Platform For Change: Coherent Education Panel

I was in Belfasts Holiday Inn last night at this PFC Event. I reckon about seventy five in attendance…although strangely some well known faces showed up and then disappeared together. I am not sure what all that was about.
A few Sluggerites in attendance and no doubt “Alan in Belfast” will blog on the letsgetalongerist website later today.
I dont envy him. Because when I got home last night (I had to leave early at about 9.20pm because of the limited train service) I looked thru my notes and just didnt see an angle that would be the focus of the Blog.
The basics…it was chaired byRobin Wilson, a Slugger favourite. And had seven members on the panel.
Ciarnan Helferty the former QUB-Student Union President was his usual confident self and still under thirty is probably one to watch. He is a product of an integrated school in Derry.
There was a young man from the Spirit of Enniskillen andtwo young people from WIMPS (Where is my Public Servant)…this really overloaded the panel with young people in the PFC mould…all bubbly and enthusiastic about the rosy integrated future.
And significantly all of the young people were from Catholic backgrounds.
Mark Langhammer, the “university lecturer man” was there and again from that letsgetalongerist clique albeit from a lefty angle.
Mary Dornan from INTO (Irish National Teachers Organisation) was the token Catholic Schools spokesperson and a Dr Smith from University of Ulster was the “go to academic guy”.

A balanced panel? Hardly.
A balanced audience? Hardly.
So as always with Platform for Change a high degree of talking to the choir, heavily laced with a sense of entitlement backed up by a holier than thou attitude.
These people KNOW that they are right.
The rest of us are knaves and/or fools.
To have suggested otherwise would have had me kicked to a pulp by the most polite mob in Belfast.
How many attended. Well ninety five chairs were set out. And I reckon about seventy five people there…though why some high profile people disappeared after just a few minutes was a bit baffling. A meeting within a meeting perhaps?

Let me emphasise this was about COHERENT EDUCATION. Who could possibly be against that? But it was actually about INTEGRATED EDUCATION, the PFC flagship nonsense. So this SHOULD have been about Grammar Schools, Selection etc but inevitably Integrated Education was the real topic.
Some facts.
There are 330,000 schoolchildren in Norn Iron.

So there are actually 329,998 plus two of my grandchildren. And there my interest ends. And in fact, thats the real issue. The loudest applause of the night was when the University of Ulster man referred to that 79% figure in favour of Integrated Education…thats the stuff PFC people like to hear.
If I hadnt been recovering from some mouth surgery, I might have pointed out that in March, only 1.3% of the Electorate in Mid Ulster voted for that.
Thats the stuff that PFC people dont like to hear.
Ironically Mary Dornan is a teacher in Cookstown….her Catholic school was probably a polling station on that day.
One speaker from the floor stated boldly that politicians should not “pander” to parental choice.
Another speaker a humanist wanted GOD taken out of the schools.
Rather bizarrely American Creationist theory was brought up as a good reason to condemn parental choice.
Indeed the melodramatic villain of the night was the moustache-twirling notion of PARENTAL CHOICE. I expected an audible hiss from the audience.
And the virginal heroine of the night was those brave parents from thirty odd years ago from the likes of All Children Together who had fought Catholic Bishops, Education Boards and raised funds to buy portakabins to set up integrated schools.Murmersof approval all round.

Of course for a PFC audience, Parental Choice is only the enemy because it is not THEIR parental choice. Thus Terry the Humanist who wants GOD out of schools feels no problem with blocking the choices of other parents who really like GOD quite a lot.
And basically when actually interrogated, the audience wanted their preferred system.
About seventy five different systems tailor made to the requirements of their kids and PFCs vision of Society.
How to deal with the fact that academic selection at age 11 is a very bad thing (in received wisdom) while Catholic grammar schools are extremely well integrated in terms of social class. That a high proportion of children at (priveleged?) Catholic schools are in receipt of free school dinners.
Indeed how do we deal with the problem that State Grammar schools (de facto Protestant) schools are less socially integrated.
Is it something that nationalists should actually care about?
And how do we deal with the age old dilemna that good decent liberals like myself and most of the PFC audience benefitted fromacademic selection at age 11 and went to grammar schools which wittingly and/or unwittingly told us tht acdemic selection is not a good thing.
And gave us a socialmconscience that was Christian rather than Humanist.
That in Norn Iron the top five per cent of children are the big success story.
But the bottom twenty five per cent is the shameful legacy.

Is Norn Iron unique.”Quarantined from electoral politics” as either Langhmmer or Smith put it.
Belfast is not London or Dublin.
There are faith schools in England. Why is it a good thing there and a bad thing here?
Well in England, Ctholic Schools are desirable so that Catholic parents have to prove” their Catholicism.
Paradoxically in the Republic of Ireland, where the Catholic Church has influenced Education (and paid for it) there are moves afoot to remove some schools from Catholic patronage. Moves largely welcomed by the Catholic Church.
Lets be frank here…the political parties in the Republic of Ireland are manifestly IRISH and manifestly REPUBLICAN …Fianna Fail, Labour, Fine Gael, Sinn Fein all assert the sovreignty of the State over any Church including the Catholic Church.
Even allowing for the fact that the official Irish Catholic Church is a rump, unrepresentative of the people in the pews…the vast majority of Irish priests are in fact Republican….content withthe notion of a bigger seperation between Church and State.
The English Catholic Church tradition is much more elitist and aristocratic.

But where does that leave Norn Iron?
Well Norn Iron ….there is no “State”. It is a “no mans land” . Republicans and nationalists can never fully accept State Education from a State they dont believe has a right to exist so Catholic education is necessary for nationalists.
But really IN ENGLAND, Not even Terry the Humanist would be getting worked up about Catholic Education…or Muslim Education.
The call for Integrated Education in Norn Iron is therefore NOT a direct attack on Catholicism. It is an attack on NATIONALISM.
nd thats why Integrated Education is the cornerstone of LetsGetAlongerism.
It is Social Engineering of the worst kind.

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23 Responses to Platform For Change: Coherent Education Panel

  1. bangordub says:

    First class stuff Mr Fitz.
    Is it not obvious that the mysterious “well known faces” saw YOU sitting in the audience and thought they’d turned up at the wrong meeting?
    Your points about social engineering and the superiority complex of some are well made.

    • Well last night one of the people there came over and said he would like to talk to me about my view on LetsGetAlongerism.
      I joked with him that Id had people who wanted to talk to me in the 1970s.
      But nothing ominous…Im only invited for a coffee.

  2. Pingback: A coherent if one-sided Platform for Change discussion about education « Slugger O'Toole

  3. MPG ..... says:

    Well said and true, really glad somebody is communicating the alternative message. Keep the home truths coming!

  4. Feckitt says:

    Well said FJH. Great post. If only we could all get along together in a New Northern Ireland = If only you people could stop all this nonsense about being Irish and supporting those horrid gaelic games.

  5. FJH – I spotted you and then when I turned round later you’d gone … along with a lot of folk who couldn’t stay until the end. Overall it was a disappointing event – though still interesting to hear the sharing/integrating lobby talking about those ideals in a less defensive setting. But the lack of pro-grammar, pro-CCMS, pro-selection voices made it very one sided. And the urgency and emotion of the flags discussion P4C held in February was absent. If folk want to hear what they missed, I’ve included the audio in the post on Slugger.

    • I had to leave at about 9.20pm to get the train home. Trains were very limited because of industrial action (which as a socialist I fully support).
      Caught sight of a few famous faces but they had all gone by 8.15pm which seemed a bit odd.
      It was really hard to do a blog (I sympathise totally).
      Im not sure whether the audience was typical of Platform for Change or typical of Integrated Education but I found them frankly arrogant (and I know a thing or two about Arrogance)
      It was a slightly odd feeling.
      The mantra that any school can be good or bad, mitigated by the mantra that Integrated schools are “good”.
      And the whole parental choice thing was very odd.
      Personally Id have preferred mention of “in loco parentis”…handing a child over to an individual teacher is a responsibility greater than choosing a “system”.

      With only two sons…we nipped and tucked our choices to take account of the needs of our children.
      Thus #1 son attended a Gaelic speaking nursery in West Belfast, primarily on availability rather than ideology. We did not follow thru with Gaelic speaking primary school because it demanded too much financial and other commitment as well as Mrs FJHs taking exception to a five person interview panel which was all male.
      Catholic Primary School (commitment and convenience)
      State Primary School (temporary geographic reasons)
      Integrated Comp School (choice of #1) was simply an awful school and he went after 3rd Year to a better Catholic Comp.
      As we live in Dixon Plan area #2 son chose a Catholic Grammar and revertd to the same Catholic Comp as # 1 after a few years.
      I think the point that Im labouring to make is that no choice we ever made was on ideology. That every day was a struggle of sorts maximising that any school would deliver all they could to our sons.
      Thats how schools…including the ones PFC dream about….actually work.
      Any parent who chooses a school on grounds of ideology DESERVES tombe disappointed.

  6. Apols if I’ve posted that twice – one browser tab hung when I clicked Post …

  7. James Campbell says:

    “The English Catholic Church tradition is much more elitist and aristocratic.”
    I can’t claim to have a comprehensive overview of the English Catholic Church, but in none of the six or seven parishes where I have lived was there significant social elitism. The only exception was a Jesuit church in Hereford (we were on holiday) where the Sunday bulletin included the info that Lady Somethingorother’s tombola the previous weekend had rised £60000 for the Renovation Fund. My current parish plant stall recently raised £80 for Cafod.

    As to the question of so-called integrated education, it has seemed to me the thrust of the argument is that parent’s cannot be trusted, either because they are under the thumbs of clerics; or so ignorant they don’t know what’s good for their children; or unthinkingly prejudiced, or so lacking in influence that everyone can safely ignore them. I watched a Stormont debate on some proposals by Doctor Farry (a man apparently so mathematically challenged he didn’t seem to realise his party is in the minority) who picked a fight with a teasing Unionist and failed to convince me (at least) that he had any integrated policy on integrated education. He made no mention of social discrimination. The theme was typical broad brush Alliance – subject the children to this ill-defined experiment and all the problems of a divided society will vanish.

    The parallel-community problems in NI can only be solved by adults – experimenting with children by removing parental choice is not going to happen, however hard the self-anointed intelligensia seek it.

    A final thought on polling. If asked “Is integrated education a good thing?” I’d answer yes. But if given the choice of a good faith school or an socially divisive integrated school, I’d choose the faith school. Simple questions give simplistic answers.

    • Thank you for this well reasoned comment.
      Id draw a distinction between the Catholic Church in England and the English Catholic Church.
      In the first is a broad Church (no pun intended). At one level it is elitist but heavily reliant for numbers if not income on Irish, Italians, Poles, Filipinos etc.
      There is a certain ghetto mentality not just in the sense of the Irish in Quax Road at Kilburn but several other London parishes being the mother churches for various communities…the French for example in Leicester Square.
      But Id argue that several of the prime London churches are in the hands of the “English” church. These include for example the old embassy churches and of course Westminster Cathedral.
      Frankly the English and Irish hierarchy dont get on. Its not just about Cardinals Hume and O’Fiach and the Hunger Strikes.
      But just look at the background of Hume…Ampleforth, just like Robert Nairac, Catholic also.
      and there are more than a few English toffs who are Catholic and politically conservative in a way that we dont really know in Ireland.

      There are more than a few English Catholics who feel that Laudabiliter the Papal Bull of the only English Pope (Brakespeare) puts the English Church over the Irish Church and more so in the opinion of Jacobites and legitimists (and I know far too many of them) Ireland is by Papal appointment an English colony.
      It is a form of imperialism which dIvides the Catholic world.
      Ireland is part of the colonised world, like Argentina or Brazil.
      Spain, Portugal, England, France are in English Catholic terms among the elite.

      I was once at a meeting where Cardinal O’ Fiach was asked about this Papal Bull. He said it was Papal Bullshit. 😉

  8. Ronan Burns says:

    In 1970 the Unionist Party Conference debated integrated education. Speaking in support of integrated education a Mr Ferguson from Enniskillen said “The State is being undermined in one third of its schools. Catholic education means nationalist education.”

  9. Fitz, you might want to checkout what I wrote in response to Obama’s Waterfront speech:

    • An interesting read and Id recommend it to all readers of the “Czar”.
      I do however think that the American experience cannot directly be applied here.
      The resources available to black kids in 1950s 1960s segregated schools were much worse.
      That is not the experience in Norn Iron.
      Indeed the 11 Plus resulted in Catholics doing well educationally but being held back in other area notably housing and employment.
      Education for nationalists is just another weapon in an 800 year old war.
      The essence of Conflict Resolution is that it is a process that begins after a war ends. Reconstruction after the American Civil War was aborted. The trauma a century later…white students verbally abusing black students taking up places….was unfinished business.
      But the necessary prologue to Civil Rights was the surrender at Appomattox (sp).

      There is an irony of course that NINETEENTH century British legislation produced greater literacy in Ireland, more schools, including Gaelic textbooks all of which early TWENTIETH century nationalism used to its advantage.
      As local academic Sean Connolly of QUB puts it Ireland was too close to Britain to be totally independent and too far away to be totally integrated.
      This is the reality…the framework that those of us who are nationalists must work.
      We need to create a division from Britain ..and conversely build links to our Irishness. To me it matters little what local unionists do …they live their lives and I live mine.
      I live with my Irishness and they live with their Britishnss.
      A sensible nationalist…and SDLP and Sinn Fein know it…wont throw away the gift of “Catholic” (effectively “Nationalist”) Education.
      Does Peace (necessarily a homogenous and unionist- lite solution as offered) trump the Justice of Irelands right to be an independent nation?
      For some …yes.
      For some (including me)….no.
      To be honest a more truthful answer would be reflecting on times that I was frightened in the 1970s is “sometimes”.
      But in the here and now, I wont give up being Irish and Nationalist. (An Irish unionist is a contradiction).

      By the way I couldnt help notice the statistic that 95% of schools are not integrated and only 6% are integrated. Permit me a smile there. What we really need is schools that can count to 100.

      • Ha actually it says that 6% of NI school children attend a “integrated” school whereas almost HALF of Ni school children attend a school (of any kind) where 95% of their pupils are of the same “religion.” But I can see how having two statistics that close would confuse anyone.

        I also don’t think the American experience *of race* can be directly applied here either. As a descendant of Kentucky mountaineers who were US Unionists and members of anti-KKK “Red Strings,” I agree that the federal government abandoned my ancestors, blacks and others to a Confederate-controlled, post-war South. There are similarities in a more recent phenomenon “parity of esteem” of two communities, etc. that both the South and NI suffer from.

        NI’s schools are desegregated but just have overwhelming majorities of one community in each school system (like the US in 70s). My article focused not on desegregation but tried to raise questions by showing the forced logistics of integration in the US when the two communities live in separate neighborhoods and how busing received a backlash by both both whites and blacks (from simply not wanting to send their kids across town to outright hatred of the other side). It also destroyed communities – for both blacks and whites. There’s also a class element there as well.

      • Statistics always confuse me.
        The CLASS element in Norn Iron is often overlooked.
        nice liberal people in leafy suburbs like to bemoan the existence of walls in working class areas while simultaneously signing petitions to keep public sector housing for working class people away from their neighbourhood.
        As I understand it cities like Detroit have suffered because white families have moved to the suburbs taking their spending power and tax dollars with them.
        And this depresses Detroit further.
        To some extent the migration of Protestants out of Belfast…to Castlereagh, North Down etc has accelerated the likely takeover by nationalists.
        The same would of course happen in the school system.

        but a point that is not fully grasped by Integrationalists here is that the Catholic schools are much more Integrated in class terms than the “State” school system.
        Catholicism…in religious or ethnic terms being a stronger glue than anything in the State system.
        The notion that there is a THIRD identity here…or an increasing number of people with no or multiple identity is the newest wheeze that LetsGetAlongerists have come up with.
        Essentially Integrated Education has its roots in All Children Together, which was to an extent the product of mixed marriage and people who had a foot in both camps.
        That is really how Integrated Education began.
        And to some extent that holier than thou attitude is still a driving force.
        “Look at me…I have broken the shackles of my background and married a Protestant/Catholic.”
        Good luck to them.
        But their fondness for their own identity should not interfere with my fondness for mine.

  10. hoboroad says:

    The Belfast Telegraph has been getting on it’s high horse in recent days on the subject of integrated education. It’s editor Ed Curran has sought to lecture parents who send their children to Catholic schools. The key question in education is are parents allowed to send their children to a school of their own choice? Or will they be forced to send them to a School the Government tells them. It wasn’t so long ago the Belfast Telegraph was running a campaign to save local Grammar Schools. It seems to Mr Curran that middle class parents are entitled to send their offspring to a school of their own choice. Yet Catholic parents are not allowed to choice a Catholic School for their offspring. Most parents want what is best for their children. The only people who fully support integrated education are in the APNI. The DUP have been making friendly noises towards integrated education in recent times but many see this as dishonest. Others such as the dregs of humanity that used to make up the Workers Party give support to the integrated education movement

    • Ronan Burns says:

      Is Ed Curran the editor of the Belfast Telegraph? Perhaps, he is but I thought that he was a former editor.

  11. hoboroad says:

    Editor in Chief at the Independent Media. Was editor of Belfast Telegraph.

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