Private Members' Business. - Junior Certificate Curriculum: Motion.

The following motion was moved by Deputy Martin on Tuesday, 28 May 1996:
That Dáil Éireann declares its commitment to maintaining history and geography as core subjects on the junior certificate curriculum in second level schools and calls on the Government to amend the White Paper on Education entitled, Charting our Future, to include history and geography as core subjects in the junior certificate curriculum.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:
"Dáil Éireann endorses the commitment in the White Paper to promote and develop in pupils a knowledge and appreciation of their social and cultural heritage and environment through the study of history and geography at junior certificate level, and in particular, welcomes the Minister's commitment to maintain the status of history and geography as core curriculum subjects in the junior cycle."—(Minister for Education)

I wish to share my time with Deputy Michael Ahern.

I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.

I do not know who advises the Minister or whether she simply gets peculiar ideas but there was no sense in even thinking about abandoing history and geography as core subjects in the junior certificate. It appears from recent announcements that second thoughts will prove best but to even contemplate downgrading two such vital subjects is unforgivable.

It is natural to have an interest in history. People are anxious to know from where they came and to know about their past and ancestors. That is the reason the descendants of those who emigrated during the Famine to the USA, Australia and Canada are coming back in droves 150 years later to trace their roots and to visit the land of their forebears. For many of them the greatest thrill is to realise that their ancestry can be charted back for many hundreds of years and they are proud to learn all they can of their family history.

Interlinked closely with history is our language, traditions, songs and way of life. If any subject merits the title "part of what we are" it is history. We can be proud of our history, our ancient civilisation and our literature. Our place in Europe did not start with our entry to the EEC but goes back to the dawn of European civilisation. We have a great deal to learn about it, we can be proud of it but we can also lament. It is important to learn what happened in the past so that we can plan for the future.

In the peace process on this divided island a thorough knowledge of our history is needed, not from a partition viewpoint but to enable us to understand the views and sensitivities of our fellow Irishmen and women whose political ideals and religious beliefs we do not share but with whom we want to live in harmony.

History learned in a realistic, sensible fashion must help us appreciate the views and aspirations of others and to respect them. Every country cherishes its past, is proud of its patriots and is keen to celebrate these features. A former Labour Minister, now a journalist, Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien, once declared that the Irish were commemorating themselves out of existence. I am not sure if his latest venture into politics will be worthy of commemoration when modern history is being told, but during his short time in this House he was likened to a lighthouse in a bog — bright enough but useless. It is ironic, at a time when most lighthouses are no longer under manual control, that Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien has decided to wave the red hand of Unionism.

If history is necessary, geography is no less important. It helps us understand and appreciate our locality, our neighbourhood, our country and the world. It helps us to appreciate our fields, rivers, mountains, lakes and seas, our flora and fauna and our clean air and water — everything to do with our environment.

A buzz phrase often used today is "sustainable employment". It depends on our appreciation of the planet — without a knowledge of geography at global level it is impossible to appreciate the fragile universe we occupy briefly and our duty to pass on this heritage to the next generation.

Only when we digest the real lessons of geography can we appreciate the danger of over-exploitation of the rain forests or contributing to the thawing of the ice cap. Although some may give lip service to these matters, we must heed them if only from a selfish viewpoint as global environmental problems anywhere in the world can have serious consequences for us all. The events at Windscale and Chernobyl made us aware that no man is an island.

As a basic need in everyday communications geography is necessary to get to know other people and to share experiences with them. It teaches us to understand where we are and helps us to know where we are going. History tells us from where we came.

I regret the Minister for Education is not in the House, when she suggested that history and geography were no longer required as core subjects in the junior certificate it was obvious she did not know whether she was coming or going. I welcome the change in thinking that has taken place in this regard and that common sense prevails.

I support the motion. Some years ago the television programme "Roots" made a resounding impact on audiences in the United States, Ireland and throughout the world. It exemplified the need in people to know from where they came, their cultural background, how their ancestors lived and the experiences their forebears endured.

Many people are returning to Ireland from the USA, Australia, Canada and many other countries seeking their roots. They want to know the way in which their forebears lived and the events that took place in Ireland through the centuries. The Famine commemoration this year is an indication of how close people hold the events of the past of their hearts.

It is imperative that young people are made aware of their past at an early age. They need to know about the achievements and mistakes of the past. Through history they hear of the wonderful achievements of famous explorers, inventors and leaders of Church and State. For many people such knowledge at an early age inspired their direction in life. History leads to a greater understanding between communities and countries and it is inconceivable that any Government would consider reducing history to a minor place on the curriculum.

Geography bridges the environmental and social sciences and is relevant to our young people as they grow up in a complex world. Both the content and the skills acquired through geography are essential to proper education. The White Paper stresses the importance of the following for the junior cycle: breadth, balance and relevance; an emphasis on the environment: fostering continuity between the social and environmental programme at primary level and geography at second level; our membership of the European Union; the need to encourage North-South co-operation; the need to create awareness of global issues and encouraging pupils to develop qualities of responsibility and citizenship in a national, European and global context. Geography is a subject most suited to examining these topics and meeting the aims and objectives related to their inclusion when charting the future of education.

In marginalising history and geography, this Government is perpetrating a most grievous disservice on the youth of the future. I hope the Minister does not take the next step and request revisionists such as that Labour stalwart, the former Minister, Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien, and the professor who appeared on "Question and Answers" last Monday night, to rewrite Irish history as they would like it.

This motion deserves the support of all parties in the House as it highlights the importance of history and geography in the development of a broad-based education for our young people.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le mo chomhleacaithe i Fianna Fáil a roinn a gcuid ama liom. Ba mhaith liom chomh maith tacú leis an rún seo. Go bunúsach is rud tábhachtach é go mbeimis ag soiléiriú cad dír each a bhí i gceist ag an Aire Oideachais nuair a labhair sí ar an hábhair atá i gceist anseo. Ní mór dom a rá chomh maith go bhfuil suim faoi leith agam sa dá ábhar atá i gceist ní amháin gur thaitn siad liom agus mé ar scoil ach creidim go bhfuil siad an-thábhachtach ó thaobh na saorántachta de agus ó thaobh na ndaoine óga atá ag fás suas inniu má tá freagracht le bheith sa saol poiblí agus i saol pearsanta an duine.

I cannot help but feel the Minister in provoking this motion has acted more from an attitude of high handedness than from any sense of malice. That is as fair as I can be to her. I wonder whether in reality she really means to downgrade history and geography. Has she confused the need to provide a relevant modern curriculum giving an impression that she is downgrading history and geography? It seems to be a downgrading on the face of it. Would it have been wiser of the Minister to explain more fully that the changes in education were not replacing history and geography but changing their organisation? Rather than have these subjects form the main organisational bricks of education at second level, we have introduced changes similar to those at primary level. The module idea is more relevant to education nowadays because information technology is more widely available and used increasingly.

It should be stressed that the changes relate to the integration of subjects. The reality is that subjects are integrated by their nature and are not simply information packages. Our approach in the past resulted in exams such as the former intermediate certificate and the leaving certificate which were removed from reality and seemed to be just score cards shown to employers, rather than any true preparation for the life that students may want or need to lead when they leave school.

We should also stress how the changes relate to the view people take of the world. Education should be more global in nature, in light not just of information technology but also of the way in which travel has developed. Instead of that we have been using subjects in school which are very much dominated by a nation state view. This seems to miss many of the relevant changes and details of the world in which we live.

There is no doubt that history has been used and abused in the past and this must be taken into account. When any schoolchild on a tour of this House is shown the picture of Countess Markievicz, it becomes the subject of a debate as to who was the first women elected to the British House of Commons. We talk then about the differences of interpretation between our country's history and another's. History is important to enable us to get to the bottom of many of an scéilíocht a bhaineann le cúrsaí staire go minic.

Geography has also been dominated by a nation state outlook. Friends of mine have said their most memorable experiences of geography involved colouring maps of countries. This seemed to be their main legacy when geography is such a broad subject.

Some of them have changed colour.

Indeed, by the time people finished schooling the information given is no longer correct. Geography cannot be allowed to slip from its place as a core subject. It is important to avoid conflict and differences. It is important that we all understand that we share one earth and that we have a responsibility to look at all parts of the world in the context of an integrated living environment.

It is good and relevant to emphasise civics but it is an empty subject without geography as a cornerstone and history to inform people about the past and the type of future they might wish to avoid.

Tá stair agus tíreolaíocht chomh tábhachtach sin gur chóir don Aire Oideachais a bheith an-soiléir agus a rá go dír each cad tá i gceist ins an Páipéar Bán agus sna Billí Oideachais atá os ár gcomhair.

Tá go leor daoine den tuairim — agus b'fhéidir gur mhíthuiscint é — go bhfuil neamhaird á dhéanamh ag an Aire de thuairimí na múinteoirí agus an phobail i gcoitinne.

Creideann siad go gceapann sise go bhfuil fhios aici go pearsanta ina croí istigh cad tá ag teastáil agus go bhfuil a tuairim féin níos fearr ná tuairim aon duine eile. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil sin daonlathach nó go bhfuil sé ceart. Ba chóir don Aire éisteacht leis an bpobal agus gníomhú dá réir. Faoi láthair tá go leor daoine ana-mhí-shásta leis an Aire seo. Ní maith liom é sin a rá faoi éinne ach is fearr é a rá anseo ná taobh amuigh den áit seo. Is féidir leis an Aire rud éigin a dhéanamh faoi. Tá mé ag iarraidh uirthi an seans sin a thógaint agus gan ísliú céime a thabhairt don stair nó don tíreolas.

I wish to share time with Deputies Lynch and Kemmy?

Is that satisfactory and agreed? Agreed.

Tá áthas orm deis a bheith agam labhairt ar an ábhar seo ag an tráth seo — sé sin go mbeadh stair agus tíreolas mar bhun-ábhair sa churriculum don Teastas Sóisearach. Tá sé íontach tábhachtach go mbeadh an stair agus an tíreolas ina mbun-ábhair sa Teastas sin. Níl aon fhaitíos ormsa nach mar sin a bheidh an scéal. Bhí mé sa Dáil tráthnóna inné nuair a dúirt an tAire go soiléir gur mar sin a bheidh. Tá an ráiteas sin tugtha aici go neamhbhalbh ní amháin sa Teach ach taobh amuigh dí chomh maith. Ní fheicim mórán difríochta idir an rún agus an leasú ach más é an toradh a bheidh orthu ná go mbeidh áit lárnach ag an stair agus ag an tíreolas sa Teastas Sóisearach beidh mise thar a bheith sásta.

Aontaím le cainteoirí eile gur ábhair íontach tábhachtach iad an stair agus an tíreolas — gur ábhair nádúrtha iad. Tá sé sa nádúr ag an duine suim a bheith aige sa stair. Tá sé sa nádúr ionainn go léir eolas a bheith againn ar cad as a dtáinig muid. Tá cuimhní cinn againn go léir ag éisteacht lenár dtuismitheoirí agus lenár sean-tuismitheoirí ag insint scéalta. Chuireamar go léir an-suim iontu — scéalta faoi na Fianna, faoin Chraobh Rua agus faoi na cathanna a bhí ann fadó. Teastaíonn ó gach éinne a fháil amach agus tuiscint a bheith acu ar cad a tharla san am atá thart. Tá an rud céanna fíor maidir leis an tíreolas de. Ó thagann an páiste ar an saol d'fhéadfá a rá go mbíonn sé ag cur eolais ar an saol. Faigheann sé eolas ón a thimpeallacht, ón seomra ina bhfuil sé ann, ón teach, ón mbaile ina bhfuil sé ina chomhnaí ann agus leathnaíonn sé amach de réir a chéile go dtí an tír, go dtí an Eoraip agus go dtí an domhan. Is rud nádúrtha é sin agus tá sé íontach tábhachtach go mbéadh sé mar bhun-ábhar.

Mar dhuine a chaith na blianta ag múinteoireacht caithfidh mé a rá gur ábhair iad an stair agus an tíreolas a thaitn go mór liom féin. Nuair a thaitn íonn ábhair leis an múinteoir taitníonn siad leis an dalta chomh maith. Tá sé iontach tábhachtach go ndéanfaí an stair a theagasc sa scoil mar go dtugann sé leagan ceart do na daltaí ar cad a tharla. Is í an eagla a bheadh ormsa ná muna mbeadh an stair á múineadh sa scoil go mbeimis ag braith ar scannáin agus ar Hollywood chun a insint dúinn cad a tharla san am atá thart. Ón méid atá feicthe agamsa ní dóigh liom go mbíonn siad san cruinn nó ceart go minic. Cúpla seachtain ó shin chonaic mé an scannán "Braveheart". Deineadh an scannán in Éirinn ach is dóigh liom gur tháinig an t-airgead as áit éigin eile. Níl fhios agam an stair é. Deir na staraithe liom nach bhfuil sé cruinn nó ceart.

Mar sin is dóigh liom gur chóir dúinn an stair a thabhairt do na páistí sa scoil ó théacsleabhair a scríobh na staraithe. Agus sin ráite agam táimid anseo sa Deisceart agus gan an leagan céanna den stair againn anseo is a bhíonn acu sa Tuaisceart. Nílimid ag léamh as na leabhair chéanna. Níl an hymn-sheet céanna againn chomh fada is a bhaineann sé leis an stair. B'fhéidir gur rud maith a bheadh ann dá bh'fhéadfadh na staraithe anseo agus na staraithe i dTuaisceart na hÉireann teacht le chéile agus leagan stair aontaithe a chur amach.

There should be a joint approach by our many academics and historians in the South — one well-known and famous historian is a Member of the Seanad — to try to arrive at an agreed version of our history. That is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

History can be equated with a perspective on the past, how our ancestors lived and their lifestyles. In this context, the Céide Fields, Dún Aengus and Newgrange come to mind. Students first encounter history at primary level but the curriculum is mainly devoted to Irish, English and Maths. It follows that they have little background in history coming into the secondary sector.

Every study should have a grounding in history, as part of the junior certificate course, because each pupil will get information on their local areas. In one section of the course on social change in the 20th century the student studies the process of change in their own district, particularly in relation to housing, work, agriculture, leisure, transport and a wide range of areas of interest. In the leaving certificate, 20 per cent of the marks are allocated to a research project. Many students concentrate on local history. In my own school, Pobal Scoil Gaoth Dóbhair, very good research projects have been done on Lord Leitrim, Canon James McFadden, known as the patriot priest of Gweedore, and old cemeteries and Churches of both denominations. Other topics have included Pat O'Donnell — he may not be known to Members — the Invincible who followed James Carey to South Africa. He is remembered in song and verse in my part of the country, Aistear Gaoth Dóbhair and the Aranmore drowning tragedy. It would be a shame to deprive the student of all this at the stroke of a pen.

In the new junior certificate course introduced in 1992 the emphasis is on an overall picture of world history, spread over a three-year course. In the old intermediate certificate course the emphasis was restricted to a particular period. We now have a general course where first year covers Irish history, ancient civilisations such as those of Rome, Greece and Egypt, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, utilising archaeology to trace and examine those influences which shape our lives today.

In the second year the emphasis is on the major social and political changes which have taken place over the century — the reformation, plantations and the political, industrial and agricultural revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. In the third year modern history is studied up to the present day. Under this broad cover the student gets a full picture of world history, utilising the most modern textbooks available.

It is evident that the study of history is not as it has been — a matter of learning dates and battles by rote — rather it assists us to understand today's complicated world, the colonisation and the decolonisation of South Africa and the system of apartheid, and in our own country the foundation of the State, partition, etc. and the process of unification of Europe since the end of the Second World War. It is interesting that many of the protagonists in that conflict are now members of the European Union.

The study of history bestows particular skills on students — the ability to read and fully research a project and to vertify the relevant source materials. Evaluation and analytical abilities are also improved. It would be a mistake if they did not have the opportunity to study it as a core subject in the junior certificate. I have no doubt from what the Minister said last night and from her statements outside the House that it will continue to be a core subject.

I welcome the Minister's most recent commitment on this subject given at the NCCA meeting. She asked the National Council for Curriculum Assessment to examine the overall development of the curriculum and to keep in mind her desire to retain history and geography as core subjects. I deliberately sought out that information because I had a motion tabled for the Adjournment a few weeks ago.

History is central to what we are. I do not believe there is enough in the history books. Historians, being mainly men — I hope this will change in the near future — usually deal with the grand events. They seldom deal with social history, the lives of ordinary people, which is as important to the development of society as the grand events. They may not have as dramatic and as sudden an effect but they do have an effect.

I shared the widespread public concern at reports that history was due to be dropped from the junior curriculum. It would be an enormous loss and we cannot allow it to happen. I was concerned that young people would be educated in an historical vacuum without the social and cultural reference points which copperfasten our identity. A knowledge of what we were and where we came from has made us what we are.

A few months ago we learnt of the thousands of people who were adopted either outside the country or within and whose files had just been opened. We learnt of the heartbreak of those people who sought to find out who they were, where they came from and their background. That was all about seeking out one's personal history. The individual history is just as important as time and place and as valid to the individual as to a nation. We should learn a lesson from that. Individuals seeking out their history want to know who they are and where they have come from. The search may not be an in-depth one for all of us but we all demand to know it.

Knowledge of the past is the key to unlocking the puzzles of the future. It enables us to understand — and at times of conflict understanding is important — and, perhaps, resolve conflicts. It gives an edge to our analysis of social, economics and political issues. Predictably, since this issue first surfaced some months ago, legitimate concerns about the future of our children's education have been hijacked by people who would suffer most from the teaching of a true and open history. During the debate in the media, I read an astounding comment to the effect that the Minister for Education was abolishing history — Pol Pot came to mind — because teaching history makes good little Fianna Fáilers while teaching social studies makes good little Labour Party members. That is nonsense. A thorough knowledge of recent history would ensure that Fianna Fáil, in particular, would remain on the Opposition Benches for the foreseeable future. After all, who fears to speak of 1994?

Or 1996.

Whoever devised that bizarre theory did not want to understand the crucial relationship between historical and social development. History and social studies are interdependent and should be taught in conjunction with one another. In that regard, I welcome the development of the new civics programme which will include elements of history and geography. Having taken part in a civics programme in my constituency — perhaps not as developed as this one — I understand how history could get lost in a civics programme. For example, I spoke to that civics class about women in politics and society and linked the first, second and third wave of the feminist movement to the suffragettes and the celtic past. While it is relevant and essential to include those elements, that is not the proper way to teach history. That is why a civics programme, containing an element of history and geography, must never take the place of history or geography as core subjects. Unless one knows the connections, civics will have little value other than when referring to the present.

While I recognise the potential value of the CSPE. I am anxious that history, in particular, should be maintained as a separate subject in its own right rather than as a component of another multidisciplinary syllabus. There appears to be an assumption in some circles that teaching history breeds nationalism. On the contrary, an objective teaching of history teaches us to reject narrow dogma. It is not a coincidence that many countries, such as Germany, which have suffered most as a result of nationalism insist on their history being taught, understood and appreciated.

I appreciate the dangers of overloading the syllabus and placing extra pressure on students already anticipating a gruelling points race, many of us are familiar with that process at present. Difficult choices will have to be made by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. I understand the Minister is currently taking advice on whether all schools should teach an identical compulsory core of subjects and whether compulsory subjects should consist of conventional full courses or broken up into modules or shorter courses, which would benefit a particular group.

History and geography are compulsory in secondary schools but not in vocational or community schools. However, the fact that the majority of them teach those subjects as core subjects must stand for something. What about the adage, if it is not broken why fix it? Given the centrality of history to a rounded education, it should be made compulsory in both vocational and community schools for students up to a certain age. When students have to make decisions about their future education and must drop certain subjects, one would hope that, having received a rounded education up to then, they would make a correct decision.

The debate should not focus on scaling down the teaching of history, but on expanding it. I would prefer if history took a much broader sweep in our text books. We should also focus on devising new teaching methods which would make the subject relevant to a new generation. I have no doubt the Minister and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment will devise an innovative approach, not only to the teaching of history but to its context in the curriculum in general.

I welcome the Minister's latest statement. She wants the curriculum development group to ensure that history and geography remain core subjects.

This is a useful and timely debate. We do not often have an opportunity to discuss historical writing and the place of history in society in general. It may have been an ill wind that gave me an opportunity to contribute to this debate——

Positive thinking on the part of the Opposition.

If the Deputy waits long enough he will hear my views on the subject. While we can learn from the past, we cannot live in the past. It is important that historical writing is fully understood and that we benefit from it. Interest in historical matters has increased significantly at local and national level. We owe a great deal to modern historians for their energy and stamina and for their research. The quality of historical writing has, by and large, improved and has diverted from the triumphalism of the past. Henry Ford once said that history is more or less bunk. He knew more about making cars, particularly black ones, than about historical writing. An understanding of the past is necessary for the progression of society.

A good historical book can change one's life. Following the Michael Davitt memorial lecture in Foxford, I reread his biography, a most exciting and stirring adventure. A book that effected a fundamental and seminal change in my life was James Connolly's "Labour in Irish History" and a biography by Emmet Larkin of James Larkin. Some people may say those books pointed me in only one direction but I have no regrets about that, I would do it all again. I learned a great deal from my three heroes, Davitt, Connolly and Larkin. While some other heroes have feet of clay, for me, those three remain on the pedestal.

It is often said that victors write their own history. There are many examples of those who win a liberation or civil war controlling education and the economy and writing books on the matter. In the first flush of victory and self-determination in Ireland a spate of books, such as "Limerick's Fighting Story", "Cork's Fighting Story" and "Clare's Fighting Story" were written, many of which had nothing to do with history. They dealt more with mythology and propaganda than with history. Our school history leaves much to be desired. Any ideology, communism, capitalism or nationalism——

Or socialism.

——must serve the people and not the other way round. If people are made to serve an ideology, that society will collapse and we have had examples of this in Eastern Europe and nearer home. In the past, history was often used for political purposes and frequently masqueraded as propaganda and mythology. Germany under fascism is a typical example. All too often in the past we laughed at the British way of life and their exalted respect for the empire, jingoism, the Royal Family and other ancient institutions. However, we had no grounds for laughing at anybody because our history was often based on very questionable, spurious and bogus assertions. It had a sectarian slant to it and, in the first three or four decades after independence, was heavily influenced by the teachings of one Church, the Roman Catholic Church.

History books were often one-sided and gave a very distorted view of our past. From reading them one would get the impression that the Irish were a chosen people, with a unique combination of race and religion. All too often we were led to believe that our history was in some way unique, but it is not much different from that of any other country. Most ordinary people, including the people of Britain who suffered the horrors of the industrial revolution, have been oppressed. We should not believe that as a people we were hard done by because we were no more hard done by than the people of Burma, India or elsewhere.

In the past we adopted a very distorted attitude towards the British. We were ruled and misruled by the British for many hundreds of years. Britain had an empire on which it was said that the sun never set and and it was inevitable that it would rule Ireland as a small country with a small population. However, the British influence on this country was not entirely bad. We owe much to them in that they taught us the English language, a most valuable asset, democracy and liberal ethics.

A battle has been going on in recent times between historians and so-called revisionists but all history must be revised in light of the changing world. With developments in technology, life has been made easier for historians. It would be a very bad historian who did not question the writing of history. Some historical work is good, well written, well researched and honest and other work masquarading as history is shoddy, badly researched and badly written. In badly written history, which would be called academic history, there are many clichés and jargon which makes it impossible to read. Good history should be well written and readable and should tell a story.

I agree with earlier speakers in regard to Northern Ireland. There should be a common history of what happened in Ireland, particularly Northern Ireland, among Roman Catholics, Protestants and people of no religion. It has been a curse of Northern society that education is divided. There is no reason young people's minds should be poisoned by distorted versions of what took place in the past. A wrong view of life is inculcated upon them. We can learn from Europe in that respect. The struggles of the ordinary people in Europe against fascism and the coming together of Germany and France after fighting two bloody wars in this century to form a European union are very good examples of how people can put the past behind them.

It is important that a very broad attitude to history be adopted in schools so that children have a view of all mankind and can mix with people of different backgrounds, religions and colours. That is the way forward, rather than teaching history in a narrow, dogmatic, sectarian way. In regard to adult education, we have a very good opportunity to help our unemployed and those who wish to study. Those people should have an opportunity to study not merely vocational education but subjects such as literature and poetry and, above all, local history, and to do so in an environment that is free from rancour and bitterness. That would benefit them greatly in that it would encourage them to have more self-confidence and self-esteem.

The Minister for Education has been misquoted in this debate. It was never her intention to abolish history. That is farcical and nonsense. Nobody in their right mind would say that history should be abolished. It would be ridiculous to abolish our heritage. If Deputy Martin was listening he might learn something from this debate. The Minister, who is a teacher, is a colleague of mine in the Labour movement and she would not try to abolish history. She adopts an open, democratic attitude to the teaching of history in schools. I was alarmed at press reports about the Minister's proposals, but the media created much hype and speculation and distorted the true position. The Minister has no intention of abolishing history.

The Deputy did not read the White Paper.

I read the White Paper and I will quote it for the Deputy it he wishes. The Minister is adopting a broad attitude to history in our schools. Some historians were alarmed at the reports of this matter and contacted me about it, but those reports were taken out of context.

As I said at the start of my contribution, it is an ill wind that does not blow some good. I welcome this debate because one should not ignore history. In the past a one-sided attitude was adopted to history and many people had a distorted and sectarian view of it. However, as people travel the world their attitudes change. This debate will have far-reaching benefits for schools, universities and colleges throughout Ireland.

I wish to share my time with my party colleague, Deputy de Valera.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I support the motion that Dáil Éireann declares its commitment to maintaining history and geography as core subjects on the junior certificate curriculum in second level schools and calls on the Government to amend the White Paper on Education, entitled Charting our Future, to include history and geography as core subjects in the junior certificate curriculum. Having listened to Deputy Kemmy, one would think that we want to change our past. History is very important. The Deputy spoke about the dogmatic approach adopted to history in the past. The Irish could be compared with the French whose history is similar to ours. They very much cherish their history and it is one of their core subjects. Is it wrong to cite the names of Tone and Pearse, who may have been of different religions but who were great patriots of the past and are part of our great tradition and history? We cannot ignore our past and people such as those I mentioned, and that is what we would be doing by getting rid of our history.

It showed great foresight on the part of Deputy Martin to bring this motion before the House and get the support of the Front Bench in doing so. Many schools were saddened by the Minister's proposal and I received a large volume of correspondence on the matter. We are trying to prevent the people over there from getting rid of everything that is good. The Minister for Education and the Government will rue the day she suggested this change. As we near the end of the school year this is an appropriate time to give marks to the head girl. Niamh is eager to learn, works hard at her books and is always punctual and polite. Her weakest subject is history, which she will have to repeat. As head girl Niamh must try harder and work on her leadership responsibilities.

Who wrote the Deputy's speech?

She asked the other girls to study for an extra 15 hours during the school year but they said——

Was it written by Martin Mansergh?

Deputy Kemmy read Deputy Mulvihill's speech. It is unfortunate that he was not here as he would have enjoyed Deputy Kemmy's one act play which will be known as "Kemmy's Past".


Acting Chairman

Deputy O'Keeffe should concentrate on his speech.

When Niamh asked the other girls to study for an extra 15 hours during the school year they said that working a 22 hour week for 33 weeks with only 19 weeks holidays was too much. Niamh has much to learn, and she has one year only before she reports to the big world outside. Deputy Kemmy also known that he will have to report to the big world outside.

Deputy O'Keeffe will also find out about it.

John is head of the board of management and he does not want us to make the new girls work too hard. I will give her 40 marks.

During the year the Minister negotiated agreements with representatives of the teachers' unions. She can hardly be blamed for the failure of those representatives to recommend their own agreement but on the next occasion she should explain, communicate and sell her proposals direct to the teachers. Part of the communiqué sent by the union to its members was pathetic.

The main issue facing the Department is school inspection. It is still not clear who will carry out these inspections. The emphasis will be on schools and not on teachers. The biggest problem facing the boards of management, parents, pupils and, in particular, the majority of teachers is non-performing teachers.

The school system seems to be unique in that promotion below principal level is on the basis of seniority only. Why does the Department of Education not reward merit? Does it know what merit is? Pupils deserve the best teachers and their parents expect it. The Minister should be able to introduce promotion on merit while at the same time ease non-performing teachers out of the system. These teachers must be unhappy in the system and they could use their skills to better effect elsewhere. The Minister should identify this problem and put corrective measures in place. After all, not all teachers are gifted or dedicated. I look forward to hearing the Minister's replies to these points.

Until recently geography was taught through Irish in many primary and secondary schools. This subject is now taught in English and towns are no longer known by their Irish titles. This creates some confusion and I would like to see a return to the past where towns were referred to in Irish, for example, Mitchelstown was known as Baile an Mhisteánaigh and Fermoy was known as Mainistir Fhearr Muighe. Geography is a very important subject and it must be taught in the proper way.

History deals with our past. A bank manager always looks at the past of a person who asks for a loan. We are measured on the basis of our history.

That is a very profound statement.

It is very important that we cherish our past and do not listen to those people on the Government benches who want to change this island.


Deputy Kemmy would like to change the ethos of our society. I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate and wish to hand over to my colleague, Deputy de Valera, who will stitch into the record what our history means.

Fianna Fáil regards history and geography as core subjects. History gives us a fundamental and basic knowledge of who we are. We are accused of looking only at the past but it is important to realise that we have to look back if we want to go forward. It is only in looking back that we can begin to reconcile ourselves with our past and look forward to a prosperous and cohesive future.

When I was a student of history and politics in UCD I read Brian Farrell's text book "The Parliamentary Tradition" in which he stated that the history of yesterday is the politics of today and the politics of today is the history of tomorrow. If we disregard our history, future politicians will be confused to say the least. I am not being facetious when I say we need the continuity provided by history. Deputy Kemmy referred to his love of history and I am aware of his interest in this subject but he was somewhat disingenuous and selective in his comments. He referred to James Connolly, Jim Larkin and Michael Davitt, three very important people in our history. I share his interest in them. Deputy Kathleen Lynch said we should be careful about nationalism, a concept which she tried to portray as dangerous. I am sure Deputy Kemmy will agree that James Connolly and Jim Larkin were not only great Labour people but, together with Michael Davitt, were great nationalists. What is dangerous is not a belief in nationalism but being selective in what one believes.

This is what has brought about revisionism, a concept which attempts to dilute and distort history. Over the past 20 years some journalists have been afraid to face up to our strongly held but divergent beliefs. It is important that we as a society regard these divergent beliefs as a challenge and an opportunity to bring about cohesion and not division. Even though revisionism seems to be going out of fashion I am tired of listening to these individuals apologising for being Irish or for those people who take a nationalist view in the broadest sense of that term. This says more about them than the society in which they live. Seán MacBride put it very well when he said these kinds of apologists often appear in post-colonial societies. He also referred to the slave mentality in these societies. The whole concept of democracy, of understanding what our history is about, necessitates the opportunity not only to be aware of different views but to acknowledge and recognise that there is another view from one's own. After all, true democracy does not mean there has to be a uniform view. The old adage stands: How do we know where we are going if we do not know from where we have come? In psychology the quest for self-knowledge is recognised. Our history, as a country and a nation, must play a very big part in gaining self-knowledge, an understanding of our community and why it works the way it does. The sense of collectiveness and belonging is a very fundamental need in each person's psyche. We cannot fully appreciate our literature, music or art without a knowledge of its historical context.

How is it possible to really enjoy a dolmen over 4,000 years old, a wedge tomb or any of the other archaeological delights of The Burren without having some conception of their history, however sketchy? How is it possible to truly appreciate any of our national heritage sites without being aware of their historical significance? It is like trying to stage Hamlet without the prince.

As a society we should stand condemned if our young people know less about themselves than many of the tourists who visit our shores. Like my colleague, Deputy Martin, I am very disappointed that there was on reference to history or geography as core subjects in the White Paper whereas there was very definitely in the Green Paper which has disappeared mysteriously under the present administration and Minister for Education. Again, there is no reference to arts, drama and music or to any of those aspects of what should be a general education to develop the whole person or an holistic approach to our overall education system.

A few weeks ago when the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Carey, substituted for the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, who was in Hollywood, I tabled a parliamentary question asking how the Government or Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht wished to ensure that younger people would have further knowledge of and interest in our heritage. In the very limited reply there was not one reference to the importance of history. Even at this late stage I hope the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht will follow the example of the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Rabbitte, who appears to have a certain penchant nowadays for winging it alone, and at least condemn what Fianna Fáil believes to be a most destructive proposal, the attempt to eliminate young people's chance of learning history at school.

I congratulate Deputy Martin on having initiated this debate and all those who have had the courage, through the press, to voice their rejection of the Minister's plans for history. It is better that the Minister loses face by backtracking on her initially stated views on history as a core subject in the junior cycle curriculum rather than a generation of young people at school being brutally cut off from what is rightly their proud heritage which they have an inalienable right to explore. However subtly portrayed, State paternalism should not be allowed to dictate the pace.

With the permission of the House, I should like to share my time with Deputy Quill.

I welcome the fact that, at long last we are discussing educational issues that have nothing to do with structures but with the content of what children are taught at school. I congratulate Deputy Martin on having tabled this motion — which should not have been necessary — but the fact is that, once again, the Minister for Education dipped her fingers in the waters of public opinion, found the temperature far too high, and had to roll back on a proposal in the White Paper.

It was very interesting to hear the Minister say she had now told the NCCA that the study of history and geography will be part of the core junior cycle curriculum. As Deputy Kemmy said, there is no mention in the White Paper of history and geography as core subjects within the junior certificate curriculum. In addition, in answer to a parliamentary question tabled by my party on 7 May, the position appeared to be very much the same. Obviously, the Minister was being subjected to some pressure, leading to a little muddying of the waters, but the White Paper says that, for the purposes of certification, the following specific requirements will be necessary: the programme for all students at junior cycle will include a core of Irish, English, mathematics, a science or technological subject and at least three further subjects from a wide range of full and short courses; all students should have access to the study of a modern European language — with which I am delighted — and to a recognised full course in at least one creative or performing arts form. While all that is very laudable there is no mention of the study of history and geography or, more specifically, to their being core subjects.

The Minister's reply left us even further confused. Having said more or less the same as stated in the White Paper in relation to the study of three basic subjects and so on, she continued to say she did not want to overload the curriculum — none of us does — but that a number of critical questions needed to be addressed, including whether the same set of subjects should be compulsory for students in all types of schools. Should students of varying abilities be required to take the same set of compulsory subjects? Should compulsory subjects consist of a variety of full or short courses and how much flexibility should remain with schools? Yet again, there was no mention of history and geography; in fact one would not know where one stood with regard to them.

What many teachers took from those comments was that, in some way, one could include history and geography as a module along the way, that one could touch on one of these subjects, dip in and out, gain some sketchy information or knowledge.

We have heard very eloquent reasoning by Members from all sides of the House for the inclusion of history and geography as core subjects. Indeed, if teachers, students and others concerned with teaching history and geography at that level in schools had not engaged in a very effective campaign we would not have had the Minister's welcome about-face here last evening.

Many people have stated very forcefully that they want to see history in particular regarded as a core subject and have given very many good reasons for so advocating. Of course, we cannot consider history merely as a subject about wars, revolutions and battles but as pertaining also to the very basic fabric of our society. I would go even further on the matter of teaching of history — perhaps divulging my age in so doing — I was one of those victims of Carty's History of Ireland which I studied for the intermediate certificate——

Join the club.

——which gave an outrageously biased view of Irish history. We have come a long way since then, but I should like to go further.

I attended a very interesting conference on education recently in the Netherlands at which the subject of history was discussed. It may interest the gentlemen of this House to know that a core subject was introduced in that country, without any great support from many teachers, on women's history which portrayed a much better view of their social fabric and history, widening their scope and knowledge to the extent that, when it was suggested that this subject be dropped, there was an outcry; they moved from an initial negative response to a very positive one. That is the type of development I should like see take place with regard to history here. Deputy McGinley spoke eloquently as Ghaeilge and proposed the adoption of a joint approach, North and South, to teaching history and stated how that would greatly contribute to understanding between the two communities. At a later stage he cited famous people in history, but it was regrettable that he could not name a woman among them. I am sure that was not intentional, but his attitude stems from the manner in which he was taught.

Most people referred to history and some also referred to geography as core subjects. The Geographical Society of Ireland successfully lobbied to maintain geography as a core subject. It argues that a knowledge of one's land, landscape and the broader global context in which we live is an essential part of educational formation, and that is very true.

I have two children, both in secondary school, one sitting the junior certificate next week and the other in fifth year. Both have benefited greatly from studying geography and history. I would not wish young people to be at the loss of the knowledge of those subjects. I am pleased they will remain as core subjects, not because of the views of the Minister who has sought to rewrite recent history and to downgrade those subjects, but because of pressure that has been exerted. It is important that we make it clear that those two subjects remain as core subjects for the junior certificate.

It is refreshing to have this type of discussion on education. I commend Deputy Martin for creating the conditions under which that has been made possible. We have spent countless hours recently talking about education in terms of ownership, control and structures, but we have not spent enough time talking about what and how we teach our young people. It is important that we should have a philosophy and vision of education. Whatever else we lacked, we have always had a good system of education, that stands up well in comparison with education systems in other developed countries, and that is widely acknowledged.

There is great pressure on our system to meet new demands that appear to come on-stream every day, partly arising from the social problems in society. It is fundamental that in meeting those demands we would not take any step or measure that would downgrade or in any way dismantle our fine system of education. I regard a knowledge of history and geography as being of core importance to any young citizen in this or any succeeding generation. To seek to tamper with subjects as fundamental to self-knowledge, self-worth, self-respect and self-esteem as history and as fundamental to a knowledge of one's natural and physical environment as geography, highlights a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of education in shaping a young person and a community. We should seek to upgrade the teaching of both in terms of methodology and content. There has been some bad teaching of history in the past and some bad practice on the part of history teachers, of whom I was one until nine years ago. Given the challenges facing young people in this age of advanced technology, mechanisation and consumerism, the best weapon we can give them is a good education.

Education is a discipline and I know of none that is better than the discipline of history well taught. What is the methodology of teaching history and what does history do for people? It teaches them to evaluate facts, to separate them from opinions and fiction and to make a judgment on what is true and what is false. Is that not one of the most important gifts? I do not have children, but if I had there is nothing more I would want to give them than the ability to be able to separate what is true from what is false. Those of us in politics know what can happen with the big lie and the soundbite. What better way can we equip young people to be able to make judgments than to give them a good grounding in history? Anybody who has respect for people would consider the thought of downgrading history unthinkable.

What of geography? It is the lesson most people need to be able to read maps, the map of life and have a knowledge of and respect for their natural environment. It is unthinkable that geography or history would be downgraded in any respected system of education. I would love to talk for an hour on this motion, but time does not permit that. The key message I send to the Minister is not to dismantle our decent system of education. We must build on and improve it.

On the eve of the Northern elections, the philosophy of Wolfe Tone, if taught properly, is relevant — what matter if at different shrines we pray unto one God; what matter if at different times our fathers won the sod? Is that not the philosophy we should pass on to young people and substitute the common name of Irishman for Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter? That is our history, the one we should acknowledge in our every day thinking, that should shape our political decisions and that we should pass on to the next generation.

A number of important decisions were made by the Minister for Education on the status of history and geography. The status of history and geography will not change — they will remain part of the core curriculum at junior cycle. The status of history and geography has been enhanced by a number of measures implemented by the Minister. They include the introduction of civic, social and political educational, CSPE, as a compulsory examinable core curriculum subject for all students at junior cycle from September 1997. CSPE has obvious links with history and geography. One of the four units of CSPE — our local community — allows for common areas of study with history and geography through the study of how that community develops over time, an analysis of local development issues and how the community reacts to these issues. This will give the breadth, balance, relevance and coherence enunciated in the White Paper.

The transition year programme is available to all second level pupils in all schools since 1994. It is expected that almost 29,000 pupils in 558 schools, 74 per cent of all schools, will follow the transition year programme in the next school year. The important role of history and geography in the transition year programme is highlighted in both the transition year guidelines and resource materials published by the Department of Education. It should be noted that where transition year participants subsequently elect to take history or geography at leaving certificate level, these students will have had an opportunity to study either or both subjects for six years at second level in addition to six years at primary level. The Evaluation of the Transition Year Programme (1994-1995), carried out by the inspectorate of the Department of Education, noted that many schools were providing pupils with as wide a range of learning experiences as possible. Excellent activity based learning projects involving history and geography were very much in evidence.

The development and expansion of the European studies programme, a cross curricular programme involving history and geography, has brought not only innovative approaches to teaching and learning but these approaches have been transferred into the teaching programmes of history and geography right across the second level curriculum.

The Minister for Education has asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to advise her as a matter of urgency on how best to meet the competing demands of a very wide range of subjects for inclusion in the core curriculum at junior cycle level. There are the conflicting requirements of a broad and balanced curriculum and the need to avoid overcrowding it. In addition, some flexibility must be left to schools to develop their own curriculum in accordance with their own perceived needs and requirements. The NCCA, in making its recommendations, has been told that the study of history and geography is to be part of the core junior cycle curriculum.

I am surprised at the contradiction between the contributions of some of the opposition Deputies to this debate. On the one hand there was proper reference to the need to adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of the 21st century. On the other hand there was a reference to the importance of a basic curriculum making a distinction between learning and technical knowledge. This seems to be a reversion to late 19th century and some 20th century thinking where a distinction was created between academic and vocational-technical education.

I did not say that.

This is not the way that many, if not most, of the OECD and other developed countries are developing their education system. The impact of new technology, globalisation of the labour markets and the changing nature of work organisations have led to an increased need for multiskilling and for young people to be well educated in the broadest sense, to be adaptable self-starters, problem solvers, able to adapt to change and be familiar with new technologies. The thrust of the curriculum reforms in the White Paper is to ensure that 90 per cent of 18-year-olds will complete full second level education by the year 2,000 through the provision of an effective foundation of general education with a strengthened and expanded vocational orientation. The EU's White Paper on Education and Training has, among its five major objectives the encouragement of the acquisition of new knowledge, the combating of exclusion, including the need to promote social integration, and enhancement of employability and personal fulfilment for all our citizens.

Ireland's highly respected educational system is quite similar to that of most other countries in the Western World. It must bring on board the use of new technologies such as multimedia and the Internet which provide educationalists with new tools for teaching almost every new object.

Knowledge is seen as a vital component in maintaining and enhancing a country's competitiveness. The new technologies must be used critically and integrated with the learning process right across the curriculum from history to physics and from geography to mathematics, construction studies and business. The study of history and geography provides opportunities for pupils to develop the skills of researching, locating, storing and retrieving information.

This board general education system with a strong vocational orientation should and will continue. The curriculum must evolve. History and geography are evolving and must evolve. The syllabus for history and geography at leaving certificate level are under revision at present. I am confident that with all the various changes under way and the decision to maintain the status of history and geography in the junior cycle core curriculum, the position of history and geography in the broader second level curriculum will be copper-fastened and expanded.

I am sharing Deputy Martin's time and I appreciate his giving me that opportunity.

I was glad to hear, from the observations of the Minister of State and the earlier statement by the Minister, that there appears to be a thaw in Government thinking on this subject. I commend our spokesman on putting forward this motion because it contributed to the thaw in the past week on the place of history and geography in our school curriculum.

There are a few short points I would like to make. I was delighted to hear Deputy Quill quote the famous words of Thomas Davis in relation to the different shrines at which we worship, because it has always seemed that a solid foundation in our national history will contribute to greater rather than lesser national reconciliation. The view which was taken at the outbreak of the horrific Troubles in Northern Ireland some years ago, that we must suppress our history to promote reconciliation, was misplaced. With the passage of time it is clear that a deeper understanding of the different traditions and the varied cultures that make up this island contributes in no small way to the securing of that peace which all of us in this House wish to see in Northern Ireland.

I am disappointed that the Minister has ignored the enormous revolution in Irish historical and geographical scholarship in the past two decades. There has been an explosion both in historical and geographical scholarship in this country and on subjects relating to it in the past few decades. Plainly the fruits of this research should be made available to children in schools, yet this Minister apparently contemplated a step which would deprive the younger generation of the fruits of that scholarship.

I did not want to dwell exclusively on the national dimension of this aspect. There is a very important European dimension. If, as all our educational research nowadays suggests, we must lay greater emphasis on the place of modern languages in our curriculum, an essential foundation for the study of modern languages is, of course, a historical and geographical appreciation of the countries to which those languages relate. I cannot see how we can deepen the essential knowledge of the younger generation in continental languages, in languages generally, without instilling a solid knowledge of the historical conditions in the countries which speak those languages and the geographical facts relating to them.

The humanities have a very important part to play in our educational curriculum, and one reason for the much vaunted excellence of the Irish educational system is the emphasis it places on the humanities. There has been a great decline in the study of Greek and Latin in the secondary school curriculum in recent years. That makes it all the more important that through the teaching of history and geography the secondary school student and, indeed, the graduate of our educational system generally has a clear appreciation of where we come from and where we belong.

I thank all those who contributed to the debate. The tabling of a Private Member's motion was the final stimulus in changing the Minister's mind. The first time the Minister used the term "core curriculum" in the context of history and geography was last Saturday in her speech to the Historical Association of Ireland. Until then, even in replies to parliamentary questions tabled as early as February last, the Minister made no mention of history and geography as core curriculum subjects and avoided making any commitment in that regard. In May, when further questions were asked by Deputy Keogh, myself and others, we were given similar, evasive replies. At no stage did the Minister use the term "core curriculum".

The debate so far has been extremely interesting, but the Minister's contribution was extraordinary. Some Government speakers attempted to give the impression that our worries and fears were misplaced, that there was exaggeration and propaganda on the part of the Opposition, or that some teachers were reacting hysterically. I ask Government backbenchers to read the White Paper on Education and the Green Paper entitled "Towards a Changing World". There is a fundamental difference in the treatment of history and geography in the Green Paper as opposed to the White Paper. Not only are history and geography not mentioned as core subjects in the White Paper, they are not referred to. There has been a clear attempt, from the time of publication of the Green Paper and since the Minister came to power, to downgrade the status of history and geography. It was, therefore, necessary to put a Private Members' motion before the House to facilitate Members on all sides, because there are Members in the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and Democratic Left who were appalled at the content of the White Paper and the Minister's direction.

Let no one be under any misunderstanding, there was a clear policy to downgrade the status of history and geography as core subjects of the curriculum. It has taken about five months for the Minister to reverse that policy. It is extremely ungenerous of her not to support our motion but to table an amendment that is fundamentally — I regret having to say this — dishonest in its content. The amendment tabled by the Minister suggests there is a "commitment in the White Paper to promote and develop in pupils a knowledge and appreciation of their social and cultural heritage and environment through the study of history and geography at junior certificate level"... There is no such commitment in the White Paper and that is why I cannot vote for this amendment. It is dishonest. It would be far better if the Minister was honest and having listened to the debate, read the letters to the newspapers and analysed the campaign, accepted my motion to amend the White Paper, acknowledging the broad wish to the Irish people to retain history and geography as core subjects in the junior certificate curriculum. It would have been better if she had agreed to amend the White Paper, which is the critical point of this debate. On the Order of Business this morning I asked the Taoiseach to clarify the status of a Government White Paper. It was always my understanding that a White Paper contained Government decisions, that a Green Paper was a discussion document and that, following the Green Paper, there were various consultations, contributions and submissions before the White Paper was produced which contains decisions which are implemented. That is why we specifically tabled a motion which seeks to amend the White Paper. As I said last evening, the White Paper states on page 48: "The programme for all students at junior cycle would include a core of Irish, English, Mathematics..." and we want it amended to include history and geography. It is as simple and straightforward as that.

While we welcome the Minister's reversal of policy, nonetheless there is still ambiguity and serious concern, as Deputy Keogh outlined, that what we are now looking at is perhaps an attempt to introduce short courses or modules in history and geography, that we may end up with a new definition of a core curriculum and that history and geography will still be downgraded. I respecfully suggest to the Minister and her advisers to heed the contributions from all sides of the House and to implement honestly the spirit of the debate. Even if the Government wins the vote I urge her to be honourable and accept the declared wishes as articulated by Members.

It seems incredible that the Minister has returned yet again to the NCCA who advised the Minister twice that history and geography should be core subjects of the curriculum. The Minister said she is asking it as a matter of urgency to revise the junior certificate curriculum, but that work has already been done. We know the NCCA is being used as a political escape route to try to retain the Minister's credibility. I do not think the NCCA should be used in that manner. It seems that the entire issue of the junior certificate curriculum is again up for analysis. The only legitimate way to do that is to amend the White Paper or say that the section of the White Paper that deals with the junior certificate is no longer valid and we need to take a fresh look at it. I have noted the questions put to the NCCA and I have reservation about the direction it is leading us, the shortening of the history course and so forth. It seems incredible that more than a year after the publication of the White Paper the Minister is going back to the NCCA asking it as a matter of urgency to deal with this issue. The Minister decided to meet the NCCA on Tuesday and made her major U-turn speech on Saturday. That shows that parliamentary democracy can work or force people into certain action.

I echo Deputy Lenihan's remark on the importance of the European dimension to education. The White Paper lays great stress on the European dimension to education but I wonder if the authors of the White Paper bothered to read the Council of Europe report: The Learning of History in Europe, issued in Strasbourg in 1994 which says that history is a unique discipline and "the Council of Europe's experts have argued that all pupils should study history, at every level of their education, because it has a value that cannot be provided by other subjects". History, they claimed "is a unique discipline, concerned with a special kind of training of the mind and imagination and with the imparting of an accurate body of knowledge which ensures that pupils understand others' points of view". It seems that those who wrote the White Paper never bothered looking at the various reports from the Council of Europe, including the Council of Europe Report: The Role of History in the Formation of National Identity. Strasbourg 1996. It is regrettable that the Minister did not take these reports on board.

We are interested in the debate on broadening the curriculum but not overloading it. Nicholas Canning, a well known historian and chairman of the Irish Historical Sciences, wrote recently that, as it currently stands, history takes only one sixteenth of the junior certificate curriculum which does not in any way dominate the curriculum, the same applies to geography. They are not dominant subjects in the junior certificate curriculum. There have been attempts to evade and confuse the public. The Minister should accept our motion in good faith and commit herself to amending the White Paper. Irrespective of who is in power, the White Paper is the policy framework for the development of education towards the end of this decade. The document contains decisions and could be used by successive Ministers in future. The commitments made now could prove transient and may not give the type of guarantees required by the History Teachers' Association and other groups such as the Geographical Society which have campaigned effectively on this issue.

I commend the motion to the House.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 69; Níl, 56.

  • Ahearn, Theresa.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Bhamjee, Moosajee.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Bhreathnach, Niamh.
  • Bree, Declan.
  • Broughan, Tommy.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connor, John.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Hugh.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Avril.
  • Dukes, Alan M.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Brian.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gallagher, Pat (Laoighis-Offaly).
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Penrose, William.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Walsh, Eamon.


  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hughes, Séamus.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, James.
  • Moffatt, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies B. Fitzgerald and J. Higgins; Níl, Deputies D. Ahern and Callely.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.