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Reader feedback: Indoctrination is painful

Re: EC has no comment on van der Linden's Roma statements, Flash news briefs, Vol 10, No 18, May 10 - 16

Like many others, I too was shocked by van der Linden's suggestion that children of Slovak Roma be removed from their families and placed in boarding schools, for the purposes of integration into mainstream society.

My reason for shock is that Canada tried that in the last century with children of our First Nations [aboriginal peoples] and Metis. While there might have been some successes, the overall result was years of misery for both the children and their parents, much of it well documented. What the adults of the First Nations communities suffered pales in comparison to what the children endured. Sad and lonely, those kids faced not just homesickness and cultural dislocation, but also real psychological and physical abuse. The lawsuits against the government and against the churches (Roman Catholic and Protestant) that ran the schools have yet to be completely settled, but have already bankrupted some dioceses.

But don't allow yourself to get sidetracked by the sexual and physical abuse issues. Although the residential school can provide fertile conditions for such abuses to occur, maybe in this age, given enough caring and vigilant and trusted staff, such abuses can be eliminated.

Instead, look into the psychological effects of this idea. Read a few first-hand accounts of families who endured the effects of cultural segregation. Most people would agree that the damage to the psyche is too great - unless, of course, that's exactly what you want to happen. In the cold war days, it was called brainwashing, wasn't it?

As much as I might decry some Roma living styles, buying their children is not the solution, any more than continued and demeaning government handouts that seem never to be enough for the recipient yet are often too much for the taxpayer. It occurs to me that the "give a man a fish / teach a man to fish" homily might apply, but only if it can be seen that the man actually wants to fish.

Van der Linden showed an appalling ignorance when he made his suggestion. But that some Roma leaders are actually endorsing it is surprising. It makes me wonder what they see as an incentive. If van der Linden's idea comes to fruition, I can only hope that the Slovak experience will be better than the Canadian one.

Ron Watson,
Canada

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