From An Claidheamh Soluis, July 24, 1909.
The aims of the Gaelic League resolve themselves in practice into an educational campaign. However sincere men may object to the compelling of Irish children to study their native tongue none can oppose our objection to systems of education which cater for our country in much the same manner as if it were a British colony in Asia or Africa, or as if our identity were one with that of Cumberland or Kent. To tolerate such a system any longer would be to acquiesce in the placing of our children in the grip of a mental vice that would teach them to regard their race, their country, its language and history, with less pride than they might those of the children of any European nation. Such a system has been that of the primary school. Such a system is that of the Intermediate Board, and such a system has been that of the Universities. Intelligent men of every creed and class are agreed in condemning such mind murder as those system involved. Ireland has a history; why should it be suppressed? Ireland has a language; why should it be destroyed? Ireland has a nationality, written even on her physical outlines by the hand of Providence; why close our eyes to the fact? Whatever be the political fate of our country, there can be only stagnation in national affairs until there be a more general recognition of the essentials of nationality. To set our people back on the way of sanity will need a revolution. The revolution has been begun already, but it must be carried into the schools and conducted mainly in them. The conference on Bilingual Education which has been arranged by the Coiste Gnotha for Oireachtas week is a hopeful sign for the future of the schools, or for a large number of them at least. Bilingualism is a matter of ways and means, but ways and means so important, that the neglect of them would mean the neglect of the most valuable educational weapon within our grasp. The progress of Bilingualism in the schools marks, very largely, the real progress of the language movement. The great bar to the progress of both is the lack of skill in methods of language teaching, and of a good knowledge of the Irish language itself. The pioneers in Bilingual teaching are largely the most efficient workers in the revival, and we may expect that from the Oireachtas they will send out a call to teachers generally for an immediate stride forward in a knowledge of Irish as well as for the adoption of Bilingual school methods.
Bilingualism, however, is not the only end to be aimed at. A resolution will come before the Ard-Fheis to recommend that more attention be given to the teaching of Irish history in the schools. The subject of the resolution deserves calm and earnest consideration. Bilingualism will give us Irish methods of education, but the teaching of our national history should exercise almost as great an influence in Gaelicising the Anglicised juvenile mind as that which is exercised by the teaching of the language itself. The old style of history – lists of battles and broken treaties with the English – must be set aside. The broad scientific history which shows us as a branch of the Aryan race that played a big part in early European history, and later, as a nation isolated politically from the rest of Europe, but having every interchange with outside nations which progress demanded, receiving and giving, must take the place of the date book and the agony column style of history which has taught Irishmen to hate their foes but not to love each other.
The Gael is slowly coming to his own. In education two new subjects, viz., our language and history, have been added to school programmes. Education itself is being radically altered both in purposes and methods. Socially new dress costumes and native song and dance are replacing those of the allmhurach; and intellectually, the dignity of using our own minds is so widely recognised, that one may now hope for anything from Young Ireland. The few thousand active workers who have had the courage to come into the market place and challenge the right of a world-wide civilization to dominion in our little country have done something that appeals to the spirit of resistance in all brave men. They took upon themselves a battle in which giants might engage and find stressful work to do. That is why the Gaelic League is gathering to itself the best workers that exist in the country. Its work is so noble, unselfish, and demands such sacrifice that every strong-brained man and woman who comes to know of it becomes impatient for participation in the struggle, and envious for a share of the honour that falls to all who serves their country. If the League and the movement which it has set going be wisely piloted we may hope to see within a few years the best minds of all creeds and political parties under the spell of the revival. The Ireland of old drew its people from many lands. The new Ireland, our Ireland, is welding a composite race from men of many parties and creeds, but they are all “Ireland men.” We all must suffer the pains of the purifying Gaelic fire, and out of the seething pot will come a new Irish mind, a new Irish character, a new race whose home and the centre of whose activities will be Ireland.