I was in Belfasts Holiday Inn last night at this PFC Event. I reckon about seventy five in attendance…although strangely some well known faces showed up and then disappeared together. I am not sure what all that was about.
A few Sluggerites in attendance and no doubt “Alan in Belfast” will blog on the letsgetalongerist website later today.
I dont envy him. Because when I got home last night (I had to leave early at about 9.20pm because of the limited train service) I looked thru my notes and just didnt see an angle that would be the focus of the Blog.
The basics…it was chaired byRobin Wilson, a Slugger favourite. And had seven members on the panel.
Ciarnan Helferty the former QUB-Student Union President was his usual confident self and still under thirty is probably one to watch. He is a product of an integrated school in Derry.
There was a young man from the Spirit of Enniskillen andtwo young people from WIMPS (Where is my Public Servant)…this really overloaded the panel with young people in the PFC mould…all bubbly and enthusiastic about the rosy integrated future.
And significantly all of the young people were from Catholic backgrounds.
Mark Langhammer, the “university lecturer man” was there and again from that letsgetalongerist clique albeit from a lefty angle.
Mary Dornan from INTO (Irish National Teachers Organisation) was the token Catholic Schools spokesperson and a Dr Smith from University of Ulster was the “go to academic guy”.
A balanced panel? Hardly.
A balanced audience? Hardly.
So as always with Platform for Change a high degree of talking to the choir, heavily laced with a sense of entitlement backed up by a holier than thou attitude.
These people KNOW that they are right.
The rest of us are knaves and/or fools.
To have suggested otherwise would have had me kicked to a pulp by the most polite mob in Belfast.
How many attended. Well ninety five chairs were set out. And I reckon about seventy five people there…though why some high profile people disappeared after just a few minutes was a bit baffling. A meeting within a meeting perhaps?
Let me emphasise this was about COHERENT EDUCATION. Who could possibly be against that? But it was actually about INTEGRATED EDUCATION, the PFC flagship nonsense. So this SHOULD have been about Grammar Schools, Selection etc but inevitably Integrated Education was the real topic.
There are 330,000 schoolchildren in Norn Iron.
So there are actually 329,998 plus two of my grandchildren. And there my interest ends. And in fact, thats the real issue. The loudest applause of the night was when the University of Ulster man referred to that 79% figure in favour of Integrated Education…thats the stuff PFC people like to hear.
If I hadnt been recovering from some mouth surgery, I might have pointed out that in March, only 1.3% of the Electorate in Mid Ulster voted for that.
Thats the stuff that PFC people dont like to hear.
Ironically Mary Dornan is a teacher in Cookstown….her Catholic school was probably a polling station on that day.
One speaker from the floor stated boldly that politicians should not “pander” to parental choice.
Another speaker a humanist wanted GOD taken out of the schools.
Rather bizarrely American Creationist theory was brought up as a good reason to condemn parental choice.
Indeed the melodramatic villain of the night was the moustache-twirling notion of PARENTAL CHOICE. I expected an audible hiss from the audience.
And the virginal heroine of the night was those brave parents from thirty odd years ago from the likes of All Children Together who had fought Catholic Bishops, Education Boards and raised funds to buy portakabins to set up integrated schools.Murmersof approval all round.
Of course for a PFC audience, Parental Choice is only the enemy because it is not THEIR parental choice. Thus Terry the Humanist who wants GOD out of schools feels no problem with blocking the choices of other parents who really like GOD quite a lot.
And basically when actually interrogated, the audience wanted their preferred system.
About seventy five different systems tailor made to the requirements of their kids and PFCs vision of Society.
How to deal with the fact that academic selection at age 11 is a very bad thing (in received wisdom) while Catholic grammar schools are extremely well integrated in terms of social class. That a high proportion of children at (priveleged?) Catholic schools are in receipt of free school dinners.
Indeed how do we deal with the problem that State Grammar schools (de facto Protestant) schools are less socially integrated.
Is it something that nationalists should actually care about?
And how do we deal with the age old dilemna that good decent liberals like myself and most of the PFC audience benefitted fromacademic selection at age 11 and went to grammar schools which wittingly and/or unwittingly told us tht acdemic selection is not a good thing.
And gave us a socialmconscience that was Christian rather than Humanist.
That in Norn Iron the top five per cent of children are the big success story.
But the bottom twenty five per cent is the shameful legacy.
Is Norn Iron unique.”Quarantined from electoral politics” as either Langhmmer or Smith put it.
Belfast is not London or Dublin.
There are faith schools in England. Why is it a good thing there and a bad thing here?
Well in England, Ctholic Schools are desirable so that Catholic parents have to prove” their Catholicism.
Paradoxically in the Republic of Ireland, where the Catholic Church has influenced Education (and paid for it) there are moves afoot to remove some schools from Catholic patronage. Moves largely welcomed by the Catholic Church.
Lets be frank here…the political parties in the Republic of Ireland are manifestly IRISH and manifestly REPUBLICAN …Fianna Fail, Labour, Fine Gael, Sinn Fein all assert the sovreignty of the State over any Church including the Catholic Church.
Even allowing for the fact that the official Irish Catholic Church is a rump, unrepresentative of the people in the pews…the vast majority of Irish priests are in fact Republican….content withthe notion of a bigger seperation between Church and State.
The English Catholic Church tradition is much more elitist and aristocratic.
But where does that leave Norn Iron?
Well Norn Iron ….there is no “State”. It is a “no mans land” . Republicans and nationalists can never fully accept State Education from a State they dont believe has a right to exist so Catholic education is necessary for nationalists.
But really IN ENGLAND, Not even Terry the Humanist would be getting worked up about Catholic Education…or Muslim Education.
The call for Integrated Education in Norn Iron is therefore NOT a direct attack on Catholicism. It is an attack on NATIONALISM.
nd thats why Integrated Education is the cornerstone of LetsGetAlongerism.
It is Social Engineering of the worst kind.