Tuesday 6 December 2016

First State curriculum on beliefs is a game-changer

Published 04/11/2015 | 02:30

Few can argue that a better understanding of other religions is not beneficial
Few can argue that a better understanding of other religions is not beneficial

Any renegotiation of boundaries between church and State is contentious. For the devout, trading a system that has served them well is tantamount to a surrender. For others, having to conform to something in which they do not believe is also unacceptable. For generations, religion, and the Catholic Church in particular, were central to life in Ireland.

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The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has set out its consultation paper for children in all our 3,000 primary schools. Faith-based schools may well regard its proposals as a step too far. To be compelled to teach about world religions, encroaching on time available for instruction in the doctrine of their ethos, will brook resistance. Traditionally, it has been the preserve of the patron - still the Catholic Church in 90pc of cases - to make such decisions. There has been much talk of ceding control and of divestment, but the status quo has been slow to shift.

Recent years have been difficult for the Church. Many felt betrayed by a series of scandals and cover-ups. Such factors have resulted in a rebalancing of relationships. Tension has grown between the secular and the religious. Arguments are well rehearsed: An alternative to bad religion is not no religion, but better religion. Secularists would clearly go another route.

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