Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Some of my best friends are

Well, it’s pretty clear that I’m not going to get any work done today. Stupid brain.  It keeps noticing things that are more interesting.  I’ve officially written the rest of the day off so I can start fresh in the morning.  I’ll regret that later Sad smilebut it gives me the chance to check on my feeds, which are in woeful disarray.

Anyway, here is a welcome respite from the idiocy of Andrew Brown.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still idiocy, but not quite such flagrant idiocy.  Actually, idiocy is far too strong.  It’s not all that bad, really, and it’s inoffensive enough, I guess, but it’s very silly nevertheless.

Karen Glaser likes Dawkins nearly as much as her dad but she thinks he’s wrong about faith schools.  Why?  because she has a single example of a faith school which she says is ‘multicultural’.  Therefore Dawkins is wrong about all faith schools.

She points out correctly that Jewish faith schools are not represented in Faith School Menace and explains why (to some extent) this is the case: no Jewish faith schools would talk to him.  However, Dawkins did interview Glaser so it’s a shame that this didn’t make the final cut.  Dawkins usually tries to release interviews he does for television uncut so there’s some hope that we might eventually see it.

Glaser’s silliness can be summarised with one two of her own sentences:

My defence of Jewish education is heavily based on my experience of one particular Jewish school: Simon Marks Jewish Primary, in north London. That experience may well be atypical, but, I would argue, is still germane.

Well yes, ‘germane’ is a funny old word, isn’t it?  Glaser’s experience of this school is certainly relevant to the discussion, but it doesn’t mean Dawkins is wrong.  Basing an argument like that on a single example is transparently, footingly, embarrassingly foolish, especially when there’s a strong suspicion – as indicated by Glaser – that it’s an atypical example anyway.

Why mention it?  Naturally some faith schools are good at some things, sometimes things their opponents might not immediately expect. Nobody should be (or is, as far as I’m aware) surprised by this.  We shouldn’t be surprised either if Hitler was nice to his mother. 

There’s a very good reason indeed to mention it: if the school’s as good as she says, it could serve as a useful example of how to do faith schools right.  Or more properly to build faith schools that conform more closely to some particular ideals, if that’s what we want to do.  But Glaser doesn’t mention it for this reason.  She mentions it as a pathetically inadequate argument that Dawkins is wrong about all faith schools.  One example serves to prove this.

Pull your socks up, Karen, this is silliness of the silliest kind.  Your opinions are either evidence-based or they aren’t.  You either stand by what reason tells you or you make it up.  You can’t have it both ways. You celebrate Dawkins for doing awesome evidence-based stuff and when you don’t agree with him you abandon that conviction and decide you’re right and he’s wrong because you say so.  Or more accurately because of a single example, which amounts to the same thing.

Dawkins’ show mentions various other criteria that might suggest that faith schools are in some ways bad.  Glaser doesn’t mention these.

Is this really all you need to do to be a journalist?

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