I went to what was at least nominally a church school, all-girl, headed by a pretty clueless male reverend. Most of the time his lack of worldliness and commonsense didn’t matter (although sometimes, as I think of the fate of a friend of mine who ended up in a psychiatric hospital, it did).
But he did do more general damage in some special “personal development” lessons that he took for sixth formers. Most of it was pretty inane stuff, but I can still clearly picture (probably because of the rage I felt at the time), his solemnly drawing graphs on the board to explain that men’s sexual arousal was a sharp curve, while women’s was much flatter, and therefore women shouldn’t wear low-cut blouse. He didn’t say the next sentence, but it hung in the air: “If women got raped, it was probably their own fault.”
I thought of this when I read an excellent piece in the Guardian today. The government is (in one of its more potentially long-term pieces of stupidity) encouraging the development of religious schools, and even the take-over of state schools by religious groups. It has also, commendably, introduced an gender equality duty on institutiions. But …
Much to the amazement and anger of gender equality campaigners, the government has not published any gender-specific statistics on faith schools and is not aware of any research in this area – on whether girls and boys in faith schools are taught a different curriculum, as was found to be the case in a now closed independent Muslim school in Scotland; on whether girls and boys in faith schools are achieving different grades or leaving school at different ages compared with each other and with their peers in non-faith schools.
A spokesperson for the DfES says undertaking such research would be a “massively disproportionate” use of taxpayer’s money. Yet under the gender equality duty that comes into force in April next year, there will be a legal requirement for all state schools to actively promote gender equality.
The article is promoting an Amnesty International debate tomorrow night in London on Women’s Human Rights and Fundamentalism. I won’t be able to go since I’ve already got two things booked, but it sounds good.