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← Only secular schools will overcome sectarianism

Only secular schools will overcome sectarianism - Comments

PaulJ's Avatar Comment 1 by PaulJ

"bedevilled by sectarianism"

How apt!

Good article. Someone who has looked at the situation and is telling it how it is.

Sat, 25 Aug 2007 22:02:00 UTC | #62336

mummymonkey's Avatar Comment 2 by mummymonkey

Living in Scotland I'm not aware of this "embittered divide" which seems to be visible only to journalists, bishops and politicians looking for votes. Protestants, catholics and godless heathens such as myself get along just fine thank you.
And it's Copland not Copeland.

Sat, 25 Aug 2007 23:55:00 UTC | #62344

epeeist's Avatar Comment 3 by epeeist

While it might be difficult to get rid of faith schools in the short term, you could effectively neuter them. The large majority of these schools receive most of their funding from the state. Initially you could make it a condition of receiving funding that they did not discriminate on religious grounds for admission to the school. You could reduce the funding for children who are of the same faith as the school and increase it for those of different or no faiths.

The only problem this leaves is those schools schools whose funding comes from other sources, such as Saudi Arabia. The only way I can think of to tackle these is to insist that they follow the national curriculum (irrespective of the gender of the pupils).

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 00:00:00 UTC | #62345

Corylus's Avatar Comment 4 by Corylus

Under the "headlines" section of the front page of this site is the link to the petition to abolish faith schools in the UK.

You can sign if you are a UK citizen.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 02:04:00 UTC | #62351

Student Grant's Avatar Comment 5 by Student Grant

I've lived in both Scotland and Northern Ireland and there is a major difference in levels of sectarianism between the two countries. If you want to be certain of seeing sectarian bigotry in Scotland, you have to seek it out (at Rangers/Celtic matches, sectarian parades, etc). As mummymonkey says, most of the time it is invisible. In Northern Ireland it is omnipresent and infects every aspect of society. The root cause is the complete control that religions have over children's education here. In Scotland, I found that although sectarianism existed, it was less endemic and crucially, much less tolerated by society in general. In NI it is actively encouraged by the main political parties. Sinn Fein and the DUP are well aware that their votes depend on division. If education were secular, support for both parties would suffer. I don't expect to see an end to educational apartheid here soon.
To UK readers of this, I would remind you that your hard-earned tax money (which should have been spent on education) is funding the promotion of religious intolerance in Northern Ireland, Scotland and, with Blair's promotion of faith schools, in England and Wales as well now. You may feel annoyed enough about this to contact your MP and sign the petition mentioned by Corylus.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 02:16:00 UTC | #62352

Flagellant's Avatar Comment 6 by Flagellant

I signed the 'Scrap faith schools' petition earlier this year. I received a reply referring me to this statement:

The Government remains committed to a diverse range of schools for parents to choose from, including schools with a religious character or "faith schools" as they are commonly known.

Religious Education (RE) in all schools, including faith schools, is aimed at developing pupils' knowledge, understanding and awareness of the major religions represented in the country. It encourages respect for those holding different beliefs and helps promote pupils' moral, cultural and mental development. In partnership with national faith and belief organisations we have introduced a national framework for RE. In February 2006, the faith communities affirmed their support for the framework in a joint statement making it clear that all children should be given the opportunity to receive inclusive RE, and that they are committed to making sure the framework is used in the development of RE in all their schools and colleges.

The Churches have a long history of providing education in this country and have confirmed their commitment to community cohesion. Faith schools have an excellent record in providing high-quality education and serving disadvantaged communities and are some of the most ethnically and socially diverse in the country. Many parents who are not members of a particular faith value the structured environment provided by schools with a religious character.
Two comments:
1. I fear that new petitioners will receive the same ghastly answer and
2. Short-sighted, weaselly government bastards! Bastards! Bastards!

Religion – an activity for consenting adults in private.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 02:43:00 UTC | #62354

IanRobinson's Avatar Comment 7 by IanRobinson

Re: Comment 5 from student grant

I went to a standard comprehensive school in the suburbs of East Belfast in the 1970's and early 1980's. It was not a "Protestant" school. Anyone could attend from the catchment area. There were very few Roman Catholics attending (it had about 1300 pupils in total). The reason for this was that there were Roman Catholic schools that bused the children of parents of that religion out of the area. I would say that there were (indeed are) state schools and then there are religious schools (mainly Roman Catholic) in NI. We need to abolish the religious schools and make them all state schools with no influence from any churches at all.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 04:08:00 UTC | #62356

Yorker's Avatar Comment 8 by Yorker

McKie was writing mostly about the west of Scotland, his remarks are not nearly as applicable to the east. Where I was raised, sectarianism was unheard of, the area was overwhelmingly protestant and at school the very few catholic children were excused the protestant RI periods. Until I had the misfortune to attend a football match at Parkhead as a young man, I was unaware of how the religious nonsense had such an effect on people. My abiding memory of that event though, is not a religious one. In the old days boozing during the match was the norm and there were no seats, I remember having to bin my shoes on returning home because of the river of piss I was forced to stand in for an hour and a half; I've never been back since.

I must also say that most of the crime I saw committed during my youth was perpetrated by Catholic kids. My father had Catholicism forced on him as a child and my mother had suffered a similar Protestant fate, she used to say that religion had done nothing for her whatever. My dad called Catholicism "a religion of fear" but told me to make my own choice when I felt able.

I too have signed the petition even though I know they're generally ineffective. I'm glad to see the long-awaited (at least by me) politicisation of atheism has begun, once we gain strength the political vote-whores will have to change their ways.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 06:15:00 UTC | #62360

PeterHeasley's Avatar Comment 9 by PeterHeasley

I too grew up in Northern Ireland and attended wholly Protestant schools both at primary and grammar school. During this period my sectarian beliefs were entrenched and during certain periods exacerbated due to in the in-group seige mentality that was created. It was not until university in England that I began to learn certain disciplines that would lead to a totally different line of thought processes which would lead eventually to my becoming atheist and a heck of a lot more liberal and tolerant.

I should point out that I come from an affluent area of Northern Ireland and went to one of the top schools. Sectarian division runs through the whole structure of our society.

As such I am completely opposed to faith schooling of any sort. I yearn for the time in which schooling is wholly secular, although i'm worried this might be a pipe dream.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 06:21:00 UTC | #62361

Student Grant's Avatar Comment 10 by Student Grant


Comment #65726 by IanRobinson

No argument from me about getting rid of religious schools. I think we differ over our definitions - as far as I can see, practically all schools in Northern Ireland are religious schools, whether they are run by the state or the catholic church.
I also went to a state school in the 70s and 80s, officially open to all comers. Of about 1200 pupils, five were catholics. It was de facto a protestant religious school. All RE teachers were from protestant churches, we were never exposed to any forms of belief other than evangelical protestant christianity, never mixed with catholic clergy or pupils - in effect, every bit as much a sectarian religious school as any christian brothers college.
As far as the chances of any of this changing substantially in the near future are concerned, don't hold your breath.
According to Archbishop Brady (catholic primate of all ireland), the expansion of integrated education in Northern Ireland would cause 'a very great hurt'.
Presumably he found the last forty-odd years a more comfortable experience.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 06:52:00 UTC | #62364

mummymonkey's Avatar Comment 11 by mummymonkey

How "protestant" are the non-denominational schools in NI? At my schools in rural Perthshire there was no religion at all. Unless you count the weekly assembly when we mumbled our way through "All things bright and beautiful" before being told not to throw snowballs in the school grounds.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 06:56:00 UTC | #62365

mummymonkey's Avatar Comment 12 by mummymonkey

Student Grant appears to have answered my question as I was typing it. Way to go!

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 06:58:00 UTC | #62366

PeterHeasley's Avatar Comment 13 by PeterHeasley

Mummymonkey, Non-denominational schools in NI are what they say on the tin. Along with the prayers and hymns in assembly, we could count on evangelical/Presbyterian/Church of Ireland (Anglican)clergymen/women coming in for lunchtime talks,and suchlike. However, it wasn't the imposition of religion directly that caused such a problem. It was the soley Protestant nature/makeup of the school that bred and breeds sectarianism. They truely are bastions of Protestant Unionism. I didn't attend a Catholic school, but from speaking to friends who did, the case seems to have been equally as bad except for a more concerted effort to indoctrinate religious beliefs.
It takes a concerted effort to make an integrated school in this country and I know a lot of areas have faced opposition in the setting up of such.
Aside from this, it is simply wrong that these people ought to be allowed to influence impressionable children with unjustifiable faith.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 07:11:00 UTC | #62367

Monkey2's Avatar Comment 14 by Monkey2

Yorker said

I'm glad to see the long-awaited politicisation of atheism has begun, once we gain strength the political vote-whores will have to change their ways.

You've spurred me into action. I've finally got round to joining the National Secular Society. The annual subscription was £22.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 07:19:00 UTC | #62369

aodh's Avatar Comment 15 by aodh

I agree that schools in Scotland, and everywher else for that matter, should be secular, but properly secular. In the west of Scotland you have predominantly non-denominational schools and Catholic schools. There is one Jewish primary school and I think there are moves afoot to start a muslim one too. It may be only a matter of time before Buddists, Hindus, Pagans, Satanists etc are petitioning for their own schools! Although raised and schooled a catholic myself I chose a non-denominational school for my kids only to find that there was a Church of Scotland chaplain and end of term church services with some man of the cloth delivering social work lectures that were actually nothing to do with religion in my opinion. So I felt I had been misled by the term non-denominational. Here in west of Scotland the state should abide by the trades description act and remove any and all affiliations with religious groups. At least in the religious schools you get what it says on the packet.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 07:27:00 UTC | #62370

xurble's Avatar Comment 16 by xurble

Although I completely agree that non-religious schools are a good idea, I can't help feeling that people are keen to overstate their benefits and potential impact.

After all mixed race schools do not appear to have solved racism.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 07:33:00 UTC | #62371

Flagellant's Avatar Comment 17 by Flagellant

Further to my post #6, it is instructive to note the following e-petition results:

1. Against road pricing: over 1.7 million
2. One in favour of faith schools: 18684
3. One petition against faith schools: 3191

We do have a problem, don't we? There are umpteen different anti-faith schools petitions so the message is getting a bit diluted.

Incidentally, many of the e-petitions are no longer accepting 'signatures' but there are still some live ones.

Religion - an activity for consenting adults in private.
[Major edit for accuracy - sorry.]

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 07:55:00 UTC | #62372

flashbaby's Avatar Comment 18 by flashbaby

I went to school in the west coast of Scotland and the non catholic schools were effectively protestant schools. I only met anyone who was clearly neither protestant nor catholic when a family of ugandan asians appeared in my final year at school.

There was one celtic supporter who was regularrly beaten up though as I recall not for supporting celtic but for coming from a mixed family ie catholic mother and protestant father even though he was raised a protestant it did not save him. He was the only "catholic" I knew of at the school.

As a Partick Thistle supporter I was merely pitied.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 08:06:00 UTC | #62373

Student Grant's Avatar Comment 19 by Student Grant


Comment #65743 by xurble

Mixed race schools clearly haven't solved racism, as it is rooted in much more than education alone. There is no single 'silver bullet' which can eradicate it. But imagine if there were such a thing as 'white-only' or 'black-only' or 'asian-only' schools. Remind you of anywhere? The glorious apartheid Republic of South Africa? 1960s Bible Belt USA? How racist were those societies?
Now transfer that perverted ideology to religion - 'protestant-only'/'catholic-only' schools. That form of religious apartheid exists in Northern Ireland and is on the march in Britain. It is not a case of overstating the benefits of integrated secular education, it is only one (admittedly major) part of eradicating religious bigotry.
The point is that it is almost impossible to overstate the harm that segregation (whether racial or religious) does to society.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 08:13:00 UTC | #62374

willbonds's Avatar Comment 20 by willbonds

It's important to remember that institutional education is not education at all, but merely "schooling" in order to produce compliant consumers.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 09:26:00 UTC | #62383

kaiserkriss's Avatar Comment 21 by kaiserkriss

Comment 19 by Student Grant: I totally agree with you. By society concentrating on what makes us different from one another, be it religion, ethnic background etc., rather than building on the things we have in common, we (the collective we) are propagating all sorts of bigotry, and currently reaping the rewards of these policies.

As an aside, I always thought (catholic) primate referred to the biological "order" to which our "genera" belonged.

Just like the church to butt in. Can't they just leave it at Archbishop, or do they a separate biological classification?? (just kidding)jcw

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 09:56:00 UTC | #62386

Yorker's Avatar Comment 22 by Yorker

14. Comment #65741 by monkey2

Wow! I never thought my simple sentence would have that effect, I must do it more often. :)

But seriously, I heartily applaud your action.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 10:11:00 UTC | #62388

Yorker's Avatar Comment 23 by Yorker

20. Comment #65756 by willbonds

Aha, a man after my own political heart, I wouldn't put it as strongly as you but there's truth in what you say.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 10:18:00 UTC | #62389

Yorker's Avatar Comment 24 by Yorker

As usual, the simplest arguments are best. Since 2+2=4 no matter what imaginary being one does or does not worship, there is clearly no need for religion in schools. No matter what facile bullshit politicians spout there is no way to deny that, whatever argument they make must therefore have nothing to do with education.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 13:53:00 UTC | #62412

Yorker's Avatar Comment 25 by Yorker

19. Comment #65746 by Student Grant

"The point is that it is almost impossible to overstate the harm that segregation (whether racial or religious) does to society."

Indeed. But it's much worse, segregation is built-in to every aspect of our lives, we're segregated by job status, class, background, financial means, nationality and even by regional accent as well as religion and race. We need to rid ourselves of all forms of segregation if humanity hopes to have a long-term future.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 14:10:00 UTC | #62414

brian thomson's Avatar Comment 26 by brian thomson

That Bovril joke was told by Billy Connolly - I remember it well, and guess what? It's on YouTube

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 14:12:00 UTC | #62415

scottishgeologist's Avatar Comment 27 by scottishgeologist

Sterreoroid, re comment 65789, did you ever see "Just another Saturday" - a play about sectarianism in west Scotland - Billy Connolly plays a big part in it - powerful, telling stuff.

I think a lot of the bigotry has subsided in Scotland now, prob a result of secularisation - the churches simply dont have the control they once had. I went to a tyical Scottish comprehensive school in the 70s - used to get the odd fight with "the papes" down the road but for the most part it was on the wane.

Mind you my mother still occasionally says thing like " my new neightbour, oh shes a catholic, but she's very nice!" Note the very telling use of the word "but"!

BTW, regarding faith schools, y'all might find this link interesting:

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 23:25:00 UTC | #62443

Corylus's Avatar Comment 28 by Corylus

Arrh SG!

You're a mean man ;-) That was not a face I needed to suddenly see when I was innocently munching on my morning muesli.

There are now oats on my pc screen and raisens in my hair...

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 23:34:00 UTC | #62445

pewkatchoo's Avatar Comment 29 by pewkatchoo

Yeeeuuuuccchhh! What an ugly sight.

But I guess it confirms what I thought of the wee flea. He is simply a shameless self-publicist.

This sort of thing really annoys me though. His views are reported as if he is some sort of expert instead of simply being a believer in fantasies. Hundreds if not thousands of people look up to this cretin! The whole religion scam disgusts me totally.

Mon, 27 Aug 2007 00:03:00 UTC | #62447

Veronique's Avatar Comment 30 by Veronique

At least the photo identifier called the Flea Mr. rather than Rev, although the body of the piece does.

Corylus wipe the screen off, have a shower:-). Notice that the Flea has no lines on his forehead – lack of life experience to my mind. No cogitation, no furrowing of the brow, no introspection. Bland acceptance defines him. SG, have more compassion than to thrust that article on Corylus while she's enjoying her breakfast!!:-).

The worry is that he's threatening to institute faith-based schools with taxpayers' funds. Join the gravy-train, Flea. That's right, turn all the little kiddies into little fleas. Go on, just do it!!

Seriously, I don't know how your taxes work in Scotland; can you mount a campaign to stop the Flea's proposed faith-schools being publicly funded? We may give him heaps here, how about the real world?

They are all parasites. Every last one of them. AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH.

Pewkatchoo God bothering for dummies. Is there any other kind?

But he loves you!

Mon, 27 Aug 2007 00:53:00 UTC | #62453