London School Prevents School Kids From Watching Eclipse For ‘Religious & Cultural’ Reasons
There was a bit of a buzz around my office on the morning of Friday the 20th of March. Soon enough, we’d be able to view an eclipse – and as the time approached we gathered near a 4th floor window and attempted to locate the sun in a gloomy Manchester sky. No easy feat, let me assure you.
As the clouds parted just long enough for us to catch a glimpse of this beautiful natural event, I was filled with a sense of awe and contentment at having experienced something truly ‘special’. I felt lucky to be around, and to be around in a time where we can understand why these things occur no less. Then back to my desk and reality.
I check-in with BBC news on my first break of the day to discover the article ‘Can religion and science bury the hatchet?’ It’s not long before I’m tutting at the usual mix of “But how can Science explain awe?” and – “both science and religion compliment each other” type sentiments. The fact remains that so long as religion makes objective claims about our reality – not only will it trespass upon the domain of science, but it’ll have its trousers pulled down by it.
It’s always worth a reminder that the godly are only reduced to asking such tawdry questions because burning people alive for scientific investigation has become somewhat of a faux pas in civil society.
I approach my second break of the day, and as if conjured solely to answer the BBC’s question with an emphatic ‘no’ I see the report: ‘UK solar eclipse: London school children banned from watching rare celestial event ‘for cultural and religious reasons‘ via The Independent. The report tells us that a man called Phil Belman – upon hearing his 7-year-old daughter was prevented from viewing the eclipse at her primary school decided to contact the headmaster to find out why:
“This morning I heard for religious and cultural reasons the kids were going to be banned from any part in the eclipse,” Mr Belman told ITV. He said he rang the school and asked to be put through to the headmaster to demand an explanation.
“I was put through to him straight away and he confirmed it, religious and cultural reasons. I said that was totally outrageous. I asked him to elaborate and he refused.
“It’s just going back to the dark ages really.”
It appears not only are children being told what they must believe about gods in our schools, but they’re also being denied rare and enriching experiences due to concerns relating to some invented sky-bully.
Science, in its simplest form is observation. I can’t think of a clearer demonstration of the incompatibility between science and religion than school children being denied the opportunity to simply observe a cosmic event due to religious concerns.
When I think of a group of malleable young children staring up into the sky with anticipation, then witnessing something truly remarkable – I think of all the potential imaginations captured, all those young synapses firing. Will there be a future Brian Cox, Lawrence Krauss or Copernicus awakened in that crowd? The odds appear reduced for the children of North Primary School in Southall unfortunately.
Furthermore, if anybody knows what these ‘religious and cultural’ concerns may be, feel free to let me know in the comments.
UPDATE 21 March 2015:
It seems coverage of this story over at The Telegraph provides a plausible determination of the religious motive:
Sometimes known as Little India, Southall is a diverse community in west London with a large Hindi population.
Although headteacher Ivor Johnstone would not comment on what the ‘religious and cultural’ reasons were, some Hindu scriptures say that an eclipse makes believers impure.
And fundamentalists believe that they need to bathe immediately after an eclipse and chant the name of God to overcome the forces of darkness.
However parents said children were disappointed by the decision, arguing that religious superstition had been allowed to overshadow science.