Recent reports from England indicate that Islamist hardliners have been targetting schools, strategically taking over the boards of governors, applying pressure to teachers, influencing the curriiculum all with the objective of 'radicalising' children there. Here is just one such report.
Whilst the aim in England seems to have been to indoctrinate the children in order to make them sympathetic towards extremist causes, it has set me wondering about our own circumstances in Northern Ireland. It didn't happen in classrooms (as far as I know - but this essay by Edna Longley suggests that classrooms did indeed play a destructive, divisive role), but over the past 40 or 50 years the younger generation have been preyed upon here as well, and radicalised in order to become footsoldiers for republican or loyalist 'causes'.
A wider issue though is that, in contrast to being consciously 'programmed', I meet people all the time in my own age group who went through the school system here and who were effectively 'de-culturised' - taught nothing of our own history, of our intertwined cultures, of local Ulster-Scots traditional literature and of the positive impact of Ulster emigrants upon the wider world.
This knowledge vacuum has done two things - firstly, it has in many cases meant that people are receptive to propaganda stereotypes and are not equipped to refute them. Secondly, there is now an almost endless public appetite for well-presented, well-researched, informative and locally-rooted heritage projects - many people find the discovery of forgotten traditions to be a fresh revelation.
Educationalists in Northern Ireland would do well to pay attention.