History and schools

Sir, – Carl O'Brien argues that "History should remain optional in junior cycle" (Opinion & Analysis, May 3rd), and it is important to consider the positions both for and against in this debate. However, I would take issue with two ideas underpinning his argument.

First, there is the proposition that studying history “in some shape or form” is somehow equivalent to the study of the discipline of history itself. The 24 “Statements of Learning” in the Junior Cycle framework are thematic and broad in nature and illustrate the general philosophy of learning underpinning junior cycle education. They are in no way a substitute (nor are they meant to be) for solid curriculum content. They cannot possibly allow for the depth and breadth of knowledge and skills that underpin fully developed subjects in the curriculum.

Second, there is the suggestion that making history compulsory is to pursue an elitist agenda in education provision. One of the social justice missions of education is to make access to valued and valuable knowledge and skills, across a broad range of subject disciplines, available for all students.

Every single student in second-level education is entitled to this opportunity. This is the democratic basis for the argument that access to different kinds of disciplinary knowledge in the curriculum promotes the potential of education to inspire and transform learning and life. Schools will always seek to meet their students’ individual needs. Research-informed and responsive teaching and learning practices in schools will help to maximise the participation and potential of all students in whatever subjects they have the opportunity to study. – Yours, etc,


Carrigrohane, Cork.