“Just because something is unpalatable, doesn’t make it untrue”. So said former world record triple jumper Jonathan Edwards about losing his faith, as it happens. However, the phrase has sprung to mind very often since I first read it, not least when looking at the local and global economy we live in.
As they got out the begging bowl to the UK Government in the Stormont Castle Agreement in mid-December, the DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP and Ulster Unionists all put their name to a document which states:
- “Structural level social divisions create inefficiency” (Paragraph 44)
- “Additional costs have been driven by duplicating services” (Paragraph 44)
- “Division tends to impact disproportionately on those who experience poverty” (Paragraph 45)
- “Initiatives which would assist…[would include] acceleration of integrated and shared education” (Paragraph 47)
- “[Shared education will] bring about future savings in the Budget” (Paragraph 48)
It’s magnificent stuff – go and read it yourself.
Of course, one obvious thing you would need to do to address “societal divisions” is ensure teachers in schools are themselves well acquainted with the diverse society in which we live. Another obvious thing to do would be to stop the inefficiency of small teacher training colleges which require subsidies (leaving quite aside the fact they train too many students anyway). No doubt, we would particularly want to do this because of the particular penalty paid for those divisions by those experiencing poverty, say, in places like West Belfast. Naturally, to maximise the investment in “integrated and shared education” you will want teachers who themselves were trained in integrated and shared settings. And it goes without saying that merging, say, teacher training into a single University campus would not just deliver all the above benefits, but also future savings to the budget.
Here’s an odd thing though – when the Employment Minister specifically set out a reform programme of teacher training to achieve all of these things, exactly as the other four parties wanted in an Agreement they all supported, the other four parties went out of their way within two months to block him doing so. Just because something’s (electorally) unpalatable…
I mean, anyone would think those four parties aren’t serious about tackling the costs of division and the inevitable inefficiencies and poverty that goes with them! But that couldn’t be, could it…?