We have reached the end of history: at least as far as the junior certificate cycle is concerned. Following the revamp of the Junior Cert model history will no longer be a compulsory subject with only English, Irish and Mathematics remaining mandatory. Though this has been sold as “giving the individual student the choice of their education”. Although this may ring true for subjects such as tech graphics or Art, where the understanding of the subjects is only beneficial to those in the field, history is a necessary subject and we as Marxists should see this as a direct assault on the raising of class consciousness.
With the Junior cycle already being void of political education — the subject CSPE (Civil, Social and Political Education) believes that being able to pick out Merkel from a line up is all the political education the students need — history is the only subject that can provide any kind of political understanding and analysis to the students in the Junior Cert cycle.
It is apparent that the junior cert history cycle is not thorough and only covers the bare minimum in terms of modern history and revolutions, spending more time on Ancient Roman and Greek pottery than the storming of the Bastille, however it does teach how the lower slave classes were able to overthrow slave societies, how the lower classes were able to destroy monarchies and overthrow Feudalism. It teaches the harsh conditions of the 19th century working class and how trade unions won many battles. This implants not only the idea and proof of the power of your class but also subconsciously gives a basic understanding of dialectics.
The most concerning aspect of this is the loss of investment in our own history. I am sure my path to Marxism is a familiar one across the country, being taught basic Irish history, developing an interest in the Irish struggle for independence, developing my interest further into the 1916 rebellion and a particular interest in Connolly then reading his works along with Marx and Lenin. Those original interests were developed during Junior Cert history lessons. Without a lesson on not only what history is but also how to investigate historical events there will be thousands of students across Ireland who will believe that the famine was a famine, that 1916 was a purely nationalist rising and had no further politics and that America is the saviour of Europe. It is particularly apt that this new cycle has come from the Fine Gael government, lest we not forget their “blue” origins.
There can be no denying the obvious, that the Junior Certificate history cycle is riddled with propaganda and middle class hero fetishism. It is not only the subject matter that is important in this cycle though, it is the teaching of how to study historical events and how to try and avoid single source understandings that is important too. An understanding of these processes is necessary in developing a political outlook on the current landscape of the world, without the tools then youth will be drawn to the political centre or even to the right by propaganda. Although it is too late to stop these reforms we must emphasis the importance of history, however basic and corrupted, to the students who will be tasked with the choice. Not only for the good of their education but for the advancement of our class.