Friday, April 4, 2014

Junior Cert. History: An Open Letter

Dear All,

It strikes me that perhaps many of you may know some people who are interested in generating more interest and debate around the topic of Junior Cert. History.

I'm a writer interested in history and History, with offspring studying History at third level. It is doubtful that without Junior Cert. History as it stands they would have realised their respective interests in their subjects; as is the case, I suspect, with many others.

Even outside of any particular interest, I think the study of history at this stage is important to educational, social and aesthetic development and to understandings of active citizenship. 

I have made a hashtag #JuniorCertHistory on Twitter - please take a look, post comments & links, and pass it around. I am concerned that the whole thing has not been garnering more significant attention, in a more useful way, considering the people who have been speaking up on behalf of the subject. This needs to run on social media as actively as possible to keep it in the news, so to speak. Who can contact history teachers, lecturers, museum staff, library staff? Is there already a petition? If not , why not?

Business investing in the promotion of basic computer literacies, coding, in Irish State Education is quite short-sighted with relatively terminal short-term aims if it can not recognise the worth of maintaining this history cycle; the empirical knowledge and skills it builds alongside more tangential ones are all equally necessary further on. I don't think many people here envisage educating as if only for industry as it stands now, particularly as industry and the factory floor will continue to change rapidly as all areas are augmented by continuing technological development.

Removing Junior Cert. History or reducing its significance is a retrogressive, dependent, and badly thought-out step, overly-focused on relatively short-term results for a technological business sector which would be biting off its own nose to spite its face in the longer term.

A sustainable technological sector in the longer-term does not just need more maths and science experts and more workers coming through, very importantly it needs many kinds of skilled researchers, analysts, archivists, knowledge experts, writers, thinkers. 

Undermining the input of the Arts and Humanities in our education system any further would be detrimental to any real progression in the furtherance of innovation, entrepreneurship, invention; whether that be in education, art, technology, the sciences, business. Better to invest more in early education, primarily first three years developmental stages and further to that, early years literacy and numeracy skills.

Certainly there is a strong case for introducing coding and programming skills as optional modules for both Junior Cert. and Leaving Cert. cycles. I do not think they should be, or need to be mandatory. However this should not occur at the expense of existing academic subjects.

Catherine Walsh.

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