Restoring status of history in schools was crucial in the age of fake news
IN the age of fake news, and at a time when society is so divided, it is very reassuring to see the Government recognise the importance of history in our schools. Recently, in a decision that should have concerned anyone worried about the state of our world, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment ruled that History should remain an optional subject for Junior Cert students.
Many had hoped that the council would overturn the controversial 2018 decision to strip history of its mandatory status but those hopes were dashed late last month. Thankfully, Eduction Minister Joe McHugh has stepped in and restored history to core subject status.
It is entirely understandable that History is an optional subject at Leaving Cert level. The Leaving Cert and the points race can decide a person’s entire future.
Forcing a student to sit an exam – with potentially priceless points on the line – on a subject they don’t have an aptitude for would be remarkably unfair.
However, that is not an issue at Junior Cert level. The Junior Cert is designed to provide all students – and indeed all citizens – with a well-balanced and rounded eduction.
Obviously a basic knowledge of maths and language are vital for everyone but in terms of a well-rounded education, a reasonable knowledge of history is crucial.
Irish is compulsory because it is an intrinsic part of Ireland’s culture and our identity. The same can be said of our nation’s past which plays as much a part in our identity and our cultural make-up as our language?
As the fallout from Brexit continues, many commentators have cited the UK populace’s abject knowledge of history – due to the dismal quality of history teaching in UK schools – as a key factor in the outcome of the referendum.
Instead of actual, relevant history many in the UK have grown up on a diet of jingoistic imperial propaganda.
Similar issues can be seen across the Atlantic and in Russia where the forces of conservatism and the far right are also on the rise.
Teaching history properly in schools wouldn’t have stopped this but it would certainly have helped lessen the rise of the militant and racist elements that have come to dominate the far right.
We live in an age of fake news and content that is increasingly tailored to suit the opinions of its consumers.
A better knowledge of history and world affairs might at least help some people better sift the real news from the lies and disguised hate speech.
Do we really want live in a world where someone could have finished their schooling without ever hearing a lesson on the Irish Famine or the devastation wrought by the Troubles?
What of the age of exploration and imperialism, the Renaissance, the Cold War or the Holocaust?
History is the story of our country and our world. If we don’t heed it’s lessons we are doomed to repeat them. Imagine how bad things would get if we never heard those lessons at all.