Archive for January 18th, 2006

Haloscan is more or less bunk

I note that some ads for the products of a certain car manufacturer have been appended to my discussion with Frank on the post below. As the thread in question touches on the teaching of history, could the infamous remarks of the company’s anti-Semitic founder have prompted the ads’ appearance?

Update: a reference to ‘prejudices one has unthinkingly adopted’ in a trackback for the ‘Nordie’ post is now accompanied by an ads for motorized wheelchairs. Nice.

Integration, Segregation, Education

Shock horror – in an ‘academics have discovered…’ story, a report suggests that educating Protestants and Catholics together may mean that they turn out to have less sectarian views.

Richard Dawkins said as much in a Guardian interview the other day:

“Take Northern Ireland. You could get rid of the climate of hostility within a
generation by getting rid of segregated schooling. Separating Catholics and
Protestants has fomented centuries of hostility.”

In terms of the report findings, it’s hardly surprising that people educated at integrated schools are less sectarian: as the BBC correspondent points out, for them to be sent there in the first place, we can assume that their parents are not sectarian to any great degree anyway.

I have my doubts about how effective full-scale integrated schooling would be in removing Dawkins’s ‘climate of hostility’. in fact, I think it might be a bit of a chimera. Remember the green and orange map drawn up in the wake of the council shake-up proposals? Outside the urban centres of Belfast, Derry, and perhaps Craigavon/Portadown/Lurgan, there are large areas of Northern Ireland where one denomination is in the minority, and any integrated schools would be bound to reflect the imbalance.

I’m speculating, but I think that you could have a large number of integrated schools attended by Protestants and Catholic schools, but with one denomination in the minority, where the children who attend the schools live in different estates, villages and towns, depending on their denomination. You might have integration in the classroom, but mixing outside of school – which I think is where most sectarianism gets fomented anyway – would still not happen. If you live in an estate full of painted kerbstones and tatty flags marking out territory, is an integrated education really going to make a whole pile of difference? In fact, in these areas you could have situations where children become more and not less fixated on the idea of a separate identity.

One summarised finding I found striking was this:

‘51% of Catholics who attended a segregated school supported Irish
re-unification, compared to 35% of those who had experienced integrated

From my own experience, I’m not particularly surprised that only 51% of Catholics who attended ‘segregated’* schools support Irish re-unification, but the dominant assumption – from Unionist and Nationalist parties and indeed media discourse – is that the automatic position of a Northern Catholic is to want a United Ireland. If the 51% figure is accurate, this can’t be true. Furthermore, it can’t be inferred that Catholic schools promote support for Irish re-unification to any significant degree. If they did, this percentage would surely be a lot higher.

*On the use of the word ‘segregation’: it is deemed acceptable to use this when the context is religious denomination, but no-one talks about academic segregation at age 11, even if this is a more accurate term for what in fact takes place in the present education system.

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January 2006