Almost all schools in Northern Ireland are paid for by the state. So why should churches, as of right, have an automatic role in the education of our children? Like many fundamental questions, it's rarely posed. It's just how things are, and always have been, since the establishment of the state.
Maybe it's time to start asking, however. A new report from the Unesco centre of education at Ulster University suggests that the way schools are governed effectively reinforces community divisions.
Historic vested interests mean that the Protestant and Catholic churches have the school system very neatly divided up between them. The boards of state-controlled schools are legally required to include a number of representatives from the Protestant churches. Likewise, Catholic trustees have guaranteed places on the boards of Catholic maintained schools.
What it means, in practice, is that many boards of governors are made up entirely of Protestants, while others are completely Catholic.
This matters for a number of reasons, not least the appointment of teaching staff. As the UU report notes, having a 'single identity' appointment panel would be unconscionable in almost any other workplace. But schools don't have to worry about discrimination lawsuits because teachers are not protected by fair employment laws.
This in itself is a measure of how excessively tight a grip the four main churches have on the way education is delivered in Northern Ireland. And there are no signs of that grip loosening.
There are other consequences. While there has been an increase in the proportion of people who don't identify as either Protestant or Catholic, this has not been reflected in "the overtly Christian denomination influence embedded in the composition of boards of governors", says the report. This could hamper the ability of schools "to meet the changing profile of their pupils and to accommodate those with non-Christian beliefs or those of no faith".
What also concerns me is the disproportionate influence that the churches have, through their board representatives, on the provision of relationship and sexuality education (RSE) in schools. It is, perhaps, not a coincidence that the Christian charity Love for Life delivers its abstinence-based RSE programmes in almost 70% of post-primary schools in Northern Ireland.
I withdrew both my own teenage children from Love for Life sessions, delivered at the Belfast grammar school they attended, because it became clear to me that the organisation had a particular moral agenda, one with which I strongly disagreed.
Instead of being coached by evangelical Christians to avoid sex until marriage for fear of contracting a nasty disease, I wanted my children to understand sex with a loving partner as a natural, enjoyable part of adult life.
I was also deeply uncomfortable about the advice Love for Life offered concerning crisis pregnancy, which directed youngsters to hardline Christian anti-abortion organisations like Care Confidential and Life, but not to independent support services like FPA. As for the gay or trans kids, there seemed to be little, if any, affirmative support and targeted advice for them.
Look, I know that governors, of all faiths or none, have a very challenging job to do, and it's entirely voluntary - they don't get paid - which is why new recruits can be difficult to find. Many devote enormous amounts of time and energy to the service of their school, its staff and pupils. They frequently have a profound sense of public duty, and take their role as guardians of the school's ethos very seriously.
But the successful running of a school, especially in these fraught and economically fragile times, cannot be achieved on goodwill and commitment alone. Knowledge, experience, specific management skills and financial expertise: surely these are the vital qualities which must be sought in any potential governor?
Affiliation to a particular church should not mean a guaranteed seat at the table, regardless of a person's ability, or otherwise, to take on the role.
It does not have to be this way. The experience of other countries shows it. Schools in Scotland have parent councils, rather than a formal system of governance.
In the Republic, over 100 schools, run by an organisation called Educate Together, have no governor places reserved for church representatives.
Socially, culturally, morally, the world our children occupy today is unrecognisable from the world of a hundred years ago.
If we want them to be free of the strictures and divisions of the past, then the entire educational system must be reformed, including the way schools are governed.
Reinforcing inherited power is in the interest of the churches, not the young people they seek to influence.