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50 Shades of Green: Ireland and Rory D’Arcy

Connect: Derry, N.Ireland

My synapses are still crackling from my 18 days in Ireland and Northern Ireland. (I didn’t know that they were two separate countries.)

My tour group visited the sites of Bloody Sunday, the Titanic, Guinness and many other wonders. We hit the usual tourist sites of Blarney Castle and Waterford Crystal.  Pubs welcomed us at every stop. 

A stop we made that’s not in any guidebook is St. Oliver’s National School in Killarney. It is a Catholic public school. Education is free, but sectarian.  This is a large elementary school of more than 600 students. There are at least 45 ethnicities. There are a large number of Muslim students. Why such a variety of ethnicities and faiths in a stereotypically whiter than white culture? Tourism is flourishing in Ireland. (Definitely visit off-season, as I did, unless you want to wait in lines longer than those for Disney’s Splash Mountain.)  There are many immigrants in Ireland. Polish is the third most popular language after English and Irish. Many immigrants work in the tourist industry and send their children to St. Oliver’s.

Rory D’Arcy is the charming headmaster of St. Oliver’s He’s well known in Irish educational circles as a charming rebel.  The building is old and a bit shabby, but his philosophy is fresh. We asked questions about testing, grades, etc. Rory told us his and the school’s philosophy.  

The most important mission of the school is to endow each student with self-worth. Without self-worth, the rest doesn’t matter. 

Secondly, the school envelops all students in compassion. Compassion is taught, valued and modeled. There are many physically and mentally challenged students at St. Oliver’s. They are treasured and embraced by the more able. The corollary to compassion is the concept of inclusivity.  Not just inclusivity for the students, but for the parents as well.  

Thirdly, St. Oliver’s doesn’t teach for test taking. It teaches how to learn. How to find information. How to question and consider. 

D’Arcy believes that compassion, inclusivity and the ability to learn can’t blossom in a child without self-worth. Self-worth is the cloak St. Oliver’s students wear over their navy and gray uniforms.

Rory D’Arcy and his philosophy inspired us all. There were several folks on our tour who were physically challenged. One of the much younger, rather flip passengers, Mike, drew a considerably older, frailer, wearisome roommate. At first, Mike ridiculed his roommate – not to his face – but to those of us who would listen. After hearing D’Arcy speak about compassion, Michael changed his approach to and view of his roommate.  Everyone was more helpful to each other. The cliques became more inclusive.

Couldn’t we use a big dose of Rory D’Arcy philosophy? As recently deceased George H.W. Bush said in his one and only inaugural speech, “We need a kinder, gentler nation.” Politics aside (Please, I beg you, put politics aside.) What would our world look like if we were kinder, gentler, more compassionate, less exclusive, didn’t just accept information without using our ability to check it out and learn, and we honored others’ self-worth instead of tearing it down? 

I wonder.

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