There’s a scene in Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine where Moore interviews two students of Columbine High School in Colorado, where the 1999 Columbine school shootings happened. They are telling him they get class credits for taking a course in bowling. Moore lets that sink in as if to say, “what are our children being taught these days? How have we let our educational standards fall so low that bowling ninepins is given the same value as math or geography?” The movie takes its name from this scene: Bowling for Columbine.
For years the standard of education in the United States has become something of a standing joke: anyone on social media will come across seemingly endless pop-vox & videos where young Americans are unable to find America on the world map; name three countries in the entire world; say which century – nevermind which decade – the Second World War was fought in or which major countries were involved. There would be no point asking them how this war even came about, a whole level of complexity well above knowing the basic facts. When one stops to realize that these are the voters who will elect the legislators of the future, the gravity of the situation begins to sink in. Any democracy is only as robust as the people that vote in it, and the effect is cumulative unless something drastic breaks the cycle. The other consequence is the widening gap in American education: a very small elite with the resources, connections, money and family support to get a good education at ‘good’ schools that feed Harvard, MIT, Ivy League. Then there’s the rest of the country’s public taxpayer funded schools which have become a battleground in every sense of the word, and where no matter how bright and hard-working a student may be, they have to face the reality that the bar has been set so low, and the whole school philosophy so poor, that they may as well be graduating in tap-dancing like Chaucer’s Absolon in ‘The Canterbury Tales’ or bowling ninepins; effectively turning America’s schools into a vast system of publicly-funded daycare until the age of 18, at which point the overgrown infants will be turned out into the nation’s streets and polling stations.
This would be bad enough confined to the United States, but the trend has crossed the Atlantic even though there is a 10 or 20 year time lag, chances are that we will see similar results here before long and Ireland’s once-vaunted educational system will be eventually reduced to the same level.
Therefore, if one good thing has emerged from The Strange Case of Enoch Burke it is that it has brought all of this into sharp focus. It is evident that for some time now, Ireland has been going down the same road as the United States, where schools have become ideological battlegrounds (and in the States, eventually, literal battlegrounds) where the focus is increasingly on the not-so-Liberal Left agendas and social engineering instead of on getting a good solid education.
The Liberal Left have been trying to remove all trace of any form of religious element – especially Catholic – from the Irish School System for decades, elements that would be standing in the way of their dream of creating a Marxist dystopia with your children as the raw material. This appears to have developed two strands:
The first is to seek the ‘divestment’ of Catholic schools, where the Catholic church would hand over the bricks and mortar buildings and equipment (some part-paid for by Church funds and church plate collections by generations of Catholic faithful to begin with) to secular/State schools.
If the Church is appropriately remunerated for whatever interest it has in these properties and is happy to divest them, this seems a reasonable proposition on the face of it. Firstly, it would allow the Church to concentrate its resources more effectively. Secondly, secular supporters of divestment argue this would give Ireland’s parents greater choice and control over their children’s education – but ironically as we’ll see, the same voices are also to be found calling for the scrapping of Article 42 which guarantees this right to parents in the Constitution in the first place!
The other strand seems to be taking provocative ‘test cases’ to enforce the Left’s writ on the nation’s individual educators. A similar logic could be seen when Asher’s Bakery in Belfast was taken to court for refusing to make a cake celebrating gay marriage. It should be noted that the bakery – possibly picked because it was well known to be a ‘Christian’ business – had not refused to serve the customers on grounds of their sexual orientation, but that the product they were required to make was in conflict with their religious beliefs. Instead of taking the order elsewhere, the customers took the bakery to court. Thankfully the case was dismissed (and set a case law precedent for future cases) but no doubt left the Ashers stressed and financially hurt at the end of it, which the Left will see as a ‘victory’ of sorts anyway.
In the case of Enoch Burke, he was ultimately dismissed by the school for refusing the bend the knee to this Leftist agenda. Enough has been written already about how the Burkes (or the school, or the student in question for that matter) could have handled things differently or more productively, but no one seems to have noticed that the immediate practical effect is that the State is now one teacher less – and by all accounts, an excellent teacher, whatever one’s views on Mr. Burke’s personal beliefs – at a time when it is crying out for all the teachers it can get, class sizes are increasing and teachers finding it more and more difficult to give time and attention to each student. A further consequence will be the chilling effect on other teachers thinking of taking a conscientious stand against being forced to implement an unproven ideology they do not agree with. Does the Left care about any of this? Of course not, or it would have sought a reasonable middle ground instead of being on Mr. Burke’s case from Day 1. Whenever a personal issue of national interest arises, one will usually find the media interviewing the principal characters at length, giving them airwaves and print columns to share their views and takes on the situation. By way of example, this was seen throughout the run-up to the 2018 referendum on the 8th Amendment where we were treated to an almost daily feed of people ‘telling their stories’ – of travel to England, of Ireland’s ‘restrictive abortion laws’ to the extent that the Yes campaign hardly even had to knock on doors as their views were being promoted and available on every newsstand and TV set in the country. It will be interesting and instructive, now that (some of) the dust has settled on the Burke case, who and how much the media decide to interview on this story. Have any of our nation’s ‘doughty’ journalists seen fit to interview Enoch Burke or his parents? I suspect neither Enoch Burke nor his parents will get an opportunity to make their case in the pages of any of Ireland’s main daily newspapers or the national broadcaster; the only time their words will appear in print is when they are carefully curated by journalists and editorial teams to frame the argument as the media wish it to be perceived.
Right on cue, mainstream journalists – with what can only have been the sanction of their newspapers’ editorial boards and management – began to capitalize on Enoch Burke’s stance and dismissal as grounds for scrapping Article 42 of the Irish Constitution. Their argument appears to be that Article 42 gave Enoch Burke’s parents the unacceptable choice and freedom to not fill their son’s head with unfiltered Leftist ideology. The Irish Constitution has been undergoing a thorough filleting of late, its enemies justifying this on the grounds that ‘it is not fit for purpose’ – though of course, that depends on what you think its purpose is to begin with! If your aim is to ram through a Marxist dystopia on Irish society, then there are several Constitutional Articles that might conceivably get in the way of this ‘dream’. The Irish government began the process by setting up an unelected Irish ‘Citizens Assembly’ (a name that would not sound out of place in Soviet-era Russia or Revolutionary France) and ‘Constitutional Convention’ the purpose of which seems to be to wash the Government’s hands of the process while still producing the results required. Most of the Articles presented to the electorate appear to relate to social issues (rather than say, Articles relating to foreign affairs, tax or the raising of revenue within the State) revealing the general purpose of these Constitutional reviews.
Keep in mind the duplicity here. The same types of voices calling for divestment of Catholic schools on the grounds of giving parents ‘greater freedom and control’ over their children’s education are simultaneously calling for the scrapping of Article 42, the one Constitutional guarantee parents actually have to that very freedom and choice! Either these Leftist ideologues, journalists and their editorial handlers do not know what they are saying out opposite sides of their mouths, or worse – they know exactly what they are saying – and you, the parents and electorate, are being played like a harp.
In the meantime, the sum of their efforts in this case has been to reduce the number of badly-needed good teachers in this country by one – and possibly by many more if the trend continues. Look forward to the next few generations of Irish youth struggling to find Ireland on the world map like their US counterparts, as the once-vaunted Irish educational system is dismantled from the inside out.