Nicky Campbell presents live debate from the University of Kent in Canterbury. He asks: Do the brightest do better at grammar schools? And is using drones ethical?
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Today on The Big Questions - the impact of grammar schools,
the ethics of drones, and pruning the Church of England.
Good morning, I'm Nicky Campbell, welcome to The Big Questions.
Today we're live from the University of Kent in Canterbury.
Welcome, everybody, to The Big Questions.
On Friday, the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, was heckled
by angry head teachers when she claimed that grammar
schools help close the attainment gap for disadvantaged children.
The Prime Minister has called it her "personal mission" to end
what she calls the "brutal and unacceptable" facts
of school selection based on income - specifically,
who can afford to buy property in the catchment areas of the best
?320 million was set aside in this week's Budget to fund
140 new free schools, many of which could become grammars.
Here in Kent, the county council never abandoned
So, it is a particularly good place to ask our first Big Question -
do the brightest do better at grammar schools?
A good moral and ethical debate, the greatest good and the greatest
number against giving some children the opportunity to achieve
something. Sian Griffiths, you had a daughter there, what did it give
your daughter being at grammar school, what was the essential
difference? Yes, my daughter did go, she went to the girl's Grammar
school, I was quite mixed because I went to a comprehensive which was
coeducational. She was very lucky, she went to one of the best grammar
schools in the country, Henrietta Barnett in north London. What it
gave her, not only did it give her an amazing
exam results, she went to a very good university and is now a lawyer,
but what it really gave her, this is the thing I thought was amazing
which I had not anticipated, it gave her peer group, a group of
girlfriends who are also in their 20s now who she is still very close
to and who she grew up with in her school, and we think about grammar
schools and often think, yes, they have fantastic academic results with
A and A* grades, many of them go on to Oxford and Cambridge, but
grubbing up as a teenager it is important that your peer group is a
group that you can fit into and grow upward. What was it about that peer
group that enabled her to fit in? She is obviously quite academic, she
was a very booky girl, not keen on sport. They were similar, academic,
aspirational, not particularly keen on sport either, so she never felt
out of place, and I know other children who are equally bright who
went to comprehensive schools, and I'm thinking of one in particular,
he went to a comprehensive School, he was very bright and his peer
group was a group which valued football, football was the thing, if
you were good at football venue fitted in, you were the star, if you
were good at maths you didn't fit in, so he downplayed his maths
ability, played up his football ability. Embarrassed to be good at
maths? Embarrassed, and as a result he does not have the confidence and
the sense that it is great to be academically good. A different
ethos? Wanda, what about that, a different ethos, giving
working-class and middle-class kids a chance to achieve in that
environment? I think that is a great experience and I'm pleased your
daughter was able to have that, but surely we want that for all of our
children? By giving these resources to grammar schools and encouraging a
small amount of poor but bright children to go to these schools,
when we know very few of them do so, we know if your socioeconomic
background, if you come from a more deprived background, you have around
6% chance of going to a background -- going to a grammar school if
there are grammar schools in that area but it is great when children
find a school that can nurture them, feel at home, have a good group of
friends, but don't we want that for all children? You are applauding?! I
agree, there are lots of bright kids in this country, many from
working-class backgrounds, who do not get the chance to fulfil their
potential, and that... Would this be our way? It could be, we have a
small number of grammar schools, 163, and thousands of state
secondary schools, so it is a tiny percentage, so most kids in this
country don't even get the chance to apply to a grammar school, there are
just no grammar schools in their counties. At a time when grammar
schools were at their apex, there were more working-class kids
succeeding in those professions than ever before or since, shouldn't we
think about that? This experiment, selective children alone, was tried
for 20 years, I was an education generalist, it was a disaster, it
just didn't work. The idea of going backwards to a time when two thirds
of children at age 11 were told, no, you will not enjoy the benefits of
grammar school, we cannot go back to those days. The nonsense of it at
the moment, some bit to do with parental choice. Parents don't use
grammar schools, grammar schools choose parents. The reality is
selection by the school. At the moment it is often on income, houses
are 60% more in catchment areas where there are good schools. That
is a real problem with comprehensives, no doubt about it,
but the idea you will solve it by selecting children at age 11, a
cruel age to select children for their future, putting them in an
establishment which inevitably leaves out working-class kids, very
few working-class kids go to grammar schools, this is a way of
privileging some children, they are very good schools, I can't argue
with that, but to say we can only afford to educate a third of the
population, under reforms only 1% under these particular schools, is a
nonsense. Chris McGovern, do you want to come in, the campaign for
real education? I'm a secretary modern schoolboy, Simon is a posh
public school boy. This is important because people Newsbeat on this,
let's have some experience. David Cameron reminded his party
conference 18 months ago that this country has the worst rate of social
mobility in the world, that is... He also said a selective system will
not raise standards. Let's look at that, the crowning achievement of
the comprehensive school system is a more divided society.
Children who are able to buy into, parents who can buy into a good
catchment area go to a good school or the independent sector. We need
to educate children in line with aptitude, some children are
academic, they need an academic education such as is provided by
grammar schools. Children of the more vocational orientation, more
technically oriented, need good technical schools. We have to get
away from the snobbery that a grammar education is superior to a
technical education. Educating children in line with how much their
parents can afford... And the reason for that, and major reason, never
mentioned, as to why so few poor children go to grammar school is
because the primary schools are not putting these children forward for
grammar school, not tutoring them for the 11 plus, so the only way to
get to a grammar school is to employ a private tutor. We need lots more
grammar schools, we need them in deprived areas, we need to give
children the capacity to achieve to their maximum and get
away from the idea for heaven 's sake that somehow Charles Dickens is
superior to Isambard Kingdom Brunel. We need both, the rest of the world
have academic pathway and the occasional pathway, they argue when
it is done, 11 in Switzerland, 15 in China. Maximise the attitude of
children, some need grammar school, some need vocation, and
comprehensives can be very poor at that. Let's go to the audience, I
know there were lots of views. A persuasive argument? No, I grew up
on a council estate, my father was a hard-working manual worker, on the
dole, then disabled in my youth. I went to a comprehensive and then,
somehow, found myself studying in Oxford. The amount of snobbery that
came and the amount of ignorance that came from people who had been
to private school but sometimes also grammar schools because of people
being separated out into social groups or even the supposedly
educational preferences. Education as well as the academic and
technical side has to involve meeting different people,
experiencing different cultures, and this is one of the problems with
private schools, single sex schools, they don't allow people to
experience diversity of life, to learn from each other. We need to
segregate people less, not more. If we had more grammar schools there
would be fewer private schools. And don't forget Wendy grammar school
system was pushed to one side and the comprehensive system came in,
they had to abolish the O-level exam, the grammar school exam,
because it was too hard but we still send that to Singapore and they are
top of the world. We have a dumbed down exam system introduced for the
comprehensive intake. Let's hear from the audience. I will be with
you in a second, some dis- behaviour in the classroom! You are your last
warning! Good morning. I would just like to say I don't think that all
children that go to comprehensive schools don't achieve. All by
children, I must admit the 11 plus and didn't quite get their... Was
that a disappointing day? It was, because I paid for a tutor so I was
disappointed. However, now I have one at university, which is here,
two are A* students, so they are in a comprehensive school, so even
though we are putting down the comprehensive system, I went to
comprehensive, my sister went to grammar, she is in the same
position. Parents are very important, the situation at home.
Yes, but they are happy, I don't think it should be put down as much
as we are putting them down, the teachers do really good jobs.
Gentleman there in the leather jacket, hello. I ended up going to a
secondary school in a year that they decided to experiment with going on
teacher's recommendation and it failed me completely. I would have
done much better in a school that pushed me much harder to take
advantage of my natural inclination, head and shoulders above my peers
academically. But even back in 1999, the independent reported a study
that showed that less academically inclined students did better in a
comprehensive rather than a secondary, but students that would
have been selected for a grammar school did as well or better in a
comprehensive as well. So I don't really see, all these years on, the
debate is even open the question. I think it is a lot down to the
attitude of the child, and not the school that you go into. On that
point, Simon Jenkins, what do we do about the children who are
exceptionally bright and might achieve great things in their life
but are in homes where there are no books, no aspiration? The question
is at what stage do you make these decisions? 11 is ludicrously soon,
far too early, and it is cruel. I failed the 11 plus. The fact is, it
is far too soon to make any of these decisions. What is aptitude?
Children are assessed all the time these days. Perpetual motion. 13,
15, 16... You have to make a decision in childhood. The comments
made about aptitude what is important here, and this is an
education which is bright for the right children in that case. I think
that having selection for other kinds of aptitudes would be... Who
are the wrong children? They are not wrong, that is one of the things,
saying the children at age 11, you have failed, you're not saying that,
it is not the right education for them, the aptitude those children
have is not yours. When the Labour Government introduce specialist
schools, I thought that could be a breakthrough, they said they would
have money the specialist schools and thought, great, you could have
sports specialism or maybe computers or science, whatever, but they
wouldn't allow selection on the basis of ability for those things so
you had not the sports specialist school with the best football teams
around, it just had the best goalposts around. If we worked to
make aptitude, the children's aptitude, fit the education system
and the education system fit their aptitude, to look at the vocational
and technical education, and great emphasis is laid on that here in
Kent, I have to say, by the county council, I am a county councillor
and have four children at the grammar school, that would be taking
their education in the right direction for them. And can I just
say, whether the brightest do best, the attainment gap in grammar
schools between deprived children and the higher achieving colleagues
in the school is very, very much smaller in grammar schools, so they
are good, and what we are working on in this county is to try to get
better access for the deprived children and there are numbers of
measures... Dominic Grieve, David Cameron was opposed to grammar
schools, Mrs Thatcher got rid of swathes of grammar schools. The
legal profession, prior to your career as a politician, is so
dominated by private schools, the figures are extraordinary, 74% of
high profile judges in the appeals court went to independent schools.
How do you get through that, By bringing on Jordan from
relatively poor backgrounds and nurturing them. There are different
ways. The grammar school system was quite effective in doing it.
Simon Jenkins, I agree, the 11-plus is a blunt instrument.
You can have a selection system is not wholly reliant on the 11-plus
which relies on greater flexibility. Is there an advantage in bringing
talented children, particularly with academic talents, together in one
place, does it create a critical mass which is beneficial?
The evidence is overwhelming. I have grammars in my own constituency
which is a middle-class area and one reason why they survive is because
the middle-class agitated actively to protect the grammars.
Where you need schools which will do that nurturing our in deeply
deprived areas, from which they have totally disappeared.
I am not against academies, I have seen magnificent academies and
visited them. There are downsides to a selective system. Unless you get
it right, your secondary schools will suffer. That is inescapable. I
have one which is outstanding... Is it worth it? A difficult
question. Looking at the overall performance, it is significantly
better than the competitive system. Not to say you don't get downsides.
It is possible to address that. How would you address it?
Research shows in areas with grammar schools, the state schools do worse.
This is a small number of poor but bright if you want to use that
phrase pupils... Why'd you not want to use that
phrase? It is the port issue as well. And
taking a few of them out, the disadvantage for the other pupils.
The OECD says selective schooling increases inequality and has a
negative effect on our children. I come back to the point, this is a
small number of people you want to scoop out, to the detriment of the
rest of our children. You are talking about...
Northern Ireland has a grammar school system with consistently the
best public school examination results in the UK. Hours of running
three years behind South Korea. We have to improve. We are so far
behind, bottom of the lead for literacy according to the OECD.
Because politicians tinker with education every time there is new
Government. They put new assessments in. We have a teacher retention
problem, they are leaving the education system in droves because
they are so stressed, they are stressing our children come our
six-year-olds are being tested. There are unprecedented levels...
If we are testing so much, we don't need the 11-plus!
I am from Northern Ireland, we are brilliant shall be debate that?
My problem is, grammars are failing the working class is completely. How
you get selected when you live in a household with lots of books... I
was sent to a technical college because of the grammar school
system, I wasn't ready for it, I was a naughty kid. I only had three
years of secondary education. I am now a professor with three pH D is.
In those days I didn't get through because I wasn't considered to be
academic and likely am an academic. A late developer. It is the
selection process. At 11, I was not ready. That is a real problem. The
other problem is the ins and the outs, if you are in grammar school,
it is one thing. It is the others you need to worry about. We need to
get the selection process right. Better if we took this notion of
grammar school and made all schools the same.
Simon Jenkins, we select for music and performing arts ability, even
maths and languages, we select for sport, why not for academic ability?
All schools stream. Selection takes place throughout life.
We don't stream for all subjects. The problem is whether you select at
11, that is a decent time to make this decision. This was tested the
20 years, it is hugely researched. It was not a success politically.
People were screaming to get rid of the 11-plus. The idea of bringing it
back, there are 11 cases with grammar schools, almost everyone
goes to competitive schools and it works on the whole. We can dig up
figures somewhere in Singapore... We don't have a bad education in
Britain. Public schools dominate the
professions. If we didn't have this system, if we did have this system,
go with me on this, if it were to be be imposed, what would be the best
way to select for grammars? What about at 14?
15 it right. You start selecting at that stage. But you split up
communities at 11 and do everything wrong.
It is not a good idea. And offering transfers at a number
of different points, it is wrong it should be done at 11 and I there
after. No, no... Please.
We will be back with you later. I know you have other contributions.
I agree it shouldn't just be at 11, the Government is looking at the
paucity of 13. I like that model where if you have a chain of academy
schools, one would be a grammar school. If you have bright kids in
particular subjects in the other schools they could move into the
grammar school for particular subjects at 13 or 14, whenever you
were showing attitude. I want to pick up something from Simon that we
have a good competitive system. We absolutely do not. I feel
passionately about this. Sir Michael will show the last chief inspector
did two reports, one in 2013, he looked at children's performance at
11 in primary schools on national tests in maths and English and found
there were thousands of children performing above-average com hitting
level five. A lot were white working-class boys. He tracked those
kids and by 16 they should have been getting a grades in nonselective
schools where they went to, competences. They did not. One in
the Boufal didn't even get a B grade. They weren't going on to
universities or become lawyers or journalists or the nice jobs -- one
in four. This system isn't working for working-class kids, not even the
most middle-class kids. It has to change. Thank you very
much indeed for all your thoughts. If you have something
to say about that debate, log on to bbc.co.uk/thebigquestions,
and follow the link to where you can We're also debating live this
morning from the University of Kent in Canterbury,
is using drones ethical? And, should the Church of England
be cut down to size? So, get tweeting or emailing
on those topics now, or send us any other ideas
or thoughts you may This week a report into a near-miss
between a ?60 million RAF Chinook helicopter coming into land at RAF
Odiham and a domestic drone revealed the helicopter was just
130 feet from disaster. The unknown drone pilot
had completely failed to monitor its flight path to avoid
collisions with other aircraft. And last week, a Royal United
Services Institute conference into remote warfare said drones
raised tensions in countries like Pakistan, where
they are used for surveillance. And there's growing evidence
that the terrorist groups being watched are now using drones
themselves as weapon carriers. Drones may keep our pilots
and troops safer, but do they raise bigger questions of just war
principles and human rights? Well, air Marshal Black Robertson,
good to have you here. Lots of people very suspicious of drones. A
UN special rapporteur for the encouraged a video game mentality in
operators and said they are open to abuse, and also the intimidate and
alienate local populations. What you say to those people?
I couldn't disagree more they encourage what was described as a
video game mentality. In my experience, the RAF people who
operate these and I presume that is the error you want to debate, are
about the most professional individuals you could come across,
their training is huge, the way they are monitored, the control that
exists is about as tight as it has ever been in any form of conflict. I
would like to dispel that rumour. As to whether they are ethical, it
depends what you mean. If ethical means doing the right thing, then
surveillance certainly saves lives. If you of to save soldiers's lives,
there was a soldier out there who doesn't want to know what is over
the next hill, doesn't want to be safe out there. The way of providing
that safe environment is by having a drone monitoring what is going on.
Let us be clear. Drones spent most of their time in the RAF sense
providing surveillance which saves lives.
Emily, you are back from Afghanistan?
What did you see? I think it is an interesting question, I am
sympathetic to a lot of those points. What was really interesting
to see was the comments following a 2010 investigation into civilians
who wrongfully killed in Afghanistan by a drone strike. The people in
charge of writing the report from the air force pointed at this
tendency to have technology and to feel almost like you are more
secure, it is possible to know everything, to cut down on civilian
casualties because you have more detergents.
The Senate mean position? In many ways, the more precision you have,
the greater your ability to cut down on civilian casualties, the better.
But where drones walk you into this scenario will you get a false sense
of security about how much it is possible to know.
You are watching a very small subset of circumstances from the screen,
putting a huge amount of response batik on people gathering that
intelligence to understand what is happening on the ground.
What about the perception from the ground, what did people on a grand
thing about what is out there? I was going through my photos from
Kabul. In almost all you have these big surveillance balloons hovering.
You can see them over all the major airfields. I asked my drive about
this, saying, what are they watching? He said, they are
everywhere, we don't know. They were a novelty, now we are used to it.
They are a good navigational tool! What is interesting is the Jones
debate in the UK and how much it represents a shift on a strategic
level towards more secretive warfare. In many cases in area...
What transparency do you want? There are other countries using drones,
look at the US, campaign has been controversial. One thing you can say
is we know a lot more about the policies surrounding the US use of
drones for the thumb strikes. They've released a presidential
policy guidance setting out the criteria you need to have in place
before a drone strike becomes permissible, a framework report in
2016 which set out which groups were permissible targets. We don't have
any of this for the UK. And the impact on the people, you
say they have got used to it. Is there a consequence in terms of
psychology on the ground? That is the strange thing. The drone
programme is so relatively new, it will be hard to know the
psychological impact the people on the ground and on the drone flies.
And transparency, what do we need to do?
We could do with being a lot more transparent. My position would be,
the RAF are a lot more well-controlled in the US -- than
the US. I have spoken to pilots on both sides. It is one thing, we have
to make a distinction. It is one thing between the use of force in an
official conflict zones. The drone allows too much flexibility. In
non-conflicts owns, Pakistan isn't an official conflict zone, and the
Yemen, then you have slippage. The laws of war, humanitarian laws, that
is not... Let me finish... Human rights law applies and now we have a
different idea about the use of force and what is proportionality,
the right to surrender, the right to due process. We are killing people
in these sounds, extra judicial targeting during which is not
acceptable to me. There is no option to surrender, is
there? The point about suggesting the UK is involved in Pakistan or
Yemen is totally wrong. I was talking generally. That is the point
of the debate, it is so easy to say something and that gets carried out.
No, it is not true. Everything the RAF does, everything the UK does, is
incredibly tightly controlled, and that would go back to appoint... So
no extrajudicial killings in non-conflict zones is what you are
saying? I did not say there were no extrajudicial killings... In
non-conflict zones? Hang on, let me pick up on that. I can see you
shifting in your seat, Symon. If al-Baghdadi, the powerful, absolute,
undeniably very charismatic leader of the so-called Islamic State were
to be killed by a strike from a drone, would you have a problem with
that? I'd have a problem with the fact the drone would almost
certainly kill other people nearby. The idea of drone is some sort of
magic weapon that can target somebody, I think throughout history
weapons have been invented that are supposed to be more precise, more
ethical, more reliable. When the machine gun was invented, people
said it was so horrific it would put people off the wall and there would
be no more war as a result. We get this every time there is some sort
of new weapon and we're asked to believe, naively, in this magical
targeting whereby a weapon can just kill one person, whereas even by
conservative estimates it is suggested around 2000 civilians have
been killed in Iraq and over the last couple of years by western
drones. What do you say on that point? How was that more ethical
than being killed by other reside bomber? I don't see drones, they are
targeted, much more targeted than most other weapons available, but
exactly the same criteria is applied to the use of drones and lethal
strikes as any other form of weaponry. The idea that just because
you have drones you are moving into a new legal area is mistaken. The
UK's use of drones for legal strikes has to be informed by domestic law,
international law and human rights law. In everything done, including
necessity and proportionality. In relation to any action taking place.
It is important to understand that. That is not to say everything will
always be got right all you can never have collateral damage, but
all those things have two be factored in in exactly the same way
as if you were putting troops in on the ground to do exactly the same
task, from that point of view it is not some secret weapon. If 2000
people were killed by a suicide bomber we would call that a
horrendous atrocities. 2000 civilians haven't been killed...
Even if it was only 200. If those people have been killed by Western
drones, they are not collateral damage, they are real people with
real lives. I agree about that, any death of an innocent civilian is
regrettable. I'm afraid Wall produces massive collateral damage
and, in the past, we have seen examples of it both in wars we have
fought like the Second World War or indeed the Russians' behaviour in
supporting the Syrian regime in taking back Aleppo, which shows a
willingness to use indiscriminate force. In comparison, the point I
would make is that actually the use of drones for lethal force by the
United Kingdom is much more targeted and much less likely to cause
collateral damage... Do you have that trust? We are always told that
of course the Russians have committed horrendous atrocities in
Syria, I don't deny that for a moment, but war is always justified
on the grounds that the other side have committed atrocities and we are
just behaving defensively, that is how all wars throughout history have
been justified. It is never believable, it always turns out
there are atrocities on both sides and shortly after hundreds of years
of this lie that violence can solve things it is about time we stopped
believing it. I'm slightly perplexed at why we're having this debate is
now regarding the usage of drones against civilian and military
targets. Did we have this debate when Yugoslavia was bombed by bomber
planes? When Dresden was bombed? Was there a debate in medieval times
when Trevor Shays and catapults were used against fortresses with
civilians inside? These kinds of tactics have been going on the
centuries, as long as human warfare has been around, so I personally
believe that the usage of drones in modern wars is just an inevitable
consequence of humanity entering a new stage of warfare, entering a
stage of unmanned vehicles, Robotics. In the long term I support
the use of drones because it is safer for our troops and, yes, the
enemy will also start using drones to counter us, that is the nature of
warfare, one side becomes more advanced... And it keeps boots,
Simon Jenkins, off the ground, as that gentleman said, good for our
troops? It is a drastic extension of the sniper principle, we can take
somebody out, but the question is because it is such distance, a
wholly different strategic theatre enters the argument. Why are you
killing that particular person? In the case of a British citizen in
Syria killed because it was thought he would support terrorism, that is
a tenuous way of killing someone and innocent people around him. The
trouble with drones is it induces armies to behave much more
irrationally than they would otherwise behave, we are operating
in countries we are not at war with. Also the killing of a particular
person, you will probably have to negotiate eventually and every time
we assassinate these people we make it more difficult eventually... I
think the drone attacks in Afghanistan have made a huge
difference and disrupted Al-Qaeda as a formation and made it very
difficult for them to operate. The numbers of civilians are an
exaggeration. The bureau of investigative journalism, which has
awards from Amnesty International so it is not pro-government, has put
the numbers of civilians killed by drone strikes as about 100 last year
in America compared to... There is an important legal issue here. That
is a problem with warfare. I couldn't agree more with that. They
league at issue here is where the flip between the laws of war and
international humanitarian law and human rights law, that is when we
are attacking countries we are not in official conflict with. The
tipping point, the UK along with others is dire looting the notion of
what is an imminent threat, what do we need in terms of our defence and
quite often it is foot soldiers of Al-Qaeda loading a few rifles into a
truck and they get bombed, but they are not an immediate imminent
threat. An imminent threat used to be when you had a big armed force
against us on our borders but now it is a few foot soldiers and that is
the key issue here. But you have to bear in mind one of the problems of
globalisation and the Internet is a person can sit thousands of miles
from the United Kingdom actively participating in a potential
conspiracy to kill people directly in the United Kingdom itself. I
agree with you that this is creating grey areas and we need to think very
carefully about what we do, but, as I say, the framework, actually, is
there. Ultimately if the Government justified the drone strike in Iraq
it was a chapter of Article 51 of the United Nations the right to self
defence. International humanitarian law, yes. You are entitled under
international humanitarian law to take military action in self defence
against people is located in another country. Of course it is a very,
very brave step to take and you are likely to have it crawled over when
you have done it, which is what is happening... It is some new
illegality. If Isis operatives are loading Kalashnikovs into the back
of a band, getting rid of them, taking them out which is the phrase
people use, is that justified? If you take the view that the entire
operation of Isis constitute a threat justifying the use of force
under article 51 of the UN Charter or legitimate aid of the Iraqi
government in dealing with a conflict, you have a legal base for
taking action against all their operatives. The fact is, these
countries do not threaten Britain. One or two people in these countries
might threaten to explode a bomb in Britain, yes. It is not an
existential threat to Britain, this is an extension of the concept of
defence into what is effectively a tax, the Ministry of Defence should
pick up the Ministry of attack. It is aggression against people a long
way from here who do not threaten others at all and one of the
consequences of the development of these new sophisticated weapons, we
cannot resist using them. We are out of time on it, but I will give you
the last word, it will be on this... I want to ask you about domestic
use, that was one of the things, sorry to curtail your thought, hold
it for another time! More regulation? We need more regulation
for the flying of these things, we have just been running a conference
on the use of drones taking supplies into conflict zones and disaster
areas, delivering medicines, nothing about the technology itself, but I'm
very concerned about two things, one is the increasing autonomy of the
systems and I'm on a campaign to stop the autonomous use of weapons
because that is a no no but also the expanding use by police, not in the
UK so much for surveillance, but in South Africa they are using it
against striking miners to fire pepper spray, paintball is... And
using it there as well to stop poachers. That is true, but this
company, Desert Storm, is only selling in units of 50 and has built
a new factory in Omagh and Brazil, said this is a concern about
peaceful protest, what is evil protest under human rights law, it
is a bit vague. We have to finish but what I have to say, when you
were talking about regulations for domestic use, everybody on the front
row was nodding and I have never seen that before in my life!
You can join in all this morning's debates by logging
on to bbc.co.uk/the big questions and following the link
Or you can tweet using the hashtag #bbctbq.
Tell us what you think about our last Big Question too -
should the Church of England be cut down to size?
And if you'd like to apply to be in the audience
at a future show, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're in Cardiff next week, Oxford on March 26th,
Since the murder in the cathedral of Thomas Becket, Archbishop
of Canterbury to Henry II, this has been a place of pilgrimage
A million visitors come here every year to wonder
And most are happy to pay ?12 each for the privilege.
But in neighbouring Surrey, the less-visited
Guildford Cathedral, opened in 1961, asked for planning
permission to build flats on its land in order
Guildford Borough Council turned it down, so the cathedral is now
The Church of England has an enormous property portfolio
of 16,000 buildings to maintain, half of them Grade I
But less than a million worshippers attend a Church
Should the Church of England be cut down to size?
Simon Jenkins, trustee of the churches conservation trust, lots of
situations up and down the country like Guildford Cathedral, what would
you do about it? Very few like chilled food. Cathedrals in this
country are in good shape, more people going to cathedrals,
worshipping in them, they are well looked after, they can raise money,
cathedrals are not a major problem although gold but does have one. The
problem is churches, as you said in the introduction there are probably
5000 churches that are essentially empty, people may go occasionally,
but they are essentially empty, in the middle of every community is a
church, beautiful community buildings, built with the taxes of
the public. They have got to be somehow return to the public, we
have to get them back into use. They cannot be demolished, it is wrong,
they are ours. These building should not be sitting largely empty in the
middle of these communities without the community using them to the
fore. You are not looking happy. Can I tell you what we do in our church?
These churches were built on the back of serfdom, we want them back!
I think you have them back, let me explain! One of the joys of the
Church of England for me and the thing that attracted me to the
Church of England, 16,000 church buildings, in every community, gives
the Church of England are present in a brick community and you are saying
should it be cut back to size? Obviously I will say no and let me
explain why I am going to say no. Each building in each community
represents a group of people who worship in that building and who are
led by people like me with a collar on and lots of lay people. But some
of the congregations could fit into a telephone box! They may be small
but what they can do, one of our churches the congregation is not
huge, between 20 to 30 people will gather and worship on a Sunday
morning, but let me tell you, the fact that we worship and we are
people of faith is only one side of the coin. The other side of the coin
is, how are we going to live our lives and how will that affect the
people around us? We opened a community hub about three years ago,
people if they are feeling isolated or lonely can come in. We opened a
credit union so that people who don't have access to a bank account
could have access to savings... Simon, what about the homeless
situation, a quarter of a million people in England are homeless and
their Iraqis empty buildings, who would agree with what Leslie says,
the broader Some churches do great things to
open their buildings to the community. The reality is, though,
churches have got bogged down with buildings. As a Christian, I am
aware people who have been on church committees Woolnough you get your
energy sapped into thinking about heating, plumbing, it goes into
building is often not used. A study found 75% of Islington church
meeting rooms were not used in the week. And when I open the new
Testament as a Christian, I do not find Jesus telling his followers to
set up a branch of the National Trust to maintain buildings.
Here is the question, bricks and mortar, churches, what would Jesus
do about them? I would not like to be arrogant to
speak the very words of Jesus. When I looked at Jesus in the new
Testament, he says that all about religious buildings. His comments
were pretty negative. The gospel is about getting stuck into the
community as churches are, I am not saying don't have buildings, but not
for the sake of it. Use them while get rid of them. Meet someone else.
Put the energy into engaging in the world, giving an example of
promotion of equality and peace. They are essentially places of
worship. In Canterbury diocese, over 90% of the parish churches are
listed buildings. You can't just threw away a listed building. I go
back to the point that we are communities of worship and prayer.
That drives... Are they sacred places? There are
people who would see them as sacred. I am a volunteer chaplain.
They are sacred places. We are in danger of idolising buildings.
We are not worshipping buildings here.
I am not suggesting you are. There is a slope towards that. Some of the
most powerful worship has been in great buildings, others have been
outdoors, for example, in acts of protest, blocking and entrance to
the London arms prayer by praying. That was a sacred space.
So many of you are not being paid but you are concentrating on
antennae these buildings. Timothy? There is a lesson to be
learned from the National Trust, I will come to that. You were asking
about downsizing. I do not think as a conservationist there need be a
problem with money. One of the main problems we have is too much money.
I can think of a case of a central London church where the vehicle was
in the middle of raising ?3 million in order to change the interior, a
fine early 1950s interior, and the no particular reason. If you look at
the church is associated with holy Trinity Brompton, you will find an
enormous waste of resources put into what I would call essentially
vandalising Victorian buildings. That is a popular church.
Throbbing. That is right. The parish church in
the area where I grew up in Hammersmith has been competitively
shafted by the changes put into it. Let me pick up something Simon said
he clearly which is about buildings. The evangelical wing of the Church
of England has an obsession about buildings and destroying them. Go
back to the English Civil War, they were pushing their pack stuff
through stained glass windows so we could not enjoy them.
In a way they are still at it. They are absolutely still at it. You
may laugh. Let me give you an example. There is
a manual, a best selling authoritative manual for the
evangelical wing of the Church of England calls re-pitching a tent,
from 20 years ago. It includes in it an illustration of a happy
combination smashing up a Gothic church and moving into a plain ugly
building on the outskirts precisely for the benefit of the community.
Because it's not about bricks and mortar.
Simon Jenkins? There is no problem with popular churches or the
wonderful work that people like you do, some of the most dedicated
people I have come across. Best practice is not the issue. Most of
Church of England churches are severely underused. It is no good
saying they are open to all. Most people say why do you use the
church? It is not for me. It is for a small section of practising
Anglicans. The biggest buildings in most of these committees is a
church. It caters for a tiny group in that community. It is in the
interest of the church for the community to recapture these places
and use them more widely. Audience, does anyone want to say
something? The gentleman here. I am not a Christian. This small
church, there were booked a few hundred years ago. In those days, a
lot of people didn't have cars to travel. Now, a lot of people have
cars, it is easier to travel. Would it not be better to have a church,
instead of every church having 20 parishioners, have a bigger church
somewhere where they can all go? An American evangelical mega-
Good morning, a colourful top. Good morning. It is not about the
buildings but the communities. I come from rural Devon originally and
there are a lot of places where churches are pretty much the only
community building left, the post of this goes, the postbox can even go.
Community cohesion. Sometimes people will say, look at
Kent, you have lots of churches, rural churches in hamlets or small
villages. If you were to think they have already lost the pub, the
shops, public transport isn't great. It is still the church that is
there. It holds a place, not the building...
But if you flog the churches you could do more for charity.
A few years ago there was a lot of flooding on the Somerset levels, the
church buildings and the congregations and their volunteers,
that was a brilliant example of church communities coming into their
own. Let us not get hung up on the building which is a place to worship
coming you can get married, have a funeral, your baptism.
Can you get married in there if you are gay.
Well... Not at the moment. I am glad I would be welcome at
church but it is simply not true there is a church that welcomes
everybody in every community. Because of that point?
Some churches would welcome me because of my sexuality. If you are
a wheelchair user, in defiance of the law of the country, you cannot
get in. Churches should be pioneering
equality but in many places they are actually less equal than the society
around them. Let me ask a question.
Who owns these churches? The people own the churches. Our
ancestors built them with their extorted taxes and hardship.
These churches, especially the great cathedrals, not just religious
statements but about power, control. Keeping the peasantry down.
Beckett died because he was trying to ensure his version of Sharia law,
the church courts. Yet he was made a saint. They are community buildings
that belonged to the descendants of the people who paid for them. They
could be made more use of, you can get married there, and they have the
huge weight of community history in them not just for revision but the
getting married and buried. We should open them up. The Church of
England has shown itself not fit to look after these great treasures.
In areas where there is less of a church of England engagement but
more of a Muslim or Hindu engagement, Bradford for example,
turn them into mosques? I say let people use them including
the Church of England. Other religions as well. Community
centres, as well as religion. Dominic Grieve, they were
architectural jurors looking on the peasantry, it was about shock and
awe. It is ethical and political power.
There was an element of that, and religious devotion. A large number
were built through ridges devotion and money voluntarily given. There
is a mixture. Toovey characterised the entirety of the piety of the
middle ages as being state imposed on the peasantry is a little far
from reality. There was a great mixture but it was a time when the
leadership of the churches had sold out to wealth and power.
Had gone against Jesus's article message. Through historical anomaly
we have these cathedrals largely tourist attractions, things like
church has conference Centre hosting every year a military conference
sponsored by arms companies to fund the church. With these buildings
now, we are stuck with them and it is making it harder...
As an early modern historian I take issue with the fact religion wasn't
necessarily not connected to the state. The state had a great deal of
laws imposing on people to force them to be religious. The penalties
in the medieval period if you want part of that church community and
weren't conforming, it was political control. I point again is, if you
look at the churches built, can I say the word, before the
Reformation, you have a different ownership. They belonged to the
Roman Catholic Church. This may be a get out clause. Churches bought
before the Reformation could be handed back.
15 seconds. It is what we do in the future not the past. In the future,
you sound welcoming, the fact is churches are not welcoming places.
But more and more. On that point of contention we had
to leave it. As always, the debates will continue
online and on Twitter. Next week we're in Cardiff,
so do join us then. But for now, it's goodbye from
Canterbury, and have a great Sunday. It was the most beautiful view
I've ever been through. For one second, I was swimming on my
back, and I was looking to the sky. I was swimming across
the Aegean Sea. I was a refugee,
going from Syria to Germany.
Nicky Campbell presents live debate from the University of Kent in Canterbury. He asks: Do the brightest do better at grammar schools? Is using drones ethical? And should the Church of England be cut down to size?