The school abortion video scandal, a wake-up call that our schools are still not secular

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The projection of a deliberately graphic and scientifically inaccurate anti-abortion video to the students of the Ursulines high school in Thurles does not justify disciplinary measures, according to the Pedagogical Council.

The disturbing and highly controversial film, produced by the Life Network in the conservative southern US state of Texas, was shown to teenage girls in December 2019, presenting medically inaccurate claims as fact and allegedly upset some of the girls to the point of crying.

Despite the growing plurality of Irish society, education remains a largely state-run and Church-led enterprise, propagating fertile ground for the proliferation of conservative Church views on abortion. Without meaningful educational reform, the country will not be able to free itself from the conservative grip of the Catholic Church, and its full potential as a progressive, rights-based society will not be realized.

The video in question promoted dangerous and inflammatory medical falsehoods, including the claim that abortion puts women at high risk for breast cancer, which abortion clinics remove fetal organs with the intention of removing. sell them to medical researchers for profit, and that the “scalp of the aborted baby can be used to correct baldness.”

Each of these fallacious claims aims to shock and deceive young minds with the aim of indoctrinating the most vulnerable and susceptible in our society into the belief system of the Catholic Church. Such a level of misinformation and propaganda wouldn’t be deemed appropriate in math, English or science, so why is taxpayer money being used to proliferate objectively bogus and deeply distressing deceptions about abortion?

The Pedagogical Council concluded that the video was acquired during a recorded teacher training day and therefore had been sanctioned by the Ministry of Education – once again highlighting the government’s systemic failure to reduce the grip of the Catholic Church on publicly funded education.

The divestment program, aimed at transferring patronage, is a resounding failure, with a tiny 2% decrease in Church-run schools in eight years, with 90% of primary schools still under Catholic Church patronage.

The lack of secular options often leaves parents with little choice but to ignore their personal beliefs and enroll their children in a Catholic school, where they will undergo an integrated curriculum that allows for the permeation of religious training. through subjects, which means withdrawing from religious training is impossible.

Religious education is the philosophy of a Catholic-run school – and as such, their emphasis on adhering to Catholic virtues permeates all aspects of the daily life of school-aged children; from assemblies to plays, school visits and even friendly or family dynamics outside of the classroom. The integrated curriculum means that religious training is not limited to a single class, but instead bleeds into subjects established by science and grounded in fact, not faith.

A deeply troubling example is the “Florish” sex and relationship education program produced for Catholic elementary schools, which teaches children that “puberty is a gift from God. We are perfectly designed by God to procreate with him.

The right to freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution and reinforced by the Admissions Act 2018, which introduced a legal requirement for faith-based schools to detail their opt-out policies – neither. is actually applied.

Ireland has been criticized internationally for failing to put in place an adequate opt-out system, with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child calling on the state to provide a workable system, including an alternative , in its 2016 report. Despite international criticism and evidence that many publicly funded schools are failing to meet their legal obligation to define an effective withdrawal policy, the Irish government continues to stand back without any national guidance illustrating the operation of the withdrawal system.

Parents who attempt to exercise their constitutional right to withdraw their child from religious education often face scrutiny and considerable resistance from the school’s patronage.

If a parent manages to navigate the process successfully, the result ultimately turns out to be a name-only “waiver”; these children are simply dragged to the back of the classroom – exposed to the same lesson, besides being socially ostracized in doing so. If the only solution offered ultimately causes children to endure humiliation and confusion, there is no effective solution.

It is estimated that children of primary school age devote 10% of their school year to religious training. For children who have chosen not to attend religious education, this represents an average of 91 hours of state-funded resources wasted each year while these children are isolated and separated in their own educational institution.

And that’s without even including the hours that do not fall under the explicitly religious part of the program. The preparatory parts of the Standard Curriculum devoted to Catholic milestones such as “First Communion” encompass significant proportions of the school year, during which those of other faiths and students with agnostic or atheistic views experience additional isolation.

As Catholicism continues to decline, the number of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Orthodox residents of Ireland continues to increase year on year. Along with the growth of these religious demographics, the portion of the population without a religious belief fell to just under 10% of the population in 2016, the second largest group after Catholicism.

Simply put: the current structure is neither viable nor sustainable, it discriminates against children, parents and even teachers. What is needed is a public education system that makes room for all children, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Religious doctrine should be reassigned and restricted to extra-curricular hours, and more importantly, the practice of infiltrating religious disinformation into scientific and factual matters must end. Many countries have abolished compulsory religious education or adopted viable non-participation systems with substitutions such as ethics or philosophy.

In Ireland our children are not offered any substitutions and precious time that could be spent helping students develop the skills they will need in life is wasted.


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