Educational Expansion, Language Shift, and Questions of Correlation

in Nineteenth Century Ireland

 

 

Nicholas Wolf

New York University

@nicholasmwolf

Basic Principles:

1. Despite conventional wisdom, historians since 1960 are not convinced that national system established in 1831 was a direct and primary cause of language shift

 

2. Look for points of contact/conflict between Irish speakers and English-only education system that are driven by growth of state

 

3. Reject proposition of Akenson (1979) and others that educational policy debates on language entirely muted and unchanging in 19th c.

Instead:

Period 1 of debate: 1787 to 1831

Period 2 of silence: 1831 to 1856  <-- why?

Period 3 of returned debate: 1856 to 1904

Period 1, 1787 to 1831: Is it necessary to use Irish in schools?

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  • -Occasional discussion in Parliament, educational journals
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  • -Addressed in 1820 Kildare Place Society schools report
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  • -Witnesses selected in 1826 Parliamentary inquiry based on knowledge of the situation
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  • -Actively debated among Protestant missionary school societies (remember: religious societies saw themselves as educational societies)
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Conclusion by commissioners: no use of Irish necessary

Period 3, 1856 to 1904: Is an English-only policy working?

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  • -Head schools inspector Patrick Keenan reports starting in 1856: monoglot Irish speakers can't be taught using only English
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  • -Censuses of 1851-1891: Irish speakers still exist
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  • -Complaints by teachers and school managers that English-only curriculum not effective in Irish-speaking areas
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  • -Quiet affirmation by commissioners in 1884 (via a footnote in annual report) that "If there are Irish-speaking pupils in a school, the teacher . . . should, whenever practicable, employ the vernacular as an aid to the elucidation and acquisition of the English language."

 

Period 2, 1831 to 1856:

 

Why didn't the original roll out of the national schools prompt immediate problems in teaching Irish-speaking pupils exclusively in English?

 

Early implementation of national schools was slow, impermanent, and unevenly distributed

 

Sources: Eighteenth Report of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland (for the Year 1851), H.C.

L.A. Clarkson, et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive, November 1997. SN: 3573. http://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-3573-1

Concentration of Irish-Speaking Community, 1851



Rank/County
Percent of All Irish Monoglots in Ireland Resident in County Cumulative Percent Percent of All Irish Speakers in Ireland Resident in County Cumulative Percent
1. Galway 26.0 26.0 19.8 19.8
2. Kerry 15.0 41.0 11.5 31.3
3. Donegal 14.6 55.6 8.0 39.3
4. Mayo 14.6 70.2 15.7 55.0
5. Cork 11.5 81.7 18.7 73.7
6. Clare 7.6 89.3 8.0 81.7
7. Waterford 6.3 95.6 6.5 88.2
8. Sligo 2.4 98.0 2.5 90.7
9. Limerick 1.1 99.1 2.4 93.1

Source: L.A. Clarkson, et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive, November 1997. SN: 3573, http://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-3573-1

Source: Eighteenth Report of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland (for the Year 1851), H.C.

Sources: G. FitzGerald, Irish Primary Education in the Early Nineteenth Century (2013); Reports of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, 1835-1865, H.C.

Sources: Eighteenth Report of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland (for the Year 1851), H.C.
L.A. Clarkson, et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive, November 1997. SN: 3573, http://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-3573-1

References

Akenson, Donald. The Irish Education Experiment: The National System of Education in the Nineteenth  Century (London, 1970)

Coolahan, John. "Education as Cultural Imperialism: The Denial of the Irish Language to Irish Speakers, 1831–1922," Pedagogica Historica 37:1 (2001): 17–33

Daly, Mary. "The Development of the National School System, 1831–40," in Studies in Irish History Presented to R. Dudley Edwards, ed. Art Cosgrove and Donal McCartney (Dublin, 1979), 150–163

Fitzgerald, Garret. Irish Primary Education in the Early Nineteenth Century  (Dublin, 2013)

Moloney, Maeve Mulryan. Nineteenth-Century Elementary Education in the Archdiocese of Tuam (Dublin, 2001)

O'Donoghue, T. Bilingual Education in Pre-Independent Irish-Speaking Ireland, 18001922 (New York, 2006)

Uí Mhurchadha, Brighid. Oideachas in Iar-Chonnacht sa Naoú Céad Déag (Baile Átha Cliath, 1954)

Ó Súilleabháin, Donncha. Cath na Gaeilge sa Chóras Oideachais, 1893-1911 (Baile Átha Cliath, 1988)

Wolf, Nicholas. An Irish-Speaking Island: State, Religion, Community, and the Linguistic Landscape in Ireland, 1770–1870 (Madison, 2014)

Educational Expansion, Language Shift, and Questions of Correlation in Nineteenth-Century Ireland

By Nicholas Wolf

Educational Expansion, Language Shift, and Questions of Correlation in Nineteenth-Century Ireland

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