March 20, 2015

The "weirdness" and "freak show" of apartheid education in Northern Ireland

Cartoon by Ian Knox (@IanKnoxcartoon)
Ninety-three per cent of children in Northern Ireland attend segregated elementary schools. Causing what the New Yorker's Patrick Redden Keefe called, "sheer weirdness." Jude Whyte said:
"Politics has replaced the gun and the bomb yet in many ways I feel that we live in a more segregated society than ever. We live apart, educate our children apart... while sport (the source of such unity in the world) remains sectarian, poisoned and divisive."
The Stormont Executive is under a legal duty to "encourage and facilitate" the development of integrated education. The Article 64 duty. Pete Shirlow noted that it costs a lot of money keeping this society segregated. Segregated education costs £80 million annually.

Actor Charlie Lawson said: I never met a Catholic until I was 20."

Irish News reporter Fergal Hallahan said, "Soon after I’d started working at the Irish News, I got talking to a northerner in her first year at a Trinity College Dublin who told me she had never knowingly met a Catholic until two months before." He added that this "sums up what a freak show the place is in certain ways."

Is it any wonder that young Protestants and Catholics then demonise the other and the unknown? No wonder we all do 'the dance.' The dog sniff: "Are they protestant or Catholic?" we all ask ourselves before saying, "What school did you go to?" As Jude said:
"You begin to wonder by looks, by how they look. Then you tell yourself to wise up, that’s ridiculous. The name usually gives it away."
Geoffrey Maxwell, a protestant said:
"At thirteen or fourteen, in school, you’ll write ‘The Red Hand’ or ‘U.D.A.’ or ‘U.D.F.’ on your schoolbooks. The same in the Catholic areas, where you’ll begin to write ‘I.R.A.’ and ‘Brits Out’ on the walls."
Henry Robinson, a catholic said:
"I couldn’t wait to start killing British soldiers. I was in Catholic schools, where we’d recite the names of the thirty-two counties of Ireland (counting the six of the North) as indoctrination. You got the impression in school that Cromwell was still roaming the streets doing evil things to the Irish, or something. When the riots started, the Catholics felt under attack, and so did the Protestants. A lot of recruiting went on. It would be a long time before I’d ever think that sending British soldiers home in coffins was not the whole answer."
Another protestant, Michael Longley said:
"I am Protestant, went to Protestant schools, and, as I was growing up, there was nothing in the curriculum to suggest I lived in the North of Ireland. I was educated as a Brit. Sometimes I feel British, sometimes I feel Irish. That split is what I am."
Another Catholic, Bernadette Devlin said:
"I went to a very militantly Republican grammar school and, under its influence, began to revolt against the Establishment, on the simple rule of thumb, highly satisfying to a ten-year-old, that Irish equals good, English equals bad."
Catholic educated Matt Johnston also made a powerful point about the zealotry his education on Twitter here, calling it "a segregation machine".

Bernie, a ‘Catholic middle-class housewife’, said in 2005:
"The only way forward is total integration. Integration of the schools, and particularly the primary schools. I was at Jordanstown University and it was 90% Catholic, and growing up I never met a Protestant."
George A. Birmingham wrote in ‘The Red Hand of Ulster’ (1912):
"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."
Conor Cruise O'Brien calls this kneetop narrative "a Twilight zone of time" when "our elders have talked their memories into our memories until we come to possess some sense of a continuity exceeding and traversing our own individual being."

The Atlantic Magazine did a feature on Ireland, 'Where to find a non-Catholic school?' In response to this latent problem the Educate Together movement has come about. Fintan O'Toole said that the Irish state is openly advertising and supporting discrimination in the education system.

Chief Justice Warren of the US Supreme Court said in 1954:
"In the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."
Michael Portillo said:
"I don’t think we shall ever sort out the Northern Ireland issue for as long as we have faith schools in Northern Ireland."
The answer is what James Connolly said, to take education away from the clerics and into popular control:
"The democracy of Ireland, amongst the first of the steps necessary to the regeneration of Ireland, must address itself to the extension of its ownership and administration to the Schools of Erin. Whatever safeguards are necessary to ensure that the religious faith of the parents shall be respected in the children, will surely be adequately looked after by the representatives of a people to whom religion is a vital thing. Such safeguards are quite compatible with the establishment of popular control of schools."

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