In remarkable triumph of medieval superstition over natural curiosity, a headmaster banned pupils from watching the solar eclipse, all in the name of pseudo multicultural piety.
According to ITV News, students at North Primary School in Southall were not allowed outside to witness the rare event Thursday and council officials have now demanded an explanation from the head of the west London school.
Ealing Council confirmed the pupils were kept indoors but said they were able to see the eclipse on TV screens. The headmaster, Ivor Johnstone, issued a statement saying he was sorry for any disappointment. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, what seemed like a good idea at the time is now regarded as an error in judgement.
“The school made this decision when we became aware of religious and cultural concerns associated with observing an eclipse directly,” Mr Johnstone said. “Although we are sorry for any disappointment, pupils were still able to watch the eclipse on screens in classrooms.
“However, the overcast conditions in West London today meant they would not have been able to see it live in any case.”
Oh well, there you go. That makes it alright then. It was a cloudy day anyway so, meh, teachers put the telly on and everyone was happy. Except not all the parents at the school agree. According to the ITV story, one father took exception to the decision.
Phil Belman, the parent of a seven-year-old girl at the school, rang Mr Johnston to express his anger thus: “My daughter was sent home yesterday to make a pinhole camera for the eclipse. This morning I heard for religious and cultural reasons the kids were going to be banned from any part in the eclipse.
“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.”
Good point, but it seems that just wasn’t enough to sway the leader of the North Primary School to let his students outside into the fresh air to witness a cosmic spectacular with their own eyes. Forget the fact that a solar eclipse is a natural event that won’t happen again until 2016.
What beats all that is that somebody, somewhere might have been even a teensy little bit hurt or have their religious beliefs challenged by such a momentous event. Or they may not have.
Trouble is, if in doubt, the modern educational assumption is to always assume that feelings – or religions – have to be protected and nobody, anywhere can be affronted by anything.
Even if it means barring children from looking up at the sky in wonder.