Rule 68. Revising Ancient Guidelines for Primary Schools

Removing obsolete regulations

The news today is full of education minister, Jan O’Sullivan’s decision to revise the rules for national schools, especially Rule 68, issued in 1964 under the minister of the day, Dr Patrick Hillery.

Rules for National Schools

Reading them now, they come across as utterly bizarre, a remnant from an Ireland that no longer exists, some strange, authoritarian, religious-dominated, backward-looking, sexist, introverted anomaly of a country, much like a Catholic version of the Islamic State after the fighting had settled down.  And yet there are elements of the rules that reveal a quiet revolution taking place, a gentle rolling back of clerical power beneath all the religious huffing and puffing that the document is prone to.

Radio and television have their demands.  They need to come up with the soundbite, unfortunately, just as the printed media do in their own way, which is why it’s understandable that they latched on to the absurd Rule 68.

Let me quote Rule 68 for you.

Of all parts of a school curriculum Religious Instruction is by far the most important, as its subject matter, God’s honour and service, includes the proper use of all man’s faculties, and affords the most powerful inducements to their proper use. Religious Instruction is, therefore, a fundamental part of the school course, and a religious spirit should inform and vivify the whole work of the school.

Of course, the technical term for this sort of thing is Bollocks and what a shame that it should still survive a full 50 years after it was first pushed out by the Department of Education on behalf of the minister, Paddy Hillery.  In the modern world it stands up to no scrutiny whatever and can instantly be demolished by  reductio ad absurdum.

Since a child of non-believers does not receive a religious instruction, that child has been deprived of the most important part of the school curriculum and also deprived of a fundamental part of the school course.  It therefore follows that the parents of that child have been negligent.

Now, what ideologue would like to knock on anyone’s  door and accuse them of being  a negligent parent for withdrawing their children from religion classes?

Context is everything, and 1964 was a time when governments still struggled under the gimlet eye of the appalling John Charles McQuaid and his episcopal fellow-abusers, and therefore the inclusion of Rule 68 doesn’t surprise me.  What does surprise me is that successive governments, throughout the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s and the zeroes allowed this miserable piece of clerical arse-licking to remain in existence.

Despite all that, however, Rule 69 brings a few surprises.  True, it does acknowledge that men are superior to women, as do many other rules, sadly.

69 (1) The religious denomination of each pupil must be entered in the school register and roll-book.  This information should be ascertained from the parent (the father if possible) or the guardian of the pupil where necessary.

Now, observe that wording.  Ignore the institutionalised sexism of the Irish state in 1964 and note that the pupil’s religious denomination should be recorded.  Here you have a clear demonstration that there are in fact no religiously-controlled National schools in Ireland, despite what the church authorities and some civil servants would have you believe.  The Irish primary school system was set up in 1831 (by the English, God forbid!)  to be entirely multi-denominational and it’s only by an ad-hoc sleight of hand that they came to be otherwise, controlled by parish priest or rector as the case may be.

But let us go on.  What else does Rule 69 say?

2 (a) No pupil shall receive, or be present at, any religious instruction of which his parents or guardian disapprove.

That’s pretty radical, wouldn’t you agree?  Not only radical, but ignored wholesale for the last 50 years by rabidly religious school principals walking all over the rules with hobnailed boots.

Your kids have a right to a secular education if you desire it.  It’s that simple, and yet, this right has been resisted by every priest, bishop and screechy self-appointed parent-mullah since the foundation of the State.

Paddy Hillery, ironically, was actually a reforming education minister who ended the class barriers in education, who gave every student access to State exams, who set up comprehensive schools and regional technical colleges, and who laid the basis for Donough O’Malley’s impetuous announcement of free secondary education for all.  If politics is the art of the possible, perhaps he calculated that these things were only possible provided he paid lip service to the religious extremists of his time.

But that time is gone and now it’s time to say goodbye to such nonsense.

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20 thoughts on “Rule 68. Revising Ancient Guidelines for Primary Schools

  1. I said it before, when The Republic of Ireland/Eire/Irish Free State was born, the then Government and concurring Governments had a new toy and didn’t know what to do with it, it was called a “country”…
    So auld De Velara & co… handed over the state keys of the schools/hospitals & part of the Social protection to the church.. i.e The Catholic church,, it was their way or their way… fuck the rest of you… what ever your beliefs are.. for the tiny amount of other religions in this country & those of them afraid to admit what religion they had or didn’t have….. felf compound to be Educated, and if they needed hospital treatment or help from the social services… you were met by a priest/nun/christian brother in schools, you were met by a Nun (sister) in the hospitals… and then you were fucked altogether by the social services as you were met again in deciding a young persons future… if not by a staunch civil servant…..
    So Jan O’Sullivan, would want to get a move on and totally delete all that Rule 69…..

    There’s my fume,rant & rage out of the way for the day…. :-)

  2. I read an New York Police document once which gave the 10 steps in rearing a criminal from childhood. I remember step 8: Deny the child any form of religious education and bring him up in the belief that there is no God and no one to account to for now or after.

    I have been in many countries and Catholic education overseas is often valued as of superior quality. Many non-Catholics send their children there as schools must agree to accept a proportion of outsiders to qualify for Government grants but Catholic schools everywhere must offer the assurance of a Catholic education for every Catholic child.

  3. The complete collapse of the mainstream church and the emergence of independent evangelical churches not dependent on schools or on the state or on institutional indoctrination shows the system did not even serve the church well

  4. Indeed, there has been a small steady drift towards the evangelicals among lapsed Catholics in suburban Leinster. Having left one strongly moralistic set of values they opt for a different, biblical variety with cut and dry rules.

    Just remember, if such parents in the future lose confidence in the moral qualities of Irish schools they may opt for the constitutional right to withold offspring from institutions and take the homeschooling route. That’s what has happened in the USA, where evangelical and some Catholic parents fuel a growing homeschooling industry.

  5. The future secularisation of Irish schools could pose a problem for many parents; in the same way that the removal from public Elementary and High schools of the teaching of moral values based on Judic and Christian traditions has disaffected growing numbers of American parents. They have opted to bypass the public schools and homeschool their children. Trends in America often make their way to western Europe.

    It is interesting that in Ireland many Catholic parents disaffected by the child abuse, Magdalene laundry and industrial school brutality revelations are not leaving the Catholic church and turning toward the Anglican and Methodist mainstream. They have been turning instead towards evangelical groups that take their biblical morality more from Baptist- and Presbyterian-influenced teachings. Is Ian happy with this trend?

  6. Because Ian mentioned the fact of Irish ex-Catholics defecting to independent evangelical churches.

  7. Ian is of a Seventeenth Century Leveller frame of mind and believes that church-state linkage simply leads to a corruption of both and to a faith that is no more than nominal.

    Would anyone seriously claim that the pervasive influence of the Hierarchy in the 1950s made Ireland a country that had anything to do with the faith proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth in the Sermon on the Mount?

  8. Bock,

    What you are trying to impose is a completely atheistic education on this country be it homeschooling or otherwise.

    Now, if the educational system drifted out of the mainstream of the Catholic sphere and over to the Evangelicals as others have mentioned, would you be happy at that?

  9. iap337,

    The Roman Catholic Church had unchallenged control of the education system and what has that done for it? Left it moribund.

    Church and state should be separate and people calling themselves Christian should have the confidence to allow their faith to stand on its own feet and not be propped up by attempts to inculcate beliefs among people who are not interested. Trying to maintain the present system only fosters a culture of nominalism within the church and deepens a justified sense of resentment among those tired of public money being used to impose a particular creed.

    Of course, the notion of Ireland being a “Catholic country” would be gone, but what did that mean, anyway? The church would be liberated and able to focus on the things that were priorities in the early centuries and would rid itself of the yoke of secular responsibilities.

  10. Ah stop all this talk of the church not being involved in our schools..
    Singing Ave Maria with the demented nuns over and over till we got it right, was great crack really. X factor wouldn’t get a look in shur.
    What about the first confession for your first holy communion, and making up your sins, because you didn’t know what sinning was? ‘Forgive me father, for I have sinned, these are my sins – I stole, I lied, I did bad things.’ Getting decades of the rosary as penance.
    Endless recital of Our Father, Hail Mary, full of grace, get me out of here.
    Your confirmation and taking the pledge.
    What would we do without all of that?
    Spend time on maths and science? Go wayourda

  11. Trainee primary schoolteachers get far more lecture hours on religion than on science. Four times as many, in fact. That in itself will tell you how dysfunctional our education system is.

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