Faith formation and religion in the curriculum
Sir, – Any assertion that the very low numbers of people opting out of faith formation in Irish primary schools is evidence of contentment in the present system is incorrect, if not unfounded.
I myself am likely included in that 99 per cent of students who failed to opt out of religious education in primary school, although I would be immensely displeased if that was registered as evidence of my approval of the present system of patronage. I found myself participating in religious classes in school despite having no particularly religious influence from my family simply because it was more convenient to do so. The system rewards the faithful with convenience, and so to avoid letters to teachers, 2½ hours per week of twiddling thumbs and being excluded from the activities that dominate class time in the periods leading up to the sacraments, my parents did not opt out on my behalf.
Failing to opt out is quite simply not “effectively opting in”, in the sense that religious education is presented as the default option, requiring little by way of pious zeal to attract students and parents. It is through no acceptance of the prospect of ubiquitous religious patronage of schools that I failed to conscientiously object to religious instruction. In fact, having become a confirmed Catholic simply because it was presented to me, while a young child, as a matter if course, I find myself immensely discontented with the religious character of the primary school curriculum.
When a system attaches incentives to adherence to a particular religion, individuals will, contentedly or otherwise, play along with that religion, whether they are committed to such a belief system or not. – Yours, etc,