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Sense and Sensitivity

Difference and Diversity in Higher Education Classrooms


Edited By Elisabeth Lillie

This edited volume examines aspects of teaching and learning in situations where community or ethnic division may impact negatively on classroom experience and behaviour in tertiary education. The book considers cases from four locations where marked divisions in the wider society exert a continuing influence on the student body: Northern Ireland, England, France and the United States of America. All of these countries share certain underlying principles of governance and freedom as well as historical interconnections, but have within them particular groups characterized by various levels of separation and distrust. The sociohistorical context relevant to each case is outlined, followed by a discussion of the attitudes, opinions and reactions of the learners concerned. The volume concludes with a consideration of pedagogical approaches that may help to bridge difference and foster a more positive atmosphere. Although this study focuses on particular community environments, the techniques highlighted by contributors may be useful in any classroom setting where a heterogeneous mix of individuals has the potential to lead to dissension and conflict.


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Part I Northern Ireland


Seamus Dunn and Valerie Morgan 1 Ulster and the Legacy of Divided Schooling Background to the System before Partition The familiar description of Ireland as the ‘Land of Saints and Scholars’ sug- gests a positive and benign role for education in Irish history; the reality, at least since the sixteenth century, is that education, politics and religion have been locked in a series of problematic and almost inevitably divisive relationships. The Penal Laws of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries lim- ited the rights of Irish Catholics in many areas of economic and political life but in this context one of their most significant ef fects was in restrict- ing access to education. Successive British governments and the ruling Protestant elites in Ireland sought to prevent inf luential Catholics from gaining an academic education, as part of their strategy of marginalizing and reducing the inf luence of groups seen as hostile to British rule. Catholics in turn sought to circumvent these restrictions and maintain their identity by educating their children in Catholic schools across Europe. By the early nineteenth century, with unrest in Ireland seen as a major threat to British security in the wake of the American and French revolutions, education in Ireland was again perceived to be a serious political issue. The response of the British government was the introduction, in 1831, of a ‘National Education System’ in the form of what became known as ‘National Schools’. The actual shape of the system resulted from a letter (known...

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