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State schools are class act: Obama's 'integration' talk is nonsense

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Stop wasting cash on the integrated education myth and pump the money into the well-run existing Catholic and State schools.

If I was a Yank, I'd be an avid Tea Party campaigner, but even I had to commend the well-composed Waterfront speech by President Barack Obama – until he went off the deep end on integrated schooling!

If integrated education was the solution to the Irish conflict, surely someone over the past 800 years of sectarian strife in Ireland would have thought of it by now?

But Obama has gone home, and life in Fermanagh has returned to normal – except all the swivel-eyed loons and trendy lefties under the sun will now be screaming about 'integrated schooling'.

We already have had an outstanding integrated education system operating successfully in our Northern universities and colleges of further education – affectionately still known locally as the 'Techs' – for over a century.

So why do we need to waste millions of taxpayers' hard-earned cash building new 'integrated' schools as if by the wave of this magic wand, all the bitterness and hatred will mysteriously disappear?

Waken up and smell the coffee! The reason many integrated schools are successful in the North is not because they bring Protestants and Catholics together – it's because they have very good teachers.

As an education journalist, I travelled the length and breadth of the North and found dozens and dozens of examples of terrific quality teaching and facilities in Catholic and State schools.

But it's time to face a reality check on the way forward. The key to 'integrating' our Protestant and Catholic young people in the classroom has been achieved by the 'Techs' and our magnificent universities. That's the model to follow.

The red tape body, the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, should be disbanded immediately.

Shoving Catholics and Protestants together in a single classroom is not the solution. The answers lie in who does the teaching, and what is taught, not where they are taught.

Faith is still important to many families in the North. There is the real danger that oddball secularists and militant atheists will hijack the 'integrated' education bandwagon to eradicate Christian teaching in our schools.

The Catholic Bishops need to put down their foot down hard and fight to retain the Maintained sector.

In State schools, Christian morning assembly and prayers form an inspirational start to the day.

Many 'Techs' and the universities have thriving Christian Unions. Stormont has plans to create a single education authority for the North.

That's fine, provided it does not mean that our existing Catholic and State schools will be left short of good teachers and physical resources.

What is needed is an integrated curriculum so that students can learn about their history and culture from their teachers.

Sectarianism can only be contained; the bitter medicine is that it will never be fully eradicated.

Is the legacy of Obama's G8 visit that we will have to listen to a bunch of self-appointed 'do-gooders' preaching to us on the merits of 'integrated' education?

These people need to remember the maxim – if it ain't broken, why fix it?

Leave the Catholic and State schools alone and let the teachers get on with what they do best – teaching, not healing the rifts of eight centuries! That's the politicians' job.

June 25, 2013
________________

This article appeared in the June 24, 2013 edition of the Irish Daily Star.

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