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Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
NI children: Are they learning to hate too young?
Children as young as three in Northern Ireland can identify symbols as being linked to either loyalist or nationalist cultures, according to a report.

The research carried out by the University of Ulster points out that Catholic children were twice as likely to state that they did not like the police or Orange Order marches, compared to Protestant children at three years of age.

The report, Too Young to Notice? The Cultural and Political Awareness of Three to Six-Year-Olds, is a study of the attitudes and prejudices of pre-school children.

It recommends encouraging children from three upwards to experience different cultures, and to understand the negative effects of sectarian stereotypes and prejudices.

Are children in Northern Ireland learning sectarianism too young? Do you think a new generation is being brought up to hate?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

I will not teach my children to hate, but to be proud of who they are

IDM, Northern Ireland
I'm gob smacked by these naive comments. Children are not taught to hate, children are just becoming aware of what they are. Would a child in Dublin or London be considered sectarian if they could identify their countries' flag at the age of six? The Troubles are not a tribal conflict, they are a result of nationalisms and ideologies that everyone else takes for granted.

The parents of Liverpool and Limerick 'teach' their children exactly what the parents of Londonderry and Larne do, it's just that circumstances do not currently lead it to the same conclusion. Please spare us your patronising hand wringing. I am proud of my heritage, and fascinated by that of the 'other side'. I will not teach my children to hate, but to be proud of who they are. This self-confidence will allow them to avoid violence.
IDM, Northern Ireland

The problem is implicit in the education system - religious division of education must be abolished. This almost certainly entails "bussing" of pupils out of their local areas; it will undoubtedly be unpopular with parents, the established churches (especially the Catholic Church, which alone runs institutionalised sectarian schools - state schools are only Protestant by default), and political parties and will very likely result in more than a few confrontations when people who are already antagonistic are forced together. But, in the long term, this policy is the only one that can work.
Brian, Northern Ireland

Some of us were brought up to respect others no matter how different they are

Karen, Scotland
Although I agree with some of the comments I would like to emphasise the fact that not all children raised in Northern Ireland are taught to hate. My parents are Northern Irish. One of them was brought up in Belfast, and both my brother and I believe that everyone is equal and no one should be discriminated against. I was 18 when I moved to Scotland and was surprised at the attitudes of people when they discovered where I was from. It upsets me that people in the rest of the UK, and further a field, believe that anyone from Northern Ireland must have an underlying hatred for people of another religion just because of their nationality. Some of us were brought up to respect others no matter how different they are.
Karen, Scotland

Of course children are being inducted into the sectarian divisions of Northern Ireland - it is vitally important to the men of violence that the divisions are perpetuated in each successive generation. How else can they maintain their power?
Guy Chapman, UK

The answer is in the question. They are children learning to hate. Of course they are too young. No one should be taught to hate. At least a process is in order - it may be taking time and there may be a great deal of stumbling blocks, and people may doubt it. But surely it is worth a try. Children should not be taught to hate.
Mel, UK

Children will echo whatever their parents or peers proclaim

Victor D, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Children will echo whatever their parents or peers proclaim. If no one bothers to teach the new generation any different, it won't be.
Victor D, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The violence in Northern Ireland is not going to end until the people want it to end. As long as they are still being taught the symbols of hatred from childhood, under the pretext of learning their "culture", they are not going to want to stop the violence. They need to be integrated from as early an age as possible, and taught that they are all basically the same sort of people with the same sort of aspirations, and not some ghostly enemy that threatens them and their way of life.
Sarah, Reading, UK

We see here the basic problems of society. Terrorism and violence is always considered to be a case of "someone else is doing it". People always say that they are "shocked and disgusted" by it. Yet from day one of a child's life they instil exactly the kind of hatred that feeds the violence. If parents in NI stop teaching their kids this violence, within a generation the terror groups will lose their support.
Vish, UK

Like all small children, those in Northern Ireland are taught the beliefs of their parents, by their parents. Ulster University's observations are merely stating the blatantly obvious. It's the parents who need to change their attitude, not the kids, who are merely doing what all good children do: taking notice of what mum and dad tell them!
Chris B, England

Of course, this is how the cycle of hate is perpetuated. Parents passing hate down to the next generation. It's exactly the same in the Middle East. Children are naturally pure and hate free. I've always thought if you could remove all the adults from a trouble spot and raise the children independently of their hate ridden parents then that would be the end of your problem. All it takes is one generation.
B Thompson, UK

See also:

25 Jun 02 | N Ireland
14 Apr 00 | N Ireland
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