Mad dogs and Englishmen

Noel Coward’s famous song, Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun may need to be revisited – with a little bit of reworking – in the light of a report in today’s Daily Telegraph. It reports that a British watchdog, its Equality and Human Rights Commission, has a secret proposal on its desk to compel girls’ schools in England and Wales to admit boys who present themselves for admission as girls. Or whatever. God help us. With clearly rabid watchdogs like that roaming the streets they better all say goodbye to the sun. A dark age has arrived.

Is it any wonder that the home-schooling movement is taking off at record speed?

The paper reports:

Girls’ schools would have to admit transgender pupils under proposals being considered by the equalities watchdog. The confidential Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) draft guidance, leaked to The Telegraph, reveals schools could be set to consider admissions of trans students to single-sex schools on a “case-by-case approach”. Schools were supposed to be issued with the first official national guidelines on transgender children in March 2018. However, following repeated delays, it has never been published. However The Telegraph can now reveal details which have never before been made public.

Is transgender madness a bottomless pit?

The EHCR report says that: “A refusal to admit a trans pupil to a single-sex school which is the same as the trans pupil’s sex recorded at birth would be direct sex discrimination. Admitting such a pupil will not affect the school’s single-sex status. 

“A pupil who has transitioned, or wants to, must be allowed to continue to attend the school; to remove them would amount to direct gender reassignment discrimination.”

The document also says: “An admission policy of only admitting pupils in accordance with their sex recorded at birth would particularly disadvantage trans pupils, and would be indirectly discriminatory against trans pupils, unless it could be demonstrated to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.”

For good measure, in case you did not know, these (courtesy of the Telegraph again) are samples of the new language being dictated to us:

Gender-neutral terms | Checklist

Forefathers – ancestors, forebears

Gentleman’s agreement – unwritten agreement, agreement based on trust

Girls (for adults) – women

Housewife – shopper, consumer, homemaker (depends on context)

Manpower – human resources, labour force, staff, personnel, workers, workforce

Man or mankind – humanity, humankind, human race, people.

So, watch your language.

Guadalupe Ortiz, a scientist, a teacher, and more…

The Cross first came to Guadalupe at the age of 20 in the form of a tragic event – the execution of her father by a firing squad

 

Guadalupe Ortiz, the first woman member of Opus Dei to be beatified

Guadalupe Ortiz de Landázuri

The lives of saints, even the lives of great but ordinary people, who may also be saints without our knowing it, are often marked by great suffering. There is no such thing as holiness without Christ’s Cross.

This was certainly a distinguishing characteristic of a woman who will be beatified next week. On May 18, Guadalupe Ortiz, a scientist, a teacher, and much more, will be honoured in a stadium more commonly associated with rock concerts than with religious devotion.

The Cross first came to Guadalupe at the age of 20 in the form of a tragic event – the execution of her father by a firing squad.

Guadalupe bore this ordeal with exemplary serenity. Who is to say that the marks of this cross were not part of the foundation on which she later built that life of dedication to God and service to her fellow human beings, across two continents.

Read this article in full in The Tablet online.

Food for thought – about millennials

This has been around for a few months but it is well worth checking out in case you have not seen it. It is a calm but very astute summing up on the time bomb which the world may be sitting on.

There is no question but that the generation we call ‘millennials’ has within its ranks some very creative minds with strong characters to go with them. But the overall assessment of this generation is for many a cause for concern.

Our only complaint about this particular assessment might be that, in true millennial spirit, the blame is not laid at their door – but at the door of their parents.

The most devastating ecological disaster of all?

Is this something we should be worried about? If even a fraction of what Camille Paglia is saying here is true, it is hard to argue that it is not a matter which should deeply concern us. Our universities, more than ever before, are where the minds of the future are forming themselves – and a true university will always see that the most important work being done there is the work the students themselves do. But if they can form themselves then the reverse is also true. They can deform themselves.

Cultures have become degenerate in the past. Civilizations have disintegrated and vanished. Somehow new civilizations emerge eventually – but the human cost, the loss and the suffering which human kind experiences in the trough between these two peaks can be the stuff of nightmares. Will some scholars in centuries from now, perhaps even millennia from now, find these words of Paglia – and God only knows what medium they will find them in – and say here was the Cassandra or the Tiresias of the 20th and 21st century,  Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs, (who) perceived the scene, and foretold the rest…     

Totalitarianism dressed in the garments of righteousness

“There is now an extraordinary situation where State-funded third-level colleges are openly advising would-be teachers that their career prospects depend on their religious faith.”

 

The hidden secular totalitarianism of this statement is what is “extraordinary”.

 

Fintan O’Toole’s proclaimed agenda – emphasised again in his Irish Times column today – is to deprive the citizen-parents of this country of one of their fundamental civil and human rights – that of being supported by the state in their work as primary educators of their children.

 

The Irish State funds third-level colleges to train teachers who will work in primary schools which the vast majority of the parents of this country wish to be “faith” schools, that is, schools in which their children will learn about their faith and grow in their knowledge of and commitment to the God whom that faith proclaims.

 

The State does this because it is the will of the people that it should do so. The details as to how to manage a fair distribution of scarce resources – given the religious denominations represented in the population – is another matter. But it does not lead us to a conclusion that the faith commitment of those staffing the schools is something irrelevant.

 

For that reason it would surely be extraordinary if teacher training colleges did not point out to their students that their commitment to a particular faith might be a factor influencing whether or not they might be successful in applying to a post in the majority of schools.

 

The day in which this will become irrelevant will the day in which schools will have given up on a responsibility which the majority of the citizens of this State have chosen to share with them, denying them their rights in the process. The rights of parents to have their children educated are primary. In this context, the rights of teachers to have jobs are secondary.

 

The anti-faith secularism of O’Toole and the militant new atheists is not just extraordinary. It is profoundly sinister and utterly cynical in the manner in which it is dressed up in the garments of righteousness.

Sad fate of poetry in our education system

Billy Collins

The point of reading a poem is not to try to “solve” it. Still, that quantifiable process of demystification is precisely what teachers are encouraged to teach students, often in lieu of curating a powerful experience through literature. The literature itself becomes secondary, boiled down to its Cliff’s Notes demi-glace. 

These are the words of a teacher who confesses that 16 years after enjoying a high school literary education rich in poetry, I am a literature teacher who barely teaches it. So far this year, my 12th grade literature students have read nearly 200,000 words for my class. Poems have accounted for no more than 100.

This is a shame—not just because poetry is important to teach, but also because poetry is important for the teaching of writing and reading.

Andres Simmons is an American and he is writing in The Atlantic. He explores  the fate of poetry in the modern classroom – and the fate of the students deprived of a good education through poetry, deprived of one of  the richest and enriching means of expressing our understanding and feelings about the human condition that there is.

In an education landscape that dramatically deemphasizes creative expression in favor of expository writing and prioritizes the analysis of non-literary texts, high school literature teachers have to negotiate between their preferences and the way the wind is blowing. That sometimes means sacrifice, and poetry is often the first head to roll.

Yet poetry enables teachers to teach their students how to write, read, and understand any text. Poetry can give students a healthy outlet for surging emotions. Reading original poetry aloud in class can foster trust and empathy in the classroom community, while also emphasizing speaking and listening skills that are often neglected in high school literature classes.

He admits that one of the biggest problems is that teachers either shy away from the proper method of introducing their students to poetry or lack the skills to do so.

Either of these failures leads the temptation to disembowel a poem’s meaning and diminish the personal, even transcendent, experience of reading a poem. He quotes Billy Collins who characterizes the latter as a “deadening” act that obscures the poem beneath the puffed-up importance of its interpretation. In his poem “Introduction to Poetry,” Collins writes:  “all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope/and torture a confession out of it./They begin beating it with a hose/to find out what it really means.”

Sad fate.

 

The creeping statist menace

When I saw a headline in the current issue of The Week it looked like they had got an article about Irish Education Minister, Ruairi Quinn. It said, “You are a bad person if you send your children to a private school.”

That is more or less what Ruairi Quinn, with his ideologically-driven Labour Party and the social engineers in his Education Ministry certainly seem to think. Just this month he has unveiled more legislative proposals to cut the ground from under those evil parents who dare to attempt to form their own judgments as to what kind of school might give their children a better chance in life.

Quinn is proposing, among other things, to put a cap in the number of children any school can accept from families of past pupils of that school. In other words, the great statist leveling machine – regardless of whether that leveling might be down as well as up – trumps parental choice, experience, judgment and loyalty to the old school tie.

The quote was not in fact from Quinn. It was from across the Atlantic, but it surely came from the same soviet ideology to which Quinn subscribes where the family, individual preference, and parental responsibility are always sacrificed to the socialist pipe-dream of an egalitarianism totally divorced from human nature.

Jack Jennings on The Huffington Post dew our attention to the Council for American Private Education’s statistics showing us that there are 33,366 private schools in the US – 25% of the total. Because they tend to be much smaller than publicly funded schools, they cater for just one in ten of the school-going population. Nor are they all expensive boarding schools for the elite, the Post told us. The vast majority have a religious affiliation, and the bulk of these are Catholic.

This freedom of choice really annoyed Allison Benedikt on Slate.com. My take on this is simple, she said, “You are a bad person if you send your children to private school.” That parents choose to send their children to these schools because they live in urban areas with bad schools, or because their kids are gifted or have learning issues, or because they want small classes and personal attention and courses in modern film and Mandarin, cut no ice with her at all.  You know who else wants those things? She asked. “Everyone.”

When affluent parents pull their kids out of public schools, her argument went on, those schools lose the clout and resources they deserve. So don’t run away from the schools poor families are forced to depend on. “Send your kids to school with their kids,” and then fight to make things better for everyone.

Poverty is blamed for everything in this world view, ignoring all the other multiple factors which contribute to quality – or the lack of it – in education. In other words, sacrifice your kids to this social ideology which tells us that the state and not the family is the heart and soul of society. The state in all things knows best.

Rod Dreher, on TheAmericanConservative.com, answered her, describing her line as “the educational equivalent of Soviet economics”. Am I supposed to believe I have a moral obligation, he asked, to give my kids a “crappy” education, “when I know something better and higher is available?” For liberals, he continued, all that matters is that “we are united in the state, no matter how stupid, ignorant, and poor it makes us”.

Another commentator pointed out that Benedikt was also mistaken about her basic premise. John Carney on CNBC.com said competition improves education and numerous studies show that when public high schools have to compete with private schools, they raise their game in every way. So parents who send their kids to private schools aren’t doing something wrong – “they are performing a verifiable public good”.

What hope is there that Ireland might escape from the grip of this wretched ideology? Little at present, unfortunately. It appears that Irish social public policy, in health and education particularly, is captive to a clique of unreconstructed ‘sixties and ‘seventies apparatchiks who would have felt perfectly at home in the soviet block 40 years ago.

An Eastern European observer of the Irish scene recently observed that in terms of the onslaught which he has seen the Irish State making on Irish institutions still maintaining a Christian ethos, the Communists in his country 40 years ago were very much in second place. They haven’t gone away, you know.

The path Kenny, Gilmore, Martin and Adams are proposing

Well, Ireland. Are you really ready for this?  A study of the state of things in Canada after ten years of gay “marriage” shows among other things that in that country I might well be brought before the courts for daring to put the word marriage in inverted comas because by this I indicate that I don’t accept the redefinition of marriage which coupling it with the word “gay” implies.

And that would be the least of my problems.

Bradley W. Miller, an associate professor of law at the University of Western Ontario, writing g on Public Discourse looks at the Canadian experience of the impact of the change of the definition of marriage there and asks what that might signify for the US which is now seems to be heading relentlessly in the same direction.

The Irish, the French and the British are on the same track and his study – outlined on MercatorNet – can be applied to these societies just as easily. Would recognizing same-sex relationships as marriages be much of a game-changer? What impact, if any, would it have on the public conception of marriage or the state of a nation’s marriage culture, he asks?

The Impact on Human Rights? Once this kind of marriage is accepted as a human right, he says, a  corollary is that anyone who rejects the new orthodoxy must be acting on the basis of bigotry and animus toward gays and lesbians. Any statement of disagreement with same-sex civil marriage is thus considered a straightforward manifestation of hatred toward a minority sexual group. Any reasoned explanation (for example, those that were offered in legal arguments that same-sex marriage is incompatible with a conception of marriage that responds to the needs of the children of the marriage for stability, fidelity, and permanence—what is sometimes called the conjugal conception of marriage), is dismissed right away as mere pretext.

When one understands opposition to same-sex marriage as a manifestation of sheer bigotry and hatred, it becomes very hard to tolerate continued dissent. Thus it was in Canada that the terms of participation in public life changed very quickly. Civil marriage commissioners were the first to feel the hard edge of the new orthodoxy; several provinces refused to allow commissioners a right of conscience to refuse to preside over same-sex weddings, and demanded their resignations. At the same time, religious organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus, were fined for refusing to rent their facilities for post-wedding celebrations.

The Right to Freedom of Expression?  He shows that the new orthodoxy’s impact has not been limited to the relatively small number of persons at risk of being coerced into supporting or celebrating a same-sex marriage. The change has widely affected persons—including clergy—who wish to make public arguments about human sexuality.

Much speech that was permitted before same-sex marriage now carries risks. Many of those who have persisted in voicing their dissent have been subjected to investigations by human rights commissions and (in some cases) proceedings before human rights tribunals. Those who are poor, poorly educated, and without institutional affiliation have been particularly easy targets—anti-discrimination laws are not always applied evenly.  Some have been ordered to pay fines, make apologies, and undertake never to speak publicly on such matters again. Targets have included individuals writing letters to the editors of local newspapers, and ministers of small congregations of Christians. A Catholic bishop faced two complaints—both eventually withdrawn—prompted by comments he made in a pastoral letter about marriage.

Teachers are particularly at risk for disciplinary action, for even if they only make public statements criticizing same-sex marriage outside the classroom, they are still deemed to create a hostile environment for gay and lesbian students. Other workplaces and voluntary associations have adopted similar policies as a result of their having internalized this new orthodoxy that disagreement with same-sex marriage is illegal discrimination that must not be tolerated.

Parental Rights in Public Education? Institutionalizing same-sex marriage has subtly but pervasively changed parental rights in public education, he argues. The debate over how to cast same-sex marriage in the classroom is much like the debate over the place of sex education in schools, and of governmental pretensions to exercise primary authority over children. But sex education has always been a discrete matter, in the sense that by its nature it cannot permeate the entirety of the curriculum. Same-sex marriage is on a different footing.

Since one of the tenets of the new orthodoxy is that same-sex relationships deserve the same respect that we give marriage, its proponents have been remarkably successful in demanding that same-sex marriage be depicted positively in the classroom. Curriculum reforms in jurisdictions such as British Columbia now prevent parents from exercising their long-held veto power over contentious educational practices.

It is a laudable goal to encourage acceptance of persons. But whatever can be said for the objective, the means chosen to achieve it is a gross violation of the family. It is nothing less than the deliberate indoctrination of children (over the objections of their parents) into a conception of marriage that is fundamentally hostile to what the parents understand to be in their children’s best interests. It frustrates the ability of parents to lead their children to an understanding of marriage that will be conducive to their flourishing as adults. At a very early age, it teaches children that the underlying rationale of marriage is nothing other than the satisfaction of changeable adult desires for companionship.

And what about changes to the Public Conception of Marriage? It has been argued that if same-sex marriage is institutionalized, new marital categories may be accepted, like polygamy. Once one abandons a conjugal conception of marriage, and replaces it with a conception of marriage that has adult companionship as its focus, there is no principled basis for resisting the extension of marriage licenses to polygamist and polyamorist unions.

In other words, if marriage is about satisfying adult desires for companionship, and if the desires of some adults extend to more novel arrangements, how can we deny them?

He cites the case of one prominent polygamist community in British Columbia which was greatly emboldened by the creation of same-sex marriage, and publicly proclaimed that there was now no principled basis for the state’s continued criminalization of polygamy.

Of all the Canadian courts, only a trial court in British Columbia has addressed whether prohibiting polygamy is constitutional, and provided an advisory opinion to the province’s government. The criminal prohibition of polygamy was upheld, but on a narrow basis that defined polygamy as multiple, concurrent civil marriages. The court did not address the phenomenon of multiple common-law marriages. So, thus far, the dominant forms of polygamy and polyamory practiced in Canada have not gained legal status, but neither have they faced practical impediments.

The lesson is this: a society that institutionalizes same-sex marriage needn’t necessarily institutionalize polygamy. But the example from British Columbia suggests that the only way to do so is to ignore principle. The polygamy case’s reasoning gave no convincing explanation why it would be discriminatory not to extend the marriage franchise to gays and lesbians, but not discriminatory to draw the line at polygamists and polyamorists. In fact, the judgment looks like it rests on animus toward polygamists and polyamorists, which is not a stable juridical foundation.

And the Impact on the Practice of Marriage? As for the practice of marriage, he says it is too soon to say much. But what we can gather from available data, is that same-sex marriage has not, contrary to arguments that it would, powered a resurgent marriage culture in Canada. Nor are there any census data (one way or the other) for empirical arguments tying the institutionalization of same-sex marriage to marriage stability.

One can only hope that when the debate on this issue get going in Ireland – and when the Constitutional Forum gets down to business – these realities will be looked at squarely and fairly so that we will all walk into our brave new world knowing exactly what is in store for us. Will Kenny, Gilmore, Martin and Adams, the leaders of Ireland’s main political parties who have committed themselves to going down this Canadian path, take note of all these questions and address then honestly before taking their country on the road to this new world.

Alma mater – reflections on a mother and child reunion

It was the best of times, it was, some would have us believe, the worst of times. It was in fact neither. It was, nevertheless, like now, great to be alive. To be young was, well, not quite heaven but still a very good place to be.

We met together last weekend, twenty or so of us, fifty years later. We remembered those times and the fifty-two of us who walked a road together over a period of five years, journeying from boyhood to manhood. On a day in June, 1962, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways through the gates of St. Eunan’s College in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, Ireland.

Over those five years there were fifty-two stories unfolding, each one was different from the other in many respects but not as different as they were going to become in the years that followed our departure through those gates. We all arose to the clanging of a bell at 7.10 each morning. We all raced to the college chapel for prayers and Mass – and I won’t mention the fate of any boy who had not succeeded in getting through the chapel door by the dot of 7.30, when the last ring of that bell had sounded in the courtyard of the school. At the end of the day the same bell was carried around the bedroom corridors of the school and with the last stroke we were all in bed in our dormitories or behind the closed doors of our shared bedrooms. Day after day, week after week, for fifteen terms over those five years, these and similar routines filled our lives and in a way helped make us what are. Last weekend’s gathering recorded no regrets about any of it that I heard.

We are aware now – although it did not really enter our minds then – that we were in fact the last generation to experience an educational culture that is now well and truly dead. Although the generations which followed us tend to look back and say, “and good riddance”, we, at worst, had no more than mixed feelings about it all. Later generations paint the 1950s in lurid colours and with very rough brush-strokes. We did not look at it through rose-tints, nor did we fail to see its touches of barbarity, but it was neither as lurid nor as rough as they portray. What was then unthinkable but what is now a reality was reported in statistical terms in a magazine just last week:

Primary schools in England exclude – that’s the euphemism for expel – an average of 89 pupils a day for attacking teachers or classmates. My recollection from five years in St. Eunan’s is that 4 students were expelled – admittedly for something much less serious that inflicting violence on teachers or fellow pupils. Discipline was firm and indiscipline had its serious consequences. Slipping out of bounds at night and returning from a dance in the early hours was not something that was tolerated.

We were not conscious of it, but the self-discipline induced in us by the imposed discipline of those years probably played an important part in the fifty-two very different stories which began to unfold with our passage through those gates – each young man going his separate way to build his own life on the common foundation laid by our families, our teachers and our companionship with each other.

We came together last weekend to catch up on those stories but they were perhaps too numerous and too varied to do justice to that. We probably spent more time reflecting on the world in which we lived together for those five years than we did on the separate worlds we had helped build for ourselves and others in the intervening years.

Two of our old teachers accompanied us and that helped keep our focus on the years which moulded our resilience for the world. In 1957, the year we nervously and apprehensively entered that sheltered and somewhat forbidding world, Ireland recorded its highest level of emigration since it became an independent state. Although no one said it at the time, it had what might now be considered the hallmarks of a failing state. By 1962, when we entered the wider world, the forty-year-old state had already turned a critical corner and was beginning to claim a better place among the nations of the earth. We considered it our good fortune to be part of the generation which helped make good that claim.

Ireland in 2012 is a very different place from what it was in 1957 or 1962. In many ways, but not in every way, it is a better place. But there has been loss as well as gain. Humankind is very flawed when it comes to judging what happiness is and how it is attained. Success or failure in that pursuit is better judged in retrospect. The little and great challenges which confront the human spirit, friendship, joy in little things are at the root of human happiness. We had all of those and no amount of material progress since then has proven that it can bring any greater enrichment to mankind than these.

A comment I read recently on Viktor Frankel’s magnificent book, Man’s Search for Meaning, reminds us that

Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times. Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond.

We learned something about all of these in those five years. Frankel himself wrote in that book,

Again and again I therefore admonish my students both in Europe and in America: “Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run – in the long run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.”

I would not want to make even the shadow of a suggestion that the horrors of Viktor Frankel’s experiences were anything like our benign confinement behind the gates of St. Eunan’s, but his epiphany was one which might be hopefully experienced by all of humanity – as it was by us. He wrote,

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth-that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”

We look around us at our world today, with all its progress, and wonder, as he did before his death some years ago, whether we are more adept at realizing this truth than we were fifty years ago. I think not.

He spoke of an existential vacuum which has afflicted humanity in the twentieth century. In part he attributed this to a loss suffered in our more recent development inasmuch as the traditions which buttressed our behavior are now rapidly diminishing. He wrote:

No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism). A statistical survey recently revealed that among my European students, 25 percent showed a more-or-less marked degree of existential vacuum. Among my American students it was not 25 but 6o percent. The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom. Now we can understand Schopenhauer when he said that mankind was apparently doomed to vacillate eternally between the two extremes of distress and boredom.

In the ‘Fifties and early ‘Sixties we lived in a world which had many more “taboos” that we have today. But we also lived in a world where those evils to which taboos attached were less common than they are today. We knew little of many of the things which Frankel partly ascribes to this existential vacuum: suicide, depression, aggression and addiction. He speaks of various masks and guises under which the existential vacuum appears. Sometimes, he maintains, the frustrated search for meaningis vicariously compensated for by a will to power, including the most primitive form of the will to power, the will to money. In other cases, its place is taken by the will to pleasure. That is why, he says, existential frustration often eventuates in sexual compensation. He observes that in such cases the sexual libido becomes rampant in the existential vacuum.

Let me not be a Jeremiah. I am not. The times we live in are the best of times, because we live. But the times we lived in then gave us a heritage – and it is only right to ask, firstly, are we grateful for what was good in it and how much of it we may have squandered.

After our reunion we departed to our respective worlds. What was most moving about our day together, perhaps our last – nor did we forget the nine companions who had gone to their eternal reward, – was the sense of gratitude we shared for what we had received all those years ago.

Is this a Trojan Horse?

Michael Kirke

 

 A VERY REASONABLE and carefully worded statement landed on my desk the other day. It was the response of the Educate Together movement to the recent policy announcement from the Department of Education on the setting up of new primary schools in the State. But as it happened, the same morning on which I read this was also the morning on which I caught up with the Pope’s addresses on his recent visit to France. Bells began to ring in my ears. Was this really as reasonable a statement as it first seemed or was there lurking here some hidden agenda of which we should all be truly wary. Educate Together warns us: “There are profound Constitutional, legal and human rights issues involved for parents and children in our existing educational system. The announced approach appears to ignore these issues.”

 

In his address to nearly 700 representatives of the world of culture assembled in the Collège des Bernardins in Paris, the Pope, having examined the roots and development of Europe’s Christian culture, concluded:

 

“Our present situation differs in many respects from the one that Paul encountered in Athens, (where he had encountered the statue to the unknown god), yet despite the difference, the two situations also have much in common. Our cities are no longer filled with altars and with images of multiple deities. God has truly become for many the great unknown. But just as in the past, when behind the many images of God the question concerning the unknown God was hidden and present, so too the present absence of God is silently besieged by the question concerning him. Quaerere Deum – to seek God and to let oneself be found by him, that is today no less necessary than in former times. A purely positivistic culture which tried to drive the question concerning God into the subjective realm, as being unscientific, would be the capitulation of reason, the renunciation of its highest possibilities, and hence a disaster for humanity, with very grave consequences. What gave Europe’s culture its foundation – the search for God and the readiness to listen to him – remains today the basis of any genuine culture.”

 

If this is a question of “disaster for humanity” are we really running the risk of such a disaster if we unthinkingly accept as good the intentions of the secularist movement – which, let’s face it, is pure and simply what Educate Together is all about?

 

What is Educate Together proposing? In their own words, this:

“Educate Together aims to meet a growing need in Irish society for schools that recognise the developing diversity of Irish life and the modern need for democratic management structures. In particular, Educate Together guarantees children and parents of all faiths and none equal respect in the operation and governing of education.

“The schools operated by the member associations of Educate Together are fully recognised by the Irish Department of Education and Science and work under the same regulations and funding structures as other national schools. However, they have a distinct ethos or governing spirit. This has been defined in the following terms:

·     Multi-denominational i.e. all children having equal rights of access to the school, and children of all social, cultural and religious backgrounds being equally respected

·     Co-educational and committed to encouraging all children to explore their full range of abilities and opportunities,

·     Child centred in their approach to education

·     Democratically run with active participation by parents in the daily life of the school, whilst positively affirming the professional role of the teachers.”

That is all very reasonable – but what does it mean in practice? In practice it seems to mean that no specific religious education will take place in these schools. That in effect means precisely what the Pope is warning us about. Forgive me for taking the words of the Pope and paraphrasing them (alterations in italics) in the context of what we have before us here. Is this a glimpse of the future?

 

“Our schools are no longer filled with altars and with images of multiple deities. God has truly become for many the great unknown…. To seek God and to let oneself be found by him, that is today no less necessary than in former times. A purely positivistic educational system which tried to drive the question concerning God into the subjective realm, as being unconstitutional, would be the capitulation of reason, the renunciation of its highest possibilities, and hence a disaster for humanity, with very grave consequences. What gave Europe’s culture its foundation – the search for God and the readiness to listen to him – remains today the basis of any genuine culture.”

 

The Educate Together solution to providing education for the multiplicity of faiths we now have in Ireland is to provide education for no faith. It is to remove not only the image of Jesus Christ from schools but to remove also the symbols of all religion and replace it with secular humanism. Their website quotes a satisfied Catholic father as saying:

 

“My children are catholic and are/will study for their first holy communion as extra curricular activities after school. I am delighted that they are covering the learn together curriculum in school hours and will learn to respect and understand other religions as well as covering inclusion, equality & justice, democracy and environmental responsibilities.” That is, the gospel of secular humanism, unconnected with the faith which gives all life its full and true meaning.

 

MEANWHILE ACROSS THE Atlantic ther culture wars also continue unabated as the new Joan of Arc takes to the field in the face of multiple slings and arrow of outraged liberals and the media establishment. Well, perhaps, Joan of Arc is stretching it a bit. Nevertheless, Sarah Palin does seem to have many of the admirable characteristics of that dauntless heroine of old Europe.

 

And they really are out to burn her at the stake. The cremation of Sam Magee was nothing in comparison with what they would like to do to her in the land of the midnight sun. The New York Times in its daily web edition lists its ten most e-mailed articles. One day recently of those ten articles seven were on the subject of Sarah Palin. Of those seven, ALL were hostile to her.

 

One of those articles cited the charge of censorship. This was because she seemed to have a view as to what should or should not be available for children to read in public libraries. As newly appointed mayor of Wasilla she was charged with tending “carefully to her evangelical base. She appointed a pastor to the town planning board. And she began to eye the library. For years, social conservatives had pressed the library director to remove books they considered immoral. Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves.”

 

“In 1995,” they reported, “Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book ‘Daddy’s Roommate’ on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it. ‘Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,’ Ms. Chase said. ‘It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.’” Well good for her! Do I need to read “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” before I take it off a child’s bookshelf?

 

A recent news item in the Daily Telegraph reported the case of an eight-year-old boy who arrived home from his school library with a book entitled ‘Amy’s Honeymoon’. After finding a few swear words in it he rather bemusedly brought it to his mother. His mother looked a little closer and found more than she bargained for. “I noticed a lot more than swearing. There was explicit words about sexual stuff and drugs. I’m glad he noticed the swear words before he read more”. She called for stricter controls at the library and a school spokesman said the book was obviously not intended for children and apologised. He said a review of the library stock would be carried out. How illiberal! He better not let the Palin-hunters hear about it.

 

 

 

Michael Kirke, formerly of The Irish Press, is now a freelance writer and the director of Ely University Centre, 10 Hume Street, Dublin 2. His views can be responded to at mjgkirke@eircom.net. Other writing can be found at www.mercatornet.com  and www.positionpapers.ie .