A column in defence of certain parts of the education system coming from this corner might seem strange given some of what’s gone on in the past. Extraordinary circumstances call for unusual things though. Simpler than that, when a passion is held for something, no matter what it be, when threat looms, the case for the defence will always be advocated. Despite difficulties – to put it mildly – with circumstances at the time, history was always one of my favourite subjects in school. That and Irish. Talk of the latter being at the very least downgraded, when it cropped in the past, didn’t seem to wash and hope would be the mooted idea to make history an optional subject won’t meet with much approval either. Early signs to this end are encouraging.
Policy makers would do well to heed to the old saying – ‘no matter where you end up, never forget where you came from’. What’s most surprising and, indeed, disappointing is that Ruairi Quinn – the Minister for Education and Skills – is said to have an avid interest in the subject himself.
Supporters of the proposal have plenty going for them. The link between history and war is inexorable. Then there are those who’ll question the point of trying to teach young people something they may in fact have no interest in. Such thinking surely misses the greatest point though – all that really needs to change is the way the material therein is put across. There’s no better way to garner knowledge on anything than to practically interact with it.
As with any column I write, the views expressed herein will relate solely to my own experience of and views on the topic. To be frank, young people emerging from school without at least some grasp of history – whether it be local, national or international – is unthinkable.
Earlier this year, I was both humbled and honoured to be selected as Grand Marshall for the first ever St Patrick’s Parade in Dunboyne. Thoughts of and pride in the history and traditions of the area abounded. It was indeed fitting that the parade concluded in front of the old national school, which has been at the centre of our village – and life therein – since 1908.
You’d wonder, however, how much if anything many of the youngsters in attendance on the day knew of the history of the building or its significance locally. Fear would be that, if history slides down the priority list, the generations that come in the future will have even less knowledge thereof.
Then take sport. Most youngsters get involved in sport because a parent or other family member has already been. There’s a history and tradition there. Once involved in a given sport, those participating will end up with some sort of grasp of what’s gone before in their sport and what it means. And so the next generation will come along.
As far as can be recalled, the history of the GAA as a whole at least cropped up in history when these wheels were parked at school. That’s how it should be and hopefully always will be. Seemingly not if Minister Quinn has his way however.
It goes beyond sport, mind you. While wars will of course an indelible mark on those that come after them, history has influenced many people in the paths their lives took in positive ways also. How else to explain the concept of the family farm where generation succeeds generation or in other line of business where the same thing occurs.
It’s all about being aware of the history of things and adding further generations of same to those that already exist. If these current proposals are acted upon, the chances of that being the case for future generations will be at the very least diminished.
All we can hope is that common sense will eventually prevail, that this potentially damaging proposal never takes off and that young people will have at least some understanding of their past when beginning to shape the future and that of the world around them.