Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The advisory group to the department of Education's report

I read this on www.mccamley.org: .

There are a couple of observations. A concerted attack is being made on denominational education, for which Catholic education can be read (though the minority faiths are more vulnerable). One point made in the observations here is that the Irish language is beyond criticism, though many valid points may be made about it. I am one of the 1.66 million speakers of Irish who would willing speak the language all the time, except for the trouble I have locating any of the other 1,659,999 to use it with any frequency. But that's beside the point. Irish is about the identity of the state, so let's make a couple of points about the Irish language that is.

If you want to eliminate religion from the education system, but maintain Irish, you have a problem. Unless you want to create some sort of secularised Irish which may keep Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin happy but which has about as much to do with the national identity as Tae Kwon Do has to do with Gaelic Games. Why? Because the Irish language is so suffused with Catholicism over a millenium and a half that every greeting is a prayer. You meet somebody, you say 'Dia Dhuit' - that means God with you. The answer is 'Dia 's Muire Dhuit' or God and Mary with you. The Protestant Gaelgóirí of the late 19th Century were known to shout 'Dia Dhuit' to their Catholic colleagues at 100 yards to avoid giving the necessary answer. It is possible to have a brief litany of saints in the course of simple greetings: try 'Dia 's Muire 's Pádraig 's Iósaef 's Bríd 's Colmcille 's Iúd Dhuit' I'm not joking. To translate, that is 'God and Mary and Patrick and Joseph and Brigid and Colmcille and Jude be with you'. Most other Irish greetings bring God in in some way. Whether you say 'Dia linn' (God with us) when some sneezes or 'Bail ó Dhia ort' (God's blessing on you) to some one working or 'Beannacht Dé leat' (similar to the last).

Take this out and what you have is not the Irish language, but a tongue stripped of its culture. Call it Novus Ordo Irish if you like.

Now, the educationalists like Irish, but don't like Catholicism. Sorry, it doesn't work like that. It might work the other way round - not that this is desirable either. But kill Catholicism off in this country and overnight nearly all the literature and much of the dialects of the Irish language suddenly becomes unintelligible and may well be disregarded. What's left is a register using older Irish words, but which might well be Esperanto for all it relates to.

There are many other things the Minister for Education might address. In 1981, his predecessor, the late Deputy John Boland abolished corporal punishment in the schools. Great - the trouble is nothing was put in its place. Right now, there are big problems with discipline in Irish schools, especially in disadvantaged schools and the educational establishment have their heads in the sand. Addressing the issue would result in more equality in education and save on much expenditure. As it happens, other problems are emerging - literacy and numeracy for example. Why was this not addressed?

The central point here is the voice of a minority in Ireland - those who describe themselves as having no religion, but who have definite opinions on how the vast majority of Irish residents who have religion should educate their children. Firstly, if one profiles the Irish atheists/agnostics/non-religious, the first thing one finds is that the vast majority are men - so not a lot are family units. This means proportionately less children. It also means though they are pretty mean about parting with their taxes to, for example, provide for poorer families to pay for First Communions, they have no problem on being supported by the taxes of the children of believers when they are retired. Secondly, there is nothing to stop atheists or agnostics building schools. Religious schools are there because communities built them. Secularists want to do things the handy way - force religious schools to change their ethos to suit them. While they are at it, pull the culture to pieces just to suit them. And do this in the name of equality. There is something Orwellian about this equality.

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