Reckless change in education: Teaching history is an obligation

Teachers will, in time, have to explain to students why life was once so very different in Ireland on Good Friday. Those teachers, unless we risk Brexit-scale disruption and division, will also tell their pupils why the three Sheehan brothers, from Fermoy in Co. Cork, died fighting with Canadian troops in WWII and, hopefully, explain the structures we put in place after the war to try to ensure that we never have WWIII.

Yesterday, Education Minister Joe McHugh warned that a leaked document on history in the Junior Cycle — it is optional — has not been finalised.

The Council for Curriculum and Assessment began a review in November and its draft report warns that “changes to any single component or subject, such as history, has implications for the framework as a whole”.

This seems a case of procedure taking precedence over outcome.

Mr McHugh believes that some value should be placed on the subject, as we are at “an important juncture” and young people must be informed...”

This is hardly reassuring and it is certainly not ambitious.

The street-ambush history test has become a standard of American television comedy.

Hapless young people are asked questions like, “Who won the American Civil War?” or “Who were our allies in WWII?”

The answers are often so wrong that laughter is the only response — even if that laughter is hiding the powerful, ancient instinct that warns us that this officially-sanctioned ignorance is dangerous.

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