The Irish Independent of Thursday, August 28, 2008, reports that the Irish National Teachers Organization ("INTO") — the teachers' union — is on a "collision course" with the Catholic Church over the issue of who will control up to 400 new schools that are planned for the coming decade. ("Church and teachers in battle over school roles," John Walshe, Education Editor) The union wants secular schools on the model of the "community national school," run by the local government's vocational education committees, claiming that the government can't afford to set up schools to cater to the needs of the country's growing number of religious groups.
There are so many things wrong with the position of the INTO that it is difficult to know where to start — but we'll try.
First, the education of children is not the responsibility of the State, but of parents. It's not the Catholic Church that the teachers' union is colliding with, but parents, the rights of which the Catholic Church is defending. As the Catholic Church has held for 2,000 years, parents, especially tax-paying parents, have an absolute right to determine how their children are educated. Whether Catholic or Protestant, Jewish or Muslim (or anything else), if they want religious education in the schools, they have a right to it. Similarly, if parents do not want religious education, or are of a different sect or faith, that, too, is a right that must be respected. This is, in fact, the position of the Irish Catholic Hierarchy, which insists that there is a place for both secular as well as religious schools of all denominations and faiths to ensure parental choice.
The union claims that State-run schools will teach religion, but that gets into a very sticky quagmire. When you have a mix of students of different faiths, even of no faith, which religion is taught? The "solution" in the United States was — none . . . and to inhibit or prevent parents from doing it on their own by withholding State aid to religious schools — money that was taken from the parents in the first place through taxation.
Second, the union claims the State cannot afford it. The answer? It's not the State's money. Money for education is taken from people and, by legislative legerdemain, turned into "State money" that cannot be used to educate children the way their parents desire, and for which they are paying. If the teachers' union is worried about the cost, let them campaign for a Capital Homestead Act for Ireland, which would do more to increase people's income (and thus the tax base) than all the fighting over crumbs left from a decaying economy.
Third (and probably most important), the INTO is clearly seeking power for itself at the expense of both students and parents. In this, the teachers' union is following the lead of unions everywhere. Instead of seeking genuine empowerment for union members (as would be the case with an ownership union), unions are chaining members irrevocably to the wage system, and bringing up new generations of wage serfs in schools geared more toward "job training" than to genuine education.
We could go on at great length, but the bottom line is that the Irish teachers' union, in common with most people in the world, are laboring under the illusion that "the people" are somehow created for the State, instead of the State being a tool for people to use in building a just society, within which human beings grow and develop according to their inherent nature. The State and teachers have no authority over children's education in their own right. They have only that which parents have delegated to them for the sake of expedience. It is therefore up to the State and the teachers to take orders from the people in matters of education, not the other way around.
The State's proper role is to set minimal standards to ensure as far as humanly possible that education provides what is necessary for a child to learn how to function reasonably within civil society. It is the primary duty of the parents to see that these standards are met, but (more importantly) that their children receive a real education, which consists of learning how to grow and develop as human beings. That necessarily involves moral education, which ordinarily comes from religion.
The effort on the part of the Irish teachers' union is a giant leap downward on the way to complete secularization of education, with the results that we have seen repeated over and over as western civilization abandons its roots in the natural law and embeds moral relativism ever more securely in what is left of western culture.
Donations to CESJ are tax deductible in the United States under IRC § 501(c)(3):