Sean Farren Peter Finn Tom Kirk Joanne Hughes
This report is based on the findings of a research project undertaken by three members of staff from St. Mary's and Stranmillis colleges. Belfast and from the Faculty of Education at the University of Ulster, Coleraine. assisted by Research Officer, Joanne Hughes.
The research investigated the cohorts of students entering teacher education courses in the above institutions in the Autumn of 1987 and which graduated in the Summer of 1991, in an attempt to provide information on the kind of students entering such courses, their backgrounds, beliefs, values and attitudes.
The researchers were particularly interested in investigating any contrasts on a cross-institutional basis which might emerge in the profiles of these cohorts. A major obvious contrast already existed between the cohorts entering St. Mary's College and Stranmillis College; students entering the former are all Roman Catholic while the overwhelming majority of those entering Stranmillis College are from a Protestant background. A second contrast also existed. Students entering the Faculty of Education at the University of Ulster are not exclusive to one section of Northern Irish society, or the other; both Catholic and Protestant students enrol on the teacher education courses there.
Investigating the background of the three cohorts on entry provided, not just a profile of the kind of student entering teacher education in these institutions, but also a set of data with which to compare findings from that part of the study which took place during the students' final year.
In this latter respect, the researchers were interested in investigating students' views on aspects of their experiences throughout their courses.
Issues related to cross-community understanding in the context of Northern Ireland's ongoing conflict, were especially pertinent to this aspect of the investigation.
The findings raise questions about many aspects of the preparation of future members of the teaching profession which, in this period of considerable change in education, are likely to be of interest to policy makers, to teacher educators as well as to the profession generally.
The researchers wish to acknowledge the financial assistance received
from the Policy Planning and Research Unit of the
Northern Ireland Department of Finance. They also wish to place
on record the assistance and cooperation which they received from
students and colleagues at all three institutions. Without this
assistance and cooperation the research would not have been possible.
Sean Farren, University of Ulster at Coleraine
1.1 This research project is an attempt to understand the attitudes of a potentially key section of the population in Northern Ireland to relations between Catholics and Protestants. As such, it is one of several academic studies focussing on the polarisation between these groups, a major stimulus for which has been the high level of intercommunal violence during the past two decades. At the same time, a series of action projects have been undertaken, some initiated and funded by government, others within the voluntary sector, with or without government support, but all with the aim of furthering better intergroup relations, especially through promoting contact between members of these religious groups (McEwen, 1990) .
1.2 The groups involved in the Northern Ireland conflict are generally described in religious denominational terms, and theological issues have undoubtedly played a part in the polarisation of Protestants and Roman Catholics . However, the issues dividing these groups extend well beyond those definable in theological terms, and in fact it may be argued that the fundamental cleavage relates to ethnic identity (De Vos, 1975, p9 Jenkins, Donnan and McFarlane, 1986; Poole and Boal, l974,p8; Yinger, 1981 , for which religion provides a convenient 'badge' (the process of 'badging' involves the use of clear differentiating criteria for the purpose of identifying group membership, for example, racial characteristics, language, religion). Thus, perhaps, for the purposes of analysis, the more appropriate designations for the conflicting groups might be, Catholic-Gaelic-Irish (having an historic identification with Gaelic Ireland) and Protestant-British-Irish (having an historic identification with Britain). The field of ethnic research in general may therefore provide important insights into the processes which have influenced the relations between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, where religious denomination to a large extent subsumes national identify .
1.3 Ethnic differentiation is one of the fundamental dimensions along which society is divided, giving rise to groups which are central to the individual's self-identification and activity pattern . Thus, based on criteria relating to ethnic identity, some persons are classified by the individual as 'ingroup' members, that is, members of the ethnic group with which he or she identifies, whilst others are seen as belonging to an 'outgroup', whose membership is perceived to be 'foreign' to a greater or less degree. Besides this, the individual's orientations towards a wide range of issues may reflect her or his ethnic identity. Ethnicity is therefore associated with the existence of boundaries between groups of individuals, with social interaction across boundaries being relatively weak (Barth, 1969; Le Vine and Campbell, 1972, pp8l-1l3; Wallman, 1986). Unlike class, which is also of course associated with interactional boundaries, the individual's ethnic identity is notionally immutable , whilst ethnic groups also potentially transcend class boundaries.
1.4 The notion of ethnic boundaries is also helpful in understanding how ethnic groups have come into being in a given situation. Earlier analyses tended to impute a direct causal relationship between culture and ethnic differentiation, so that the present pattern of ethnic groups would be the inevitable result of historically generated cultured differences. This has been termed the 'primordialist' theory of ethnicity (van den Berghe, 1981, ppl7-18; Greeley, 1974. pp9-33) in contrast to the 'circumstantialist' theory. which views ethnicity as a much more malleable phenomenon, ebbing and flowing over time in relation to prevailing circumstances (Ahmed, 1986, p100; Glazer and Moynihan, 1975, pp 19-20). In terms of this theory, cultural differences would not automatically lead to ethnic differentiation, though identifiable cultural, racial or religious factors might form the basis for ethnic boundaries given the necessary circumstances. In fact, a high proportion of the cultural differential might be the result rather than the cause of ethnic boundaries (Barth, 1969, p11), as may well be the case in relation to Catholics and Protestants in northeast Ireland during this century . The analytical focus within the 'circumstantialist' perspective, is therefore on the contexts which lead to the occurrence of group boundaries, rather than the cultural content which the boundaries enclose, an approach which appears to have greater potential for understanding the dynamics of ethnic relations than that emphasising historically originated cultural differences.
1.5 Whilst particular manifestations of ethnic relations may be identified throughout the world, each situation resulting from unique circumstances relating to a specific context, it is also possible that ethnicity, together with the other structural elements which together constitute society, has a general function in terms of fulfilling certain common human needs (Turner, 1988). In Turner's analysis, social structures arise to fulfil six basic needs.
1.7 The analysis of Berger and Luckmann (Berger and Luckmann, 1966) lays stress on the role of ethnicity in supporting the individual's quest for meaning. Within the ethnic group, the individual's 'symbolic universe' (Schutz. 1962), that is, his construction of reality, is shared by others, and is in consequence reinforced. They argue that not only do we become aware of our identities when we are confronted by others, but that the identities of others tend to threaten our own. This is because all social reality is precarious and all societies are constructions in the face of chaos' (Berger and Luckmann, 1966, p121), so that alternative constructions, either by heretics within or by members of external groups. are potentially undermining of the existing social order. Thus, in group interface situations, the most likely outcome may be a resort to strengthening internal cohesion through ideological purification, or, m the case of spatial analogies, an intensification of territoriality (Schacter, 1959; Boal, 1982, pp25l-253).
1.8 Other explanations of ethnicity refer to the fundamental human need to identify with groups (Falger, 1987), and to the process of classifying social information in terms of dichotomies, or at least a very small number of classes, in order to simplify the task of negotiating the complexities of social interaction (Flohr, 1987: Tajfel, 1981). Thus, at its most simple, decision-making in a complex social world becomes a question of distinguishing between members of one's ingroup ('friend') and those of an outgroup ('foe') (Flohr, 1986, p204). Van den Berghe (1981) argued that ethnicity represented an innate characteristic among humans, derived from evolutionary processes originally confined to bonding between closely related kin, whilst Ardrey suggested a similar sociobiological process in explanation of the related phenomenon of territoriality (Ardrey, 1967).
1.9 There would therefore seem to be good reasons to suggest that the identification of individuals with ethnic groups is a potentially universal behavioral predisposition. whether purely of cultural derivation or perhaps containing elements of a biological nature. The re-emergence of ethnicity as a potent political force in areas formerly within the Communist bloc in Europe. and its renaissance as a source of social identity in the United States (Glazer and Moynihan, 1970), in both cases contrary to the prevailing political ideologies, testifies to its potential as a focus for group boundary formation and maintenance, and in a world of increasingly plural societies, suggests its continuing or heightened significance in the future.
1.10 The above discussion has been articulated in general terms relating to objective criteria, but the reality of ethnic relations is understandable only through the meaning which it has for individuals in the course of daily living (Cohen, 1982). Thus, ethnic identity may have somewhat different meanings for individuals related to their social position and the level of power or powerlessness which they experience, or to psychological characteristics which may predispose them towards more liberal or more absolutist orientations . The process of socialisation within the family is another source of difference in relation to the meaning of ethnicity for individuals, and in the case of Northern Ireland, where religious belief has been intrinsic to ethnicity, the religious ethos of the household is likely to have been influential in this respect. Although the various denominations are not homogeneous in terms of their attitudes to Catholic-Protestant relations, there seems to be reason to expect some correlation in this respect .
1.11 Ethnicity may also have different meanings for individuals depending on the locality in which they live. There is, for example, the likelihood that politico-religious identity may have less salience in rural areas where religious mixing has been long established, especially among farming households. In these circumstances, the role of neighbour is likely to replace that associated with religious group membership in many situations, and familiarity between individuals to some extent counteracts the negative force of stereotyping (Blacking, Holy and Stuchlik, 1977, pl8; Jenkins, Donnan and McFarlane, 1986, pp26-27). However, although friendship and co-operation with one' s neighbour may transcend the religious division in these circumstances, it is still common to find the 'other' religious group as a whole being negatively stereotyped, whilst the known Catholics and Protestants are somehow regarded as 'different'. The question of the effect of socialisation in such 'peaceful' communities (Buckley, 1982), and whether norms emphasising neighbourly respect and tolerance have subjugated tendencies towards intergroup conflict, has received different responses from researchers. Mead (1971), Geertz (1975), Robarchek (1979), Howell 1981 and 1988, and Buckley (1989) have responded affirmatively. Others argue that within apparently peaceful societies, mechanisms have evolved to enable individuals to avoid conflict whilst engaging in the transactions of daily living (Harris, 1973). However, these mechanisms are fragile, and may not survive the occurrence of events which increase the threat perceived by members of a given group within the community.
1.12 Moreover, even in rural areas, the level of interaction between the religious groups varies. In some rather isolated locations with religiously mixed populations in terms of Protestants and Catholics, where contact with co-religionists outside of the locality has been difficult, high levels of interaction have been reported (Buckley, 1982; McClatchey, 1988). On the other hand, in areas close to the border with the Republic of Ireland where there have been many violent incidents since 1969, the level of polarisation between the religious groups is strong (Murray, 1982; Rainey, 1991).
1.13 Analyses of the Northern Ireland conflict fall into two broad classes. Within the first are those which envisage economic and political structures as the basis of conflict, whilst the second comprises analysis implying historically-derived prejudices as the root cause.
1.14 The most succinct analysis of the first type is that which identifies the basis of the present conflict as the existence of two types of minority situations in Ireland resulting from the geographical concentration of Protestants in the six counties comprising Northern Ireland. In 1981, Protestants had still a clear majority in this area, with an estimated 60% of the population (Compton, 1987, p246), but were clearly in the minority within the thirty-two counties of Ireland. Thus, whilst the partition of Ireland bestowed minority status on Catholics within the six counties of Northern Ireland, its removal would place Protestants in the minority within the thirty-two counties (10). In this analysis, partition is therefore the key issue on which Protestants and Catholics have been divided, and the foundation on which the ethnic boundary between these groups has been built.
1.15 Given this sense of separate national identity between Catholics and Protestants, and the desire to avoid minority status, with the restriction in opportunity which this implies, it can be argued that the social polarisation of the two groups has been an inevitable outcome. The core of this argument is that social polarisation is the result of 'social closure' (Boal. 1987, p108; Parkin, 1979, pp44-86), whereby those resources and opportunities under the control of each group have been to a large degree restricted to members of the group. In the case of certain organisations, notably political parties whose raison d'etre is defined in terms of support for or opposition to partition, quasi-political organisations such as the Orange Order and Ancient Order of Hibernians, or the various paramilitary groups, restriction of membership to one religious group and the promotion of sectarian interests, has been either explicitly or virtually assured by the prevailing ethos of the organisation. However, apart from these instances of organisational closure, 'social closure' has also operated widely within Northern Ireland in relation to four of the most fundamental social institutions, namely marriage, education, housing, and employment. Between them, these have combined to maintain the population base of each group, together with retaining resources within the group and preserving its cultural identity. At the same time the separate group identities have been reinforced and interaction between Protestants and Catholics has been reduced.
1.16 The second analysis of group conflict lays emphasis on the historically-derived segregation of the groups, both in social and spatial senses, and the inevitable prejudice which this has fostered. This approach is known as the 'contact hypothesis' (Allport, 1954; Scherer et al, 1975; Brown and Turner, 1981). The core of this argument is that lack of face-to-face contact between groups fosters misunderstanding, and at the same time promotes a sense of 'foreignness' on the basis of separate cultural development.
1.17 Some social psychologists, however, argue that the contact hypothesis does not adequately explain intergroup hostility. Hewstone and Brown (1986), for example, suggested that lack of knowledge and inaccurate perceptions were not the basic cause of such conflict, but that its roots were explainable in terms of social identity theory. The latter, which is attributable to the social psychologist Tajfel (Tajfel. 1978; Cairns. 1987, pp96-98), proposes that individuals undertake a process of social categorisation whereby the complexity of social experience is reduced. This is achieved by maximising differences between categories and minimising those within categories. Essentially also, the individual allocates herself or himself to certain categories, and this self-categorisation is fundamental to the acquisition of social identity. The association of this process with conflict can be explained through the desire of individuals to enhance their own social identity through positively evaluating the social categories to which they allocate themselves whilst negatively evaluating others. Within this theory therefore. intergroup conflict is bereft of its 'abnormal' connotation, and seen as a characteristic of societies in general, a view which fits well with the ubiquitous nature of ethnic conflict (Cairns, 1987, p96).
1.18 Trew, who has reviewed the literature on contact between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, suggests that the social identity theory might be more appropriate for conceptualising the factors underlying intercommunity relations here:
It would seem that dimensions of contact such as degree of interdependence, co-operation, intimacy and status equivalence, although suggested as important in the traditional psychological conceptions of the impact of intergroup contact, do not account for the situation observed in the mixed communities of Northern Ireland. These dimensions may be important for the development of friendship between neighbours; they have very little relevance to the development of strategies that allow for the peaceful co-existence of members of groups divided on genuine and apparently irreconcilable differences m political goals and aspirations. In contrast the findings from research on everyday contact between Protestants and Catholics exemplify the distinction between interpersonal and intergroup behaviour that is central to the social identity theory (Trew, 1986. p43).1.19 Undoubtedly, the provision of concrete experience involving intergroup contact, has been regarded by many in Northern Ireland as a valid way of reducing the boundary between Catholics and Protestants, and promoting the process of assimilation between them. However, when the process of assimilation is regarded as a variable, whose likelihood of occurring at all, or the rate at which it might occur, may be more dependent on the political, economic and social context, rather than being a direct function of the level of intergroup contact (Yinger, 1981, pp256-257), the level of progress which may be achieved through increased intergroup contact becomes problematic. Thus, for example, factors such as the comparative size of the groups (assimilation is favoured by one being relatively small), level of geographical concentration (high levels retard assimilation), degree of racial similarity, and level of contact with ancestral homelands (high levels retard assimilation), are influential in the process of assimilation. Of these, it may be noted, all but that concerning racial similarity would predict rather slow assimilation between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Further, the cultural differences between these groups are intrinsic, that is, are vital to the group's identity and cannot be easily discarded, as opposed to those such as accent or mode of dress which could be. Among the former, differences between Protestants and Catholics in relation to religion, historical language. folk traditions and history, and sense of historical origins, seem to be intrinsic to the individual's sense of identity, and therefore not amenable to compromise (Gordon, 1964, p79).
1.20 It might therefore be asked whether intergroup contact might do much more than inform about the other group, rather than promoting a sharing of culture or even a positive appreciation of that of the other group. Otherwise, the integrity of one's own identity would be undermined. There is, moreover, it would seem, a self-fulfilling quality about prejudice, whereby through selective and partial perceptions, concrete experience in the form of interpersonal contact may actually consolidate unfavourable beliefs about an out-group (Simpson and Yinger. 1972, pp674, 678 and 683).
1.21 However, in assessing the possible outcome of contact between
members of different ethnic groups, a factor of importance is
likely to be the nature and circumstances of this contact, rather
than merely the frequency of its occurrence. In a comprehensive
analysis of contact situations. Yehuda Amir noted a number of
circumstances which might produce favourable outcomes in relation
to prejudice reduction (Amir, 1969).
1.22 Amir also noted certain unfavourable circumstances in which contact is likely to be unproductive, and in the context of group relations in Northern Ireland. two of these seem to be worthy of note.
1.23 In the light of these considerations, it would seem that the resolution of the conflict in Northern Ireland would not automatically result from increased social interaction between the two groups. Indeed the salience of ethnic identity is inevitably heightened by such interaction, and whether reduced or increased prejudice ensues depends on both the circumstances of the interaction and the overarching social, economic and political structures within which it occurs. Such analysis helps to make understandable the fact that in a world of increased mobility with consequently heightened interaction between peoples of different ethnic origins, ethnicity has tended to increase in importance as a basic factor of individual identity (Yinger, 1981, p261).
1.24 Intuitively, it might be expected that face-to-face contact between members of different social groups would lead to a reduction in prejudice. Levels of prejudice are, however, likely to vary even in the case of a single individual, both with respect to time and to sub-groups within a larger social entity, that is, a favourable impression based on contact with out-group members may not be applied to the group as a whole but restricted to a limited category, such as 'the more educated members of group X or 'the members of group X who live in my area'.
1.25 Lynn Doyle, writing before the partition of Ireland in 1921, expresses his perception of the effects of integrated primary schooling as he experienced them.
I esteem it fortunate that I was educated for some years at a mixed school. It does not seem, as I have described it, a nursery of toleration: but seeds of toleration were sown there. When you go to school with your enemy, you are in the way of becoming his friend. The black-eye I received at the hands of Peter H - over a point of dogma. thirty years ago. is a tie between us nowadays when we meet. We differ on the point of dogma still: but Peter will never blacken my eye about it again, nor wish to do so. We know each other, and estimating our differences, find them outweighed by friendship. (Doyle, 1921, p41)1.26 It is worth questioning, however, whether Doyle, writing as a middle-class member of the religious majority in Ulster, represents also the cognitive experience of working-class Protestants or Catholics in general, and also if the different political circumstances of 1991 might not engender different outcomes from intergroup contact in schools or within the wider society. The evidence provided by research is certainly inconclusive concerning the link which may exist between levels of such contact and prejudice reduction. However, it might be worth pointing out that Doyle's contact with a Catholic involved an open discussion of real points of conflict. It may, therefore, be that, as recent evidence in Northern Ireland has suggested (Dunn and Smith, 1989), this kind of discussion is essential if the amelioration of negative social attitudes is to be achieved.
1.27 Shokeid, writing in 1983 about an integrated schools project initiated in Israel by the government in 1968-69, found few positive outcomes to report (Shokeid M, 1983). The ethnic groups concerned were Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, the first of European origin, the second Oriental (the differentiating factors were economic and cultural, but in contrast to the religious conflict in Northern Ireland, there was consensus between these groups with regard to the legitimacy of the state). Shokeid, writing concerning the outcomes of this project, reported that the self-image of the poorer group (Sephardi) had been damaged, whilst there was no alteration in the stereotype of the Sephardi held by Ashkenazi children. His conclusions, rather than finding support for integration, portrayed it as supporting the existing ethnic division and perpetuating social inequality. In fact, in his view, 'institutional education - from kindergarten to college - rather than leading society, mirrors and actively expresses the total institutional order of which it is a part'.
1.28 Since the escalation of the Northern Ireland conflict in 1969, various measures aimed at increasing contact between children of the Catholic and Protestant traditions have been implemented. Broadly, these fall into two main categories, firstly those involving short-term contact, as for example holiday schemes or inter-school contact, and secondly the establishment of long-term contact through the setting-up of religiously integrated schools. With regard to the effectiveness of institutionalised short term contact between Catholic and Protestant young people in Northern Ireland as a means of reducing prejudice, findings have been generally equivocal. Trew, in reviewing community relations holiday schemes and conflict resolution workshops (Trew, 1989, pp131-159), was able to draw few clear conclusions in this respect. Concerning residential schemes, she noted that:
'The available evidence on the nature and impact of residential schemes which involve contact between Catholic and Protestant young people has been shown to be limited. However it does seem to indicate that in the short term, when effort has been made to apply principles which have been shown to increase the impact of contact and promote personal development, young people do show positive changes in their attitudes to the other religious group'.1.29 In a research report concerning an EMU scheme involving 12 year old Catholic and Protestant children in Strabane (Smith and Dunn, 1990), the authors found no evidence for the erosion of national identities among the participants. They also noted that 'there are limits to the extent to which educational programmes alone can influence the preconceptions which children already hold'. However, they also felt that the pupils derived a more critical attitude through such contact, leading to 'a move away from simple 'them' and 'us' versions of Northern Ireland society'.
1.30 Such examples of cross-community schemes in Northern Ireland as those reviewed above, involving short-term or intermittent contact, might be expected to enjoy less success that contact situations where participants belonged to the same school or college, and where interaction continued for a number of years. Such situations, involving a substantial enrolment of children from both religious groups in the same school, is rare at the primary and secondary stages of education in Northern Ireland, though apart from the colleges of education, tertiary level institutions are of a mixed religious character. There were however a greater number of substantially mixed primary schools in the past, especially in rural areas, and certain grammar schools with basically non-Catholic ethos continue to have sizable minorities of Catholics.
1.31 A research report concerning the possible social effects of religious mixing in Lagan College (Irwin, 1991), claims very positive outcomes in terms of the establishment of cross-religious friendships among pupils, and a less polarised set of attitudes to the cause of conflict, even if group identities remained largely unaltered. One unanswered question however, is the influence of the pupils' home environments which are surely highly atypical of Northern Ireland in general, since in choosing Lagan College as an integrated school, parents were not only deviating from the majority of their peers, but were in many cases incurring both geographical inconvenience and disapproval by some members of their religious group. A second unanswered question is the extent to which pupils at Lagan College may be adopting avoidance strategies and in this way creating an impression of less polarised attitudes.
1.32 Irwin also raises one issue which is at the very heart of the debate concerning the influence of schools within society, namely whether schools can effect social change or whether they largely reflect the institutions of society itself. Irwin's position on this issue is clearly supportive of the dynamic role of the school as an agent of change.
Although it would be quite wrong to place the responsibility of reducing the level of conflict in Northern Ire land, or anywhere else, on the education system alone, I do wish to suggest that integrated education p lays a very special role in this process, as it can change the character and weave of a community's social fabric, while other political and economic actions can only hope to reshape the social fabric that is given. (Irwin, 1991, p91)1.33 The questionable nature of this assertion, proposing as it does the possibility of altering the individual identities of school children without a corresponding change in the social structures upon which these are dependent, is easily apparent. Contrary to this viewpoint, it might be more justifiably suggested that social identities, which are presumably fundamental elements within the 'character and weave of the community's social fabric', cannot be altered without either or both 'political and economic actions' capable of realigning the political orientations of groups within a nation state.
1.34 At this point there is an almost total lack of studies concerning the effects of integration on tertiary level students in Northern Ireland (one study relating to students at Queen's University in 1982 is described in Irwin, 1991). One interesting source of information however, is the unpublished report on the Wider Horizons Programme in 1990, in which participating students commented on their experiences . It is clear from the comments of these students that the integrated nature of the group was both socially demanding and rewarding, and, at the same time, was perceived by most to be a valued means of learning about the 'other' tradition. One such comment, which maybe regarded as typical. was as follows.
Living at such close proximity to people for eight weeks gave me the chance to get to know them reasonably well, o en up to them and discuss issues with them. The majority of such discussions were with regard to politics and religion. I have learned to accept other group members as they are and to respect their views and I hope I have become more tolerant as a result (Student 2).1.35 Most of the comments, whilst positively evaluating the experience of contact across the religious divide, and while suggesting that an increased level of tolerance may have been achieved, did not signify an acceptance of the logic or justice in the aspirations of the 'other' group, as opposed to the rights of individuals to hold these views. In other words, the positive achievement arising from this intergroup contact, was the ability of individuals with different social identities to integrate as a social group, an outcome which might be anticipated in view of the context of the interaction and the equal status of the participants (Amir, 1969). However, whatever individuals gained in terms of understanding the conflict in Northern Ireland there is no evidence that they acquired insights into how they might reconcile their political aspirations with those of a diametrically opposite nature.
1.36 Only one student appeared to consider this issue and his/her comments merit quoting.
Throughout the programme, we, as a group of students from all over Ireland, have become very close, Northerners, Southerners, Catholic and Protestant alike. One thing which I feel has been 'swept under the carpet' to quite a large extent, however, is the whole political and religious situation in Ireland. I do not feel I have come to a greater understanding of the Northern Protestant situation even though I can relate well to individual Northern Protestants and I feel the situation is similar from their point of view. I believe that the whole issue has been deliberately avoided by everybody, with the view that our problems should be kept at home (Student 25).1.37 From the above brief survey of situations involving intergroup contact in Northern Ireland, and from socio-psychological theory, the complex nature of factors influencing the outcome of such contact is clear. If conflicting social identities are in fact the basis of conflict it may be more correct to interpret the typical attitudes and behaviour of the majority of Catholics and Protestants as a rational response within the context of social reality than as 'irrationality' or the outcome of prejudice arising from ignorance. In such circumstances, contact between members of the religious groups might be expected to result in little more than accommodation within the specific context without any significant shift in the social identities of individuals, or their attitudes to members of the other religion as a group. Herein is the major source of confusion surrounding the outcome of intergroup contact, namely the failure to distinguish between interaction as individuals and as representatives of groups.
1.38 In the latter case, there is little evidence that allegiance to existing social identities (and axiomatically suspicion towards other identities) is weakened by intergroup contact, even if individuals in the outgroup become socially accepted. To expect more is to seriously underrate the power of the competing identities, in the case of Northern Ireland both derived from symbols and myths developed over several centuries. and sanctified by the addition of religious association.
1.39 In considering the possible outcomes of intergroup contact it is essential to recognise the chameleon-like nature of personal identity and the ability of individuals to underplay aspects of social identity in particular circumstances. Thus, accommodation can be reached between individuals of diametrically opposed social identities without any sacrifice of these identities. Whether or not there is any real gain in terms of a reduction in community conflict by the pursuit of contact between groups is, therefore, difficult to assess merely on the basis of such evidence as friendship patterns across group boundaries. Dunn concluded as much in considering evidence from 'bridge-building' strategies involving school children in Northern Ireland.
There is no very hard evidence in the Northern Ireland context that 'togetherness' has any important effect on community relations. The view, which the research suggests is held by many in the schools, that there are undesirable consequences arising from separation by religion is not easy to demonstrate m scientific terms, and can only be argued m terms of experience, in terms of the complexity of the social problems generally, and to a small extent in terms of value-judgement and belief (Dunn, 1986, p239).1.40 McWhirter, has also laid doubt about the efficacy of mere interpersonal contact which does not include a restructuring of group relations.
So long as 'Protestant' and 'Catholic' remain legitimate group elements of the Northern Ireland conflict, They are likely to remain as potentially relevant categories for conflictual social comparisons among individuals in all contact situations (McWhirter, 1983, p4).1.41 Clearly, simplistic strategies for social reconstruction in Northern Ireland based solely on increased contact between Catholics and Protestants, are unlikely to experience much success, at least in the short or medium term. Whether a substantive increase in tolerance and a modification of behaviour among the majority of individuals in both religious groups might be expected to result from a sustained period of contact under favourable circumstances is, however, an issue of considerable interest. Given time, and an improvement in the overarching political and economic structures, such modification might contribute to social reconstruction involving the emergence of new forms of social identity, cross-cutting rather than reinforcing the major religious division in Northern Ireland.
8.1 The data obtained on the background, beliefs and attitudes of the student teachers surveyed and interviewed in the course of this investigation allows a number of conclusions on a cross-institutional basis to be drawn. These conclusions include a set of striking similarities shared by large majorities in each institution, as well as a number of interesting contrasts. They are discussed here under four headings: background; socio-cultural identity; intergroup contact and conservatism.
8.2 The most obvious similarities are those which are to be expected of students entering teacher education courses of the kind which these students followed: gender, age profiles, social background, educational qualifications work experiences. The profile for each cohort of entrants and for those in their final year revealed close parallels in each institution. Such differences as did emerge on these matters were relatively minor and are discussed below.
8.3 It is possible, therefore, to say that the typical student teacher in Northern Ireland pursuing four year courses is likely to commence his, or her course, more likely her course, straight from school, to possess average 'A' level results, to have had some work experience before entering teacher education and to continue acquiring such experience over the four years. This student is also likely to come from a Social Class 2, or 3 background.
8.4 Such contrasts as emerged with respect to social class background were to be found in the percentages in Social Class 1 and Social Classes 4 and 5 (5.13). A much higher percentage of Stranmillis students surveyed came from Social Class 1 than was the case in either of the other two colleges; St. Mary's had a much higher percentage in Social Classes 4 and 5 than had either Stranmillis, or UUColeraine. These findings suggest a Catholic-Protestant contrast, rather than an institutional one.
8.5 The most obvious contrast in terms of background was
with respect to denominational affiliation. St.
Mary's students, as expected, were exclusively Catholic, Stranmillis
virtually exclusively Protestant, while those at Coleraine consisted
of an almost even mix of both Catholics and Protestants (5.2 and
5.57). Very low percentages of students indicated no denominational
affiliation and, of those who did, not unexpectedly, none was
attending St. Mary's. The overwhelming majority in each institution
was female, male students accounting for no more than 13 percent
of the entrants and 18 percent of the final year surveyed.
8.6 Evidence as to the socio-cultural identity of the students surveyed suggests that sharp divisions exist. While none of the survey questionnaires directly sought information as to how respondents perceived their identity in national terms, evidence from those interviewed is quite explicit. All of the Catholic students interviewed described themselves as Irish, while all but one of the Protestant students interviewed described themselves as British (6.5-6.7). The strength of cultural distinctiveness is also evident in responses to questions on political and religious matters.
8.7 On political questions, respondents views would appear to correspond quite closely to those of the wider community from which they come. For example, a clear divide emerges in the support for such political proposals as 'integration with Britain' and 'Irish unity' between respondents at Stranmillis and. St. Mary's, while the balance of support for these proposals amongst Coleraine respondents suggests a Catholic-Protestant dichotomy there too (5.28-33 and 5.75-5.79). Any institutional relationship between students and their political views (whether views on a political 'solution', or on the Anglo-Irish Agreement) would appear to be minimal. Hardly any shift is evident from the views recorded by the 1987 survey. Such shifts as did take place appear in the somewhat greater numbers recorded as supporting 'integration with Britain' in 1991 and in the greater number in 1991, who regarded the Anglo-Irish Agreement as a 'positive' development. Such a shift does not suggest a reconciliation of views.
8.8 It is because of these findings that it is probably correct to conclude that the political views of these students do not mark them off in any noteworthy way from the adult community as a whole in Northern Ireland whose political views and attitudes they would appear to quite faithfully reflect. Students at St. Mary's expressed views very much in line with the views of the nationalist community, while students at Stranmillis reflect those of the unionist community. Students at Coleraine are divided into their views along lines which seem to be indicative of the denominational composition of the cohorts surveyed. A more accurate picture of the key factors underlying these attitudes is likely to be found in an examination of denominational affiliation and political views.
8.9 The high percentages in all three institutions claiming religion to be 'important' or 'very important' to them is also striking. The absence of any significant shift in the reported importance of religion over the four years reinforces this point. This survey finding is supported by evidence on church attendance from several interviews. The latter was especially marked in comments by some St. Mary's respondents whose level of voluntary attendance at church services was very high. Data is not available to make any wider comparisons, but it would be interesting to discover to what extent religious belief is regarded as important by student teachers in other national and cultural contexts and also by peers pursuing other third level courses in Northern Ireland.
8.9 This high degree of importance placed on religion in the lives of these student teachers is underlined by their responses, especially from those in their final year, to the question on marriage (5.88). Marriage within, rather than without the denominational divide is the dominant preference of the students surveyed. Indeed, the fears and taboos surrounding 'going out' with someone from the 'other' denomination are vividly illustrated in comments from a number of the students interviewed (6.6 and 6.10).
8.10 Curiously, despite the importance which students attribute to religion, quite high percentages amongst them do not have a very high opinion of the role of the churches in Northern Ireland as far as community relations are concerned. Only at St. Mary's was a majority recorded as having a positive view of the churches' community relations role. There was, however, a decline in the percentages with a negative view over the four years in all three institutions, the greatest decline being at St. Mary's. These findings raise questions as to how the churches present themselves to the students. Are the churches seen essentially and almost exclusively as agencies working within their respective denominations, rather than as agencies which should also manifest a commitment to reconciliation, mutual understanding and respect across the community divide in Northern Ireland?
8.11 Notwithstanding the high level of group solidarity suggested in the previous paragraphs, it is important to draw attention to evidence of contact across the denominational and political divide and of a general desire for such contact to be developed.
8.12 In terms of inter-denominational contacts similar percentages of students in each cohort claimed to have had a 'close friend' from the 'other community' before entering teacher education, slightly over a third in each institution (5.19). The obverse of this finding is that almost two-thirds of the students in each institution were not able to make this claim. Evidence of the relative isolation from the 'other' community which some students experienced in their early years is explicitly provided in the final year interviews (6.5-6.7).
8.13 However, it has to be borne in mind that this isolation was a matter of degree, because only very low percentages of students in all three institutions reported 'very little', or 'no' contact at all with persons of the 'other' denomination before they had entered teacher education (5.16).
8.14 Data on inter-denominational contacts since the students commenced their courses, provide some of the more interesting findings from this study, and also raise important questions about the nature and outcomes of this contact (5.60). These findings indicate an inter-institution contrast which places students at St. Mary's and Stranmillis in one category and students at Coleraine in another in terms of the degree of intergroup contact and in terms of how the students evaluate opportunities for such contact.
8.15 A very different degree of opportunity for intergroup contact exists between, on the one hand students at the Coleraine campus and, on the other, those at St. Mary's and Stranmillis. At Coleraine students seem to value this opportunity very positively (5.66) and this is underlined by those interviewed (6.27). The greater extent to which students at Coleraine in contrast to their peers in the Belfast colleges enjoyed opportunities for inter-denominational contact is, in itself, not remarkable since they were in a denominationally mixed situation in which Catholics and Protestants were approximately equal in number. What is noteworthy is the extent to which the Coleraine students would appear to have availed of this opportunity to establish friendships across the traditional divide. The figure of 80 percent is very high when compared to the figure quoted for Queen's University in Irwin's study (op.cit). The figure he quotes is 12 percent of the students at Queen's reporting friends from the 'other' community. Indeed, compared to this figure. the percentages recorded by final year students at St. Mary's and Stranmillis are also quite high (5.63).
8.16 These findings about contact suggest the need, at Coleraine, to investigate the extent to which the high level of cross-community friendship reported by student teachers is typical of the whole student body, both at Coleraine and within the University of Ulster generally and whether the situation at Queen's has remained as it was when the 12 percent figure was recorded in 1982.
8.17 Responses to the question which asked students to indicate their willingness to establish friendships across the community divide (5.45 and 5.47) revealed very high percentages indicating a willingness to do so. The percentages recorded by the graduating class of 1991 increased from those recorded for the 1990 entrants to very high figures indeed. This suggests that most students see no impediment in principle to establishing such friendships and, further suggests, that opportunity is probably the only impediment to them doing so.
8.18 As regards the opportunities for inter-denominational contact which were provided during their student teacher careers (5.66 and 6.23), the Coleraine students, not surprisingly, were those who were most positive in their evaluation of these opportunities. Most of the comments made, however, referred to personal friendship and not to any positive outcomes which might have suggested a reconciliation of conflicting political aspirations. Is it the case that avoidance strategies come to be well developed by Coleraine students, rather than strategies for rational debate of contentious issues?
8.19 At St. Mary's and Stranmillis, while some favourable attitudes and comments were expressed about the opportunities for intergroup contact, the majority of those surveyed in both institutions tended to be negative in their evaluations, or to indicate that they regarded such opportunities as having no effect. Indeed, the evidence is that for many of these students such contact was regarded as artificially contrived, superficial and even at times uncomfortable and embarrassing (6.22-6.24). The most favourable comments for intergroup contact from such students were with respect to field trips and the Wider Horizons Programme's projects, but since such opportunities are necessarily restricted to a few, they can only be indicative of what might be achieved if contact was to be developed on a more extensive basis.
8.20 Turning to respondents' attitudes towards further development of cross-community contact, the willingness of many final year respondents in all three institutions to undertake some of their teaching practice in schools of a different tradition to their own is noteworthy, although there is the curious disparity between the percentage so willing at Coleraine compared to those at both St. Mary's and Stranmillis (5.68) and the very much lower levels of willingness amongst first year students (5.42). It would seem that this willingness, which is already being accommodated, though only on a very limited scale, should be positively responded to. However, comments contained in a number of interviews on this question revealed fears and apprehensions amongst some students, especially at Stranmillis and St. Mary's, which would have to be taken account of in planning a more structured provision for such an opportunity (6.29-6.30). These fears and apprehensions were also evident in interview comments made by some staff members at the Belfast colleges, although they, too, generally welcomed opportunities for some teaching practice taking place in schools of the 'other' tradition (7.17-7.18).
8.21 It would appear, however, that there are, for many respondents, clear limits to the kinds of contact which are acceptable and that these limits are functions of a wider group solidarity, a solidarity which seems, from some of the findings in this research, to intensify over the years of teacher education. Apart from marriage, education, despite the desire for the kinds of contact discussed above, emerges for many as a problematic area. The issues are both complex and apparently contradictory. Contrast the positive evaluations of 'integrated education' amongst respondents. both in their first and final years (5.38 and 5.64) with the considerably lower levels of willingness of final year respondents to have a child of theirs 'taught by a teacher of the 'other' denomination' (5.89). Over 50 percent of final year students in all three institutions are either uncertain, or unwilling to allow this to happen. While this percentage still leaves large minorities in each institution willing to accept such a situation it does, nevertheless, suggest that 'integrated' education maybe seen by many student teachers more as an ideal for others than as a realistic prospect for themselves.
8.22 Further to this discussion on inter-denominational contacts, attention should be paid to some of the views expressed on EMU and CH, the two cross-curricular themes designed to promote understanding and respect. While a general enthusiasm exists amongst many student teachers for both themes, a degree of scepticism as to the achievement of the goals set for them, is also evident (6.14-6.16). Since this scepticism is reflected in the views of several members of staff at all three institutions (7.7.2-7.5), it is not surprising that some students are also sceptical. The existence of such scepticism invites further investigation since the achievement of the goals and objectives for both EMU and CH are, to a very considerable extent, dependent on the involvement and attitudes of the teaching profession.
8.23 The value of a religious dimension in education generally and in teacher education in particular as a necessary concomitant to the traditional Catholic approach to education was, not unexpectedly, strongly endorsed by a number of students (6.26) and staff interviewed at St. Mary's (7.17). For many students and for several members of the staff at St. Mary's, this endorsement may well explain their scepticism towards integrated education. The strength of this commitment underpins the determination to maintain a distinctly Catholic input into teacher education in Northern Ireland.
8.24 Staff responses at all three institutions on the value of intergroup contacts produced an interesting range of comments. While many placed a positive value on such contact, a number expressed scepticism, including, perhaps surprisingly, some staff at Coleraine (7.16-7.19). Taken together with responses from students reflecting a similar attitude, it would appear that the nature of intergroup contact in all three institutions would require close scrutiny, if it is to be convincingly used to promote understanding, respect and reconciliation. Contact which does not address diversity and division is unlikely to have long-term effects as far as mutual understanding and respect are concerned.
8.25 A general characteristic of the students surveyed is the extent to which they would appear to hold views and attitudes which are quite close to, if not identical to, those of the communities from which they come. This characteristic suggests that most student teachers in the three institutions involved in this study are conservative in their outlook. The Conservatism Scale administered to the 1990 intake and to final years attempted to measure the extent to which this might be so.
Results reveal the students in all three institutions recording
mean scores towards the middle of the scale. The range of scores
(5.54 and 5.91) suggests a broad similarity between the cohorts
surveyed, with a slight, but significant tendency towards greater
conservatism amongst students at Stranmillis.
8.26 The overall impression created by the findings is the extent to which student teachers in all three institutions are representative of the wider socio-political and religious communities from which they come. This is particularly borne out in their responses to the questions on political and religious issues where a clear inference can be drawn that it is their communal/denominational affiliations which are and which remain the major determinants of their views. These views do not appear to undergo any significant change during the years of teacher education, rather they would appear to be reinforced. The result, in effect, is that the teachers emerging from the institutions in which the surveys and interviews were undertaken, are more likely to transmit the basic beliefs, values and attitudes of the communities to which they belong, than they are to challenge these belief and value systems.
8.27 While clinging quite firmly to their own belief and value systems, there is, nonetheless, a general desire to promote contact and friendship across the divide. Indeed, in the search for possible clues as to the effects of pursuing their teacher education courses in their particular institutions, the one obvious factor to emerge is the extent to which contact across the community divide is resulting in a considerable number of cross-community friendships for the students at Coleraine. While this degree of degree of friendship contacts contrasts with the more limited extent of such friendships amongst the students at the two Belfast colleges, the desire for greater contact amongst the latter is also evident and their responses would appear to indicate dissatisfaction with the opportunities and, possibly, the nature of such contacts as are available at the present time. Indeed, for all three institutions, the findings of this study underline the need to carefully examine the nature of all cross-community contact initiatives in order to ensure that they are focused on understanding, respect and reconciliation.
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