Economically-relevant subjects have replaced real education
The current preoccupation with the place of religious education in schools yet again brings into sharp relief the lack of a clear understanding of what might count as religious education.
More fundamental, however, is the question as to an alleged difference between faith and reason.
Assertions that are not grounded in reason have no place in schools, even in faith schools. This not to equate reason with the deliverances of science but with broader-based critical reflection.
Questions about religious education are often confused with the debate about the existence or non-existence of God.
Sadly, many of these discussions are driven by a form of theological illiteracy that arises from a justifiable rejection of ill-conceived forms of religious education.
Across most of the great religions there has been an emphasis not so much on knowing as on doing. For instance, the central demands of Christianity are to love, respect and forgive one another, to cease to see ourselves as the centre of the world.
I must confess I find it much easier to believe things than to practise genuine charity and forgiveness.
Unfortunately the school curriculum has been hijacked by those who see education as a technical exercise geared to producing effective creators of wealth, allied to the assumption that the human world is transformed not through collaboration but through competition.
English, science and mathematics are seen as the essential core of what should be taught in school, with the result that all the rest, including for example Irish, religious studies, art, music and history are sometimes constrained to give way to the so-called more economically-relevant subjects.
We seem to be steadily moving away from the more defensible view that education is, above all else, concerned with the development of the minds of our young, transmitting to them those aspects of our way of life that are too important be left to chance, providing them with a critical grasp of the world.
Edith Road, Oxford
Hopes our Republic will grow
I felt a personal relevance to what David McWilliams wrote in relation to the 1916 rising.
When I returned home from Canada on a periodic visit in 1966, my now deceased sister presented me with a silver 10 shilling coin, minted to memorialise the 50th anniversary of the Rising as symbolised by Pádraig Pearse and Cú Chulainn.
A few days ago I came across the coin, and holding it in my hand, recalled that by 1966 the population was languishing just below three million, while our Republic was yet to make its way through the remnants of a 'Celtic mist' into the European Union.
Joining the EU - along with more broadening view-points - provided us with a better informed perspective of the world. I felt downcast by the situation in 1966 but I am hopeful that our Republic will have fully 'become of age' by the 100th anniversary of the Rising.
Forestry Road, Wexford
McWilliams' clueless analysis
As I read David McWilliams' clueless opinion (Irish Independent, November 12), my mind strayed to the present turmoil in the Middle East.
These oil and mineral rich countries are in such total chaos because of failed leadership and greed that millions of their citizens risk their lives to get anywhere out of there and away from their own kith and kin .
In the final, tiny paragraph McWilliams says 'don't get me wrong'. I don't. I hear you loud and clear. I'd say you value your Irish citizenship about as much as, well, the Taliban would.
Terenure, Dublin 6
Eddery brought joy to many
Reading of the death of that great jockey Pat Eddery I was reminded of the enjoyment he gave so many.
Fred, known to us for a number of years before he died, was a resourceful independent man who lived in a hostel.
In spite of a physical disability he travelled to The Curragh regularly to see Pat Eddery. He reminded us so often that he was the best - and who could disagree.
Director & Co-Founder of TRUST
Seculars can build own schools
Gary J Byrne can always be relied upon to return to the letters page when there is a shot to be taken at religion. On this occasion, religious schools are his target (November 12).
The entire argument around religious instruction can, for me, be reduced to just one question. Why shouldn't a school under Catholic patronage be allowed to teach religion as a subject if it wants to?
If Gary and his secular friends believe so strongly that their non-beliefs should be as important in Catholic education as the beliefs of the rest of us, let him do as the Brothers and the Sisters did all those years ago, and go and build some schools that reflect that ethos.
As an option, it certainly beats forcibly trying to steal them from other denominations.
Consent is a life-long issue
I welcome the national Ask Consent Campaign, encouraging young people to explicitly ask consent before engaging in sexual relations with another person. In particular, it's heartening to see young women being supported to develop a sense of bodily autonomy.
In Ireland, many of us were raised on a Bible story about an angel who impregnated the Virgin Mary without consent. Much has changed but young Irish women are still receiving mixed messages.
As outlined by AIMS Ireland - the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Service - 'the HSE have recently published a National Consent Policy that restricts informed consent and informed refusal of treatment for pregnant women'.
It's important to reflect on the fact that today we have a health system whereby pregnant women are often subject to medical procedures (early induction being surely one of the most common) and decisions that completely override issues of consent.
If we are serious about consent, we need to think of it not just within the context of sexual relations but across the entire life-span of an individual - right up until death.
Annemarie Ni Churreain
Mount Brown, Dublin