segunda-feira, 21 de maio de 2007

Nick Cohen: «Stop this drift into educational apartheid»

A bus ride through Belfast should convince doubters that the Good Friday Agreement created partition and called it peace. The walls that went up to separate Catholics from Protestants in the Seventies have not been torn down. There are more of them now than ever. Catholics travel for miles to avoid a Protestant leisure centre and Protestants go out of their way to avoid a Catholic newsagent.
Limiting sectarian education was a noble aspiration of the Good Friday Agreement. Even Sinn Fein politicians said they supported it. Politicians appeared to recognise that the integrated schools movement has provided one of the few solid grounds for optimism. Run by parents who were determined not to start segregating toddlers, it was creating schools that were not merely non-sectarian, but anti-sectarian.
For all the praise given to them, just 5 per cent of Northern Ireland's pupils attend integrated schools today.

Now ought to be the time to merge Catholic and Protestant schools. Unfortunately, it is yet again showing itself to be the land of missed opportunities. The Northern Ireland Office rejected plans for new integrated schools, which might offend vested clerical interests, and the chance of a better future is again being wasted. Readers in the rest of Britain may not care because mainstream opinion long ago gave up on all sides in the province. Yet it is a mistake to ignore them. Phenomena that begin in Northern Ireland have an alarming habit of going mainstream. Mass surveillance, armed police officers and the random slaughter of civilians by psychotic fanatics crossed the Irish Sea and segregated schools are on their way. Two policies of the Blair years encourage them: parental choice and the expansion of faith schools. Choice is currently the more damaging. Although there are no national studies of segregation by colour and creed, there are figures from the tense Lancashire mill towns. In Blackburn, 22 per cent of the population is from ethnic minorities, but 90 per cent of their children go to almost exclusively Asian schools. Elsewhere, we have informed guesses, Trevor Phillips's warning that we are 'sleepwalking' towards a segregated society being high among them, and anecdotal evidence.
In the name of 'respecting' faith and 'celebrating' difference, we are moving to a liberal version of educational apartheid.»
(Nick Cohen no The Guardian; ler na íntegra.)

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