Quite a bit of inaccurate information was posted in response to Bock’s original post on this subject. One commenter in particular – Joyce – posted a series of inaccurate statements and this is my response.
The “Rules” I quote are taken from “The Rules for National Schools” – which are (exactly as it says on the tin) the rules for national schools!
Non-Catholics during Religion class.
Parents who think it’s ok for their non-Catholic children to attend a Catholic school, because they won’t be doing religion there, should think again. Despite the fact that provision must be made for such pupils, this does not happen in reality.
Rule 69. (2) (a) states: “No pupil shall receive, or be present at any religious instruction of which his parents or guardian disapprove”.
Rule 69. (2) (b) states: “The periods of formal religious instruction shall be fixed so as to facilitate the withdrawal of pupils to whom paragraph (a) of this section applies”.
Despite these Rules, what actually happens is that the non-Catholic has to sit in the class, during religion class. They are always present, listening, absorbing. Also, Bishops in certain Dioceses insist that teachers must teach religion at 12 noon – slap bang in the middle of the day – not at all what was meant in Rule 69 (2) (b). Priests often call in to the school at noon, to check that teachers are teaching religion – not all schools, but a great many, especially if the school is within easy access of the church / Parochial House. This is a quiet, roundabout but very effective way of ensuring that all children receive Catholic, religious instruction, whether their parents realise it or not, or whether they consent or not!
Bishops don’t run Schools
Bishops most certainly do run and control the vast majority of Irish National Schools, but they do it in a very clever way.
Bishops don’t run schools on a daily basis (no, they get their priests to do that, and report back to them).
Bishops don’t build schools (but they do own them – check the deeds and you’ll see the Bishop’s name). The State builds schools in Ireland (when they bother!). Sometimes there is a “local contribution” required. Long ago, the Patron (Bishop) had to pay a percentage towards the cost. They got around that by getting the local people to pay instead (this is when priests were asking for money for schools from the pulpit).
The older schools were built by the British, or with grants from the British.
Joyce asks (copied and pasted exactly from her post) – “If some Cathoic religious group has provided the school;buildings and grounds and a good environment for the school which has increased my choice between a religious school and a state school, then i am all for it. What I don’t understand is why so many state schools cant achieve the same high standards as some of the religious ( and they can be catholic or protestant ) schools. Maybe you can answer that for me?”
Certainly, Joyce. First of all, they have not provided the school, building, grounds or environment. When a school is built, a local farmer either donates it or sells it. The State pays. The Bishop grabs it and puts his name on the deeds. The State cannot “achieve the same high standards of the religious” because erm… these are actually State schools, Joyce, but the Bishops hold the power. The “religious schools” are the State schools in Ireland, Joyce. Crazy, isn’t it!
Joyce finds it amazing that the Catholic church own 98% of all national schools. She thinks, I think, that this means that they were built and funded by the Catholic church, but there were not. The British government set up our current national school system in 1831 (yes, it is the exact same system to this day). It was set up as a non-denominational system and religion had to be taught on Saturday or Sunday. (These rules are still law, but disregarded, as Bock told you). Someone from the locality had to apply for grant aid to set up a national school, and that was normally the local PP in the 1800s, because few other people could read or write. The British owned the schools though, not the church. All went quite well, until the Irish themselves took over and gave the Catholic church complete and free rein. Next time, you go for a spin, take a look at the dates on the national schools – a scary number of our schools still in operation today (because new ones are awaited!!! ha! ha!) were built by the British.
Bishops don’t pay the school bills (they send their own bill through CPSMA, and let the State pay all the bills). The Bishops even check the “books” when they come around on their “Parish visitations” and for Confirmations. The Bishops don’t pay the school insurance bill, but they nominate two insurance companies that schools must choose from!! Schools can only choose from these two – all Catholic schools!!!
Bishops don’t pay the teachers, but they do control them. No teacher can get a job in a Catholic primary school unless the Bishop of that Diocese personally sanctions that appointment. At every teacher interview, the Bishop has one nominee (usually the priest) plus someone chosen from the Diocesan list (compiled by the Bishop!), plus the principal of the school (whose job was sanctioned by the Bishop!). Any teacher in a Catholic school who is openly not a good Catholic, or openly gay – can be legally sacked for those reasons alone, and has no legal recourse. It has not happened yet, but the Bishop has that power. All in all, the Bishop has enormous power over teachers (and this power is devolved to the local priest, who is generally the Chairperson of the local school Board of Management).
Bishops don’t educate teachers. True, they don’t pay the costs, but they control the course! They insist that every teacher must have a qualification to teach Religion, so this is part of every teacher education programme in Ireland. No teacher will be employed in a Catholic school without that qualification! Teachers have to pretend to be good Catholics to get a reference from their local PP and to get a job!
Bishops don’t set the curriculum (except the religion curriculum). They also set the religion book list, print and sell the books (Veritas). That is a very nice earner every year. The Bishops don’t care too much about the rest of the Curriculum, they are concerned about one subject only.
Bishops don’t provide the Inspectors (except for religion). Bishops send out religion inspectors (Diocesan Advisors) to every Catholic school in Ireland, every, single year. They check to see if teachers are teaching religion. They check to see if children are using their Veritas workbooks. They write a report for the Bishop, which teachers never get to see. The State inspectors must give a copy of their report to the school. The Bishops’ inspectors do not. The Bishop also charges the school a fee, part of which supports the religion inspectors.
Other things thrown out there –
The “dumbing down” of standards:
I have been teaching for decades, and I do not agree that there is a dumbing down of standards at primary level. Look, we can’t have it every way! The rote learning, hours of homework and beatings of long ago produced reams of memorised texts and facts. The more child-friendly and child-centred education system that we now have in the Primary School is more conducive to personal learning and creative thinking. Do parents really want us to go back to the older methods? Learning absolutely still does take place to a high level, but it may not be as obvious as rolling out facts and figures. The onus is now on understanding, not rote.
The notion of inflated grades in Ireland emanated from Google and Microsoft – two American countries – the land of grade inflation? Irish grades are not inflated in Universities. I suspect that lower courses (lower than degree level) may suffer from grade inflation, but not in our top Universities. More students do achieve excellent grades now than heretofore, yes, but more students also fail and drop out of their courses.
The Tax Payer pays the teacher’s pension:
This is a lie, plain and simple. The INTO did some research on this in 2009, and teachers pensions are 100% self-financed i.e. the pension contributions that teachers make cover the pension of retired teachers 100%. Teachers pay 6.5% into their pensions plus a pension levy that has nothing to do with their pensions. It is a tax. It does not go towards their pension. Teachers have no choice, but to pay into this pension scheme. What happens to it? Does the Government invest it wisely in a pension fund? No! They use it for day-to-day expenditure! When teachers retire, after 40 years of paying into this scheme, there may not be any money there for them, so let’s cut the crap and look at reality right in the eye! Teachers pay their own pensions – for 40 years – and it mightn’t even be there in the end! Others, however, who never paid in to a pension scheme can claim a state non-contributory pension – a day-to-day expenditure funded by guess who?
The teaching unions have more power to influence primary schools than Bishops do:
I had to actually laugh at this one! The Unions have no control over schools. Yes, they can negotiate. Yes, they can call teachers out on strike – or can they? If that was the case, teachers could be on strike every day, there are so many issues! Also, teachers are a conservative lot, and they do not take kindly to strike action. There have been three strikes since the INTO was founded in the 1800s – 1946, early 1980s and 2010.
Joyce tells us as a fact that “The teaching unions have ultimate control of what catholic Bishops can and cannot do – anybody who does not understand that is incredibly naive”. Guess who is naive, Joyce? The unions bow and scrape to the Bishops, I’m afraid! The teacher unions are largely made up of serving teachers (the officers at branch and district, plus the Executive). If you are a serving teacher, you have to watch your job! The Bishop is your boss, and you do not cross him. If the teacher unions were free entities, they would not stand for one tenth of what they let pass (as Bock rightly said in relation to Eileen Flynn).
Dail Eireann controls our schools:
That should be true, but for all of the above reasons, it is not. Many of our TDs still seem to be afraid of the Bishops’ power also.
Our political representatives do have the legislative powers to change the law to reflect whatever changes they think the electorate want, yes.
Does the electorate want to get the Bishops out of our schools though?
I think they would, but they think, like Joyce, that the Bishops have no power anymore in 2010.
Totally, totally wrong.