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Educate Together Blog

Educate Together Blog

Ethics, not ethos

Joseph Greene, Parent and Educate Together Campaigner
Joseph Greene, an American living and working in Ireland, writes on his experience of trying to enrol his child in a primary school.  Joseph is currently campaigning for an Educate Together national school in Goatstown / Stillorgan.
We got a refusal letter from another school today. I tell myself, 'you knew we'd have never gotten a place there', but it hurts every time. Sick in my stomach, angry with a system I can't change. It's not just the inconvenience of not knowing where my child will go to school next year, it's the pain of rejection and the outrageous unfairness of it that no one else seems to see.
We did what everyone does and applied to all of the local schools, and many not-so-local. None of the local schools have a 'place' for us, but they have places for the children of people who live far away, because they are Christians and once went to this school, a generation ago. The school has to provide for those of its ethos ahead of those of a different ethos, and the law protects that right.
A couple of generations ago, the place where I grew up wasn't so different. We had laws that let schools 'protect' themselves too. The ethos then was that we should keep some people separate from our people. Equal facilities of course, just keep them out of sight, out of our awareness. But separate is never equal, is it? They kept turning up, demanding equality, and refusing to change the colour of their skin, just like we refuse to baptise our child.
Racism may persist in the US South, but at least we had the courage to be rid of our Jim Crow laws. That was a tumultuous and painful time, and it's the same kind of pain I feel when the State-funded school tells me my child may not attend, based on religious grounds. A picture of the Arkansas national guard turning children away from school comes to mind for me every time I think about it.
The law is the way it is because an ethos-based school is there to serve members of its community. The law protects that right because the law once discriminated against the practice of the people's chosen religion. That religion now dominates in this strangely ethos-based school system. What harm would allowing all children an equal chance of attending their local school cause? What has the 95% to fear from such a small minority? I have an inkling: maybe if baptism weren't a requirement, more people would be honest and not baptise?
And what kind of ethos is it that says that some children should be treated as less desirable than others, even when they are a tiny minority? What ethos says that power should be maintained through forced dishonesty? What ethos makes people lie, lie about their religion, the very thing that tells us not to lie? The oppressed becomes the oppressor.
'We'll give you a place if you give us your baptismal cert'. This is not a embellishment, it says precisely that on the application forms. Trading something temporal for something spiritual: the sin of Simon Magus. This is no ethos for me. That's why, even if they did offer us a place (even without a €250 non-refundable 'booking' fee), I would refuse. I want my child to have equal access to schools, but I want far more for him to be in a system that has a sense of ethics rather than one with a pretence of an ethos.
State-funded schools should never be allowed to discriminate against young children. Read Educate Together's priorities here.
Address: Educate Together, Equity House, 16/17 Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin 7, Ireland - Charity Number: CHY 11816