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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Wi-Fi – Why Fry Kids’ Brains & Bodies?

Wi-Fi and Child Health

… It’s a question which should be raised often, especially in places where children gather, but it never is: should Wi-Fi be banned in nurseries and primary schools? But it’s a question Dr Erica Mallery-Blythe has posed and spent years researching. She was recently interviewed in the Daily Telegraph (see here). (Below is a video of one of her talks on electromagnetic radiation, health and children)

In February the French banned Wi-Fi in nurseries, Los Angeles has reduced it, Germany suggests reducing it in work places, so should Ireland be looking at it as a potential health issue? It’s a question I’ve never known to be raised. Amazing!

It is amazing when we consider that in February, Lloyd’s of London, the insurance underwriters, informed schools Continue reading

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Media bias – beware its influence

The Irish Times must have been embarrassed to have to write a scathing criticism of itself and other newspapers in an Oireachtas report published in the Irish Times yesterday(26.03.15: link).

The papers in the UK will publish more articles critical of medicine than papers in Ireland do. Probably because UK journalists know they will be able to get another story somewhere, whereas Ireland, being a small island, such chances are unlikely, so are less willing to be critical of certain sectors, leaders etc. On the contrary, these papers will be more critical of certain sectors and people who don’t fit the paper’s or editors ideology.

Recently, the pro-life movement had a large demonstration in Dublin, called Thirty-three to One”, protesting at the media’s publication of 33 pro-abortion articles as against 1 pro-life article. Bias and prejudice was shown also in the lack of coverage of the event.

In the last two weeks, the Irish Times has published two op-eds against homeopathy, but as usual, refuses to publish even a short letter to counterbalance the biased articles.

It’s not the overt obvious bias but the subtle, devious, sly and suggestive bias which is more sinister. It’s the continued and pervasive prompting and nudging in a certain direction which can break down the reader’s own ideas and beliefs and try to underhandedly undermine the reader – their customer.

While people might not take the “red tops” – tabloid newspapers – too seriously, Continue reading

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Stabbings – the real point!

Why the huge amount of stabbing and knife crimes? One time two drunk idiots would shout or throw a few punches. Now one has to stab the other.

What’s this about? Is it simply violence or in line with the previous post, something more sexual?

What does one do in a knife assault?: they penetrate another. As the Australians say, “give her a dagger of mutton, mate.” You “stick it in.” Another word for penetrate is prick which is also another word for penis.

Nor does the analogy end there. Both “weapons,” a penis and a knife, are housed within a sheath.

So is it just possible the plethora of knife attacks – always by men – are a subconscious vicarious substitute for sex? Continue reading

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Sexploitation – the default position in war

Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?

The above quote, attributed to actress Mae West, unfortunately has more significance than she probably realised and a lot of women haven’t been too happy to meet a man with a gun in his pocket…

former Japanese military brothel Shanghai

History books, especially school history books, fail to mention the sexual exploitation of women in war. For example, watching the movie Suite Française, based on the novel of the same title, which did show mutual sexual relationships between French women and German soldiers, not all 70,000 French women would have consented to being made pregnant by an invading soldier. A point safely overlooked by those choosing our curriculum.

Even our youngest generation now has no excuse to say: “we didn’t know that happened in war”, because now they can see it and read about it everyday, whether it’s 12 year-old girls in Nigeria taken as sex slaves and or sold into marriage by Boko Haram or the thousands of Christian and Yazidi women and girls taken in the same manner by Daesh/ISIL in Syria and Iraq today.

Sexploitation of women and young men by members of the IRA Continue reading

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I want a child too – fair’s fair

“It’s not fair; I want one. Well you have one so why can’t I? It’s not fair. Fair’s fair so I’m telling.”

How often have we heard the statement above or words similar? Often. But the important question about it is: what age person usually speaks thus? Keep this in mind as you read this post because the adults campaigning for fairness in the situations below are adults but whom, perhaps, are really young children at mind.


Continue reading

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Exams or character development?

Since the movie Selma is on release and since he had a quotable definition of education, let’s take a quote from Martin Luther King Jnr:

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues’ own logo is:

Good character is the foundation for improved attainment and human flourishing.

It might not be politically correct, it won’t be what the looney liberals on the Left want to hear, it’ll make the bile of the latest trendsetters – the atheists – flow, but research at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at Birmingham University can reveal:

School-age children who attend church, do charity work or sing in choirs are likely to display more sophisticated moral judgments than their peers who play sport, according to a large-scale national survey conducted by Birmingham University…

Continue reading

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Don’t teach art – Beatrix Potter

Here’s another interesting lesson. I fondly remember this from a good many years ago – 2010 in fact. Like the story of Sr Mary Bailey (see post below), whose father opposed her being taught to draw as it would snuff out her innate talent, the comments of Beatrix Potter in a similar vein are worth noting.

In one of two letters brought up at auction at Bonhams, Beatrix Potter refers to a sketch sent to her by a young fan:

That was a charming letter, with the naive plan of a child’s garden; a garden very suitable for Benjamin Bunny. It’s curious how graphic children can be, up to a certain age, and then they lose it, or it is wiped out by teaching. A shepherd’s child about 5 years old showed me a remarkable crayon scribble of two lambs – remarkable capering lambs kicking up the heels. I asked for another specimen. Now six months later she gives me a “picture” done at school; outline traced from an elaborate scene in Kate Greenaway style, little boy & girl, cottage etc all carefully coloured; and consigned to the fire by me.

Details of the letters can be found here

Further Information
Visit Hilltop Farm and the Beatrix Potter Museum
Read about Beatrix Potter

Picture credit: WikiCommons

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Traditional toys boost maths

Told you so! In previous posts (here and here) I’ve explained that using fingers helps the ability for maths. Now, a team of psychologists have come to the same conclusion but with some science to back-up their claim. They say using building blocks and jigsaws develop spatial skills and cognitive ability.

This means STEM subjects like science, maths, technology, engineering are being learnt at an early age. Why using fingers may be important is due to the fact, as the authors report,

None of the other types of play (e.g., drawing, playing with noise-making toys, and riding a bicycle, skateboard, or scooter) or the parent-child activities (e.g., teaching number skills, teaching shapes, playing math games, telling stories) included in the survey data were associated with children’s spatial ability.

None of the above exercises involve finer finger skills. Remember; fingers are called digits in medicine, and for a good reason! Continue reading

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Talent – “leave it to grow”

 leave talent to grow art

Sr Mary Barbara Bailey

Leave Talent Alone

I love a good obituary – so long as it’s not mine! And why not, we learn a lot from other peoples’ lives. For example, I remember a friend asking a former classmate why he was such a successful hotelier. The hotelier explained that he learnt something from everybody he ever met.

This is one obituary which impressed me twelve years ago. It’s the obituary of Sr Mary Barbara Bailey, the daughter of Cuthbert Bailey, former manager of Doulton china.

While a manager, he decided to make a children’s range of crockery. Who better to illustrate it than his daughter Barbara, by then a Catholic nun. The range was to be called Bunnykins.

She was a natural talent at drawing, her obituary in the Daily Telegraph tells us:

Barbara Vernon Bailey was born on June 28 1910 at Bulkeley Hall at Woore, Shropshire, where she enjoyed filling sketchbooks with drawings of the countryside around, as well as of the pets kept by her four brothers and two sisters. Her sketches included pigs, cows, horses and ferrets as well as cuddly dogs, cats and guinea pigs; but it was the wild rabbits in the fields which delighted her most.

As a child, Barbara was taught by a series of governesses at home, though her father didn’t let her take drawing lessons. This is what impressed me about her story; he was obviously wise, refusing to be like many modern pushy parents. His thinking was as follows,

“If you teach a little talent, you snuff it out,” he would say. “If you leave it alone, it will grow.”

The paintings, drew on affectionate memories of childhood and were predominantly of Mr Rabbit who, with his round glasses and pipe, bore a distinct resemblance to her father, the Telegraph tells us. He was shown engaged on such tasks as struggling to fix his braces or creasing his trousers with the garden roller, while his wife – who was dressed in blue because this was “Our Lady’s colour” – attended to domestic duties.

art talent leave grow

A Bunnykins children’s cup

Sr Mary Barbara turned out more than 1,000 pictures, sitting up late at night, drawing by candlelight as the convent had no electricity. The convent never received a penny in royalties or fees, thanks to the naïve decision by the Reverend Mother.

The Bunnykins range was a huge international success, customers including Japanese and British Royals. Read the story here

Further reading
See also my post above on Beatrix Potter’s comment on a neighbouring child’s drawings before and after starting school.

Biography of Sr Mary: Wikipedia

A list of the Bunnykins figurines

Psychology professor Adam Grant’s article in The New York Times is worth a read: How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off

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Teach children to tell lies

Don’t lie to me! How often have parents shouted this command at the poor innocents in their care? But at the same time, adults often begrudgingly admire the quick-thinking ability of a child to lie their way out of a situation. Anthropologist Joy Hendry explains in her book Anthropology, lying is normal, after all, our politicians do it. So why teach children to not lie? Is it possible lying has a useful purpose?

In our country the lie has become not just a moral category but a pillar of the State.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

George Washington, as a boy, was ignorant of the commonest accomplishments of youth. He could not even lie.
Mark Twain

Pinocchi Display

Now new research at Lancaster University by psychologist Lara Warmelink suggests “lying  is an important skill” which children need to master as they grow up, she says. She explained that not learning “when to lie and how to do so convincingly” can lead to problems for older children. But lying too much isn’t good either.

Writing in an academic website The Conversation, in her article Pants on Fire, she says children need to be taught when lying is inappropriate without fear of being punished. Punishing children for lying, telling fibs is actually counterproductive. This was the theme of similar research published this week in Canada. The Canadian study found children were less likely to tell the truth if they feared being punished.

Quoting Dr Warmelink in her article, Continue reading

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What doesn’t make great teaching

What Makes Great Teaching, the title of a new report from Durham’s School of Education, could be re-titled “what doesn’t make great teaching.” Some of the techniques like lavishing praise, as I’ve mentioned before, are not good (click here).

In fact the report finds that criticising a student’s work or failing them can be beneficial by making the student realise they are capable of better work.

The report is a “starter kit” to enable thinking about what makes for effective teaching. The report’s key points are¹:

Six key factors that contribute to good teaching are identified. The two factors with the strongest evidence in improving student outcomes are: Continue reading

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PISA & TIMMS test cultures not ability

We assume a lot that Korea, China and Singapore always perform well
in the TIMMS and PISA assessments because of their education system and that our education systems are faulty. Product Details

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes some unexpected assertions, as he usually does! One reason some Asian countries – S. Korea, China and Singapore – do so well in these tests is because firstly, they are used to persevering at a problem and secondly, they are used to hard work (effort). In other words culture and attitude are key factors in their high mathematical achievements.

Numbers are not logical for westerners: fifty is nothing like 5 lots of 10 and seventeen sounds and looks nothing like 10 plus 7. For Chinese, the numbering is logical which makes using numbers and division easier to understand. Also, the numbers are usually one syllable, not 2 or 3 syllables as in English, so in many Asian languages numbers are easier to remember – as well as work with. A big advantage.

Asian kids attempt more questions in the test papers, to the point that if ranked according to the number of questions answered, the tables would be pretty similar to tables based on results. That’s according to Erling Boe, an educational researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.

Effort rather than brains was shown to be an important factor by Prof Carol Dweck in her book Mindset.

Gladwell also refers to an experiment by Alan Schoenfeld a maths professor at Berkeley which illustrates that success at maths is not about innate ability but persevering for 22 minutes on a maths problem rather than giving up after 30 seconds like most people.¹

Schoenfeld’s lecture What Makes for Powerful Classrooms, and How Can We Support Teachers in Creating Them?: A Story of Research and Practice, Productively Intertwined can be viewed here.

1. Gladwell: chapter 8 explains the experiment behind this conclusion.

Further Reading
Teaching Social skills to Improve Grades and Lives from NY Times blog click here

Race and the Standardized Testing Wars
By Kate Taylor

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Third-level: exploitation and grade inflation

How do you decide who gets a first class honours degree?, I once asked a uni lecturer at one of our esteemed NUI colleges. Well, she said, one lecturer throws all his exam sheets down the stairs and whichever ones land at the bottom get a first class degree. Quite a fair system, I think. This compares well to a less equitable system at colleges in Dublin as reported recently in the Irish Times.

Students attending Dublin City University (DCU) or University College Cork (UCC) have a much higher chance of graduating with a first class honours degree than other college-goers, new figures show in a fresh indicator of “grade inflation”.

Over the past 10 years, 17.7 per cent of graduates at DCU and UCC each received a 1st, compared to 12.8 per cent at Maynooth University and just 11.9 per cent at University College Dublin (UCD)…

… At Trinity College Dublin, only eight out of 301 students who sat psychology between 2004 and 2013 failed to achieve a 2.1 or a first.

The university said this was due to the fact that it attracted “exceptionally bright cohorts of students”. Many companies, especially in finance and law, demand a first or 2.1 for entry-level jobs or internships.

 – Which doesn’t say much for the medical students,

As for the toughest course in which to get top marks, medicine stands out. Over the last 10 years, just 38 of 1,263 TCD graduates got a first and only 56 out of 1,731 UCD graduates did so. In both cases, this translates as a 3 per cent success rate.

Registrar at the NUI, Dr Patricia Halpin, said Continue reading

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