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Church, State and the Control of Schooling in Ireland

Church, State and the Control of Schooling in Ireland

Publisher’s Notes

Church, State, and the Control of Schooling in Ireland, 1900-1944. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1983.

Church, State, and the Control of Schooling in Ireland, 1900-1944 by Brian Titley looks at the power exercised by the Roman Catholic church in primary and secondary education in the four decades spanning the achievement of Irish independence in 1922.  He notes that while in most countries of the Western industrialized world the struggle between church and state over the control of schooling was won by the state, this was not so in Ireland.  He asks ‘why?’  To find out, Dr. Titley looks first at the twenty-two years prior to political independence, a period when the secular and democratic reforms of the imperial administration were opposed by the Catholic bishops who perceived the nationalist movement as the best guarantee of the educational status quo.  Then he looks at the effects of independence on church control during the twenty-two year post-independence period, when secular and ecclesiastical authorities ceased to be at odds because they shared the same educational philosophy.

In a brilliant final chapter, Dr. Titley argues that the church jealously guarded its educational hegemony because of the key role played by the schools in producing aspirants to the religious life, as well as an unquestioning middle class.  He shows that the schools produced such a great surplus of religious personnel as to form the bedrock of a world-wide spiritual empire.  Finally, he suggests that the failure of the secularist ideology to make any headway in education is the most convincing evidence that the Irish revolution was a conservative reaction which insulated the country from modernizing influences.


“This book is a fine achievement in investigative writing.  It is well produced, with a detailed index.  It should prove invaluable to the objective student in pursuit of the truth about Irish education and its politicians.”  Noel Browne, The Sunday Tribune, 8 January 1984.

“Brian Titley has written a daring, controversial and interesting book.  It is daring in that it purports to deal with the complex issues of the relationships between the State and the Catholic Church during the twenty-two years before and the twenty-two years after political independence, with only skimpy access to the original source materials of either agency.  It is controversial in that it challenges a traditional view, still held by some people, of the church’s role as being solely benign and philanthropic in the area of education.  The work is interesting because it deals with the great struggle and strategies for the control of educational institutions in a crisp, fast moving style with little qualification in the judgements or assessments.”  John Coolahan, Irish University Review, 14, 2, Autumn 1984: 299-301.

“Carefully researched, thoughtfully considered, clearly organized, lucidly and economically written, Titley’s book supports the thesis that Catholicism has been the most important force in Irish history.  Obviously he does not sympathize with the clerical education authoritarianism which has warped and limited the Irish mind and imagination, making it difficult for Ireland to cope with the twentieth century.”  Lawrence J. McCaffrey, The Journal of Educational Thought, 18, 1, April 1984: 62-64.