Friday, July 18, 2014
Inclusive But Exclusive
For Irish schoolchildren, that has come to be a problem in the eyes of the United Nations.
Most of the schools are under the control of various religious organizations. The Christian Brothers still operate under the guidelines established by Edmund Rice. The Sisters of Mercy are instructing children just as they were instructing children one hundred years ago. Parishes have their schools that are tied to the parish and so heavily influenced by the local priest. Parents send their offspring to the same schools that they attended, and never consider the religious angle.
Not so the United Nations.
Immigration and the influx of foreign workers in the employ of the large multinational corporations that call Ireland home are using the schools for their children as well, and all it takes is one disgruntled parent to complain and the UN is on it. Not all these newcomers are Catholic, of course, and they didn't attend Catholic schools and they can't send their children to the same sort of school that they attended because those are not easily found in Ireland.
To begin with, the average Irish classroom has a crucifix displayed on the wall, and in a prominent location. If your child isn't Catholic, you might fear that the symbol would be enough to instill an urge to convert, to be like all the other kids in the room. Or maybe you just don't like the sense that your precious baby is made to feel different because the cross isn't part of your personal faith, or lack thereof.
Then there is the time alloted for religious instruction. Part of attending Catholic school is learning how to be a Catholic, but if you are a follower of Islam or any Protestant faith, that won't sit well.
So the UN has heard the complaints and is strongly urging Ireland to be more "inclusive" of others in their schools. And the Minister for Education has compiled a report with numerous suggestions on how best to achieve that.
Let those who wish to opt out of religion classes do so. That way, the child can be stared at as he or she leaves the room while everyone else gets to stay. Single out the non-Catholics by making them stand out from the crowd, and won't your child thank you. Grant them a bit of exclusivity in the name of inclusivity, and don't wonder why your son or daughter hates you for it.
And about those religion classes. Instead of daily instruction, make it once or twice a week. And then say that the kids being pulled out of the classroom are heading off for special education. You know, make it look like they need extra help. Learning disabled, that's always a safe label that won't harm the child's psyche when friends ask why the kid is getting hauled out while everyone else stays for lessons.
The crucifix will stay. Minister Ruairi Quinn wouldn't dare suggest otherwise. Practicing Catholic or not, the average Irish voter doesn't want outsiders coming in and changing things that have always been there because the newcomers want to inject their customs into Irish culture. But if some other religion has some symbol that is used for festivals or such, let the school set aside a little exhibit area so the non-Catholics can fee included. As long as other children don't make fun of the items, in which case a new set of instructions will have to be issued by the bureacracy.
We can't have this new inclusivity lead to further alienation. Just because children long to fit in doesn't mean that adults can allow that to happen.