A culture of fear and intimidation has developed inside some of Birmingham's state-funded schools, says Ofsted's chief inspector, Michael Wilshaw. Islamic "extremism" wants to rule the roost (my quote marks are there not to imply irony or scepticism, but simply because nobody seems sure of what extremism is). Ofsted's report finds that in Park View school, the sexes are segregated inside the classroom, their sports events are scheduled for different days and that a "madrasa curriculum" denies evolutionary theory and omits reproduction from biology classes. One teacher has handed out a worksheet stating that women must always obey their husbands, and another has been using school facilities to copy Osama bin Laden DVDs.
The general picture is of schools that have cut themselves off from the state's educational system to cultivate or reinforce intolerant religious and political beliefs that threaten the state's wellbeing. Vehemently denying this picture, many teachers and parents are anxious to point out the difference between the religiously devout and the politically militant. Michael Gove thinks that every state-funded school in England should be obliged to promote "British values", forgetting that he once mocked Gordon Brown for coining the phrase, or that its meaningfulness is questionable (hence more quote marks). At such a troubled time, who can resist the feeling that Ray Honeyford was right?