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An ecumenical book launch

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“David Tuohy SJ as an educationalist is part of the Jesuit tradition of innovation and commitment to education going right back to the sixteenth century and his latest book is the  fruit of sustained research and reflection.” So said Jesuit Provincial Tom Layden SJ at the launch of David’s book ,Denominational Education and Politics: Ireland in a European Context.

Launching the book,Fr Layden referred specifically to the development of the ground-breaking Ratio Studiorum which was developed in a remarkably modern way through wide and in-depth consultation, practical experimentation, feedback loops, re-adjustments and final agreement. This process took a number of years he said, noting that  David Tuohy’s work mirrored this methodology and rigour, producing a piece of work that would be of lasting importance in the Irish educational field.

Archbishop Michael Jackson of the Church of Ireland and Roisin Duffy of RTE were guest speakers at the launch in the Arrupe Room, Milltown Park on Wednesday 17 September. A large number of people turned up to the event and  were given substantial food for thought regarding the contribution David Tuohy’s book had made to the current debate on the future of Irish education.

Archbishop Jackson said that quite rightly David Tuohy’s central focus was Catholic education but ” he addresses this, nonetheless, in ways which allow any faith community to lift itself above the brick wall of self-pity and to ask critical questions of itself regarding credibility and viability. Faith communities need to do this, whether they actually want to or not. ” And he added, “This approach opens the pathway to ask the same and different questions of the secular society which is the paymaster of the educational system but is at the same time the lens through which, right across Europe, it clarifies and distorts the contribution of education at all three levels and as a lifelong experience to the shaping and sustaining of society itself.”

Roisin Duffy said the book was timely indeed and a very helpful record for any journalist who wanted to get beneath the hype surrounding the current debate on education in Ireland. She said it was a cause for concern that that debate seemed to centre only around denominational education. And she hi-lighted the concern that David raised in the book about  terms such as ‘Catholic education’ .

The author noted that people used the term often supposing they were sharing the same  meaning with others using the term. She said she was surprised to find that often people in the South used the term and  were referring to a type of education that was, authoritarian, sectarian and illiberal. She said that was certainly not the type of education she received from the Mercy Sisters in Derry. Even though ‘the troubles’ raged she said she was given an well rounded, open minded education that was neither conservative or sectarian.  She said it was important that David Tuohy alert people to such lack of agreement regarding the meaning of fundamental concepts.

David’s book is published by Veritas and available from the Abbey St shop or avaliable from their website.