October 9, 2012

Our outdated eduation system is failing us

Posted in Sunday Business Post · 175 comments ·

It’s a good week to discuss teaching and education, and why we need change if we are to get the best out of our people. It was terribly disappointing to hear the negative reaction of the teachers’ unions towards the proposal last week to scrap the Junior Cert. When the very agents of change are terrified by it, we have a serious problem.

The education system as currently devised – with its rote learning, old-fashioned academic, grind-based reward system – terrorises many hundreds of thousands of children, scarring them with stigmas and insecurities which they carry with them for life. Because of the nature of our education system, there are hundreds of thousands of brilliant Irish people walking around today who believe that they are not brilliant. How many exceptional people do you know who will say to you “I hated school”?

They hated it because they knew that our education system stigmatised them.
Worse still, the system ‘rewards’ a type of conventional, linear intelligence which breeds conformity and ‘single-answer’ narrowness. This leads to the type of ‘group think’ that has blighted this country in many areas.
Arbitrarily in Ireland, a person is ‘punished’ for having a certain type of mind and another person is ‘rewarded’ for having a different type of mind. Those who are punished carry with them an unwarranted, self-conscious insecurity while, possibly more egregiously, those who are rewarded carry with them an unwarranted, out-sized confidence. Both the insecurity and the confidence can be dangerously corrosive to society and the individual.

The reason I use the word ‘arbitrary’ is that defenders of the system drone on about the need for the education system to create a ‘good educated workforce’, as if such a thing exists. It does not. It does not because the basis for producing students for the demands of the economy presupposes that the economy is a single unchanging entity that devours and deploys productive people of a certain type of ability. In addition, it presupposes that the economy can be forecast and careers can be mapped out.
This is not the case.

A few days ago, I chatted to my daughter who has just started secondary school. She was perplexed. She asked me when I decided to become an economist. I told her that I never really intended to, but kind of fell into it after an old friend – a lecturer – sparked my interest.
She was confused because lots of the children she was talking to at school were choosing subjects on the basis of what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“How can you know at 12, Dad?” she asked me.
“You can’t.”

The economy changes all the time and we have no idea what is coming next.
Here’s an example from my own life. And I’m sure you can think of many examples from your own, or your friends’. My first real job in 1991 – an economist in the EU section of the international relations department of the Irish Central Bank – didn’t exist five years previously because there was no such department.

My next job – an economic strategist in emerging markets at an investment bank – didn’t exist five years previously because no one had heard of emerging markets, as most of those countries involved were then communist.

My next job – an economist at a hedge fund – didn’t exist five years before that because hedge funds didn’t exist. My next job was at a private Irish television station, TV3, which didn’t exist five years previously because there was no such thing as an Irish private TV station. Five years later, I was making a living writing books on popular economics which didn’t exist five years before, because there was no demand for that sort of thing and, five years later, the Abbey paid my wages, allowing me to bring economics to the stage. That was a job which certainly didn’t exist five years previously.*

You get the picture. The world is changing all the time and the way we make a crust is changing so dramatically that the idea that we can educate and reward a type of person now, in order to prepare them for life, is nonsense, particularly if we punish curiosity and risk-taking.

At best, we can teach children to question, to realise that there is more than one answer and to be flexible. But our education system teaches them that they will be rewarded if they don’t question, if they learn one or two answers and if they are not flexible, but conformist. In a changing world, this is entirely inappropriate.

When I was in school, whether doing the Inter or Leaving Cert, our year was divided into six streams based on academic ability. Some of the lads in my year were truly smart people; they were not traditionally academic because they were actually too intelligent, yet they were discarded and labelled (not explicitly but implicitly) as stupid. In reality, when it came to the rewards in school, my year was divided into the clever ones and the stupid ones. But ‘cleverness’ was only a certain type of intelligence. The interesting thing is that this so-called streaming, this arbitrary conveyor belt that was supposed to prepare you for life, rarely survived the impact with the real world. Many of the lads who were overlooked in the sausage machine of the Leaving Cert have since thrived.

The notion that the education system with its bias towards academic intelligence is a grand scheme, which prepares you for the future, brings to mind Mike Tyson’s wise words when he said “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”.

It is obvious to most adults that our education system is an industrial factory model, which is outdated. I look at my children and they ask me why they have to learn this boring stuff and I have no answer. We are alienating our own children for a system which might have worked when the economy worked in a certain linear way, but now it doesn’t. So we are alienating them for nothing.

I see how creative they are with each other, playing games – yes, even computer games – and how their brains are totally switched on. Then I contrast this with their boredom with homework. Why do we punish them for being distracted by things they enjoy and reward them for the forced diversion of their attention to subjects which are so abstract as to be ludicrous to them?

Worse still, think about what the present exam system is doing to these kids: it is diminishing all the things that are important to them and elevating lots of things they don’t care about. This is disastrous.
If moving away from one-off exams towards continual assessment helps to rebalance the education system, then it is a great leap forward.

  1. Lius

    Very good article. I did poorly in my leaving certificate but thrived when I went to the RTC with it’s continuous assessment system. My daughter didn’t do great in her leaving cert but thrived in DIT and got a distinction again down to a continuous assessment system.

  2. Philip



    Bravo! This is exactly what happened to me in school albeit in the US’ Our system is much more forgiving but still the boredom factor and institutionalized approach and favortism of this group of students over that group was in situ when I was there. I was firmly in the “that” group.
    I left school at age 13.
    Since then I was able to get a California electrical contractors license. No small feat.
    I was a succesful leasing agent and building maintenance contractor for 8 years. a bit of glorified janitorial work went along with that too.
    Ive been the “go to guy” in Munster province the last 5 years, Thermography, (Thermal imaging) all but didnt exist here 5 years ago.
    I was the first to recommend exterior insulation 7 years ago, clients looked at me as if to say “go home Yank with your fancy ideas” Its gone mainstream in the last 24 months
    Ive owned 2 successful restaurants.
    I’m currently one of only 12 companies in an elite food program from enterprise Ireland.
    I also owned a launderette in San Francisco etc etc.
    School did one thing for me though, I met some of the prettiest girls in the world! What a craic!

  4. Howya

    And if only the system introduced a foreign language much earlier in primary school then that, combined with a broader education would give children adaptable skills.

    • ex_pat_northerner

      Google Translate. And in a few years time (I think Google already demonstrated it a while back) we’ll be able to speak into our mobile and it will translate for us. I’m not saying no need to learn it, what I am saying is that its not going to be as big a problem as once was. What will be clear is that at the really skilled linguistic level people will be needed, but at the more adhoc level, another language may not be needed or may not be as much of a disadvantage.
      But that doesn’t mean not learning a language because the love of the sounds, or the fact that learning a language also teaches one about other cultures is something a bland translation on a phone won’t do.

      • breltub

        How many languages do you speak?

        Google translate is woefully inadequate for anything except simple sentences without any ambiguity.

        Language is the building blocks of thought and some thoughts and concepts are much more rationally explained in different languages.

        A person who speaks multiple languages has been exposed to many different types of thinking, and more than likely has lived in a few different countries and has been exposed to many different methods of over coming the problems each society needs to over come.

        The abuse of maths and language got us into this mess of a fully disfunctional society, googling it won’t get us out!

  5. Tony Brogan

    Brilliant David
    To me this is the most insightful essay yet.
    Happily, you are not confined to a mental straitjacket.

  6. mediator

    Continuous Assessment is not a panacea. David mentions critical thinking however many education systems including the US, UK and ourselves have progressively eliminated it through standardised testing.

    That said, there is an element of graft to education – learning tables etc are the building blocks of our ability to learn and rote has its place.

    Bottom line however is that it is up to each individual parent to ensure that they themselves have an education that allows them to help their kids.

    If you have reading, writing and arithmetic (basic maths) then you are in a position to further your own education at any time.

    The development of a child is the responsibility of the parent and where the school system breaks down its up to the parents to make up the shortfall….

    Personal responsibility

  7. dhan

    I fail to see how continuous assessment does anything to rebalance the system. It would be the same subjects, just with a percentage of the marks going for work completed during the school year. This was the system in place in Northern Ireland for a long time at GCSE level, in the more academic focussed schools teachers had a definite influence on the quality of the output. An unfair and biased process that has since been scrapped. There’s no doubt major changes need to be made in the Education system to prepare our children for life and the ability be productive and effective when they join workforce, but continuous assessments at Junior Cert. level doesn’t seem like the right approach. It already seems antiquated.

  8. Great article…the problem is partly that many teachers are so instutionalised that they are horrified at the prospect of change…on top of the “System” being linear, many of the people delivering it are linear. I have had wonderful, inspiring teachers in my life, and absolute dross also. Well done David…

  9. Direland

    Whilst it may be impossible to predict what jobs will be there in 5 years time it’s not as if we cannot use present knowledge to at least point in the right direction.For instance I cannot understand why we continue to teach Irish ( a dying language with little wealth creation potential) or Religion in Schools as part of the curriculum ( no problem with them as extra curricular subjects). I suspect that apart from the die-hard Nationalists that the Irish and Religious Education Teachers would resist this as if they were optional subjects they would probably be out of a job.The greatest resistance to change within Education comes from the Educators themselves – they have a vested interest in continuing to teach useless subjects because that is all they know !

    • jonnyblackrock

      That’s very true. There’s a project out there which is supposed to promote the teaching of lesser taught foreign languages in schools. The biggest obstacle is finding teachers who can teach these languages. The second biggest obstacle is opposition from permanent and pensionable French and German teachers.

    • Harper66

      “Irish ( a dying language with little wealth creation potential)..”

      Tourists come to Ireland for our culture. Nothing else.If you get rid of our culture you get get rid of our tourists.

      How Irish is taught is a debate worth having.

  10. grougho

    “a dying language with little wealth creation potential”
    come on! surely school is about more than teaching neo liberal dogma. mad comment.

    • breltub

      Let those who want to study Irish study it, and those who don’t let them study something else. Be it French, extra Maths, history, whatever sparks their interest.

      It is the forcing Irish on students that turns them off it. Especially having classes composed of mainly students who don’t want to be there.

      Half the time classrooms are mostly about crowd control!

      • coldblow

        Have you noticed that when it comes to swimming the note always says: “Swimming is part of the school curriculum and all pupils are expected to attend”? This is a “fun” subject, so how come they have to resort to strong arm tactics?

        • breltub

          I guess to bring this back to your point about relevance. If you have to emigrate and all the planes and ships are full you have to swim!

          Strong arm tactics for swimming, no idea. I often find the people who write these things overvalue their authority and phrase things like they expect you to listen.

    • coldblow

      Yes, but not, I think, so much neo-lib dogma as just lacking imagination.

  11. Adam Byrne

    David, I didn’t like school much myself but it certainly didn’t scar me with stigmas and insecurities. I forgot about the place the day I left and got on with learning about life in the real world. No harm done and just look at the opportunities all around us, both in this country and abroad – a multitude, even in these so-called ‘hard times’. Life is what you make of it, not what others tell you to One of the reasons I didn’t do that well in my school exams (although I forget my results now – they are irrelevant) was because I was too occupied with my own reading at home. Books are cheap and free in the libraries. It’s up to people to make what they will of their own lives. No one is going to give it to them on a platter. To the people of Ireland – motivate yourselves and stop waiting for others to do things for you. Grab life by the scruff of the neck.

    • Deco


      In the real world of work, one of the key things that learned about was “goal setting”.

      It was like a foreign language, when I first came across it. No mention of it anywhere along the education system. Maybe once when I was about 14, and maybe again when filling out the CAO form (for a brief moment).

      It is extremely important.

  12. Adam Byrne

    Good luck to your daughter in secondary! My little four year old just started school proper in the US!

  13. Deco

    Funny enough, I don’t think I could very much fault what I seen in primary and second level education.

    There were kids that were interested, and there were kids that simply wanted to not be involved. I seen teachers try to spark interest in them, but it was not an efficient process, in that it consumed a lot of energy, and they simply were not in the habit of learning.

    Afterwards, the kids that did not go to third level did various jobs or apprenticeships, and got work. Some of them are now out of work, because they picked the wrong area.

    But third level left me really baffled. I had thought up to that point, that if you worked hard, and got to third level that you would have a really serious learning environment. I found out that it was anything but. The drinks companies had third level saturated with organized options involving drink as the gateway to fun. It seemed to me that third level was the process of educating people how to consume massive amounts of Ireland monoculture booze option (unless you were from Cork).

    I know this is highly controversial, but I will stick my head out and say that there is a very serious problem with third level in Ireland.

    One experience was particularly “enlightening”. In final year, we had a course that was essentially nonsensical, about organizations. And the course consisted of one thick, easy to read, long winded US text. The lecturer was on rotation from Belfield. On the last day she gave us the areas to be covered by the questions. She even gave hinted where the answers were located.

    I am not joking, but there were students who then went and bought the book. Last week of the term, at the end of the term, and they started to study the material. Not at the begining of the term. No. At the end of the term. They wrote out their answers, and memorized them. And they got 60%. In fact, if I recollect everybody got about 60%.

    This was highly useful, because it saved time and enabled more time to be put on subjects that included a mathematical element.

    Even more alarming, it was a bailout for the students who did exactly what the marketing departments to the main drinks companies wanted third level students to do in college.

    Now, don’t tell me that this country is serious about third level education. It is a massive sacred cow. There are whole sections in our third level sector that never produce a graduate who is fit for employment in the productive economy.

    Ireland’s third level sector is an expensive disaster that is seriously underperforming.

    • Deco

      And by the way, that lecturer came from the same institution that “educated” Brian Cowen, Mary Coughlan, Patrick Neary, etc….

    • jonnyblackrock

      Excellent post. I’ve taught in a university in Dublin and I know exactly what you’re talking about. The general level is dismal.

      • Deco

        The first thing I would do if I wanted to reform Irish third level would be to kick out the drinks companies.

        The drinks sector lubricates the campuses like developers lubricate the Irish local authority planning process.

  14. Adam Byrne

    Very good article. I love the way you illustrate that each of your jobs did not exist five years previous to when you were doing it. Powerful stuff.

  15. Deco

    There is a massive deficiency in second level with respect to career guidance. Most importantly, not enough time is spent on it. That is essentially the problem.

    And in any case, most students have no clue what they want to do at 17.

    The only ones that know are those that have already decided that they have no academic interest. And usually boys who want to be like their father or brother.

    But academically oriented pupils have little or no clue.

    There is a massive srop out rate in third level across the board, consisting of people who thought they wanted to do something, and then discovered they wanted to do something else instead.

  16. Deco

    Well I have discussed third level.

    But then there is third level for people who do not go to college. By this I mean vocational training. And in Ireland the starting point of this is FAS.

    FAS is another chronic underperformer. Destroyed by nepotism and the need to reward careerhunters looking for an early retirement from the social partnership process.

    FAS has been renamed SOLAS, because the name FAS has become a byword for chronic underperformance. It is a superficial gesture. The rest of it will remain the same. Maybe it should be sold off, and give vouchers to the unemployed, to choose their own training supplier.

    • Bamboo

      It is clear to me that we are embracing a definite polarisation in our society.
      Now that we are coming to accept the fact that our society is becoming more divided into definite groups:

      the employed vs. the unemployed,
      the ones who bought property during the height of the boom vs. the rest.
      In other words: The lucky vs. the unlucky ones,

      The children will be/are confronted by this polarisation as well. Not only with the general changes in our new education system but specifically in Maths education as far I can understand it. Projects maths illustrates that polarisation.
      While in the old system there was room for the not so talented — with Project Maths there is only room for the talented.

  17. Philip

    Education is really about some level of preparation. “Luck favors the prepared” – that’s all that education does – gives you an edge.

    Now, reading David’s article, I see the usual popular swipe being taken at a system which to be honest has never been firmly proven to be utterly wrong or for which no real alternatives have been shown to work. It is a classic “exception proves the rule” argument and is essentially misleading – albeit not deliberately.

    Yeah we bleat on about the boredom of Irish and the sweat and anxiety of the “leaving” and the institutional nature of this that and the other and how the guy who was never academically qualified turned out to be a billionaire etc…the stark statistical reality says it all. The better “educated in the conventional sense” you are you have better income, better health, happiness etc. That is the fact. And the Chinese and the Brazilians and the Indians are replicating it and guess what guys?

    Personally I think any old education system has it’s merits and demerits in equal measure. Perhaps we should be looking at it in terms of on-going preparation in life – not a thing for just kids. We life health insurance…why not education insurance? For example, how do we re-educate our over 50s or our elderly? I think we the primary weakness in our system is that “education” stops so abruptly for many and left to the media to carry it on is a true Huxley like nightmare of induced ignorance and non critical thinking.

    The snag for me is the “school” or institution. It had a use as an organising concept for standardising guaranteeing people up to a certain level. Indeed this school concept is adopted by companies for their own training indoctrination programs. And whether we like it or not, the odd bit of indoctrination and brainwashing can help save the day.

    Perhaps what we really need to do is review this and have everyone learn to educate themselves (buit how do you measure asks the accountant – becasue it all costs money) – maybe this is something as essential as read writing and rithmetic. But whatever we do, we need to have something that people can always fall back on so they can reasonably waltz to the next phases of change with some level of preparedness.

  18. Deco

    Strangely enough, I can see second level and primary lvel being reformed far faster than third level. Maybe it is because they are generally very transparent, and because there is one large stakeholder to be brought on board – teacher unions. Once a decision is made, it tends to be implemented quickly.

    But getting third level to produce more employable graduates, and a more employable graduate mix is an ongoing problem since the 1970s.

    And unless there is serious application of intent, this will not happen.


    During the 5 yrs I spent in a Dublin secondary school in the 1980′s, not a single employer came to the school to offer career advice or work experience . Was this unusual or the norm ? The small no of us who went to college all emigrated. Those that didn’t go all stayed in Ireland ! Why do you ned hons Irish to be a primary teacher, yet you don’t require hons maths or english ?

  20. Dilly

    I used to get slapped by priests for asking why too much.

  21. StephenKenny

    On the seemingly obligatory personal note:
    I was no good at school because I was lazy and preferred to sit around smoking and pretending I knew about girls.
    Continual assessment or exams, it wouldn’t have made any difference, it would have all sounded too much like hard work, and therefore I would have accused it of being too conforming and oppressive.

    In general, only one thing is clear from the education systems of western Europe:
    No one can agree what they are for.

    • StephenKenny

      I should probably add that I was also no good at school because I find it hard to understand things quickly, or at all. You have only a few years, and a lot to learn, and while most of those around me were sitting there tapping their fingers, I was still trying to work out whether we were in maths or art.

  22. Beaver

    Tell your daughter not to worry. I´m 46 and I still dont know what I´m going to do when I grow up.

  23. mediator


    I’m not sure about this whole “making graduates more employable” idea.

    I work in third level education and as far as I can see we’re doing more now to engage with students than when I was in college or when I started lecturing, despite this we keep hearing that graduates are now less skilled and less able to enter the workforce than graduates of yesteryear?

    If this actually is the case (and I not fully convinced it is) then I think in large part it has to do with how society is changing people and in particular how students attitudes are shaped during their formative years, their exposure to technology and the values that are imbued in them in the home

    I can say that the trends that I have witnessed in the past 10 years are grade inflation (pushed by “pro student” management) and too much emphasis on the quality of instruction as well as an acceptance that students will only do so much work.

    We no longer fail people for substandard performance and are expectations have fallen. Students will only live up to expectations in general.

    Last point, with all its failings, our old system of education based on rote learning, leaving cert etc and blackboard and chalk produced top people in every discipline from engineering to maths to the sciences etc…

    Too much tinkering with the basics and mollycoddling students is what is ruining education in developed western economies

    • Philip

      I notice there is a short term view of relevance over excellence in a lot of 3rd level education. “Relevance” is really a demand by companies that just want drones. The guys coming out of such courses tend to get a 1st job easily and go nowhere else and work in that area until life changes and makes them irrelevant. Talk about being sucked in and blown out in bubbles.

    • Deco

      Had a fascinating discussion about 2004, with a teacher who was working in US, and who then came home. She talked about the grade inflation that was rampant in the US system, and then she mentioned that the same feature was in evidence here. This was about five years before the media discussed it here. And they only discussed it here because the country was in recession, and because some US CEOs were discussing it.

      She aslo stated that the DoE were going to mess everything up. Reading your text, I understand what is going on. They are not focussing on the three “r”s. Too much time spent playig games, and singing nursery rhymes, etc…

  24. Just thought I’d share the following;

    My 15yr old daughter began her Junior Cert Year on Wednesday 29th August just gone. On the first Tuesday of September I noticed her struggling over her maths homework. This would be unusual for her because thankfully she’s never had a problem with maths and as far as I can remember has never scored below a B in any previous exams.
    I asked her if there was a problem and she told me that she couldn’t understand the new 3rd year maths and that she’d done much of her homework incorrectly for the last few nights. She then showed me how much she had got wrong.
    “Okay fine, it’s new!” I said and asked her if she had told her Teacher that she found this new stuff a little difficult to grasp.
    “Yes” she replied she had gone to him yesterday at the end of his class. (Lets call him Teacher X)

    And his advice;

    Teacher X advised that she should go back to pass maths.

    I discussed her options with her and she advised me that she might be able to go to another Honours Maths class (Teacher Y) without upsetting her timetable. So I helped her with her homework and wrote a letter for her to take to the school asking that she be transferred to the Teacher Y’s class.

    The following evening I asked what happened.

    Well that afternoon, inexplicably, Teacher X sat down with her and offered to help her understand her maths……Which, after the explanation, she did. And on the Friday morning she was moved to Teacher Y’s class as requested.

    And guess what guys?

    She’s not struggling any more?
    Was this a miracle or just Maths?

    The thing is she wants to Teach –
    And I could have been a parent who said;
    “Well maybe you shouldn’t be struggling with this honours maths? – We’ll move you to pass”

    And the lesson today is;
    If she followed Teacher X’s advice – She probably wouldn’t qualify to teach

    Teacher Y seems to be doing a great job as she no longer has a problem understanding.

    And, if my daughter does get to teach please God she’ll be a;

    Teacher Y minus Teacher X


  25. zynks

    David, I am experiencing exactly the same with my kids. They don’t see a purpose in the ‘knowledge’ that they are being forced to digest, so perceived as under-performing. However, they have talents and interests that the school has no interest in exploring, though they are probably much more relevant to their futures.

  26. Joe R

    Good article, D McW.

    I’d like to mention there are other areas around this that could be covered also.

    University world ratings, failings with science and not to mention the amount of time spent on Irish and it’s useful return to society vs learning another foreign language.

    Then there is the privileged poition of teachers in society a group of peole with fixed high wages and sufficent time on their hands often to earn a second wage or run a business on the side.

    3 months off in the summer is an inherited joke also and not justifiable in a non argicultural rich society. Should be 6 weeks.

    Other points would feature for me are the use of expensively provided educational facilities for the public and by teachers. In many countries school runs across different hours of the the day in different shifts. Students aren’t penned in have to be responsible and turn up by themmselves and teachers have to work late. It encourages students to be mature earlier, realize what is on offer, or else be left by the wayside. Teachers would get a big kick up their privileged backsides as well if Ireland ever did this.

    Facilities too, which to my mind should routinely include all weather sports facilities and creches, should be made available to the community and thereby utilising state facilities to the maximum for society. There are other problems in society like obesity and high childcare costs which inhibit Ireland Inc. which could be addressed this way.

  27. Philip

    Being truly objective about education is next to impossible because of our experiences and expectations. This creates 2 problems – Objectivity fails us when we reflect on the negative aspects for ourselves and we tend to plan the future on what seems to have worked successfully for us most recently.

    As I view the article’s comments on linear intelligence and the scarring (leaving out the illegal stuff) of children with stigmas and conformity and streaming and so on and our so called “old fashioned” academic system which has excluded many of our brilliant people, I cannot help feeling we are looking at past subjective experiences and hanging the blame on the “Irish Educational” system without looking at other factors.

    The expectations for one’s children is also evident. It must be irritating for DMW to have come through this “old fashioned” system have such bad experiences and and yet come out on top try and then offer something different for your next generation. No doubt Chinese lessons will be encouraged over Irish – just beware of the law of unintended consequences.

    Education for all its warts is all is just a tool. You need 3 things Parents, Pull and Passion to make it all work. If I remember correctly, DMW’s family has an educational background, DMW has had enough good company around him to have Economics presented as a career choice and DMW is a passionate entertainer and presenter.

    Let’s be careful we do not throw the baby out with the water. Technically, this is a non-trivial topic and no matter what you do with education, if we do not sort out issues of sociological streaming (insider/outsider), the ghettoizing of children within limited level of company (pull factor) and making people feel happy about themselves by good leadership and concern for our communities, we are wasting out time.

    • Joe R

      “Being truly objective about education is next to impossible because of our experiences and expectations…”

      This is an entry to your post attempts to kill-off all that follows it and more or less all that is being debated here.

      It is possible to be completely objective – you can get externals or exiled people with other experiences to do it and you compare with other countries, and be as objective as possible.

      Where there is a will there is a way. Unless there is no will, of course.

      • Philip

        Not meant to detract from other contributions. Call it my poor education. But I just think education is not a topic that is solvable in its own right as it is so utterly dependant on external factors. I think society defines its educational requirements and effectiveness and never ever will there be a solution found in educational method alone unless we figure out how to “jack in” and take on intelligence enhancement tech a la William Gibson.

        So yes…blaming education system of itself is a complete and utter waste of time.

        • Joe R

          I agree with on that general point, a simple reactionary kick back is never a good idea, especially on such an important issue.

  28. Kellts

    As a primary school teacher I agree that the education system as it stands was designed in and for the Industrial Age and needs to be changed and adapted for the Information Age. There are some great lectures on this subject on youtube by Sir Ken Robinson – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY (Do Schools kill creativity?)
    The problem with what the minister announced last week is that all he is changing is the assessment of the child’s learning, not the education system at all which needs root and branch reform.
    While I completely agree with ongoing assessment as opposed to one-off exams, having the class teacher grade the children’s work for a state-certified qualification is just going to cause hassle and friction between teachers, students and parents.
    A recipe for disaster.

  29. StephenKenny

    OK everyone, pay attention: Hands up everyone who’s kids are above average. Just as I thought – everyone; and it’s the education system/the school/the teachers/someone else’s fault that they are not top of something.

    Next, you’ll all be asking for hot water in council properties to be just the right temperature for everyone.

    I don’t really know what the education system is for, but it clearly has a number of roles beyond teaching people how to count and do their alphabet. I suspect that if you want to improve education you’d better all first write down, in not less than 2000 words, what you want it to do in terms of your children. When this is done, we can all come back, compare scripts, and find out that we’re broken a fundamental law of nature in as much as we’ll have 100 scripts each precisely contradictory to each of the others.

    David could have written this piece (except for the bit about his daughter) any time in the past 50 years, and people would be saying just the same sorts of things. Probably, the best answer would be to get rid of all regulations, assessments, everything, and tell the teachers that if it doesn’t work really well in 10 years, then they’ll all have to go and live in Detroit. Let them figure out what ‘really well’ means.

  30. coldblow

    The educational system is imperfect but most proposals to improve it would probably only make it worse. Look at who is proposing what, do they send their children to state schools, are they giving them out of school grinds, do they practise what they preach, etc. The best they could do would be to reduce the hours and reduce the homework. Calls for teachers to work longer hours to justify their wages are silly. It’s just something you have to go through, like national service once was. Chin up.

    Continuous assessment only increases the load on teachers and pupils (an English teacher once told me in London that they had to mark 1 million words pa in continuous assessment alone – that is insane). I used to collect most of the prizes in my time, which I would not care to repeat, and they even gave me a cup to put on the mantlepiece. That wouldn’t have happened under cont. ass., it’s only natural for a teacher to spread it round if you can. In a country such as Ireland where favouritism is deeply ingrained cont ass. will make that worse. Plus the cheating factor. This is just another pc sacred cow. Perhaps other pupils might be allowed to opt out of cont ass.

    David has mentioned the ‘lads at the back of the class’ before. These are just rolling in talent and leave school stigmatized. He has this wrong. The messers have it easy and then they can claim school let them down. They lord it over the rest while they are there. It is in fact those who work hard who are let down. While I see their point the greater part of me wishes only that they get a kick in the ar*e on their way through the door.

    Seriously, these are the lads who call the shots. You are put in your place (ie at the bottom of the pyramid) and you have to reconstruct your reality when you leave to fit it with objective reality. In this respect it is ‘real life’, just not very good preparation for it.

    Deco and others are right about 3rd level. I saw a fellow student’s dissertation just before my finals and it was unbelievably bad, yet he got an hons degree too, albeit a 3rd. That’s when the penny dropped. Another fellow spent all his time politicking and I hardly saw him for 3 years until he breezed back to collect his 2.1.

    My son is in 5th class and I tell him not to take it too seriously and to skimp on homework as much as possible. I don’t want him insulting teachers or anything like that but I don’t want him fitting in too willingly as he will only be taken advantage of.

    Subjects like Latin would be good as they would introduce new, independent ideas into the mix and improve the monochrone dreariness of what passes these days for thought.

    As for group think, if that means uncritical adoption of conventional ideas and behaviour, that isn’t down to the school curriculum but rather the psychological orientation. I won’t go into that again here. Just one example from my own schooldays. At 14 we were asked by the teacher whether we’d do modern history (19th and early 20thC) or an earlier period. I wanted to the earlier but there was a ‘debate’, which included the word ‘relevance’ quite often, and the upshot was that ‘we’ opted for the modern. (Someone said that we could talk to our grandparents about it, blah blah). Anyway, we did the course, he messers just gt back to the messing and I quite enjoyed it as it happens.

    “I guess the system just failed them.”

    I think of Principal Skinner, now asst. groundskeeper as he was dismissed for being se*ist: “I don’t have any opinions. Everyone is the best at everything in the best of all possible worlds”.

    • coldblow

      By the way, grammar schools were abolished in England on the grounds of improving equality in education. As a result the public schools have a bigger hold on university entrance than ever. One reason, which I have seen in mainstream modern histories, or the main reason was the shame middle class parents felt when their offspring had to mix with the riff raff in the secondary moderns if they failed the 11 plus. Now there is an informal selection by income with the better off areas having the best schools.

    • Joe R

      Two points amongst others That I disagree with.

      1) “Continuous assessment only increases the load on teachers and pupils…”

      So is it right to say that teachers don’t regularly correct homework or work from class? The tests don’t have to be extra work. This is a false presumption.

      2) “The best they could do would be to reduce the hours and reduce the homework. Calls for teachers to work longer hours to justify their wages are silly.”

      In case you can’t see these two statements are starkly opposed and don’t make sense.

      If teachers worked MORE hours, if holidays were 6 weeks long not 3 months THEN kids would have MORE time to cover the syllabus, more slowly and throughly, in CLASS and have to spend LESS time on homework during school-time.

      A qestion what is the hourly rate (breakdown of salary per hour) for a starting permanent teacher – 70 euro? 100 euro?

      • coldblow

        Hi Joe R

        1 Cont. Ass. is on top of all the other marking and it is of course additional work.
        2 The syllabus is probably mostly a waste of time so the less time everyone has to spend on it either inside or outside of school the better. The idea that children would spend more time on more interesting or important things is however doubtful to my mind, though they would at least have the choice. And if the idea is to engineer things so that everyone is a winner then that’s probably a good reason to cut down on it even more as there is unlikely to be any excellence to be striven for. Teachers are paid very well in Ireland – if I’d known that I may have reconsidered by decision to do something else, but I doubt it.

        Here’s another point: why is it made such an offence to miss school? Over 20 days and you have to give reasons. I used to live near St Theresa’s Gardens in Dublin and it was well known that very few children there bothered after leaving National School. Of course, the authorities never seemed to do much about that as it wasn’t the most welcoming of places. But the view seems quite widespread among parents that it is a violation of the child’s rights to miss school. Where did they get that mad idea from? I’d have had my hand up in a shot to get out of the place and I was their star pupil. And cover the syllabus more slowly? Prolong the torture?

        And I think of how you used to hear about child film stars and the like who would say that, yes, it was great and all but that they were going to make sure their schoolwork wasn’t going to suffer as that was the no. 1 priority. Mad, isn’t it!

        Then there’s home schooling and they don’t exactly encourage that either… What is it they are afraid they will miss out on? (I have read of parents leaving Germany because it is practically illegal there.)

        The conclusion I draw is that, nice and all that most of those concerned with education are are, school is essentially National Service for children.

        • Joe R

          Hi Coldblow,

          Continuous assessment can be part of course work it is about structure. I had to work through college (an IT) under this system and have done courses in other country too with it.

          In regard to your other point we seem to be at cross purposes. I posted above seperately on the possible benefits of lengthing the working day for schools. I do not agree in particular with nanny state-ism I think it actual promotes immaturity.

          My point about longer hours goes hand in hand with a more mature approach, more self-learning more use of sports, PE and generally subjects that would be useful not a particular syllabus.

  31. Harper66

    Excellent article.

    It is worth pointing out however that the reason these changes are being implemented is that they are cost saving measures.

    No inter cert – no corrections, no supervision, no extra hours worked.

    I wish it were the case that our department of education made decisions based on a genuine concern for providing the best education system for our children and young adults. However I do not believe it to be the case.

    Every decision is a compromise tailored to suit the concerns of unions and some political angle.

    Since the events of 2008 the education system in Ireland is regressing at an alarming rate. So much damage has been done in such a short space of time.

    I think allowing schools to mark and quality assure their own students exam work is a disaster waiting to happen.

    • bonbon

      You can be 100% certain the brilliant “reforms” have only a single objective – cost cutting, and union busting. Both neo-con ideals.

      So one must take these neo-con’s on, directly.

      Remember the first act by Hitler was to ban collective bargaining. It is a hallmark of fascism everywhere now.

  32. wills

    The times are a changing.

    Unfortunately the rote and exam system has been rendered obsolete by the paradigm shift in technology tools.

    I suspect judging by my own experience with the new kidz on the block they will just work around the dinosaur system until it catches up.

  33. molly

    I am a good bit out of touch with school having left in 1976, the point I want to make is school books why do school going kids have to lug them around.
    This is 2012 the tablet type devices should be used much more.
    I went to the school and was under the care of the brothers and may they burn in hell, thank god things have changed for the better and I hope they continue to move forward at the proper speed.

  34. Deco

    We also need a better education plan for working class males, in particular in areas where substance abuse/depression/falling down, is rife.

    Maybe Limerick might be a good place to start. A program that educates people to participate in the community, in the sense that there is beneficial to the community.

    It is more a problem of thinking and organization than money. And it requires a lot of honesty from all involved.

    • Colin


      The shams in Limerick have no interest in learning. You’re on a fool’s errand trying to educate them.


      • Adam Byrne

        Is this not a positive video Colin?

        • Colin

          No it isn’t Adam. The heroes are the very few who reject that lifestyle and quietly work hard with a plan in their own head on how to escape the misery which surrounds them. If you know you are not going to escape a neighbourhood like that, then your only option is to learn to love it, which is in fact a survival technique.

          Question: How many outsiders would like to live there?
          Answer: 0.


          • Adam Byrne

            The poor kids are just trying their best. Some of them might go far.

          • Colin

            They are happy with their lives, there’s no need to interfere. They have no ambition, there is no weight of expectation on their shoulders to carry, unlike middle class kids who have expectations drummed into them from an early age.

            They won’t go far, their roots are deep, they’d be like a fish out of water anywhere further than 5 miles away from their neighbourhood.

            They have all they want nearby; chip shops, sweet shops, ice cream van visits. When they’re older, there’s pubs to get drunk in, and drugs to dabble in, cheap foreign ciggies sold at the door and sex shops to buy porn and toys in.

            A simple life it is, no need for books or debates or culture at all here.

          • nostramartus

            A few years ago David McWilliams advised engaging in communities at a local level to encourage development of grass roots change that would replace a failed system of government. I brought to a community in my area my I.T. skills which I thought with middleclass arrogance are as relevant today as the ten commandments were to previous generations.
            I’ve realised middleclass attitudes and education aren’t just misplaced but dangerously ignorant of the reality of life in these areas, most will never have the opportunity to even get an interview as middleclass parents secure positions for their children before they’re even advertised. These girls are pragmatic enough to show what they find positive in their community. David outlined the generation gap in property ownership, but by delaying or simply not building social housing vested interests have created a bubble market in the private rental property market. At a very young age these young people understand the limitations placed on them by society and try to find what few positives they can.
            Poverty awareness classes although well-meaning border on the ridiculous when being given by a college student on work placement who arrives in a car bought by their parents. What’s worse is many of these students went to Africa on holiday to learn about poverty. I felt embarrassed for their nativity but they were welcomed and everyone engaged with the message they brought, the residents know its nonsense but respected the students’ educational achievements. I sat through a number of presentations in UL before I realised most students took easy options at their local G.A.A club or primary school, there are no automatic placements to areas that might benefit from educated students, equally an education worth thousands is wasted on people like Colin who don’t have an ounce of common sense.

          • Colin


            You’re the liberal lefty, not me.

            I paid for my own education, unlike you I’m sure.

            I’m earning a good income from the investment I made in my education, something many liberal lefties find difficult to do unless some do-gooder agency hires them.

            I have plenty of common sense, and I use it every minute of every day.

            You avoid my core points, a sure sign you’ve lost the argument and descend into snobby rubbish like ‘an education worth thousands is wasted on people like Colin who don’t have an ounce of common sense’

            Do yourself a favour, comment on the site when you are sober, not at 3am with half a bag of curry chips on your face and a belly full of liquor.

          • nostramartus

            Your core argument is based on an attack on teenage girls born into poverty trying to make the best of their situation, very brave, the cycle of poverty you describe is a societal construct build up over time through policies that benefit the rich over the poor that continue today.
            Read Julia’s submitted article: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/1010/1224325095342.html
            I meet people like you Colin (mostly retired)on a daily basis and it wouldn’t surprise me if you came from an estate a little bit better off than those living in these forgotten communities, perhaps like many others living in terror of just a handful of criminals and teenagers with nothing else to do. The video you use to ridicule these teenagers is aimed at their contemporaries not you in an attempt to encourage them to engage with their community rather than terrorise it. Early intervention is a lot cheaper than decades of imprisonment, something someone like you should be in favour of not using the actions of a minority to condemn them.
            I make it clear I’m not in favour of the re-education offered by those you describe as liberal lefties, I’m in favour of providing the basics of a modern society to create a balanced stable society ( that doesn’t have boom bust cycles). I wrote my response to you earlier that day and posted after catching up on a number of articles, at first I didn’t think your comment was worthy of response but who knows in times of austerity how ruthless government may become influenced by a vocal minority.
            When I originally went to college I dropped out because I didn’t get a grant and spent all of my time off working in my family’s business, congratulations on your educational achievement. The point of David’s article is that the education system isn’t fit for purpose for the majority in a rapidly changing economic world, although it’s benefitted you as you could afford to pay for it. In my opinion it’s become a filtering system for those who can follow instruction and not for those who think creatively, as fewer people can pay for that increasingly expensive instruction the system churns out drones that only analyse problems in a linear fashion which results in disastrous recession.
            Your methods of exclusion and isolation have been in place for generations, the catholic church turned rote learning into an art form to provide workers for another century, independent learning skills should be encouraged to produce a more adaptable workforce.
            I volunteer my time, it’s only a few hours a week, but they don’t need I.T. skills they need the wider community involvement , students on work experience or on holidays would take the pressure off of over worked social workers. Originally I was there to assist an immobile neighbour but I’ve gained more from the social interaction. It’s 11:30 that must be bedtime.

          • Colin


            You’re wrong again.

            I’m not retired, I’m under 40, which makes me young these days – I think.

            I got bank loans to fund me through my time in college, which are fully repaid now, I didn’t pay with my own cash upfront or someone else’s cash.

            I didn’t grow up in a marginally better area, I grew up in a much better area.

            I have not ridiculed those girls. Let the video speak for themselves. They have no choice but to live there as children.

            Early intervention is another liberal lefty myth. The only hope they have is knowing right from wrong, and I’m afraid almost the entire country is perverted when it comes to these decisions.

            I disagree with YOUR interpretation of David’s article. It is outdated, needs modernising sure, and rote learning isn’t worth a fiddler’s fart, but many choose rote learning subjects over the sciences which are deemed ‘too hard’, so whose fault is it? The system still works for many with good outcomes, don’t forget that.

            Glad to hear you are gaining something from social interaction.

          • nostramartus


            You are the poster boy for linear thought and a product of our current education system, why would a turkey vote for christmas, you only see right and wrong answers, I’m satisfied to see these girls engage with their community services which may lead to an alternative education that provides the same necessary skills for employment.

            Basic typing skills learned creating a facebook page might lead with development to employment in administration in a fraction of the time and cost of a university education. Denying alternative education to these girls in the short term adds middle class university graduates who could be employed in training to the dole lines, in the long term fosters exclusion and creates massive ghettos.

            Your words “The shams in Limerick have no interest in learning. You’re on a fool’s errand trying to educate them.”
            I suggested our current education isn’t fit for the purpose of providing workers with the relevant adaptable skills for employment.
            McWilliams said “the system ‘rewards’ a type of conventional, linear intelligence which breeds conformity and ‘single-answer’ narrowness. This leads to the type of ‘group think’ that has blighted this country in many areas.”
            I was implying you are out of touch with the current situation by promoting failed policies that worked for the previous generation, of over education for export, this won’t work during a world-wide recession, 85,000 people didn’t emigrate last year just to get a sun tan. Irish immigrants won’t be able to displace native employees even with higher education if there are no jobs, most Irish students today carry large student debts with them when they emigrate, negative equity without the salary to pay the debt.
            A marketing campaign telling the world that everything worked out for Colin and a couple of I.T. guys is hardly the answer to Ireland’s economic woes anymore than creating an education bubble that churns out thousands of scientists in 4 years.

          • Colin

            I’ve had my education already, I do not need anymore long term full time study, so ‘Turkeys voting for Christmas’ is a poor analogy as I’m more like a Turkey who has escaped the Turkey farm and found a safe home elsewhere. As for the young turkeys coming up, well, all I can tell them is that ‘linear thinking’ as you call it is good. I’ll tell them to love clarity. Keep asking the question why until you can’t ask it anymore. That’s not much use to you if you are studying Home Economics or Biz Org or any of those other ‘handy’ subjects which are easy to score high in.

            In fact, I’d tell the young turkeys to take the path least travelled. If something is hard, don’t give up on it just becasuse it is hard, keep working at it as it will reward you ten times over.

            The answer to Ireland’s Economic woes lies well outside the classroom. It requires people with character to do the right thing. This is sadly lacking and is a cultural disease in Ireland. Root that out and things may improve.

  35. bonbon

    It is very tragic that most economists have thrown in the towel, and believe the economy cannot be forecast. Rather than examine some really passionate false beliefs, they give up. This is indeed a result of the content of education all across the Transatlantic region now in the worst crisis of history. The economy now imploding is a direct result of the content of scientific and mathematical text-book, blackboard stuff taken without question.

    This runs very deep, and most are simply not prepared to grapple head on. Monetarism, posing as economics, in various guises such as fiat or metal money, has its roots in Euclid’s a-priori method so adored and taught. That in turn has its roots in reductionism, the sheer falacy of which is fun to expose, and an induced mental illness “belief in sense-evidence” as reality.

    We must put creativity itself at the center of the curriculum, metaphor, productive powers of labor at the center of economics, a scientific principle, not money.
    Not only is economics forecastable, but the future determines the economy, not the past. Forecasting looks at the prevailing popular opinion gripping all alike, and casts a view of what that will do to the economy, unless the arc or orbit is shifted by a sudden change.

    For instance all forecasts after 1929 pointed to the Great Depression, and if prevailing popular beliefs were further rolled out, the end of the USA was inevitable. But that did not happen, the trends were completely wrong, and Wall Street, London’s project was defeated. If economics does not deal with this actual process, it is self-defeating.
    Today economic forecasts show that if austerity and hyperinflation are not rolled back, the Greatest Depression ever is inevitable.

    Now what could stop that – something entirely outside economics chosen sandbox? Or something that is essential to economics? Some will say “unknowable spontaneous complexity” will sprout forth good things?

  36. bonbon

    Today is the day to start education about Ireland’s physical economy. Nothing less than a Renaissance is around the corner, on a scale never before seen, and not in the radar of most economists, glued to the “trends”, a linear flatlandish occupation.


    It will be remarked in kids text books, that the only “thing” standing in the way is a mental blockage. The now extinct imperial economy may of course try to blow everything up, rather than serve in that future. We now know what to prevent.

    Enda’s mug on that Time Mag, is blocking the view of the future, and kids are all about future as the economy is.

  37. bonbon

    Some might say metaphor has no economic “value”. Or what has metaphor to do with physical economy?
    In reality, economic forecasting must be an exercise in the use of metaphor, especially preparing the government dept’s that need forecasts. Company forecasting could take a page out of this, if the accountants are kept firmly outside the meeting.

    Here is a metaphor, not passively descriptive, not statistical, immediately accessible to anyone with some exposure to classical education (admittedly rare in Ireland today), and a gate-opener out of the apathetic comatose lethargy of the daily trammeled.


    This is quite unlike the rote-learning of the chalk-board mind-deadening mantra’s all across the transatlantic today. It shows the gaping split between the imaginary economy, monetarist, and the real basis for existence, over the last 40 years. It shows the inflection point when monetization overtook financial aggregation, and the simultaneous sharp phase-change, breakdown, in the physical economy.

    This makes clear what to do in the same idea. It gets the point across to the 90% affected the 3 steps to take immediately.
    1) split off those 2 upper curves, motions – separate them immediately.
    2)plan how to reverse and outrun the economic breakdown,
    3)plan the financing of 25-30 years without that horror show of monetarism.
    The damage is severe, but reconstruction will handle it. Then the real shocker – there are far too few experienced people for this, the education system has been in wonderland too long. So how to do crash courses?
    Take the example of Lazard Carnot of the French Polytechnic- a great example of how a small cadre very quickly spread skills to a huge number of completely neglected, and changed history, in a critical phase.

    How the “Calculus of Enthusiasm” Saved France

    Crash courses in the calculus of enthusiasm are what skilled and unskilled alike need. In the Carnot tradition!

  38. Tony Brogan

    There is a major shortfall in the education of the populace in the general workings of society.
    no education on governance and how the politics of the country work.
    no education on finance and how money or the banking system works.
    no education of basic contract law and common law.

    These are all things everyone needs to know and understand at any level of society.

    Who knows the history of money , for example. Why there is money. what separates good money from bad etc.What is the definition of money.

    no wonder there is a financial crisis no one can solve. No member of society has a clue about economics or understands who is pulling the strings and why.

    It is a deliberate dulling down with a lack of information. The schooling system is a giant baby sitting service designed to tell what to think and not how to think. conformity rules. Three years is enough for the basics. Age 11-14. Kids should be at home with family.A 15 they should study what interests or get an apprenticeship. (I forgot another missing piece of the educational system.)

    I spent 9 year of my 12 at school reading under the desk and self educating myself. Raised in England I took the 11 plus and failed the IQ test. It had zero mark on it. I could not be bothered with the stupid squares and dots etc.I signed my name, waited an hour and walked out.

    My parents were horrified. Both trained teachers, my father brilliant in science and literature. My mother no slouch, from an Oxford and Cambridge family. Half my family teach or have. sisters, cousins, parents, uncle and aunts.

    In six weeks I learned all I needed to know to fly through the 11 plus exams on a second sitting.( I was held back a year)

    For 2 years we home schooled our three children (in Canada)at the middle school ages, 12-14. They had such fun they accelerated a grade. Three hours a day for lessons and the rest to do what they wanted.They did not need teaching, they learned by themselves.
    “What about their socialization”, I was continually asked. “That is what I am trying to avoid”, I responded. “They have family, friends, church, clubs, associations, crafts, arts, music from the local community.
    School was generally a waste of time for me except the sports teams. I would have been better off learning a trade and involved with things I liked.

    Outside of school I became a horseman, Show jumper, point to pointer, boxer, welder, farrier, hotel manager, waiter, barman, bouncer, truck driver, farmer, cattle buyer, equipment operator,agricultural contracter, commissioned officer, sailor, business owner and operator, pipeline inspector, realtor, and goldbug and a blogger!

    All required post secondry education which I took as needed. Some I was good at and excelled, other things I did poorly and yet others the economy worked against me.

    Three time I have been at economic zero, and three times a a dollar millionaire or close. That’s me, others will be different but not disimilar.

    Best thing to have is three squares a day, a dry warm place to stay and some pleasant company. Keep your family close, forgive often and forget little!!

    Blessings to all.

    • whatamess

      as always…very interesting post ….thanks

      • Tony Brogan

        Thank you whatamess.
        Sometimes a rant leaves one exposed but Education is a vital and misunderstood tool. David is correct as he showed there is no lifetime job as change is constant.
        I worried about my kids, but decided that they had to be good at language—communication
        They needed computer skills
        and as my father-in-law said —people skills.
        After that they went where the tide sent them.Still in the same town happily for me to visit.
        It was huge fun getting computer games that used spelling and math. Usually screaming and laughter, and throwing magnetized letters and numbers at the fridge door to stick and to see who was the first to yell out the digit of letter was a gas. They did not know they were learning to spell and add and subtract as they competed against each other for points in the game.
        They are not wonderfully engaged in world breaking enterprises but all three are glad to see their Dad when he turns up and that is all I need. All are self sufficient and surviving one way or another and happy enough.

        • Tony Brogan

          When I say they , we had a single then 15 months later twins. There were three of everything. No hand me downs except from friends. Three car seats, three cribs, three sets of dipers to wash ………

  39. Harper66


    Since Mar 6th 2011, every week, we’ve been marching in protest against the bank bailout in Ireland, the extortion of billions (€70bn so far) from the Irish economy to bail out failed private banks and their failed bondholders across Europe and the world.

    Protest week 84 Ballyhea and Charleville

  40. Adam Byrne

    Should be EDUCATION at the top of the page webmaster, not EDUATION.

  41. bonbon

    Spain’s Red Cross Raises Funds to Feed… Spain’s New Poor

    Oct. 9, 2012 (LPAC)–A dramatic Spanish Red Cross campaign video has begun to circulate in the country, announcing that the objective of this year’s fundraising drive has changed: It is no longer Haiti; it is Spain. The drive is to be able to feed an additional 300,000 people inside Spain who are facing hunger because of the economic crisis.
    The Red Cross says that 82% of the people they help are under the poverty line, and that their unemployment rate is 65%. Half of these have been out of work for longer than two years, and half no longer receive any unemployment benefits at all. 43% of those the Red Cross helps lack the funds to heat their homes in winter, and 26% can’t eat a meal with animal protein at least three times a week.
    The video reports that the Spanish Red Cross already helps two million people per year, but they now need to add an additional 300,000 to that list — a 15% jump.

  42. bonbon

    20,000 Betrayed Farmers Demonstrate in Dublin

    Oct. 9, 2012 (EIRNS)–20,000 farmers from throughout Ireland marched through the streets of Dublin on Tuesday in the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Day of Action. The march, which was led by a convoy of tractors, combines, and milk trucks, closed down a number of streets. A majority of dairy co-ops, meat processors, grain merchants and livestock markets also closed in solidarity with the farmers’ demonstration.
    The IFA, having received all kinds of promises in the May 31 austerity treaty referendum, had endorsed the `Yes’ vote pushed by the Fine Gael/ Labour Party coalition government. Now, faced with cuts in both government and EU subsidies, they feel betrayed.
    IFA President John Bryan told RTE news on Tuesday morning that the demonstration would send a message to the Government to protect farmers from European and domestic cuts. He told RTE News: “The immediate decision that has to be made in Europe is the Cap budget for the next seven years.”
    The EU is planning to freeze the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies for seven years, from 2013 until 2020.
    The European Commission Spokesman for Agriculture and Rural Development admitted to RTE News that “we’re having protests in 27 different member states.”
    The Dail began debating the government’s own plans to cut agriculture subsidies on Tuesday night, with additional debate planned for Wednesday. In advance of the debate, Fianna Fail spokesman for agriculture Eamon O’Cuiv, who was marginalized by his own party because he opposed their YES position in the Austerity Treaty Referendum, criticized the government’s agriculture minister, Simon Coveney, for his plans to impose cuts on a number of agricultural schemes. “This sector is hugely important to the economy,” said Mr O’Cuiv. We need to ensure it is protected, but all we have seen from this Government is stealth cuts and a total refusal to provide information in relation to the cuts”, said O’Cuiv, who is the grandson of Ireland’s late, long serving President Eamon De Valera.

  43. bonbon

    As to education only for the rich, which is the target of all imperial strategies such as the EU, let’s look at the curriculum, (The Mock Turtle Story) :

    `Ah! then yours wasn’t a really good school,’ said the Mock Turtle in a tone of great relief. `Now at ours they had at the end of the bill, “French, music, and washing–extra.”‘

    `You couldn’t have wanted it much,’ said Alice; `living at the bottom of the sea.’

    `I couldn’t afford to learn it.’ said the Mock Turtle with a sigh. `I only took the regular course.’

    `What was that?’ inquired Alice.

    `Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,’ the Mock Turtle replied; `and then the different branches of Arithmetic– Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.’

    `I never heard of “Uglification,”‘ Alice ventured to say. `What is it?’

    The Gryphon lifted up both its paws in surprise. `What! Never heard of uglifying!’ it exclaimed. `You know what to beautify is, I suppose?’

    `Yes,’ said Alice doubtfully: `it means–to–make- anything–prettier.’

    `Well, then,’ the Gryphon went on, `if you don’t know what to uglify is, you are a simpleton.’

    So there we have it, Truth and Beauty flung out the door, replaced with Uglification, Distraction, Derision, Ambition, Reeling and Writhing.

    I must say, Punk Economics, when in fact real punks are running the economics of Europe and the USA, is an attempt to appeal to youth of the education system above. Trying to explain a principle of survival, by Uglifying it is doomed, and cannot work. One must take on, with no compromise, the Mock Turtle Curriculum.

  44. Realist

    Monopoly? Competition? Choice?

    Very nice article about the problems.
    What about the solution.

    Do we all need formal compulsory class-based education?
    Do we not consider education to be more than this?

    If we know that monopolies are bad because they do not have the best interest of the consumer in mind and have little incentive to improve their product, then why we believe that a government monopoly over schooling is good?
    Is this constraining competition and choice too?

    Should parents, area of living, whatever other circumstances not influence schools to change teaching constantly?

    I am sure you guess I am for a free-market non-compulsory schooling system that suites more of our children.
    We are not all made to be the same so why to have monolith schooling system.

    • Philip

      Cost of education? Dreadful is it not? And particularly if it is state run and burning up your taxes.

      Cost of ignorance? Funny how there seems to be no number for that?

      You could say that a perfectly educated and informed society needs no governance. It runs itself and educates itself. Laws would be irrelevant as well. I can see that ideal going down like a lead balloon in some places.

      What is the cost of doing nothing? Let’s close the dept of education now and balance the books and maybe even burn the books while we are at it:) Would a 2-5yr break make that much difference?

      • Realist

        The price of product is what the consumer is willing to pay. With the monopolistic education it is hard to say that.
        Education is around 16% of the budget, 8.5 billion, but have no clue is that too much or not.
        I would say in Education the bigger problem is quality of it, than money spent in taxes (regardless of me being opposed to any compulsory taxation)
        There is not market to confirm the price really.
        If you ask for a slightly more quality on top of it you pay additional 4-7k per year for private secondary schools.
        But, we need more quality and more variety of schooling.

        > “You could say that a perfectly educated and informed society needs no governance”
        We are all educated in our own way and that should be recognized. There are no perfectly educated people. There are no gods. This is why we have central bodies deciding on everything, as they believe they know what is good for all of us.

        I believe that people are smart in itself and that even without Dept of Education schools will be good, most likely better :)

        • bonbon

          People are “smart in itself” without education? Bears are smart, as bears tend to be, about eating humans who wander by totally oblivious.

          From all this instinct, inate, will spring fountains of knowledge, as if by magic? Wow, that sounds like religion to me, the Mithra variant. It is the same mantra that economics springs spontaneously from monetary transactions.

          We had that, been there done all that for thousands of years in various cultures.

          Ever see the Time Machine by H.G.Wells? The new version? The Morlochs, portrayed as cannibalistic, deformed, degenerated, preyed on the Eloi, that fine delicate minority. Note : The only remaining technology left on the planet was in the hands of Morlochs, the Eloi could neither read, nor write, had no spoken epics. Along comes the Great Brit, and destroys the only remaining technology, freeing the Eloi to a careless enchantment.
          This is H.G. Wells, of numerous novels, head of MI6, perfecting his method. Methinks there are a few Eloi here (who can still write apparently) playing H.G. Wells intelligence game.

          • Realist

            That was the statement about the fact that people will know how to learn, create schools, teach children, use Internet classes, home teaching, learn through experiences and so on, even without the Department for Education.

            Everything else is your imagination.

    • Harper66

      Fás courses were largely subcontracted out to private providers look at the mess that created.

      • Realist

        FAS – I thought they are paid with tax payers money and they are public.

        On what grounds they hired these subcontractors? How they are picked?
        Did they need to satisfy the customer to exist, live by the market standards?
        Who is guilty picking the wrong educators?

        • Harper66

          I agree you can and must blame the government but blame also lies with the private providers who are equally culpable.

          Surely the state will always have a role in education – or are you suggesting that the state should take no part in providing education?

          • Realist

            Of course I blame them and this is why:
            1. How FAS (government) can know what classes they should be teaching people? I heard so many comments about what I want they do not have, so I pick some class looking interesting.
            2. FAS (government) do not earn money for living. they do not need to be tested by the consumer. We are consumers by no choice and we are paying whatever price they want us to pay (taxes). you cannot opt out of not paying.

            State, that is sponsored by coerced money (taxes) and have no customer satisfaction test (apart from 4 yearly voting, where you vote for the same things over and over again and still believe they are different) cannot be part of the competition.
            So, yes, I believe state should not have any influence on the education, but just leave it to the market best devcies of competition, consumer satisfaction and choice.

          • Harper66

            “So, yes, I believe state should not have any influence on the education, but just leave it to the market best devcies of competition, consumer satisfaction and choice…”

            Right. Best of luck with that.

          • Realist

            Thanks Harper66.
            We all know this process is not going to be easy.
            As politicians rely on intelectuals to tell them the direction, the idea is to try to convert as many as possible young intelectuals, as for older might be too late.
            This is why I am more focused spreading the word to my 3 children so they do not go the wrong way.
            Eventually somebody on this forum will might be converted too, spreading to their kids and so on.

            Once this current way of socio-keynesian-capitalism utopia go bust and dissapear I hope something better will come and we and our kids should be ready for it, to not be taken by zombie concepts created from the mix of previous failures.

    • bonbon

      “Free market” now for schooling? Wow, right back to the Rome days when 1% had any education at all. See above what the curriculum for that 1% would be – Reeling, Writhing, Distraction, Uglification and Derision.

      Now I wonder what Pinochet, that champion of the free-market Chicago School, did to schooling in Chile?

      In true British Treasure Island tradition, the German Piratenpartei want to make schooling voluntary.

      • Realist

        You complain to much about freedom of people.
        You are constantly reminding us that we (people) are stupid, and will be controlled by 1% is not it?

        This is why I am against such control and for more freedom, freedom returned to consumers of such services.

        You want the national bank that will be controlled not by 1%, but by 0.0001% of population?
        And they should know what to do with money, who to lend and so on.
        You want more control while complaining about 1%.
        Anyway how much percents should be wealthy? 10, 50, 100%.
        Looks like you want us all the same, just do not get it.
        Are you for capitalism or some form of socialism?

        Unsure what my comment is to do with totalitarians, as my thoughts are more of libertarian nature.
        I like more Austrian school of economy.

  45. Julia

    Read this article from todays Irish Times


    Gilmore is no Hugo Chavez.

  46. cooldude

    I have to agree Realist. Education today rewards pupils who are good at memorizing and regurgitating facts but does not encourage any form of critical thinking. This is not just an Irish issue and is the deliberate policy of educationalists across the globe. What the elites want are students who don’t question the so called facts they are taught but are prepared to take them as given and spew them out at exam time. This is all deliberate as the last thing our elites want is a generation capable of critical thinking who start really looking into how private institutions have been given a monopoly on what we use as money and why it benefits the issuers and those close to them to the detriment of everyone else in society. Or they might start asking why they are been given vaccinations which are at best of dubious benefit and more likely , from my research, harmful. Let people have some real choice in how their children are educated and let different types of schools evolve and let’s have some real choice in this area.

    • Realist

      Yes, exactly. Why not have the choice and freedom to choose.
      The whole idea is that only these people in the central educational body, whatever it is, know what is best for our kids.
      How they can possibly know that?
      This is the same old problem of thinking that parents are stupid to decide what is good for their kids, so it will be a few “bright” minds, chosen who knows how, to decide.

    • Philip

      Well, you do have to realise one little annoying fact about people…some like changing and some like surviving. Some get shot and some run to fight (maybe) another day. You might find yourself outside the tent ask…how do I get rid of these tents or how do I get inside and be comfortable. And if you have kids, you might be wondering about their continued safety.

      Now if you could fix it so people were more courageous…

      • Realist

        Are we able to “Opt out” from the “comfortable” tent?

        Safety is the term usually pushed by “gods” of our lives to protect us from the bad weather and put us into “comfortable” tents.
        The only problem is they are not admitting that bad weather is created by the same “gods”.

    • coldblow

      Hi Cooldude

      I have a certain amount of sympathy for this (Crotty would have been in favour of privatizing education for example) but among my reservations are:

      1 Memorizing and regurgitating facts. I think this is a bit of a cliche. Take history, you won’t memorize many facts unless you understand the context and you won’t be able to regurgitate them in any coherent way unless you understand what you are writing about. So far they haven’t worked out a way to award qualifications on the basis of ‘personality’.

      2 Brainwashing isn’t, in my view deliberate. Sorry, I’ll rephrase that, it is deliberate but it is intended in a benign, indeed in an educational, sense for your own good. After all ‘we all know’ what is good for you and ‘everyone knows’ that education is good. I want the best for you and your children (that I am sending my own children to a private school is not pertinent here – they need a ‘different’ kind of education to be able to lead and educate others). But this is all ultimately for the common good. The world is beset by wicked elites and superstitious ignorance and our schools will educate your children about all of this. However, some reactionary (Georg’s word) elements may attempt to turn the clock back. So we need to educate young people to see the dangers… So you see, what we need is more education! (Oh, what larks Pip!)

      • cooldude

        Interesting observations Coldblow. On your first point I’m not so sure about history. It’s all really about who invaded who on what date etc. It is really regurgitation of facts. I was actually good at this “cramming” as we used to call it but is isn’t education and is the exact opposite to critical thinking. I have educated myself over the last ten years in areas that are important to my life such as natural health, monetary history, economic theory, and generally what is really going on on this planet. That is why the internet is such a fantastic educational tool and should be used to completely revolutionize our educational system.
        On your second point I am of the view that much of the brainwashing is indeed deliberate and is done to promote the existing status quo. Our medical system has been turned into little more than a sales system for the major pharmaceutical companies and very little attention is given to nutrition, exercise and lifestyle. It looks only at treating the symptoms of illness and never tries to find the underlying causes. In economics only the deeply flawed Keynesian system of ever increasing debt is taught. This is because this system supports the central banking system and its unbacked money which is essential for this flawed system. Economists such as Von Mises who support letting individuals have choice in the type of money they use are deliberately ignored because this isn’t good for the banking elites who are now running the whole show. All of this is deliberate and has been planned. The Rockefeller Foundation got very involved in the education system in America in the 1920′s and gained control of the curriculum. Also the pharmaceutical industry gained complete control of the medical industry in the early part of the last century and again eliminated all types of medicine except their extremely profitable drugs. So It’s not more of this brainwashing that we need but real education which will give different points of view and let young people use their ability to think critically and make informed choices.

  47. Tony Brogan

    Here is something to educate oneself about!!

    Gold is the currency of kings, silver is the currency of princes, barter is the currency of peasants, and DEBT is the currency of SLAVES.

    - From Jim Sinclair’s Mailbox

    • Realist

      Excellent one Tony.

      I thought more debt is better (cannot remember who said it) :)

    • Philip

      Ah now…a bit simplistic.

      What about the currency of knowledge? Particularly when it is not for sale.

      • Tony Brogan

        Hi Philip
        The old KISS adage works well too often
        Keep it simple stupid!
        (not a personal reference you understand).
        Other phrases come to mind.

        To precis that statement…
        Let’s distil it to its essence…
        to simplify things…
        Simply put…

        We get far too complicated with round and round discussions. Spending 32 years selling real estate I became or was adept at helping people to do what they wanted in the first place but did not know how. Remove or solve the objection. Make the choices simple(that word again). Would you prefer this or that. Now if we can solve that problem there then we can go ahead with the sale…

        Some of the best restaurents have the smallest menus.Easy choices.

        Knowledge is not currency, but capital.!!!

        I Enjoy your thoughts.


        • Philip

          You are acting as the interpreter for a transaction and like any expert you have a massive body of knowledge that you unconsciously handle so well. You and those like you can choose your currency. So yes Knowledge is Capital. Point taken.

          I suppose I see it as flexibility. Not being how much gold you have, but what you can do with it. Sort of like knowledge.

      • Bamboo

        Good Question.

        I think knowledge will be defined again.
        Do you need knowledge as information, as memorized data in your brain or do you need it to navigate through information and knowledge itself.

        • Tony Brogan

          All experience adds to knowledge. Knowledge leads one to draw conclusions. Was it a good or bad experience.
          Learning a date of a happening , what happened , and why it happened is all knowledge.
          Knowing the whys and wherefors may be more useful than knowing the whens although the whens have relevance.

          Enough knowledge and experience leads one hopes to wisdom. That is what we hope to impart to our offspring. Then the knowledge is transferred to future generations and so society progresses.

          That leads to a culture of a community.

          That is precisely why the Romans in Briton destroyed the seats of Druidical learning in Anglesey in an effort to destroy the celtic culture. Every conquorer tries the same.

          That is why it was illegal to ‘wear the green’. Why it was forbidden to speak the native tongue, why potlatch was forbidden.

          Collective knowledge is the strongest cultural tie there is. It is the essence of your being, your place on the earth. Your membership in commumunity.

  48. redriversix

    Ahhhhhhhh School days !

    I had the privilege of attending the C.B.C private school in Monkstown,Co Dublin from 74–79.

    This esteemed privileged education allowed me to be beaten by some of the finest minds in the Country,all Christian Brothers.

    Left school at 15 [almost] after getting 4 honors & 3 passes in the Group Cert and being informed “not to bother with leaving cert”…!!

    So I left on a Friday,starting working on the Saturday,never looked back.

    My Children attended New-park in Blackrock and have & are doing very well.Highly recommended.

    Have a great day.


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