Feature

Best columns: Europe

Why the British need the immigrants they disdain, and the Catholic stranglehold on education in Ireland

Why we need the immigrants we disdain Madeleine Bunting The Guardian

The traditional British distrust of foreigners is reaching alarming heights, said Madeleine Bunting in the London Guardian. Since 2004, when the European Union took in 10 new members, throngs of Poles, Latvians, and Lithuanians have exercised their new rights as E.U. citizens to take jobs in our country. They scrub our potatoes, launder our hotel sheets, and pick up our garbage—all for far less pay than we ourselves would demand. In short, they are the “army of cheap labor that has subsidized our lifestyles” and spurred our economic growth. Yet rather than being grateful to these Easterners, the British resent them. In a poll this spring, more than three-quarters of respondents supported “stricter border controls,” and nearly half believed that immigration had been “bad for the economy.” Why the disconnect between perception and reality? Blame the media. The benefits of immigration—cheaper consumer goods, favorable economic indicators—may be spread out over all of society, but they don’t make for riveting news copy. The downsides, though, tend to be concentrated in a few towns dominated by immigrants, where health-care services may be overloaded and crime rates may be higher than average. It will be up to our political leaders to explain to the public that while “migration is not a cost-free option,” it is definitely “worth paying for.”

The Catholic stranglehold on education Emer O’Kelly Irish Independent

Why does the Catholic Church still run Ireland’s school system? asked Emer O’Kelly in the Dublin Irish Independent. The formative years of elementary school are when a child is supposed to learn how to think. Yet in Ireland, we let priests and nuns teach our kids “what to think” instead. More than 3,000 of the country’s 3,280 grammar schools are church-run. The predictable result is that “the three R’s” of reading, writing, and arithmetic have acquired a fourth R: “religious indoctrination.” Perhaps we could overlook that drawback if the churches ran the schools well. But they haven’t opened enough new schools to teach Ireland’s burgeoning immigrant population. The Catholic Church has traditionally estimated the school-age population by extrapolating from parish lists; the children of Muslim immigrants, therefore, have been overlooked. Now Dublin has a shortage of classrooms and teachers, and the kids being turned away are mostly poor and black. The archbishop of Dublin says he would welcome a greater government role. “I have no ambition to run the entire education system in Dublin,” said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. That’s welcome news indeed. Let the state step up—and build secular schools for all Irish residents.

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