It’s the way they tell them

There was a strong turn out at a grand dinner this week in the Lords to celebrate the achievements of the integrated education movement. The feed was sponsored by Frank Carson and attracted a glittering array of supporters ranging from Peter Hain, Peter Brooke, Owen Paterson, Brian Mawhinney and Jane Kennedy to stars such as Frank Carson, Adrian Dunbar and Barry McGuigan – plus me and Mick.

All hosted consummately by May Blood, a stalwart campaigner for the cause, accompanied by two Principals with powerful principles – Mary Roulston from Millennium and Nigel Arnold from Glengormley Integrated Primary Schools respectively. They conveyed the passion and commitment that the movement brings out in all the parents, pupils and supporters who both want a decent education and want to make a difference to community relations in the North.

May told the gathering of about 200 people that no one says that integrated is the solution to sectarianism but it is very much part of it. And the huge cost of subsidising so many empty school places cannot go on forever. It’s vital that parents are given the option of an integrated school but many just don’t have it.

I was until last year the Westminster adviser to the movement so I would say this, wouldn’t I but I think that it’s high time for the issue of integrated education to become much more central in Northern Ireland.

  • DR

    so the answer to empty school spaces is to open more schools….

    umm, is it not about time they got the balls to at least start ingegrating the systems we have?

    I belive in inegrated education in principle, but opposed to a seperate integrated sector, partly because it is just too PC, but mainly because I attended small rural schools which were a vital part of the community but struggled for numbers even without a additional school opening.

  • wild turkey

    ‘but I think that it’s high time for the issue of integrated education to become much more central in Northern Ireland.’

    one question Gary. How?

    if access to integrated education is limited or non-existant in some locales, then it would seem clear that the growth of the integrated sector can come at the cost amalgamating schools with excess empty places into integrated schools. the norm and first preference of publicly funded education should be the integrated sector. if parents want to opt-out of the integrated sector, if need be let them pay the cost.

    Until this occurs norn ireland will continue to have an education stucture more suited to the Hatfield-McCoy feud than the 21st century.*

    I don’t say this out of cynicism or malice. quite the opposite. both my children attend an integrated primary, i am a parent governor, so am fully committed to integrated education; by community background, race, nationality,disability.

    *the feud ended in the early 20th century. FFS

  • If only the integrated schools movement started focusing on secularising schools it would be a moving in the right direction. The reason that the integrated education movement attracts ambivalence from many (including myself) is that it attempts to squeeze all faiths and so-called traditions into the schools – as well as quota-controlling on the basis of faith. We need to work towards removing faith from schools rather than creating yet another form of institutionalised sectarianism.

  • DR

    Jeff,
    maybe you should establish the Athiestic School Sector,
    as long as faith remains an important part of life for many people and society in general then it should be included within education, it only makes up a tiny part of the school day and includes alot of cultural and community issues relevant to everyone.
    As for the quotas system, catch yourself on mate you know faith little to do with it and it all to do with the community tags we aquire, just like the community designation at the assembly and 50/50 recruitment it is necessary to for now but should disappear with time.

  • DR – no desire to establish Atheist Schools – Atheists have no axe to grind and no faith to teach. What I’d like to see are schools freed from religion. Religion, if it has to be “taught”, should be done so out of school (at Church/Sunday School whatever). Our schools should be focusing on teaching relevant skills not superstition.

  • wild turkey

    ‘Our schools should be focusing on teaching relevant skills not superstition. ‘

    JP

    ah, but empathy is a skill relevant to all aspects of life.

    both my kids at integrated school attend an ‘RE’ class for ‘none of the above’, ie neither Protestant or Roman Catholic. they study various cultures, religions. My nine year old has recently taken an interest Sikhism and Guru Nanak thru his RE class. If he ends up wearing a turban fine by me, but i doubt if it will happen.

    You confuse indoctrination with the acquisition of knowledge and the practice of tolerance.

    ‘Atheists have no axe to grind and no faith to teach’ Ho ho ho.

  • Only Asking.

    Nice one WT, secularism is its own religion, and its practitioners are much too fundamentalist in outlook, either we all follow the athiests or we’re stupid.

    May blood can certainly work a room, shes a born speaker, and a genuine person.

  • Wild Turkey, you seem to believe that the study of various flavours of mumbo jumbo is the route to tolerance and empathy. I’d suggest that a more direct route is for children to be taught the need for mutual respect and kindness. The study of religion is, necessarily, the study of sects and, often, abject brutality. We live in a society that has been riven by intolerance borne out of sects that offer certainty.

    A better route to tolerance is to make clear to our children that we are one people – not under God, but between ourselves.

    To quote from the Amsterdam declaration: The world’s major religions claim to be based on revelations fixed for all time, and many seek to impose their world-views on all of humanity. Humanism recognises that reliable knowledge of the world and ourselves arises through a continuing process: of observation, evaluation and revision.

    Perhaps it’s time for Northern Ireland’s schools – all of them – to start teaching that.

  • granni trixie

    I am happy to see that IE is on the Slugger agenda. One factor not mentioned so far, is that IE is an antidote to Catholic schools in NI in particular which are not at all like those say in England. It was an English ‘practising’ Catholic (unlike myself) who brought this point to my attention. We have gotr schooling wrong in NI and have to face up to it …making IE the norm would be a start.

  • wild turkey

    JP

    well, i hardly consider the major religous, spiritual and philosphical beliefs of the world to be ‘mumbo jumbo’. Perhaps the belief that it is all ‘mumbo jumbo’ is a fundamental tenet of aetheism, eh? if so, do not try to foist that believe on me, as it belies your desire for mutual respect and kindness.

    ‘a continuing process: of observation, evaluation and revision.’

    dead on. i’m in full agreement.

    however, observation, evaluation and revision can be given practical effect by practice, prayer and humility. i would not be so arrogant as to suggest you try it on for size.

    we are one people. however, many people on the planet believe that that commonality is under god. tough shit JP.

    in the words of the great american conservative philospher Patrick Jake O’Rourke

    ‘People are all exactly alike. There’s no such thing as a race and barely such a thing as an ethnic group. If we were dogs, we’d be the same breed. George Bush and an Australian Aborigine have fewer differences than a Lhasa apso and a toy fox terrier. A Japanese raised in Riyadh would be an Arab. A Zulu raised in New Rochelle would be an orthodontist. People are all the same, though their circumstances differ terribly.’

  • Wild Turkey, I was not being unkind suggesting that to study religion is to study mumbo jumbo because, de facto, that is correct. After all, many of the world’s religions are multi-theistic – so I presume most Christians and other mono-theists would regard the teaching of those religions as mumbo jumbo. Therefore, surely, I have the right to hold that all religions are, simply, superstitious contrivances dreamt-up by people who would be better spending their time improving their knowledge, travelling, and generally getting out more.

    I would also ask that you look to your language. I have not used personal attack or foul language to make my points. I’d expect some reciprosity.

    Indeed reciprosity is at the core of most Atheists’ moral code. It is also at the heart of the innate altruism that allows us, as a species, to thrive.

    However, in Northern Ireland, our common decency and natural tendency to be kind to our fellow humanity is perverted by sectarianism. Blind obedience to sects and ‘community groups’ – that elevate themselves above others – is the road to intolerance and insular attitudes. And, unfortunately, the integrated education system perpetuates our obsession with religious based “community identity”.

    If any society needed to be made secular it is this one. We need to strip religion out of our institutions of learning and replace it with the teaching of mutual respect.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I agree a lot with Jeff, but perhaps there is a compromise. If religion is taught in the same way as Latin, ie something that is pretty much useless in your day to day life but is interesting to know about, then maybe we might have a compromise.

  • wild turkey

    JP

    I do not dispute that you to believe ‘ that all religions are, simply, superstitious contrivances dreamt-up by people who would be better spending their time improving their knowledge, travelling, and generally getting out more. ‘

    i just fundamentally differ.

    i also agree that there is a profound and fundamental to continually teach tolerance and mutual respect to all, irrespective of religous/philosphical outlook or, for that matter, age.

    would an increase in the secularisation of NI society be a good thing? undoubtedly.

    is it going to happen in the short or medium term? Probably not.

    But i do think (believe perhaps?) that integrated education is a necessary condition to ameliorate our current situation where the state at best passively colludes with sectarianism. integrated education will enhance progress towards a more secular society.

    finally, as you probably know a keystone of the US federal constitution is the seperation of church and state. when initially articulated it was a radical and laudable step. it still is. unfortunately in practice it is often ignored or traduced.

    lets leave it there for now. ok?

    Comrade S. yeah, on the compromise thing all i am trying to suggest is that to educate and raise awareness of different religous and philosophical belief systems is entirely different, the opposite really, to indoctrination.

  • Wild Turkey, delighted you agree.

  • Reader

    wild turkey: Comrade S. yeah, on the compromise thing all i am trying to suggest is that to educate and raise awareness of different religous and philosophical belief systems is entirely different, the opposite really, to indoctrination.
    That is why teachers these days are trained in RE (Religious Education), not RI (Religious Instruction). Sadly, after three years of training, there are a few who still can’t tell the difference.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    How much common ground is there between parties on this issue? Is it something that they just pay lip service to – or do they all agree in pricinple. It would be interesting to see if the there is any cross commnuity consensus between individual parties e.g. the SDLP and the Ulster Unioinists?

    Perhaps a joint approach on this issue should be the starting point for the Alliance’s requirement(non precondition for Police and Justice as Wee Davey has assured us) of an ” agreed Cohesion, Sharing and Integration strategy”?.

    It might be better to try and get some agreement between the parties on the less contentious issues like integrated education(or am I being naieve here?) before tackling the almost impossible issues like parades.

  • Gerry Mander

    DR – no desire to establish Atheist Schools – Atheists have no axe to grind and no faith to teach.”

    You and your fellow neo colonialists obviously have.

  • Latin Lover

    Comrade Stalin is normally spot on but this time he is so wide of the mark i shall awake from my slumber to correct him – Latin is an extrememly important part in many people’s lives. Comrade S is just exhibiting the usual Northern Ireland incapacity to look outside the country. I mean for god’s sake half the american population come from latin america. Try telling them latin is useless and only worth learning as a hobby. Enuf said.