Jude Collins

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Education and Israel

It sounds a bit like something from Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, but Queen’s University’s Tony Gallagher has been in Israel to discuss shared education. The idea is that as shared (not to be confused with integrated?) education helps bring people together here, it could equally work in the Middle East. 

I’ve got mixed feelings on this one, but the pros and the cons aren’t mixed in equal proportions. A small pro part of me says that when you get to know people, you’re more sympathetic to them even if you still reject their politics. To that extent, people who make up their minds about the worth of political thinking on the basis of how much they like someone as an individual - they’d probably be helped by shared/integrated education.

On the other hand a large con part of me says that if shared/integrated education made a difference, we’d have a changed society by now. We don’t. In fact, divisions and hatreds are deeper than ever. 

When I was part of the working world of education, I watched as some people built successful careers out of a search for peace within the educational process. Cynically or naively, they argued that education had a major part to play in resolving the conflict.  It’s true that it didn’t make it worse - visiting Catholic and Protestant schools on a regular basis and sitting in on classes, I never once heard a teacher so much as hint at sectarianism. The reverse, if anything. So I suppose education at least didn’t add to the flames. And of course no less a person than Padraig Pearse believed passionately in the worth of education: his book The Murder Machine  is well worth reading still for its criticisms of what we accept as ‘good’ education.

But clearly Pearse didn’t believe education would change the Ireland in which he lived, otherwise he wouldn’t have gone out in Easter Week to meet his death.  Education is a vital part of any society, but it’s impotent in terms of who governs and who controls. Good teachers, by and large, are seen as those who follow the rules. And part of the rules over the past forty years has been that education could change things here, because the problem is really a sectarian one and not a political one. Change the way we regard each other and political structures become irrelevant.

Gallagher on his Tel Aviv visit says he can’t understand why Hamas keeps firing missiles, since this only shows their impotence compared to the Israeli army and brings destruction on the people of Gaza. Maybe they do it, Tony, because they believe that the imprisoned people of the Gaza Strip, treated with contempt for decades, want to make some gesture of defiance, as the bully that is Israel beats them to the ground and starts kicking. 


  1. Jude
    "if shared/integrated education made a difference, we’d have a changed society by now."
    The fact is, as you well know, that the integrated sector provides only a small proportion of schools here, maybe 5-10 percent.
    So of course it is not going to change our society at that level.
    Also, the fact that teachers did not make sectarian remarks while you were present is hardly proof of anything.
    The notion that keeping children separate from the 'other' is doing no harm is frankly bizarre.

    1. Giodb: 'At that level' - what does that mean? If there was evidence that integrated schooling really changed those attending, don't you think it'd have been trumpeted from the school roof-tops? Evidence, not claims.
      Yes, the fact that teachers didn't make sectarian remarks in my presence does prove something: that they didn't use sectarian remarks in my presence. And I was present again and again and again and again. And again.
      Bizarre,eh? Lots of people think it does a lot of harm. Is that non-bizarre then? And if so, where's the evidence?

  2. Gallagher should read his Old Testament if he's not too much of a philistine. The Gazans of Gath are just out to avenge their local hero Goliath's untimely end at the hand of the boy David. A sling and five round stones from a brook should be enough. The first one might do the job. And they don't like you calling them philistines.

  3. Jude
    Thanks for the reply.
    My 'at that level' remark simply meant that the number of integrated schools is too low to expect to see or measure a resulting change in society. How could 5 percent integrated schooling make a significant difference?
    I don't know what role you played in your visits to schools, but any teacher would be very aware of an outsider sitting in on their class, so the absence of sectarian remarks proves nothing except awareness of your presence.
    I feel we may be going over old ground here,but would you be in favour of educating boys and girls separately?
    Why not separate all the gay kids and teach them on their own?
    What is the harm you are afraid of?

  4. Jude
    As you asked for evidence you might find this study of interest;

  5. This is fucking moronic. You're actually saying that because teachers don't make sectarian comments (ie indoctrinate sectarianism) that separate education does nothing to support sectarianism. Ever heard of an opportunity cost Jude? Standing by doing nothing (as in separately educating kids already separately housed and separately churched) is reinforcement when the alternative is so simple and so obvious. It amazes me that someone who pretends to be progressive and who has experience of the US (and especially New England) wouldn't have an opinion about bussing. Maybe you think separating races is a cool idea as well?

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