Schools, faith and morals


Sir, – It is the view of Patsy McGarry that many of the ills of society are attributable to the abject failure of church-run schools in instilling Christian values in our population (“Ireland has paid dearly for failure of church schools”, Rite & Reason, November 7th).

Your correspondent questions whether the madness of the Celtic Tiger, the recklessness of developers and bankers in collapsing our economy, the many lengthy bank-related tribunals, the need for the troika bailout of September 2008 and the rising homelessness problem would ever have occurred if religious-run schools had been successful in doing what they still claim to do.

To conflate such societal failure with school ineffectiveness is at odds with the findings of a vast corpus of research available in educational literature.

The effectiveness of school in achieving all of its aims, including the transmission of values, is severely limited by many outside influences.

The proportion of a child’s waking life from birth to 16 spent in school is less than 15 per cent.

Much learning for good or ill thus takes place outside school. This is unavoidable, remorseless, often random, sometimes deliberate and beneficial on the part of parents, but often negative and destructive.

This is particularly true since the advent of the internet and social media.

It is a fallacy to equate schooling with education, which is much more than institutional provision.

The family, and parents in particular, most powerfully determine a child’s educational outcome.

Parents are children’s primary educators. Moreover, they provide influences and attitudes which crucially determine the effectiveness of teachers in schools, a fact recognised in education Acts and the Constitution.

Schools are not the cause of the mistakes of recent decades.

On the contrary, through the work of teachers, they serve as a bulwark to mitigate the most negative and destructive outside influences over which they have no control. – Yours etc,



Co Mayo.