By Malachi O’Doherty
The findings of the Mori poll into attitudes to Integrated Education are astonishing.The easy assumption about how Northern Ireland works is that most people prefer things as they are. Parents choose the schools to send their children to, and if their choice is sectarian, then the presumption must be that they are sectarian, that a priority in education is that children should be raised uncontaminated by the influence of the Other.
Yet now we learn that most people want integration and want state schools to be open to children of all faiths and none. Well, in that case, why do they not integrate themselves? Well, there are lots of practical reasons why a Catholic family will choose a Catholic school, and not all of them are to do with faith or fear. Usually it is the school nearest to them. It is not just schools that are divided, our towns and cities are.
No matter how much people want, in principle, to mix their children, they are hardly going to send them as isolated pioneers for change across peacelines to be vulnerable minorities and to take the kind of scrutiny and abuse that comes naturally to children. But while these wholly intelligible, practical obstacles to integration prevail, we can not level the charge of hypocrisy against those who say they want integration but do nothing about it.
The problems are huge.
What we can now say is that an Executive which fails to give people what they really want, a drive towards an integrated schooling system, in a shared society, is out of touch with its electorate.
Malachi O’Doherty is a journalist, author and the writer in residence at Queens University Belfast. He is also the editor of artstalk.net, thestreet.ie and blogstandard.org. Visit his personal blog @ www.malachiodoherty.com
Categories: Budget Cuts, Department of Education, Education, Election 2011, Integrated Education, NI Assembly, Northern Ireland Executive, religion, secular education
Tags: Education, integrated education, Northern Ireland