religion, education and faith schools

Faith Schools and Parental choice

Should one send their children to a faith school? In Ireland many assume it will mean “immersing” their children in the Catholic of Christian faith. Our education system is not so indoctrinating and non-Catholics are well accommodated as is evident. An edited version of the letter below was published in the Irish Times.

Catholic schools have done right by all their students as shown here, verifying the phrase: “the proof of the pudding is in the eating of it.”

Sir, – you give much space to people who wish to rid education of anything to do with religion, especially the Catholic one. I have had many neighbours over the years who are Hindus from India, a Coptic Christian and Muslims from Egypt, Libya, Sudan etc. who chose to send their children to Catholic primary and secondary schools, and continue to do so. This is despite the availability of a very good non-religious state secondary school with competent teachers – that my daughter happily attends – and a recent alternative, an Educate Together school – known locally as the “Sinn Fein school.”

Some of these children have grown up and now constitute 7 doctors, 1 medical student, 1 pharmacist, 1 pharmacy student, an actuary, a marketing executive, a bioengineering student, an apprentice aeronautical engineer and a computer scientist.

I wonder who has the problem. Intolerant secular liberals want to throw out the baby with the bath water yet, as a former UK minister for education said at the opening of a Catholic school in Luton: “It wasn’t until I became Education Secretary that I realized how much the Catholic church has done for education.” Her name; Margaret Thatcher.

Yours, etc –

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Orphanages: how liberal government abandons the abandoned

The road to hell is paved with good intentions (proverb)

liberal rights political correctness fostering

Music class in an orphanage

Liberal government, liberal interference

The Labour party, ironically under the Catholic convert Blair, forced the closure of Catholic orphanages in the UK. All in the name of equality, and the modern notion of rights.

American academic, Jeremiah Norris, raised in an orphanage in the US replies, in a letter to the Financial Times, to an article by Gillian Tett on JK Rowling’s comments to close all orphanages and to desist from donating to orphanages.

While they are not a utopia, orphanages have served a need and alternatives, such as fostering, have often been found wanting. Some have even helped children thrive. In fact, it may be time to open more orphanages, according to a Chicago doctor, which suggests that government policies outlined by Mr Norris havn’t solved the need.

Norris describes how his orphanage became victim of the modern disease – liberal government:
How public funding sank my orphanage
From Jeremiah Norris, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, Washington, DC, US

He says he was raised in a Catholic orphanage, along with 800 boys and girls from pre-kindergarten right the way through high school. The orphanage was established in 1883. He experienced none of the “abuse, neglect and trafficking” JK Rowling talks about (“Rowling shines a light on the false incentives distorting aid”, Gillian Tett, November 19). That is, he says, until the orphanage began accepting funds from the state rather than from charitable donations from religious organisations.

“Once government money began flowing in”, he explains, “the orphanage had to adhere to all the latest politically correct modalities then in vogue: no more dormitories, only small ‘cottages’ of 10 with live-in grievance counsellors rather than nuns; no more in-residence classrooms — the kids now had to be bussed to the nearest school; no more football and basketball teams — everybody had to get a trophy; and no more need to work on that 850-acre farm, or to work in the kitchen, in the bakery, in the dairy, in the powerhouse shovelling coal, or in the shoe and carpenter shops — these things would be provided by state subsidies”. So, like Australian aborigines and native Indians of North America, they learnt to be useless and dependent…

Knock on the door of any one of its graduates and you would find that person a veteran of the second world war, the Korean war, Vietnam, the Gulf war, simply working in the corporate world as a productive member of our society. Now, its graduates are wards of the state.

And the result for the orphanage?

In time, the orphanage dwindled from 800 children to 80 — the rapacious after-effects of public funding. Most recently it became entangled in equal rights abuses, the legal costs absorbing scare funds for upkeep and maintenance, before finally sinking into insolvency and closure. That orphanage out on the Illinois prairie is now surely one of Rowling’s “fairy tales”.

Of course the children had no say in the matter – they don’t have rights. They don’t exist.

Image: Music Class at St Elizabeths Orphanage New Orleans 1940, Wiki Commons

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Teaching religion, illiberals and self-development

Teaching Religion and Self-Development

Sir, – Ivor Shorts questions religious education (Letters, 3 August) which he misunderstands as being no different to teaching fairy tales – which actually do have a value! While I wouldn’t wait for school to teach my child to “respect and act fairly,” a more authoritative voice does value religious education.

The 2009 UK study “Risky Behaviour and Social Activities: Research Report to religion schools religious educationDepartment for Children, Schools and Families” by Andreas Cebulla and Wojtek Tomaszewski (National Centre for Social Research) found, what they termed, “self-development activities” such as attending religious classes had a protective factor against risk-taking, antisocial behaviour and delinquency in adolescence. (Similar activities included community work, playing a musical instrument and reading for pleasure – perhaps not emphasised enough either by our centralised curriculum).¹

– Yours, etc,

Illiberal Liberals on Religious Education

Another respondent was quick to point out the illiberal liberal blind spot: while Shorts complains about teaching children religion is “conditioning them.. abuse…” Shorts is quick to tell us “… [religious education] replaced instead by teaching them how we should… ” Or as Dr Maitiu Ó Faolain says:

The inconvenience of parents wanting religious education in the schools they choose for their children is surely one of the greatest irritants to those illiberals who espouse freedom of choice but not if it clashes with their ideologies.

Pat Breen points out the irony that teaching religion in Ireland has actually led to less people practising it!

Sir, – I did not know whether to laugh or cry when reading Ivor Shorts’ comments (Letters, August 3rd). Laugh? The ridiculous over-the-top language – “conditioned”, “so-called education”, “institutional abuse”?

In countries like the USA where religion is not on the syllabus as in Ireland and the UK, religious fundamentalism seems to be a strong feature. Perhaps that’s one notable benefit to faith schools..?

1. The 2009 study above was quoted by Emeritus Professor Peter K. Smith in his recent publication Adolescence: A Very Short Introduction.

Further Reading
See my post Rites of passage an answer for disaffected youth

On Education, by Harry Brighouse examines many of the pros and cons of religious education and faith schools. He argues against the government introducing secular only schools as in the U.S.

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Unborn more than a “mass of cells”

Life size model of a foetus 8 weeks after conception

It’s been claimed – without scientific evidence – that an embryo/foetus is merely a mass of cells. This is incorrect as those cells, if alive, have another dimension: life. This changes everything because it is not just the difference between being alive or not alive, but the difference between being a mass of cells and a being. To understand this, as in many things, we can look at a being (for the sake of this argument, a person with an identity) from the end to the beginning. As the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

When a person has died, Continue reading

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Genes or work make a genius?

Thumbnail for version as of 17:59, 10 June 2012        Thumbnail for version as of 17:59, 10 June 2012         Thumbnail for version as of 04:18, 2 August 2013         Thumbnail for version as of 02:12, 15 December 2011

( The virtues of Celsus in pillars at the library in Ephesus. See explanation below)

In the foregoing post it is suggested time spent studying plus socio-economic background can predict a student’s final grade, even from their first week in university. Here, published in Scientific Reports, researchers at Kings College London suggest our results are down to our parents: if they struggled to draw then their children will struggle to draw.

The researchers studied 12,500 twins and concluded exam results Continue reading

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Students, we’re watching you…

Rococo scene by Adriano Cecchi (1850-1936)

Eavesdropping on a student

According to Helen Warrell in her informative Financial Times article Students under surveillance: Universities are increasingly using personal data to predict performance (link), universities are using personal data to predict – in the first week a third level – a student’s final grade! This is done using algorithms to monitor how they spend their time then cross-referencing this with their socio-economic background.

This of course raises questions regarding Continue reading

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Liberals and universities censor free expression

founder of UCD

Cardinal John Henry Newman

No diversity in university! Universities, liberals and lefties are censoring freedom of speech and expression. Universities use the defence of “safe-place.”

In the recent Same Sex Referendum in Ireland, the polling station at TCD recorded a 98% vote for the referendum to pass. Only 2% voted against. No dissenters, no free-thinkers, no-one going against the tide of thought there. So, what’s the purpose of a university education?

If one were to establish a place of true learning for young people today, what would it be like? What would its purpose be – other than force them to conform to certain ideas which are comfortable for the enforcers? Such were the questions Continue reading

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