February 04, 2016

Apartheid education in Northern Ireland

The patriots on each side matriculate hate. In Northern Ireland we inherit from our parents bigotry and hate, and to our children we bequeath bigotry. But the cause of division and mistrust goes beyond the familial and includes the educational apparatus with their curriculums of difference and confirmation bias.

Religious and political allegiance in Northern Ireland is singular. The two words are interchangeable. History isn't taught, it's inherited. We are bequeathed myths, biased and bigotries from a toxic matrix of parents, teachers and clergy. Edmund Burke wrote in 1792:
"[There were] thousands in Ireland who have never conversed with a Roman Catholic in their whole lives, unless they happened to talk to their gardener’s workmen… I remember a great, and in many respects a good, man, who advertised for a blacksmith, but at the same time added he must have a Protestant blacksmith."  
William Makepeace Thackeray wrote in 1842 in his 'Irish Sketch Book': 
""To have an opinion about Ireland", one must begin by getting at the truth; and where is it to be hand in the country? Or rather, there are two truths, the Catholic truth and the Protestant truth... Belief is made a party business."
Irish actor and Northern Protestant Jimmy Nesbitt said:
"The school I went to taught a very different history from the Catholic grammar schools."
He also said:
"The reality of life in Northern Ireland is that if you were Protestant you learned British history and if you were Catholic you learned Irish history in school."
Geoffrey Maxwell, a Protestant in his thirties (written 1994), wrote:
"If you are Protestant, you grow up believing that all Catholics support the I.R.A. and want you to come to harm. 
Roy Foster wrote in 'Modern Ireland':
"To be a protestant or catholic in eighteenth-century Ireland indicated more than mere religious allegiance; it represented opposing political cultures, and conflicting views of history."
Henry McDonald wrote about “The psycho-electoral partition of Northern Ireland”. This is an apt term.

Myles Dillon wrote:
"For in the Ireland of my childhood there was no neutral position. You were either a Nationalist or a Unionist, and the two simply did not meet."
Jonathan Drennan wrote in the Irish Times:
"On my street, cricket and touch rugby were played every night throughout the summer. A stone’s throw across the city, children in West Belfast pucked a sliotar about dreaming of lining out at Croke Park. 
We tuned into CBBC, they watched Dustin on the Den on RTE. We sang God Save the Queen at school prize days, they rose for Amhrán na bhFiann at Antrim Gaelic football games. We lived in opposing bubbles on the same island, largely ignorant of each other."
And added:
"The bigotry and segregation was never obvious or stated in my experience at home, we were simply raised in parallel worlds."
Andrew Sullivan said:
"Faiths, even the most popular, are by definition sectarian."
Kevin Myers told an anecdote on the Irish schooling of Irish history. Maureen Wall of UCD gave am opening history lecture to first year arts by asking foreign-educated students to stand. The famous lady then said to the foreign students:
"You, I have some hopes for. Your minds have not been filled with toxic rubbish that passes for history in our schools. But as for the rest of you, bitter experience has taught me to despair already."
Conor Cruise O'Brien wrote in 'States of Ireland':
"Our school histories do not seriously discuss the ideas and policies of the men of 1916 in relation to the Protestants of Ulster."
The same cuts for Protestant schools, they do not seriously discuss the ideas of the men of 1912, led by Edward Carson, who signed the Ulster Covenant.

Malachi O'Doherty suggested a solution to the problem flagged above. He wrote in the Irish Times of November 22 here:
"The further we move on from the Troubles in Northern Ireland the more divergent accounts of that period become... Dr Haass wants to achieve some reconciliation of divergent views of the past to create a basis for co-operation in the future. One approach might be to insist on more teaching of history in schools"
A. T. Q. Stewart dismissed reconciliation as “hot air”:
"Each side wastes its breath trying to persuade the other to adopt its view of the situation."
He also said:
"For most Irish people, though, [Irish history] is simply a family heirloom, a fine old painting in a gilt frame, which they would miss if it was no longer there."
Victor Griffin, retired Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, wrote:
"With the kids. And I think at the very beginning when Lord Londonderry, he was the first Minister for Education in Northern Ireland in 1922, he said the first thing which you must do to bring about peace, reconciliation and harmony in Northern Ireland is to have all the children educated together. And the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches opposed that tooth and nail. They wanted to have their own schools, and to my mind this was very, very much against the whole teaching and spirit of the Christian Gospel, where you separate young children at a very tender age and bring them up in segregated religious denominational institutions, and so you implant straight away in their little minds a ‘Them and Us’ attitude, and as the course of time develops. We are better than Them. We are the ones, we are the chosen ones, we have got something that they haven’t got. And so you are planting the seeds of sectarianism right from the very beginning in these young people’s minds, and the churches are supposed to be devoted to the gospel of love and reconciliation and equality, and yet they have been embarking on a course which is the direct opposite of that, which is going to lead to the direct opposite to what the gospel of Jesus Christ advocates. And I feel strongly about that, and I’m sad to say all the churches in the past have been far, far too much concerned with preserving their own, what they call a ‘Catholic ethos' and a 'Protestant ethos’, and all this sort of thing instead of a Christian ethos."
The cause of this is a mix of parental, pedagogical and ecclesiastical. Teachers are responsible for the reinforcement of the tribal mould by promoting confirmation bias. In the book 'Reckoning with the Past: Teaching History in Northern Ireland' (2005), Margaret Eastman Smith wrote:
"In interviews of history teachers for this project, half of those teaching at protestant schools said at least one teacher in their school had chosen to teach about the Troubles. This compared with two-thirds of those teaching at Catholic schools who said someone in their school teaches the Troubles. All history teachers at integrated schools interviewed said someone at the school teaches about the Troubles. 
These statistics are not sufficient to build a case that Catholics are more willing to teach about the Troubles than protestants, though they signal a tilt in that direction. Catholics' particular interest in the post-1968 period was underlined when three of the catholic teachers interviewed for this study raised the particular issue of the Bloody Sunday incident in 1972 without it having been previously introduced, citing it as a crime against Catholics that had gone unpunished. 
For them this was an elaboration of the idea that the Troubles tell a story in which Catholics suffered unfair treatment but pursued a liberation struggle. 
When I raised the question of Bloody Sunday with one protestant former history teacher, he in turn raised the matter of a bombing by the IRA in Belfast City centre not long after Bloody Sunday, where many protestants died, for which Gerry Adams is reputed to have responsibility. Catholics believe that protestants will avoided discussing the history of the past thirty-five years and that they will explain this by saying they consider it of less relevance than other parts of history. Protestants feel that Catholics are not willing to see that protestants have been under attack and have suffered too. 
The larger point here is that of the two choices offered for the study of the history of Northern Ireland, one choice resonated with the protestant/unionist narrative, and the other resonated more with the Catholic/nationalist narrative. 
This is confirmed by research of Barton and McCully... That students who attend controlled schools, who are mainly protestant, find Northern Ireland's history from plantation to World War II to be the history thy most clearly identify with, whereas Catholics find history of Northern Ireland after 1960 closer to their sense of identity. The choice offered to teachers for their GCSE curriculum played into this tendency, allowing teachers from each community to teach only that portion of history which is salient or important to their own group's history."
The 2008 Report in Ireland's border communities, ‘Whatever you Say, Say Nothing’, found:
"Protestants and Catholics appear to be different in many ways - the group/tribe we are born into, brought up by and educated by will strongly influence our general characteristics and disposition, which in turn will make a significant difference, it would seem to our outlook, behaviours and life trajectory."
Professor Michael Laffan wrote:
"When I was a schoolboy… reading Carter’s history of Ireland, more space was devoted to [Padraig] Pearse than to all the other leaders put together or to the Easter Rising. There was almost a state-imposed distortion whereby not only are the Irishmen who fought in the British army in the First World War airbrushed out, but the constitutionalist tradition was seen as a dead end."
Ruth Dudley Edwards wrote:
"When I was growing up in Ireland you could not question 1916 because the people of violence had won the argument. The Home Rulers had lost the argument. They never spoke. You didn’t admit to being a home ruler. The statistics for that era are utterly astonishing. There were 50,000 Irish men who died in the First World War, 2,000 died in the War of Independence, about 400 died in 1916. But we never heard about the 50,000 dead people from the First World War. We never heard anything about the Home Rulers. We never heard anything really about constitutional nationalists."
Dermot Meleady said:
"The Leaving Cert history syllabus in united covering 1870 to 1914 contains no mention of the activities in those years of the political party [the Irish Parliamentary Party] which during all that time had a democratic mandate from the overwhelming majority of Irish nationalists. While minority movements such as the early Sinn Fein, the female suffrage movement are included, as of course they should be. And worse still, the three case studies on this syllabus which are supposed to allows students to study a topic in greater depth jump right over the period. They jump from the GAA in 1891 straight to the Lock Out of 1913. Not a mention of the decade of reform. Why is such a fertile period in a countries history not considered worthy of study in its school? Could it be because the reforms were won from the United Kingdom parliament by the elected representatives of nationalist and unionist Ireland without the shedding of a single drop of blood? 
...The third Home Rule Bill was introduced in 1912, anxiously shepherded through the House of Commons in three successive sessions and finally past the House of Lords in May 1914 and King George signed it on to the statute book in September of that year. This was the goal that had alluded Parnell, the goal for which mainstream Irish nationalists had struggled for for forty years, yet Redmond is often dismissed as a failure. One study of him was included of him in a 1989 book in 'Losers in Irish History'. And so he was a failure and a loser, but what did his failure consist in and what made him a loser? His failure was integral to his very success as a nationalist leader. It sounds a paradox but the fact that he suceeded where O'Connell and Parnell had failed, bringing Irish self-government right into the point of legislation and close to implementation. It was this that brought him up against a problem which they had not had to confront. The immediate cause of his downfall was his acceptance of partition, however temporary it might be and however reluctant his acceptance of it, but someone had to be the first to accept partition. Those who attacked him for it then had no better plan for averting it and those who came after him had no realistic plan for undoing it... Like most nationalists, Redmond didn't uderstand Ulster Unionism. (Redmond called it mutilation)"
George A. Birmingham in, ‘The Red Hand of Ulster’ (1912), wrote:
"Gideon (son of Ebenezer McNeice) was taught, as soon as he could speak, to say, “No Pope, no Priest, no Surrender, Hurrah!” That was the first stage in his education. The second was taken at a National school where he learned the multiplication table and the decimal system with unusual ease."
The Economist wrote about the recent history of Bosnia and the problem of ‘Different tribes, different histories’, noting:
"Worryingly, children from Bosnia’s rival communities learn different histories. Every Bosniak child hears about the genocide, but many Bosnian-Serb children are taught to see the mastermind of the killings, Ratko Mladic, as a hero, although he is on trial for egregious crimes in The Hague. Bosnian Croat children are not told much because the crime did not affect Croats."
And continued:
"If the events of 70 years ago are still putting people at loggerheads, that is surely one more compelling reason why a ghastly episode of two decades ago should be contemplated in a spirit of sober remembrance, not point-scoring."
George Bernard Shaw wrote in June 1913 in the New Statesman, ‘The Third Home Rule Bill and Ulster’:
"They have allowed the children of Ulster to be brought up without remonstrance or rebuke in that blasphemous irreligion which consists in believing that all those who worship by a ritual different to that used by the child’s parents are abhorred by God, and will, on their death, be burned throughout eternity in a literal hell of burning brimstone. If an Ulster Protestant child expressed the smallest skepticism as to this it would be beaten as severely as if it had done its Christian duty by asking God to bless the Pope. That is what is taught by its parents, by its schoolmasters, by its pastors, and by a disgraceful silence which is taken as assent, and is meant to be so taken, on the part of our temporal and spiritual peers, our statesman, our press, our learned liberal professions and, in short, all those whose plain duty it is to repudiate such abominable rubbish by every means in their power until the ignorant become aware that what they imagine to be their religion is nothing but their rancor and their share of the guilt of the crucifixion."
David Ervine said:
"Sectarianism doesn’t grow wild as a flower in a field. It’s in the window box. It’s in the potting shed and it’s nurtured and it’s handed on generation to generation. We need to take sectarianism out by the roots. Now the only way to do that is to replace it. I don’t advocate it as any kind of formula for living but whether I like it or not it’s here. The only way to do that is to make common purpose. We can live as close together in this society as 50 metres apart. If our trajectory is good we can hit each other, if our voices are loud we can hear each other but we don’t know each other."
Jenée Desmond-Harris said stop waiting for racism to die out with old people. The
I noted that we need to top waiting for sectarianism to die out with old people.

Dale Hansen wrote:
"Kids have to be taught to hate. And it’s our parents and grandparents and our teachers and coaches, too, who teach us to hate. Kids become the product of that environment; I was and they are."
David Cameron said:
"It cannot be right that people can grow up and go to school and hardly ever come into meaningful contact with people from other backgrounds and faiths."
Michael Portillo said in 2014:
"I don’t think we shall ever sort out the Northern Ireland issue for as long as we have faith schools in Northern Ireland."
Stephen Crittenden wrote:
"I guess you couldn’t build a united Ireland unless you start the groundwork with the kids."
Ireland's narrative silos. Newton Emerson said:
"Northern Ireland [is] now divided into two parallel realities"
Ian d’Alton wrote:
"Edward Said’s argument is apposite – that nations are ‘narrations … The power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging is very important’."
Ian d’Alton wrote:
"In 1916 Irish Protestants were looked upon, in the words of novelist Susanne Day, as ‘illegitimate children of an irregular union between Hibernia and John Bull’."

Patriotic education is inherently partisan. Therefore we matriculate hate. Read my previous post on the weirdness and freak show of Northern Ireland education here.

Cartoon by famous American political cartoonist Thomas Nast (context here)

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