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A new path for post-liberal schooling in the UK

3rd February 2021
  • ResPublica


Schools have rarely been out of the spotlight during the past 12 months, but many of their problems long predate the pandemic. The inequality of provision; wrangles over the politics of class, race and identity; the tunnel vision of examination grades and university entrance as the sole arbiters of success: these and more have bedevilled UK education for decades.

Many of these problems are the result of the adoption into UK schools of ‘double-liberalism’. The creed of economic liberalism has turned school into a job training centre. What should be a public good has been twisted into a means of private advancement, with social mobility for the few prioritised over an education that delivers for the many. Meanwhile, social liberalism has done its best to hollow the school out as a potential site of meaning, tradition and community. The curriculum is at once too academic and yet delivers none of the benefits of a traditional academic education, even for its winners, leaving the majority of school leavers culturally adrift. Notions of the other goals of an education – of training the character in virtue; of presenting to the growing mind a world of coherence; of helping students to appreciate the true, the good and the beautiful – are lost. Meanwhile, elite families send their children to a separate school system, cutting their children off from the society of their compatriots, whilst at the same time feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the notion of imbuing them with any sense of public service.

And yet all is not lost. Some schools and educational thinkers shine out, offering hope for how we can emerge from the pandemic with a school system that truly delivers for all.

Panellists include:

  • Katharine Birbalsingh, Founder and Headmistress of Michaela Community School
  • Dominic Burbidge, Founder of the Canterbury Institute
  • Michael Merrick, Executive Head, St Ninian Catholic Federation
  • John Milbank, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham and Founder of Radical Orthodoxy
  • Will Orr-Ewing, Founder of Keystone Tutors (Chair)

1 comment on “A new path for post-liberal schooling in the UK”

  1. Ian Shelley says:

    Let us wake up to what is going on, in schools and in our culture. A new belief system, Progressivism, is filling the vacuum left by the pushing of Christianity further and further away from the centre of the public square. Man is a religious animal. He needs religion as a pair of specs to make sense of the world, and he needs morality.

    Progressivism is becoming the dominant, indeed compulsory, religion of the West, by stealth, never disclosing its destination. It wins the educated, not by its truth or goodness, but by flattering them. It has disarmed the church by taking Christian vocabulary and manipulating words to mean something else. Let us wake up, grow up and throw off our theological illiteracy which is making us willing and gullible pawns of this sly new iteration of Marxism.

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