The teaching of history


Sir, – I agree wholeheartedly with the thoughts expressed by my University of Limerick colleague, Alistair Malcolm, in his letter supporting the reinstatement of history as a core subject within the Junior Cycle curriculum (December 17th).

A society that doesn’t know where it has come from doesn’t and cannot know where it is going.

Strong support should be offered to Minister for Education Joe McHugh in his avowed determination to revisit the crazy policy of removing history from the curriculum.

This is not a matter of academic importance only. It must be obvious to anyone watching the current chaos among our friends across the water that what is missing from the Brexit debate, and missing most dangerously, is any sense of history, the nexus of often painful but in recent times more hopeful and nuanced stories that have been the past of these islands.

The great American novelist William Faulkner wrote, “The past is not dead. It is not even the past.”

That modern Ireland would go on turning from its responsibilities to shed light on the journey to how we got here would be a dreadful and self-impoverishing mistake.

Indeed, if the history of Ireland had ever been taught with proper and inclusive amplitude in British (and Irish) schools, the terrible conflicts of the North would never have happened.

The subject of history is not a frippery to be tacked on as an optional extra to the educational self-definitions of a changing republic. It is a prerequisite to knowing what we are, and what we face, and how we might solve real problems together. – Yours, etc,


McCourt Professor of

Creative Writing,

University of Limerick.