth has a weekly column in the Welsh Magazine Golwg. After the mag has been printed Normal posts the original post that Golwg has translated on his blog. His latest offering can be seen here.

It appears that Normal doesn't do the post heading! He has had difficulty with finding a heading for his current pre-translation!

Under the title Too Many Councils? Time to Face the Truth Normal makes the case in Golwg that there are too many councils in Wales. I agree. Thirteen county councils were good enough for almost 700 years. There may have been an argument for change, but the change should have resulted in fewer rather than more councils.

Normal makes the fair point that Kent County Council has a similar population to that of Wales. However Kent is not an "Unitary Authority" it contains 12 city, borough and district councils, not too far off the 13 "traditional" Welsh councils!

Kent also has over 500 community and parish councils.

I agree with Normal that the number of county councils should be reduced. My personal opinion is that we should have between five and eight county councils, reducing the number of councils to a sensible level would save a lot of money.

However I disagree with Normal on one critical point. Normal ends his column by saying The Assembly appears eager to acquire new powers from above. It is time it looked under the stairs as well. To put it in local speak the ability to act should be taken from Conwy and given to Cardiff!

That is a non starter!

One of the best arguments that the "antis" made in 1979 and 1999 was that "devolution" = "centralisation" this argument has been proved. It is a truism that my local parish council was responsible for more aspects of local services in 1880 than the Assembly is responsible for today!

The nationalist heartland voted NO in 1979, because it feared that all would be centered in Cardiff. The Yes argument in these parts was basically one that felt that, after Thatcher, Cardiff centered government would be better than London centered government.

The fact that the Cardiff centered government can find 13 million pounds to save its local concert hall, but it cant find a piddling million quid to save the biggest employer in Conwy, makes Cardiff feels further away from Conwy than it was 10 years ago and it feels much further away than even London or Brussels are.

The general feeling in those parts of Wales to the north of the Beacons and to the West of Barry is that Devolution has devolved bugger all, it has centralised everything in Cardiff.

The Assembly, as it acquires more powers from above, should look under the stairs, as Normal suggests, but it should do so in order to give careful consideration to the powers that can be sent downstairs!

Any referendum for more powers for Cardiff, that doesn't ensure that local government in the North and the West is strengthened will fail, and will deserve to fail!


Paul Flynn MP

I was sorry to hear that one of the stalwarts of the Welsh blogosphere Paul Flynn MP suffered a minor stroke whilst going about his work in parliament last night. Best wishes to him for a full and speedy recovery.

Four arrested on terror charges in Cornwall

Four men, including a senior member of the Cornish Stannary Parliament have been arrested by armed police investigating alleged terror plots against chefs Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver.

In June e-mails claiming to have been sent from The Cornish National Liberation Army were sent to newspapers threatening to burn down the chefs' restaurants in Cornwall. The e-mails also claimed that the CNLA had received training from members of the Free Wales Army (FWA)!

One of the men arrested, Stannary member Hugh Rowe, 53, vowed to clear his name following a dramatic dawn swoop on his home and the alleged seizure of dozens of his possessions in the early hours of Monday morning.

The four men were held by detectives in a series of coordinated raids by armed police on addresses in Camborne and Falmouth.

The full story can be read on the This is Cornwall news site


Does the BBC have a pro-England news bias?

Under a headline Allegations over BBC pro-England news bias the Western Mail reports:

THE BBC is to launch a major inquiry following allegations that Wales is poorly served by its UK network news operation, the Western Mail can reveal today.
Tomorrow the BBC Trust will announce that two experts specialising in politics and the media will examine the coverage of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on flagship news programmes such as News at 10 and other bulletins presented by newsreaders like Huw Edwards and Fiona Bruce.

The BBC won't have to spend too much on their inquiry. The answer is clear, there is very little information about events in the smaller nations of the UK on programmes such as News at Ten. Indeed if one depended on the BBC's British output to find news about the Welsh Assembly almost the only thing that would be known from this year is that the Assembly killed a holly bullock.

However I believe that the Western Mail's headline editor is mistaken, and that the BBC is asking the wrong question in their review. Rather than a pro-English bias the BBC news service has an anti-English bias.

Wales and Scotland have their own national news services, there may be questions about quality and the inability to attract sufficient viewers, but a Scot or a Welsh person can choose to watch Scottish or Welsh national news and current affairs programmes. The only country in the UK that doesn’t have its own national news coverage is England, an English person is totally dependent on the UK service to find out what's happening in England.

Since devolution, politics in England is clearly different to the politics of Wales, Scotland and the North of Ireland. One of the weaknesses of the BBC's (and other channels') news and current affairs programmes is that they don't acknowledge this by providing a service specifically for England.

If there was a national news service for England one of the effects would naturally be a more balanced representation of what is happening in all of the nations of the UK in what was left of UK wide current affairs programming.

Back from Honolulu

My Internet problems have, at last, been resolved - normal service on the blog will be resumed shortly.

During my absence two Labour bloggers have been selected to carry their party's banner in forthcoming elections.

Martin Eaglestone, a glutton for punishment, has been selected to stand as prospective parliamentary candidate in the Arfon constituency. Because of boundary changes Arfon is now considered to be a "nominal" Labour seat, so Martin has the task of "defending" a seat for the first time in his career as a serial candidate.

Luke Young has been drafted as a prospective council candidate in the May election for Blaenau Gwent County Borough.

Hearty congratulations to both of them.


Gibney and Brunstrom

The death of Mark Gibney in 2003 was horrific. Mr Gibney was decapitated because he was driving so fast that when he attempted to brake on seeing an oncoming vehicle his motorbike stopped, but his head didn't.

Mr Gibney was driving at very high speeds on the B5105. As anybody who has driven in Wales knows our A roads are not suited to high speeds, never mind the B roads. Yet Mr Gibney decided, of his own volition, to drive at a very high speed, reckless of his own fate or the fate of other road users on a twisting, rural Welsh B road. He died as a result of his own reckless stupidity.

Mr Gibney's driving was described by the Coroner in his inquest as reprehensible. Mr Gibney had no licence, no insurance, no training and his motorcycle had a false number plate. When he died Mr Gibney was wearing a tee-shirt that showed his total contempt for the law and the safety of other road users that the law attempts to protect. His tee-shirt displayed the (untrue) slogan :


Mr Gibney, clearly didn't think that driving on a B road at high speed without any concern for other road users, or for his own safety, was a serious criminal act.

Mr Gibney's family have the audacity to complain about Chief Constable Brunstrom using Mr Gibney as an example of the horrific consequences of dangerous driving. If they can't see that Gibney is the perfect example of stupid attitudes to macho biking they must be in denial of reality!

If, God forbid, a member of my family was caught up in such horrific circumstances, I would want that family member to be used as an example to others, as a warning against such stupidity. The fact that Mr Gibney's family are calling for the Chief Constable of north Wales to be sacked for drawing attention to the horrific consequences of abusing the road in the way that Mr Gibney abused it, and that certain MPs are supporting the family's view is beyond my comprehension


I told you so! Labour & Devolution

I have still not sorted out my ISP problems, so I apologise for not giving hat-tips or links to others who have made pertinent comments about the subject of this post.

I have mentioned before that I am not a supporter of devolution. My personal view about a referendum is bring it on, win or lose the Scottish type stage in the evolution of devolution argument will dead,either way, and nationalists can go on to argue the case for independence.

Despite the fact that I couldn't give a bugger about the result of a referendum, I do appreciate that Peter Hain makes a fair point when he says that those who believe in devolution as a means in itself or as a means to an end won't want to call a referendum that fails. Mr Hain says that a referendum called within the next four years will be lost.

Peter might be a piss poor politician, but Dr Hain is a distinguished academic. As an academic Dr Hain knows that one can't make a premise without proving it. But this is exactly what Dr Hain has done on at least 4 occasions since last May. He has stated, categorically, that a referendum held before 2011 can't be won, but he has offered no reason or proof for his premise, other than his own belief.

The academic response to Dr Hain's unproved premise is that there is no proof available. The political response is that there is proof but that the proof is too embarrassing for the Labour Party - that if a referendum is called within the present Assembly term Peter Hain knows that too many Labour MP's will renege on the All Wales and campaign for a No vote.

So where does that leave Plaid?


And had by its own left wing who put their own isms before the national cause!