Childhood, Religion and School Injustice by Karl Kitching

This book presents a wide-ranging sociological and philosophical analysis of secular-religious relations and unequal childhoods at school. Kitching explores the complex 'post-secular' condition that countries, school systems, parents and children find themselves in, where secular and religious meanings are entangled, and majority and middle class groups continue to be advantaged.

Focusing on the Irish, majority Catholic school system as a case study, Kitching presents in-depth qualitative research and policy analysis which explains these circumstances. He explores both how parents are unequally positioned within school ‘choice’ dynamics, and how adults’ own memories of schooling play a significant part in their imagining of ‘good’ childhoods and schools. Possibly the book’s greatest value lies in its positive, unique exploration of children’s encounters with ethics and deeply held beliefs through school, and through consumer culture and religious culture and spaces. Kitching contends that public and policy discourse on education has a lot to learn, or re-learn, from the wonder, experimentation and ethical relationships that children express.

In arguing for the ‘becoming public’ of unequal, privatised and marketised school systems, Kitching contends that no universal template for public education exists. However, he argues a concerted approach to combating majoritarianism and narrow self-interest in school systems is needed. In the Irish case, this includes dismantling the patronage system in favour of predominantly publicly owned and governed schooling. 

Professor Anna Hickey-Moody (RMIT Melbourne) describes the book as insightful, engaging, and an absolute must-read for those interested in children, religion, schooling or social justice”. Childhood, Religion and School Injustice is published by Cork University Press with the support of the CACSSS Research Publication Fund.

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