Bumping into a former colleague on the street, I find myself listening to gossip about various old friends and acquaintances. It is all instantly forgettable except for one thing: well-off Wendy, who has been home-schooling her two children up to now, needs to send the older off to high school soon. She has been using a special Christian curriculum, but as number-one kid approaches the age of 11, it is clear that she must hand over to professional teachers out there in the big, wide world of evil and Godlessness. (To give an idea of how insulated from wickedness the youngsters are, my former colleague once observed one of the children removing the other from the sight of a TV because it was showing a kids’ cartoon that involved Biff! Bam! violence.)
The father is a businessman with a modest public profile and, apparently, little interest in theology. So the fundamentalist Evangelical Wendy makes all the decisions on schooling, and it seems she has chosen a place called International Christian School in picturesque Shek Mun, Shatin.
It is, says the blurb, a non-profit making school providing Christ-centered education. According to the profile, the students are mostly English-speaking Chinese from families of businessmen, professionals and civil servants. They can, however, mix with slum kids on the annual Week Without Walls community service learning experience. A debenture costs HK$190,000 and fees are up to HK$115,000 a year, which I imagine is steeper than the government-subsidized English Schools Foundation establishments but cheaper than the big-name private International Schools.
All in all, it seems pretty unremarkable. The website shows happy smiling kids and suggests that the school does a reasonable job of getting the devout upper middle class’s princes and princesses into university. However, down there in the small print, the institution declares: “We affirm the authority of the Bible over all matters of faith, the exclusive Lordship of Christ and a life of discipleship leading to holiness, witness and service.” In case you didn’t get that, it also says: “We believe in …The Old & New Testaments, inerrant as originally given…”
Inerrant. This is a place of Biblical Literalism, Christianity’s 20th Century heresy. Along with their Mandarin, art, chemistry and history, the kids will no doubt learn that dinosaurs co-existed with humans, mountains were created by God not plate tectonics, and of course no way were our great-grandparents monkeys. Keeping her children uncontaminated by evidence-based science (except the OK bits that give us electricity, modern medicine and huge eight-seater cars) is Wendy’s overriding priority. Whatever happens, her offspring mustn’t be exposed to Genesis-defying cosmology, geology or biology – or how will they be saved and born again? So vital is it, she will even send them off to Shatin.