Sunday, June 11, 2006


In the latest and arguably most powerful symbol yet of how dramatically modern Irish society is changing, the Christian Brothers are withdrawing from direct involvement in a network of primary and secondary schools that once formed the backbone of the country. Arrangements to hand over 29 primary and 109 secondary schools to a charity staffed entirely by lay people are being finalised. When pupils return in September the transformation will be complete.

The news has prompted memories - many bitter, but some more generous - from alumni. Nearly all of them focussed on the violence that accompanied their muscular brand of Catholic discipline. In 1998 the Brothers took out half-page newspaper advertisements to apologise for sexual and other abuse inflicted in their institutions. A year later Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister, issued a fuller apology on behalf of the government to the victims. "Too many of our children were denied love, care and security," he said. "Abuse ruined their childhoods and has been an ever-present part of their adult lives . . . we must do all we can now to overcome the lasting effects of their ordeals."

A redress board to offer financial compensation to the victims was set up and a commission to investigate the claims established; it is still hearing evidence. One victims' group has 1,500 members in Britain alone. But it is the dramatic decline in religious vocations that has forced the Brothers to take this decision to abandon their prime education role. Brother John Heneghan, a spokesman, said that while they would continue to be owned by them "the Brothers won't have direct responsibility for the schools any more . . . the orientation is towards it being it a lay-operated entity".

As a Pontifical organisation, Brother Heneghan said, they would be asking the Vatican to approve the new structure and with Ireland fast become a secular society, the Pope's consent is a foregone conclusion.

Pat Kenny, Ireland's foremost radio and television broadcaster, said that he had received a superb education from the Brothers but their corporal punishment was excessive. "You could get three on each hand simply for being the last to move from A to B and someone had to be last. "It was, in the odd case, gratuitous cruelty. I've always felt the formation of the Christian Brothers was deeply flawed. We were subjected to recruitment drives in the classroom at the age of 12. We all knew in our bones that this was wrong."

John Banville, the author and winner of the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sea, attended a Christian Brothers primary school in Wexford. He said: "Speaking for myself I had an absolutely fine education. I didn't have any abuse at all, I did appreciate that they were providing free education to a country that was extremely poor at the time in the 1950s and 60s. So it is with a certain regret that I see them disappearing from the scene."

But Malachy O'Doherty, author of I was a teenage Catholic, recalled schooling with the Brothers in Belfast as an unhappy, dark time. "They brought to West Belfast a sense of a very conservative, miserable, male, rural world. "The boys' talk was constantly of, `What mood will HE be in today?' so it was understood by us that they were moody, unhappy people bringing the grief of their own stunted lives into our world."

Gay Byrne, retired host of television's The Late Late Show, said: "One went to school most days firmly convinced that you were going to get physically beaten at some stage during the day for some reason or another. "But people of my class and background wouldn't have received an education of any kind were it not for the Christian Brothers at that time."

But Brother Heneghan said that he believed history would judge their work more kindly. "Unfortunately the tendency has been to pick on the negative but I think that when history looks at the overall story of the building of the Irish nation and the emergence of the leaders of this country of ours it will be very positive."



Surprise! Would any teacher with options want to stand up every day in front of an undisciplinable rabble? Another case of unintended consequences: Protecting children from effective discipline destroys the education of the poor

One in five teachers of core subjects like math, science and English in poor public middle and high schools across the state lack sufficient training in the field they teach, according to a study released yesterday. By contrast, just 3 percent of teachers of those subjects in wealthy schools are not qualified. The disparity in New York reflects what Education Trust, the nonprofit that conducted the study, claims is a nationwide trend in which poor and minority students are shortchanged when it comes to quality teachers.

The study also mirrors the findings of a Post analysis of city schools last year that found the most experienced teachers gravitate toward schools with affluent student bodies. "We take the kids who enter school with less and give them teachers who have less - less education and less skills," said Kati Haycock, director of Education Trust, which used data provided by states for the study.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, states must show that 100 percent of their teachers are "highly qualified" in the subjects they teach by June 30 - a deadline federal education officials have already said will not be met by any state. To earn the "highly qualified" label, teachers in New York must be certified to teach and have completed a college major or coursework or state exam in their subject areas.

Michael Rebell, director for the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University's Teachers College, said the situation was even more dire than the study suggested because the "highly qualified" designation was misleading. "It basically means they meet state certification requirements. They're minimally qualified," Rebell said. "I'm all for getting certified teachers, but it is by no means going to get us the dramatic breakthrough that the [law] would expect us to get."

The state next month will present its plan to shore up the number of qualified teachers to the federal government, which includes encouraging districts to start their own incentive programs for luring quality educators. According to the state, one in 10 public-school teachers in the city is not qualified in his core subject. Sixteen percent of science teachers in the city, 9 percent of math teachers and 12 percent of English teachers have not met all the state standards. A whopping 32 percent of art teachers are not qualified.

The city recently launched two major initiatives to attract quality teachers - offering housing subsidies and creating a "master teacher" position in which experienced educators can earn an extra $10,000 to mentor younger teachers in tough schools. Last year, the city claimed to have fired more than 1,200 teachers who were not on track to become "highly qualified."



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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