Proudly unveiling a brand spanking new proposal to cut funding to schools is a new one, especially for Labour. Not all schools, you understand: Just the schools that their education spokesman does not much like:
Labour proposing a motion which would phase out any State funding for single-sex schools with a 15-year run-in. @AodhanORiordain says the Dept of Education hasn’t sanctioned a new single-sex school since 1998 so it’s effectively State policy anyway. @VirginMediaNews pic.twitter.com/LthUlnN4Zz
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) February 15, 2022
We try to be fair, here at Gript, even to ideas that we oppose. Even, as in this case, to ideas that are objectively stupid and cynical. In this instance, however, fairness is hard to achieve, because this is an idea with almost no redeeming elements to it whatever.
It is, in the first instance, important to recall that this policy being shunted to the forefront of the agenda today is not actually even about education. This idea is being promoted because of the legacy of the Ashling Murphy murder, and the Labour Party’s eagerness to politically capitalise the idea that boys and men pose a threat, in Ireland, to girls and women. You can draw a direct link between the Labour Party’s recent obsession with the idea that Ireland has a culture of misogyny, and this proposal to phase out single sex education. Underpinning it is the idea that when boys do not mingle with girls, some boys learn to hate girls, and that therefore, single sex education must go.
Oddly, the reverse idea – that girls being educated together might produce men-haters – never seems to be considered. Nobody would seriously make that argument. Labour certainly would not, though they have no difficulty suggesting it about boys:
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, the party’s education spokesman, said single-sex education was an “anomaly” for a new generation of parents.
He said moves to promote consent and tackle “toxic masculinity” made more sense when boys and girls were educated together.
“We’re working to put a greater emphasis on gender mix in politics, sport and business – yet this is the one area that we haven’t addressed,” he said.
The idea here is obvious, is it not? That boys become more dangerous to girls if not educated alongside girls. And yet, there is no evidence offered for that assumption, nor any suggestion that the reverse might be true. If – as O’Riordáin claims – mixed sex education is essential for boys, but not for girls, then what is the science underpinning that claim? Where is the evidence for it?
What we have here is something rather revealing: That this isn’t actually about what’s best for students at all, but instead about the idea that boys and men must be “tamed” by mingling with women and girls.
It’s notable, from that same Irish Times article, that the experts who have studied this issue can’t actually find a meaningful difference between single sex, and mixed, schools:
However, Prof Emer Smyth of the Economic and Social Research Institute said the most recent reviews of Irish research have shown “very little consensus” on whether single-sex education leads to better outcomes for girls or boys.
“There are a lot of myths circulating about the relative merits of single-sex and co-education,” said Prof Smyth.
“Single-sex schools, on average, are more middle-class in intake and tend to draw students of higher initial ability. When we adjusted for social class and prior ability we found no significant different in the academic outcomes of students from single-sex and co-ed schools, in either the Junior or Leaving Cert.
Ultimately, the beauty of the Irish education system is that parents have choice: There is no right answer here. If you want to send your child to a co-ed school, you can. If you want to send them to a single-sex school, you can. Labour does not want to expand parental choice, but instead to restrict your choices to the ones that Aodhán O’Riordáin, of all people, thinks you should make. For that alone, they should be laughed off the pitch.
But it’s worse than that, really, because of the misandry and man-hating involved here. Labour essentially wants state policy crafted around the false and offensive idea that boys are inherently dangerous, and require taming at the hands of girls. For one thing, that seems to me to indicate that girls have some duty to make men better – which, if you or I said it, would have us denounced as hatespeakers by the very party promoting this idea. For another thing, it suggests that boys have no other positive role models in their lives who are women: That mothers, sisters, grandmothers, cousins, and friends cannot do what only Labour can accomplish by the force of eliminating choice.
It is all, at its roots, the essence of the Labour Party: Aodhán knows better than you. Aodhán knows your son, and his inherent darkness, better than you. Aodhán knows more about education than you.
Spare us, please.