Faith formation and religion in the curriculum

 

Sir, – The proposal, currently being considered by policymakers, to remove religion from the core curriculum of primary schools represents a progressive step for Irish education and an acknowledgment of the value of fact-based learning (“Religion may be off primary school core curriculum”, December 28th).

There is an inherent contradiction in an approach to teaching that equates any religious framework, or any set of non-religious unsubstantiated beliefs, with school subjects that are based upon centuries of scientific inquiry.

Such inquiry has been guided by the principles of making claims based upon empirical evidence, the rigorous interrogation of such claims, and the development of knowledge, based upon the discovery of new confirmable data. Religious education, as it is currently taught in most Irish primary schools, represents the final bulwark against this approach.

Undoubtedly, religious orders have played a pivotal role in educating Ireland’s children. However, the price of that education should never have been the perpetuation of a moral framework that is too often structured around tradition and ancient prejudices instead of human wellbeing.

As President Michael D Higgins recently suggested, equipping children with the tools of philosophical inquiry would empower them to act as responsible agents in an increasingly complex world where morality and truth have become highly contested.

Deprioritising religion on the Irish school curriculum would represent another important element of such a strategy. – Yours, etc,

JOHN HOGAN,

Ballyneety,

Co Limerick.

Sir, – The statistics provided by Paddy Monahan in his letter on faith formation in national schools are most revealing (December 27th).

When they are considered in conjunction with recently published figures for regular church attendance, they clearly indicate a very widespread element of cognitive dissonance among the parents of Irish school-going children.

However, his plea that “Government must change the law now to ensure equal school access for all children” is at best fanciful. Government will do nothing as it suffers from the same affliction as the general public. Nothing will change until parents demand that schools provide an education system that is in accord with what they really believe and practise in their daily lives. – Yours, etc,

LOUIS O’FLAHERTY,

Santry,

Dublin 9.

A chara, – Paddy Monahan claims that the fact that the overwhelming majority of parents are effectively opting in when it comes to their children attending faith formation classes in denominational schools should not be taken to indicate a “widespread satisfaction” with the system (“Just 1 per cent of students ‘opt out’ of religion classes in Catholic schools, says bishop”, News, December 19th).

However, I don’t see why this is such an unreasonable conclusion to draw. Mr Monahan does, of course, put forward various theories as to why we should not see the figures as meaning that people are happy; but these seem to be largely based on assertion, anecdote, and a generous amount of wishful thinking.

Until he has something more substantial to offer, I believe we have to accept that the facts to hand, based as they are on verifiable research, speak for themselves. – Is mise,

Rev PATRICK G BURKE,

Castlecomer,

Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – The myth that primary schools spend up to 2½ hours on “faith formation” each week is recycled over and over again in the media. This really is the canard that never stops quacking.

Because of the “integrated curriculum”, “faith formation” can and often does permeate the entire school day in primary schools, in the guise of what some disingenuously refer to as “religious education”.

This renders an opt-out from faith formation virtually impossible.

“Religious education” is, in the context of the Irish primary school system, an oxymoron. When a belief is taught as if it were true, this is the very definition of indoctrination. Genuine education invites inquiry, challenge, scrutiny and debate. Can this honestly be said of “faith formation”?

Faith formation is not education, but indoctrination. It aims to proselytise. How can this be squared with the goal of education? By that rationale, teaching creationism (as if it were true) is education, teaching climate change denial (as if it were true) is education, teaching communism (as if it were true) is education.

The integrated curriculum is one of the locks that together constitute the triple lock that religious institutions have over our primary school system, the other two being the virtual monopoly by religious institutions of the primary school system and the baptism barrier. A total of 96 per cent of primary schools are under the patronage of religious institutions, so there is no alternative to the integrated curriculum model across much of the country.

It has been well-documented that the lack of objectivity and neutrality in the integrated curriculum has resulted in the involuntary indoctrination of children in Irish publicly funded schools. Children and parents face a State-funded system where religiously dominated, but publicly funded schools, can discriminate against them in their admission policies on religious grounds and then indoctrinate children against their parents’ wishes when they are admitted. This set-up has been repeatedly criticised by one human rights organisation after the next.

Some “republic”.– Yours, etc,

ROB SADLIER,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 16.