Interesting article in the Irish Times on the subject of compulsory Gaeilge in our schools (a subject covered elsewhere on the blog). It comes from a feature on the Education Today pages called TBH - To Be Honest, a slot that aims to "give a voice to those within the education system who wish to speak out anonymously".
As a practical demonstration of the nonsense of compulsory Gaeilge - with its roots in late 19th / early 20th century Gaelic revivalism - which has been a failed policy for 89 years or so, it is hard to beat.
'Wasted hours' on learning Irish
A parent writes : I can’t believe that children are still being forced to learn Irish in school. I spent thousands of wasted hours in primary and secondary school learning this language and now I can’t speak a word of it. If only, if only, that time had been spent learning maths, science, a modern language or even spent running around the yard I think it would have better served me in later life.
I often look back with dismay at all the time I spent banging my head against this difficult and useless subject that any reasonable education system would relegate to a minority elective for those with the specific interest and motivation to learn it.
Now I have children of my own. One of them, in particular, is having real literacy problems. We are slowly and painstakingly bringing him up to speed with the rest of the class in his basic reading and writing skills. We’re getting there, but as his classmates are moving ahead to read independently, he is still struggling to get through the most basic readers aimed at younger children.
Now he’s coming home with Irish homework. He’s grappling with whole new families of sounds and spellings, just as he was starting to get a grip on his mother tongue. For him, learning to spell and pronounce Irish words is like unlearning all the rules we’ve been working so hard to get into his head. I can see the poor child looking at me with utter confusion as I turn everything we’ve learned about letter sounds and spelling upside down.
And for what? To learn a language he will never use. Even if he wanted to use it, he won’t have the competence because Irish taught in the classroom is a complete waste of time. This is a child who desperately needs as much time as possible spent on basic literacy and numeracy. Instead, he is now spending his time on a confusing, pointless and empty exercise largely designed to keep Gaelgoirs in jobs.
When he comes home in the evening with his frankly impossible Irish homework I help him as much as I can. In fact, I’m well able to help him because believe it or not I was actually good at school Irish. I did honours for the Leaving Cert and got a B.
But there’s a big difference between learning for the Leaving Cert exam and actually being able to use a subject in the real world. Despite my honours Irish, I cannot even walk into a Connemara pub and order a bowl of soup.
What hope has my son, who is already two classes behind in basic English, in getting grips with, never mind making use of, this minority language?
Good luck to people who want to keep the language alive. Let them take their kids to classes after school or send them to Gaelscoils. Let the rest of us learn for the real world, please.
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