Misuse of the Ulster experience

29th July 2005 at 01:00
Hardly a week goes by without reading another badly-informed attack on church schools in The TES. The latest by AC Grayling (July 15) is in similar vein.

He may be a professor of philosophy, but his historical understanding is not up to much. Parroting the mantra "Northern Ireland" as a justification for church schools' abolition does not stand up to serious scrutiny.

I have been headteacher of a Roman Catholic school in Greater Manchester for 17 years. We have excellent relationships with all our neighbouring schools, and that extends to the personal relationships between the headteachers.

I have yet to witness, or indeed hear, of any form of "intercommunity tension" in any part of mainland Britain caused by the existence of church schools. The problems of Northern Ireland are not theological - historically, they have been and still are political, and primarily related to the future sovereignty of that part of Ireland. People of all faiths and none have, at various times in Irish history, been on both sides of that political divide. Ireland's often turbulent history long pre-dates the introduction of formal education.

Why Professor Grayling is so hung up over the Jesuits is a puzzle. The first and foremost educators of pupils are parents. They educate their children: not only explicitly in what they say, but also subliminally in how they behave and act. Atheist parents will be just as responsible for their children's formation and their value systems and beliefs as religious parents are.

Finally, as a professor of philosophy he should know that the great architect of the French Revolution, Voltaire, was educated by the Jesuits.

I am not sure the Jesuits are likely to have thought their efforts a great success.

Bob Ganley

37 Morningside Drive East Didsbury Manchester

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