Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What the ****'s an ethos?

The sectarianism that is so much a part of Irish society now and then proves embarrassing. The most recent example is the reaction of Protestant schools in the South who have objected to a provision in the latest social partnership deal. This allows for the Department of Education to fill vacancies in schools from a list of teachers displaced by the closure of other schools. The department looks at the vacancy and then matches the teacher from the list who most closely tallies with the vacant post. One of the bodies representing Protestant controlled schools has objected to this and is going to take its case to court to challenge the process, claiming it was never consulted and never agreed to it, although another body representing these schools was part of the process.

Their complaint is that the process stops them from selecting teacher candidates that will foster and protect their ‘ethos.’ In other words they want to retain their prerogative to select teachers on sectarian grounds. Either the teacher will have to be a Protestant or they will have to accept that Protestantism will be the distinctive character of the school. They must accept this, no matter what their own religious views are, or indeed whether they have any religious views at all. Just what this ‘ethos’ adds to a child’s education in maths, English, geography, and physics etc. is never spelt out, except that it is usually claimed that some moral content will be given to their education through this ‘ethos’.

This moral content seems to differ little between the churches although they all of course think that others are in error or are heresies. No one is under any illusion but that the real purpose of church control is to inculcate a particular religious dogma into the impressionable brains of young children. They are however far too calculating to admit this, or to go about asserting their own claims to moral superiority too loudly. The distinctive morality at play is therefore hypocrisy.

A couple of years ago the Catholic Church in the North was also making public warnings about its intent to defend the ‘ethos’ of its schools, how this taught the children a distinctive and morally right way of living. A week later a report revealed the record number of very young women who had become pregnant or were single parents coming from the very areas dominated by Catholic schools.

The same reactionaries who defend sectarian schooling are also the most vocal condemning the pereceived widespread delinquent and anti-social behaviour of young people. But of course sectarian schooling has nothing to do with sectarianism and these schools have nothing to do with young people’s behaviour, and organisations exposed as perpetrators of institutionalised child abuse are just the right ones to be entrusted with children’s care and education.

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