As any good parent and conscientious PTA member knows, sending the kids to school has never been a proposition more fraught with risk than it is right now. Assuming - and this is a fairly big assumption - you've been fortunate enough to be able to place your beloved offspring in the school of your choice (and further assuming that the cobbled together PFI balsa wood structure is still standing in September after three terms worth of rigorous vandalism/graffitti/arson etc.) you will almost certainly be sending your child(ren) to an educational establishment that, whatever its other faults, will at least be able to provide these basic essentials to your poor, knowledge hungry little ones. Your chosen place of education will in all likelihood (and unless you have drawn a particularly short straw) be populated by at least a handful of qualified professionals, some of whom may even possess teaching qualifications as well the grade 5 BAGA awards they are required to hold by law. There is also every chance that your child(ren) will be able to play in safety, secure under the watchful eye of several adult supervisors. This is just one of the many advantages gained for your school when the local educational authority sold off the bulk of the school playing fields in order to enable the construction of luxury flats, social housing and daycare centre for the disturbed in close proximity to the small square of concrete provided for your kids to graze their knees and elbows on. And obviously, there will almost certainly be an established and enforcable code of behaviour aimed at disciplining and socialising your child(ren), in a last ditch (and almost certainly doomed) attempt to preserve the indignity of an ASBO before they're even old enough to be named by the BBC for legal reasons.
However, for all these giant leaps forward that now allow the current generation to enjoy the same freedom and choice in education as they do in any other marketplace or service area, there is still one bar to choice and freedom that is every bit as draconian now as it was when I was at school. I'm referring, of course, to the thorny issue of school uniform and today's House of Lords Appeal Court ruling in favour of Denbigh High School supporting their exclusion of a student, Shabina Begum, for wearing a full length jilbab that contravened the dresscode devised by the school to conform to mainstream Muslim opinion. Sadly, the hope that the arcane and authoritarian tradition of forcing our young to wear silly costumes guaranteed to have them picked on by the tough youths from the neighbouring estates appears to have perished with the Court of Appeal's verdict. Contemptuously dismissing Shabina Begum's inalienable right as an individual to dress in accordance with her religious beliefs, the Lords have condemned another generation of innocents to enduring this demeaning dress code aimed at eradicating the privileges of wealth and status and allowing your child(ren) exactly the same opportunity to become a faceless, futureless little oik as even the wealthiest parents' vile spawn.
Regular readers will know that we here at The Robert Swipe Show have never fought shy of criticising those who follow different faiths when we feel that those beliefs run contrary to the spirit of this fine and noble isle of ours. We may despise John Inman with a passion, but there's no way you'd see any of us lining the streets of Islington with placard calling for his nadgers to be lopped off and stuck on the end of a pole. "He's free" - deal with it, would be our motto. (Trevor Bannister on the other hand...) But today, we put aside these trivial differences of opinion to stand shoulder to shoulder (well, she's a respectful few paces behind us, in accordance with Sharia law - but what's a few metres between friends???) with plucky Shabina. In striking a blow for individual freedom, though defeated in the battle today, we feel sure that the nobility of her cause will see her vindicated at the Court of Human Rights, should she decide to pursue her injustice there. Why should she be forced to risk the perils of the non-secular education provided within her own community, removed as she would be from the protection of the various child protection agencies when she can, with a minor modification of the school's entire dress code, benefit from the sort of education that - quite frankly and at the risk of causing offence to the hard-working staff in those august institutions - knocks a fortnight's religious instruction and applied ballistics in a Pakistan Madrassa into a cocked hat. You can rest assured that we will be using whatever influence we can bring to bear here on these pages to support Shabina in her fight against that hideous oppressor conformity and hope that one day, all our children can be united in the freedom to wear the jilbab in peace and harmony. (well, obviously you can't have the boys and girls in the same classroom or anything, but you get the general idea....)
Love on y'all,
© 2006 Swipe Enterprises