Charity begins at school

I’m baffled as to why insulting blogs fits into an evaluation of whether private schools should be considered charities. Charity Commission report was brought to my attention by a badscience post that linked to a podnosh blog about it.

Well, that speaks for itself, in terms of whether blogs can have educational value….

And props to Ben Goldacre for this fine defence of open knowledge:

Without even thinking about what effect it might have on the people who read it, I can say for certain that writing here has had a huge impact on the way I work and think: it has made me more rigorous and more transparent in my reasoning, because I can get away with nothing; it has made me think about the importance of finding and linking to primary references, attributing ideas, sharing workloads, and collaborating. It’s also reinforced for me the value of open access publication, as I’ve seen more and more people from outside of academia who wanted to read academic papers, simply for their own interest and edification.(from badscience)

The Charity Commissioners say that blogs and wikis have no educational value, because

the content is superficial and this information is not verified in any way, it would not be accepted as having educational value without positive evidence.

Clearly, they are just looking for a reason why they don’t have to include educational websites and blogs in their “charities ” definition. Fair enough. There are enough bogus charities without everyone who posts a page on wikipedia being able to solicit tax-exempt donations.

However, this looks a lot like they are tying themselves in knots to find ways to tip a wink to private schools as to how to meet the new rules that require them to justify their charitable status.

(Sadly for them, they can no longer rely on the self-evident charitable-ness of giving the sons and daughters of the upper classes a better education than the rest of us peasants. )

According to the document,

Charitable purposes (or aims) are those that fall within the various descriptions of charitable purposes in the Charities Act 2006, set out below, and any new charitable purposes that might be recognised in the future.
a) The prevention or relief of poverty;
b) The advancement of education;
c) The advancement of religion;

Blimey, plenty of room there for a swathe of minor private schools to experience a magical overnight religious conversion. How convenient that religions don’t have to prove that the things they teach are “verified in any way.”

4 thoughts on “Charity begins at school

  1. Well said – you’re absolutely right to be bemused why blogs were plucked out as an apparently ill informed example of what may not have educative value. I think the charity commission is struggling because it needs a formal definition of education, where as many of us understand that the informal often provides the best learning.

  2. I think it’s bizarre that in a country with an official religion, the act of actively promoting a different religion is considered sufficiently laudable that you get a tax exemption to help you achieve it — and so does everyone who’s pushing other ideas contradictory to both the above religions. The fact that (b) and (c) even appear on the same list is almost totally paradoxical.

    What is it about religion that turns off people’s “does that make sense?” filter?

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