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When British schools ignore Irish history, is it any wonder Brexit is such a mess?

When British schools ignore Irish history, is it any wonder Brexit is such a mess?

 Earlier than emigrating from ireland to educate in England in 2006, i thought British humans would realize as a whole lot about me as I did about them. I used to be positioned right simply 365 days into the job, in an east London staffroom, while a colleague teased: “Why the salad, Jen? I thought you Irish cherished a potato.”


Contrary to the stereotype, Irish human beings don’t simply appear to like potatoes. Driven directly to infertile land in west eire, maximum notoriously at Oliver Cromwell’s command, farmers were advocated to develop the sick-fated crop by their British colonisers. But when the blight got here, little changed into carried out to help them. The ensuing exquisite starvation added the death or emigration of 2 million people – extra than a quarter of the Irish population – between 1845 and 1852.


Potato jokes aren’t humorous to me – authorities turning its again on its own human beings all through a time of crisis not often is – but I heard dozens of similar gags all through my 12 years in English and global British schools. They were in no way nasty – they simply got here from a place of absolute lack of awareness. Rubbing shoulders with colleagues in history departments, I speedy came to a realisation: even as Irish students arguably research too much about ireland’s colonisation, British college students surely study too little.


In each Irish classroom, children are reared on testimonies of oppression and insurrection. Every infant knows the intricacies of Anglo-Irish family members. As a secondary English teacher, i'm able to’t avoid plays, novels and poetry managing our complicated relationship with Britain. Irish students leave school with the historical and emotional weight of colonisation on their shoulders.


Compare that to Britain, in which teaching English rightly involves texts centered on magnificence, misogyny and injustice, frequently set round the second one global struggle, however hardly ever regarding Britain’s relationship with eire, no matter ireland’s literary clout and proximity.


In 2016, my faculty launched into a mission at the British empire. Irish media were ate up through the centenary of the 1916 Easter growing, a historic turning point inside the combat towards British rule. Naively, I presented a ebook at the subject to our head of history – it changed into lower back to my desk the following morning. I have to have recognized higher.


Analyzing Othello in my A-degree English magnificence, we had a debate on race. I asked my intelligent, extraordinary college students whether or not white people can revel in ethnic prejudice as seen in the play. No, they said. “What about Britain’s treatment of the Irish?” I requested. They checked out me clean-faced – of route they did. In response, I instructed them about the notorious symptoms my grandfather noticed at the same time as residing in London within the 50s: “No blacks, no Irish, no puppies.”


This failure of British colleges to educate college students some thing approximately eire has a ways-reaching results. For one, if knowledgeable British humans do not recognize the distinction between ireland and the United Kingdom, they can not recognize Brexit. Take the Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, who in 2018 hopefully declared English human beings had a proper to an Irish passport because of the commonplace journey place. Or how approximately Boris Johnson, who, while issues were raised approximately the opportunity of a difficult border, disregarded fears as “natural millennium computer virus stuff”, and later as a “folly”. Strive using that word to any of the families and groups suffering from decades of violence and devastating loss.


Even now, as eire and Britain maintain to grapple with especially touchy exchange agreements inside the wake of Brexit, understanding of this type subjects. In June, Liz Truss, then foreign secretary and in all likelihood Britain’s subsequent top minister, summed up a lot when, with a directly face, she reported taoiseach as “tea-sock”. In sensitive negotiations, thinking about the historical British coverage of eradicating the Irish language in eire, it’s paramount that elected politicians, not less than, get Irish names proper. When Queen Elizabeth spoke some words in Irish at a nation dinner in Dublin fort, the previous seat of British energy in ireland, she did some thing very substantial. She showed Irish human beings and Irish culture her admire. Politicians have to appearance to their currently deceased and liked monarch for proposal in this regard.


Even as British humans are taught not to recognize – not to care – about eire’s records, Irish human beings deliver the ache of it around with us. Each political gaffe, on every occasion an Irish celebrity is improperly claimed as British, each blend-up of britain, ireland and the UK – each time it takes place, is corrected and happens again – sets our courting returned. It makes Irish humans feel as though their nationality, their wonderful cultural distinction, is a detail too insignificant to learn about. Sure, it’s time we flow on – but to do so calls for appreciate and understanding on both sides.


Jennifer Horgan is a secondary school trainer, Irish Examiner columnist and writer of ‘O Captain, My Captain’: One trainer’s wish for trade within the Irish schooling device

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