Opening up the Catholic school;Opinion

10th September 1999 at 01:00
DEBATE engendered by the composer James MacMillan showed wildly differing notions of the level of anti-Catholic prejudice in Scotland. That it exists is undeniable. Also undeniable is the supposition that it would be less if there were no Catholic schools, no Celtic (and Rangers) and none of the baggage of history.

But we have to take society as we find it and make the best of things. Which is why the remarks (page six) by Bart McGettrick, dean of the education faculty at Glasgow University and custodian of Catholic teacher training, are so significant. He yields to no one in support of denominational education and the character of Catholic schools, but he told the heads of Catholic primaries that they can no longer shelter from the rest of the state education system. In other words, there has to be give and take: if society accepts denominational schools, as for the foreseeable future it must, then for their part Catholic educators must encourage understanding and partnerships beyond their doors.

That way bigotry, which feeds off the culture of the ghetto, will be challenged. Despite occasional setbacks Scotland is a more religiously tolerant country than ever before. The history of the twenties and thirties shows astonishing overt prejudice now unthinkable.

Joseph Kelly, a Catholic primary head, in his valedictory column on the opposite page, states that crises within the Catholic community should finally have removed any temptation to self-satisfaction or triumphalism. Like Professor McGettrick he wants co-operation with co-workers elsewhere in the system. Even campaigners against denominational schools must recognise the need to encourage such indications of openness and desire for partnerships.

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