Friday 30 September 2016

Religious education shouldn't stifle children's intelligence

Published 14/10/2015 | 02:30

Religious teaching: Pope Francis
Religious teaching: Pope Francis

Recent discussion about the place of religious education, particularly in primary schools (Irish Independent, September 29), highlights the confusion that underlies the notion that you can pass on faith from one generation to the next.

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Faith is not a collection of beliefs handed on from our parents. The faith of our fathers and mothers is not that of their sons and daughters. Faith is deeply personal, coming as an awakening or realisation that there is more to life than meets the eye or the mind of mankind.

Too often, the natural curiosity of children, their deep-rooted sense of awe and wonder, is suffocated by ill-conceived forms of religious education.

This is beautifully illustrated by the story of the teacher who was observed teaching by the local priest who suggested that she was not getting down to the children's level - not relating to their experience.

He returned to demonstrate what he had in mind, starting by asking the class of five-year-olds what has a large bushy tail and buries nuts in autumn. The initial cloud of silent puzzlement was eventually dispersed by the enthusiastic response of one pupil, "I know the answer is Jesus but I think it is a squirrel."

Religious education, seen as induction into an institution and as an overlay of ideas on our day-to-day lives, runs counter to the teaching of Christ.

He constantly reinforced the view that to be truly human was to be loving, forgiving and compassionate, doing to others as we would like done to us. There is little more to be said.

He seemed to have had more time for the rule breakers than for the rule makers, providing many examples of his rejection of hierarchy and power.

Ironically, Christ would not necessarily be on the side of those who call themselves Christian, but more at ease with those who live and act as Christians; this could include many who see themselves as humanists, agnostics or atheists who lead deep, thoughtful, generous and good lives.

All aspects of education should release human imagination and intelligence, not stifle them.

Philip O'Neill, Edith Road, Oxford, England

Time to start arming gardaí

I'm sure I am not the only one who was horrified to read about the brutal murder of Garda Tony Golden in County Louth after responding to a 999 call, leaving behind a wife and three children.

Surely, with violent crime like this on the rise all over rural Ireland, now is the time to set aside our antiquated notions of an unarmed police force and start arming our gardaí?

Our brave law enforcers are going out on patrol every day armed with nothing but a truncheon and a radio, while violent criminals have access to pistols, shotguns, and God knows what else.

The days of the likes of de Valera trying to calm tensions after the War of Independence are long gone.

If we want our police force to be able to effectively tackle criminals like Tony Golden's murderer, then we need to wake up, get into the 21st century, and start equipping our gardaí with proper means to defend themselves and others.

Sean Slattery, Newport, Co Tipperary

The stark reality with the horrific death of a garda in Co Louth brings to 15 the number of gardaí killed while on duty since 2000, which equates to one every year.

As the proud parent of a garda, my prayers go out to the family of the unfortunate garda who was just doing his duty on behalf of the citizens of this country

Aidan Hampson, Whitethorn Rise, Artane, Dublin 5

Cappuccino culture

At Vienna Airport the coffee machine offered me a choice of: Espresso, Kaffee Schwarz, Kleiner Brauner, Melange or Irish Cappuccino.

Uncertain whether the last item represented cultural appropriation, ethnic stereotyping or a real bargain, I paid €1.50 and found it was delicious.

Dr John Doherty, Vienna, Austria

Renua's flat tax is exciting

As one who was previously unmoved by Renua Ireland, I find their policy platform of having a flat tax of 23pc to be hugely refreshing and exciting.

Two important outcomes of such a flat tax would be that it would ensure that hard-working people do not feel that they are being punished for their success by having the rates of tax increased on them as soon as they start to earn more money, as is currently the case with the tiered and tired system of setting income-tax rates which Ireland has had for decades.

It achieves the above goal while also being genuinely progressive by virtue of the fact that 23pc of a higher income will always yield more for the exchequer than 23pc of a lower income. So, strictly speaking, if one earns more, one contributes more in absolute terms (but without having to feel that one is being deliberately targeted for one's success by the State).

The policy of a flat tax would also provide much relief to the self-employed, including many of the people who create businesses in Ireland, who found themselves disproportionately hit by the effects of last year's Budget.

John B. Reid, Knapton Road, Monkstown, Co. Dublin

Rugby heroes deliver in spades

I would just like to salute the character and courage of the Irish rugby team, as well as the singular genius of Joe Schmidt.

The ferocity of the encounter with France took a terrible physical toll but the fact that this team was so mentally strong and drilled to deliver the highest level of performance speaks volumes about all concerned.

The commitment and concentration in the face of a sustained assault from Les Bleus was something to behold.

It is a massive task that now lies ahead in the engagement with Argentina.

The loss of titanic figures such as Paul O'Connell, Johnny Sexton and Peter O'Mahony would have been enough to crush the spirit of any normal side, but these lads set the bar just above the level of perfection, and what's more, they deliver.

We would all dearly love to see them press on to the glory they deserve, but we should not forget what they did at the Millennium Stadium.

The sea of green, of course, created the tide of passion and the fans also deserve great credit.

Well done all, an epic battle and a victory to cherish.

M O'Brien, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

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