Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Words of Undiminished Relevance

The following passage features in a new show, 1916: Visionaries and Their Words, which was devised by Lorcán Mac Mathúna and which will be performed this weekend as part of Tradfest. Follow the link for details http://www.templebartrad.com/artist/1916-visionaries-and-their-words-sun/
“I put it that what education in Ireland needs is less a construction of its machinery than a regeneration in spirit. The machinery has doubtless its defects, but what is chiefly wrong with it is it is mere machinery, a lifeless thing without a soul. A soulless thing cannot teach; but it can destroy. A machine cannot make men, but it can break men.
Education has not to do with the manufacture of things, but with fostering the growth of things. And the conditions we should strive to bring about in our education system are not the conditions favourable to the rapid and cheap manufacture of ready-mades, but the conditions available to the growth of living organisms………………..”
“……………I knew one boy of whom his father said to me: ‘He is no good at books, he is no good at work. He is good at nothing but playing a tin whistle. What am I to do with him?' I shocked the worthy man by replying (though really it was the obvious thing to reply): ‘Buy a tin whistle for him.'”
Patrick Pearse in ‘The Irish Review’ January 1913 

Pearse’s words seem to me to be particularly relevant today. My experience is that, in the interests of satisfying the requirements of the marketplace, accountability, transparency, point-scoring, and being  politically correct, we are replacing the heart and passion that is required for real education (education that inspires) with a process that has more to do with commercial production and the maintenance of the attendant statistics.
The relationship of teacher and learner is a human one. Its success is based on the teacher’s ability to engage, with warmth and passion, the student’s interest.  A committee-horse system of education, over- prescribed and requiring a stifling degree of regulation leans more to the requirements of its own over-bearing institutions than it does to the people it is supposed to serve.

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