Karin Fischer
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Schools, ethos and inclusion
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Drawing on the work of sociologists of education and law specialists, chapter 7 highlights forms of discrimination and inequality inherent to the denominational nature of the education system, despite the efforts made by many school heads and teachers to welcome children from different cultural and religious backgrounds, in line with the discourse of inclusiveness of most school patrons. The concept of school ethos has been used in the Irish context to legitimise the transmission of the particular sets of cultural and moral values of patrons in their respective schools, with problematic consequences in terms of respect for the freedom of conscience and religion of both adults and children in the school community, and it has helped perpetuate the segregated school system. The chapter engages with the question of the ethical and civic role of schools, the idea of transmitting specific communal moral codes being contrasted with that of nurturing children’s autonomy of thought (notably through philosophy) and a human rights-based morality within a pluralist, democratic society. The particular cases of the new Community National Schools and Educate Together schools with their democratic value-base are examined briefly, with a focus on the Educate Together organisation’s paradoxical outlook.

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