Archive for October 19th, 2007

Agenda Bender

For the second successive Friday, David Quinn is writing about the ‘equality agenda’ and education. Last week, it was Mary Hanafin’s decision not to give additional funding to fee-paying schools that was part of said agenda, and this week it’s the Combat Poverty Agency’s report on how the current system favours the better off.

Quinn’s criticism of the report’s recommendation (the PowerPoint is at the bottom of this document; I can’t find a written report) that a centralised or regionalised application system should ‘effectively de-segregate the school system’ begins as follows:

HOW would you like it if the Government took from you the power to decide which school your child should go to?

My own response to this was that I didn’t even know it was in my power to decide. OK, so my child isn’t even born yet, but unless one of those ‘get rich quick’ searches on Google finally pays off or a benevolent millionaire decides to answer my Private Eye ad, the financial and transportational constraints on our life are such that I can’t see it being possible to pick the school of our fancy. One with Pugin wallpaper and a mausoleum for its founder would be delightful, I suppose, but there simply aren’t any in the area.

At any rate, I’m quite traditional about this. It all started with the Fisher-Price model village I got given as a child. I believe a school is an important component of a thriving local community, as opposed to an incidental component of a thriving construction industry, so I would prefer to send a child to the local school rather than send him out to the next town in the hunt for better exam results. That said, I am not hot on single-sex education at any level. And the natives here seem to be big into that sort of the thing, perversely.

So, anyway, I didn’t even know I had that power. Maybe I do have that power, in the sense that anyone born in America can become President. But, dang, even Quinn himself admits that there are plenty of parents who do not have this power:

At present parents often have little choice but to send their children to the local school

However, the outcome of a centralised or regionalised applications and allocations system (the word ‘application’ denotes at least some form of choice) would, Quinn claims, without the need to provide any evidence, result in parents

see(ing) their children being bussed into some other neighbourhood because the proposed central educational authority had decided that the local school had enough middle class or working class kids already.

Do they have neighbourhoods in Ireland? When I think of neighbourhoods, I think of Forest Hills, where Spider-Man lived with his Aunt May. Anyway. These shadowy central authority figures don’t even exist yet, but are already deciding whether or not my kid should wear a top hat or a peaked cap. Those bastards.

I don’t know how these things would work in practice. Probably some sort of strange gerrymandering-cum-apartheid system where huge concrete education walls get erected around entire ‘neighbourhoods’, snaking their way through people’s back gardens and splitting their bathroom in two, with armed watchtowers, all as part of some insane pen-pusher scheme to push the ‘equality agenda’.

He continues:

The effect of this system, therefore, would be to reduce parental choice to practically zero.

Yeah, man, but the difference between ‘effectively zero’ and ‘practically zero’ is practically, effectively zero. Anyway, what it is, this ‘equality agenda’ thingy, is

an attack on education because it seeks to retard the education of one group of children in order to (supposedly) advance the education of another set of children.

Yet the point of the presentation at least -and I am not impressed with the author’s PowerPoint skills- appears to be that the current system retards the education of one group of children (the poor) whilst facilitating the education of another set of children (the well-off).

The poor do badly in education, and this means that they do worse in the job market, and -given the shortcomings in the Irish education system- this means that they have less money to spend on the grinds for their children (which middle-class parents are prepared to pay to maintain their competitive advantage), less ability to assist their children with their homework, less time and energy to help their children (the working poor generally have longer commuting hours): in sum, less of everything.

One is therefore tempted to conclude that the current system itself constitutes an attack on education.

Anyway, to hell with the poor. Why is the Irish Independent so interested in education these days anyway? Has it anything to do with this – so lavishly plastered over free newspapers this week?

Independent Colleges is a new concept in Irish education providing goal-focused, personalised tuition, supported by Independent News & Media plc.

I look forward to further attacks on ‘the equality agenda’.


It’ll be a long time before I get round to reading Anne Enright’s Booker-winning latest, or anything at all she has written, as I have a big long list of books already bought and not read, and no money to be buying more. In fact, it’s probably more reasonable to predict that I will never read it, although from what I hear I’m sure it’s pretty good.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t get interested in the fallout from her award. As Sinéad reports here, she has been the subject of a backlash after she won the Booker the other night. Today’s Independent has a piece continuing proceedings:

Enright also talked about how her own feelings towards the McCanns and their story swayed one way and then the other. But crucially, at the end of the piece, she said that she ended up liking the McCanns.

Why, begob, is it ‘crucial’ that she should end up ‘liking the McCanns’? If she had not done so, would she have deserved different treatment? Suppose she had written a piece instead talking simply about how much she liked the McCanns: how manly and gruff Gerry is, and how delicate and nice Kate is, and left it at that: would anything have been said at all? It is as though there were an unspoken requirement by nutters nationwide to like the McCanns or face the consequences.

Anyway, there is also suspicion of an Irish author winning, apparently:

The fact that Enright was a surprise winner in the Man Booker may also have been a factor. This is the second time in three years that an Irish writer has won the Booker, and that may have caused some resentment in the British press.

Dem awfil Brits. Those living in the real world might be more inclined to think that, if there has indeed been a backlash , it is on account of the fact that at least 2 out of the last 3 winners appear to have been rather grim and gloomy affairs (I haven’t read The Sea, but I’ll bet John Banville didn’t decide to change the habit of a lifetime and instead write a book full of knee-slapping one-liners, and I have been putting The Inheritance of Loss, of which I do have a copy, on the long and winding finger), and not an ideal accompaniment to the nearing plunge into long winter nights.

Another possible, but less charitable, explanation is that Britain is full of nutters who demand that people like Ian McEwan.

Update: Mary Kenny is off her rocker, again. Apparently an article in the London Review of Books (that well-known port of call for unhinged mobs with torches alight and pitchforks a-twirling) is worthy of comparison to one of the most notorious scandals of the 19th century.

It is not only prejudice: it is dangerous prejudice. It encourages a mob feeling — which exists and always will exist — that “there is no smoke without fire”, and “a nod is as good as a wink”, and all the rest of that ignorant farrago.

These were the grounds on which Alfred Dreyfus, in the notorious case which broke France in the 1890s, was wrongly convicted of treason. Dreyfus was accused of passing military secrets to Germany, basically on the grounds that people didn’t like the look of him. That is to say, he was Jewish, and he looked it, and if you added up two and two, wasn’t a Jew the more likely to betray France? Thus was the infamous miscarriage of justice mounted on prejudice, on hearsay, on malign gossip, and above all, encouraging the mob to find a scapegoat they could hate.

Egad! She’s an Ian McEwan partisan too:

Ms Enright has apologised and expressed her regrets but she should take a leaf from a fellow author’s book by now showing atonement.

Stone me. I had breakfast in Avoca this morning (the shop, not the village). De-lightful pancakes, but the acoustics in that place are appalling! You can’t even hear yourself talk bollocks!

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October 2007