Appendix 3: Controversy over the FWBO’s Education Work
a | Statement from the FWBO Communications Office, June 16th 1998
There has recently been public questioning of the FWBO’s educational work, stimulated by the anonymous Internet document FWBO-Files. Lord Avebury, a Liberal Democrat Peer, raised the matter with the Department of Education; and Don Foster, the Liberal Democrats’ education spokesman, issued a statement and tabled a parliamentary question. The Times Educational Supplement reported these developments on Friday 12th June.
The educational work of the FWBO (as carried out by the Clear Vision Trust) is, of course, a legitimate subject for public scrutiny, and we are confident that such scrutiny will vindicate its integrity. However, the mere fact that these questions have been raised publicly is potentially damaging to the reputation of the FWBO and Clear Vision.
On closer inspection the questions turn out to be insubstantial. The FWBO Communications Office has spoken to both Lord Avebury and the Liberal Democrats’ Press Office. Lord Avebury tells us that he has not investigated the educational materials produced by the FWBO, or indeed the FWBO itself, and does not have the competence to do so. The Liberal Democrats tell us that their only source of information was Lord Avebury, and that they had assumed he had investigated the matter.
Both of these cite FWBO-Files as the source of their concern, and a detailed response to that document is being prepared — though this will take some time to complete [ Editors note: this ‘detailed response’ went on to become The FWBO-Files: A Response ]. However, FWBO-Files makes no reference to the educational materials produced by the FWBO and Clear Vision, its comments on this subject being restricted to a single, inaccurate anecdote.
The TES article exaggerates these claims and adds to them. The TES has acknowledged to us that they were remiss in their presentation of the material and that we have should have an opportunity to reply.
Far from containing sectarian distortions of Buddhism, all Clear Vision educational material is based on the syllabus guidelines produced by the Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority in conjunction with a committee of Buddhists of various traditions (not including the FWBO). John Keast, RE adviser to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which advises government on these matters, has told us that he considers Clear Vision materials to be in accordance with these national Syllabus guidelines.
Further testimony to the reliability of Clear Vision’s material comes from various sources: the expert opinion of numerous Religious Education experts who have used the material; the experience of various Buddhist traditions in the UK and overseas who use the Clear Vision material in their own educational work; and the evidence of the material itself, which is publicly available.
The FWBO is currently the subject of a smear campaign, and Clear Vision — which is highly respected by those who have experience of its work — has been the victim of rumour and innuendo. The appropriate government advisers are currently looking into these claims, and we have complete confidence that they will conclude that it is a reliable and valuable educational resource.