I’m sure Mike Nesbitt isn’t drowning and I’m sure if he were, he would swim his way to safety, but at present he’s making wild lungeing movements that suggest a politically-drowning man. His latest grab is in the direction of the English curriculum here. In yesterday’s Irish Times he’s reported as calling for the withdrawal of a book that he hasn’t read.
The book in question is Bog Child and apparently Mike’s upset about the teaching notes that the CCEA have supplied to be used with it. The book is set in the 1980s and is the story of a teenager whose brother is on hunger strike and who finds a body in a bog. The teaching notes suggest children study the hunger strikes of the time, put themselves in the shoes of Bobby Sands, and respond to the writings of Sinn Féin’s publicity chief at the time, Danny Morrison, as factual writing. The notes also mention the shame some children might have felt that their fathers worked as prison warders.
“Do I not like that!” Mike says, or words to that effect. In fact, he dislikes it so much he’s called for action. “ This book and the related teaching guidance should be removed from the Northern Ireland curriculum immediately. Then an independent review of curriculum content must be instigated forthwith”.
The CCEA say that teachers don’t have to teach Bog Child if they don’t want to - it’s just a suggested text. The curriculum body also points out that matters such as the disappeared, Maggie Thatcher’s views on the hunger strikes and the thinking of Richard O’Rawe, whose views on the hunger strike are diametrically opposed to those of Danny Morrison, are part of the teaching notes.
But Mike’s too busy thrashing around to hear that. “Let me be clear, this is not an attack on the book” he says.