I was not at all surprised to receive a newspaper cutting from The Herald, dated 13 August 2002, headline 'Single religion schools' do not cause bigotry. The article related to a statement put out by the Sense Over Sectarianism group which is distributing about £500,000 in Millennium Commission grants for projects to tackle bigotry.
Much of the recent campaigning around 'sectarianism' - and I put the word in quotes deliberately - has focussed on football clubs. But I think we need to look more deeply as displays of thuggery and intolerance associated with football are, I feel, merely symptoms and not the cause of the cancer.
Somewhere along the line someone must have been indelicate enough to ask when they were going to start campaigning about the far and away largest source of bigotry in Scotland - apartheid schools. The co-ordinator Alison Logan then trotted out the usual RC Church apologia for apartheid education - that religious bigotry is handed down from parents, that Catholic education exists elsewhere and it doesn't cause problems and sectarianism predates apartheid schooling in Scotland.
The whelping about Scotland being the only place where there is a problem is an old favourite - but it doesn't stand up to examination - opposition to the state-funding of religious apartheid in schools is widespread in, for instance, the USA, France, Spain and Italy.
I don't think anyone has ever claimed that closing down apartheid schools would solve the problem but it would be a great step forward. No-one has ever claimed that Catholic schools set aside periods for lessons in Bigotry - it¹s just that if you provide an artificial life support machine for a particular denomination and legalise the right to discriminate on religious grounds those allowed to study and work in those schools then that IS bigotry.
It should be noted that whilst there is a 'right' for children to be given an apartheid education there is no similar 'right' to be given a non-sectarian education. Strange too that pupils expelled for the apartheid system, and therefore presumably the ones most in need of it¹s special kind of care, are almost without exception dumped into the non-denominational system.
There is a certain bizarre air to SoS's activities - when they fund projects like one in Anderston where kids from St Pat¹s and Anderston Primary are brought together with a great deal of palaver to play a game of football. I know the area well, several of my aunts were actually married in St Patrick's chapel - I don¹t suppose it ever occurred that you could actually send the kids to the same school in the first place and if they and their parents are so committed to their church they could actually take them to Sunday Schools to learn the tenets of their faiths?
A couple of points.
1/ It's not RCs per se who are perpetuating apartheid in schools - it's the hierarchy of the church. The last couple of opinion polls show a majority of RCs wouldn't be that bothered about a non-sectarian schools system. It's the bigots who whip up the terror campaign - 'there will be "trouble" if the schools are desectarianised' they threaten anyone who even wants to debate the subject.
2/ Tax - why do apologists for apartheid schooling always bring this up? No-one opposed to apartheid says Catholics don't pay tax. There is no link between paying taxes and inventing the "right" to brainwash your child.
3/ Choice - throughout the West of Scotland, and especially in Glasgow, there are thousands of families who have no choice in where to send their kids. Last year in one class in a non-denominational primary school in the Calton 17 of the 22 kids had no Œchoice¹ other than to go to St Mungo's. Either that or their parents would have had to move house to get them into non-denominational schools. Some choice, eh?
The fact is, apartheid education is the most powerful engine of sectarian practise in Scotland and it¹s a measure of the grip of fear in which our politicians are held that a fanzine is practically the only place you¹ll ever see it compared to the fury Rangers fans singing the Sash causes.
They won¹t tackle sectarian schools because they are hypocrites - but mostly because they are afraid of being called bigots and having their lives ruined.
'Terror, observed Angus Crow, is a great force. If we could harness terror to machines, we could move whole cities - no need for horses or these wretched carriages which are built to be driven without a four-legged beast. Terror could drive most things.'
Indeed, terror could drive men to cross oceans or, in other cases, be silent. Crow remained unaware of Moriarty¹s next move simply because a number of men - some in Her Majesty¹s service - were prepared to remain blind, deaf and dumb; some because of money, but most out of terror. From 'Moriarty' by John Gardner.