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I dreamed last night that I was going to have to do the Leaving Cert again. I think everyone's had those dreams in which you have to do some really important exams, usually ones you already did ten years ago - I've had them before - but this one was weirdly logical. I kept going "well, it doesn't matter if I fuck up, because I've already gone to college and done my degree and no one will care about these results". But I was still terrified anyway. And I kept thinking things like, "okay, German will be fine, because my German's much better now what with the degree and everything, and English will be fine, because I can still remember big chunks of Wuthering Heights and King Lear*, but what about Irish? And Latin?" For some reason I was particularly worried about history. When I woke up I was feverishly trying to remember all the various Home Rule bills and what election year it was in which Parnell held the balance of power (1873?). As well as details of the Franco-Prussian war and the Dreikeiserbund. Actually, it seems that I remember quite a lot about the 1993 Leaving Cert history course after all - maybe I wouldn't have done all that badly....

*Two of the set texts for the Leaving in 1993. Note that my worries about this English exam seemed to be purely about remembering quotations, not about coming up with profound insights into these great works of English literature.

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( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
glitterboy1
Jan. 9th, 2005 11:54 am (UTC)
I think the ability to quote was pretty much what our literature exams were about, too, at that age. I still have, locked away in my head somewhere, large chunks of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Pygmalion. Not to mention war poets.

You did languages for your degree? (So did I, but mostly in Romance languages and linguistics.)

I dreamed about trying to remember things, too: the names of the people who lived on the street where I lived till I was 15. Suddenly, it seemed very important. Weird.
stellanova
Jan. 9th, 2005 12:24 pm (UTC)
I did German and History of Art (Trinity has a two-subject-moderatorship arts degree system, so you do both subjects for three years and then one for your last year. I did German in fourth year), but sadly the HofA part was of no use in my dream! And I think that doing a degree in a language made me forget the other languages I did in school, because every time I try to speak Irish now, I keep putting in German words. The same would go for Latin, if it was a spoken language!

And, yeah, I seem to remember doing a lot of quotation-memorising in real life as well as the dream. Which is why I really can remember large chunks of almost all the many various works of literature I studied in secondary school, over ten years later....
glitterboy1
Jan. 9th, 2005 02:00 pm (UTC)
doing a degree in a language made me forget the other languages I did in school

That's interesting. I get the impression that I've forgotten things of all of my languages, more or less equally. Though I suppose I did keep on using German occasionally, even after I'd dropped it as a subject.
slemslempike
Jan. 9th, 2005 03:17 pm (UTC)
My mum used to have anxiety dreams about my GCSEs, and once woke up in the middle of the night having dreamt that I'd received a P, and she'd been called in to the school to discuss why I'd failed so dismally that a whole new grade had to be invented to describe it.
socmot
Jan. 9th, 2005 05:33 pm (UTC)
Leaving Cert History infuriated me - I took it in 1996 and it still seems to be identical to your course. I failed it very badly, getting an F. I think it was down to the way the essays had to be written - while I was getting A's for writing English work, I was awful at writing History work.

And the topics I had to study were pointless and utterly irrelevant to life in general. We did almost nothing on the formation of the EEC or the founding of the Irish State, just Parnell related issues and Bismarck related issues with some WW1 thrown in for good measure.

9 years later, and it still annoys me to no end, hence this rant, I guess. Heh.
stellanova
Jan. 9th, 2005 06:01 pm (UTC)
And the topics I had to study were pointless and utterly irrelevant to life in general.

Seriously? I think much of the course was boring, and it could have been taight in a more interesting way, but I still think most of it was pretty invaluable to understanding modern Europe - the origins of the modern Balkan situation, the collapse of the various European empires, the causes of the first world war and second world war (especially as the wildly inaccurate notion that WWII began because of international objection to the Holocaust seems to have become the norm), which is basically what shaped modern Europe as we know it today. Yeah, reading about Bismarck and the Kulturkampf wasn't exactly thrilling, but then you can't understand 20th century Germany - and one period in particular - without knowing about him.

Didn't your history teacher do all the origins of the state stuff? We did, to the extent that I can still automatically remember the date that the treaty was signed (6th December 1921)! And going slightly further back, I think Home Rule is an integral part of the way our ambivalent attitudes to Britain developed. In my school at least, I think we covered it all quite well.

But anyway, I am very firmly of the "those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it" school - after all, most political situations are the result of at least a hundred years of fucking around, so it behoves us to know all about even the boring bits of that hundred years so we can learn from our recent ancestors' mistakes.

I liked history, though, and I found it very easy to write - the big challenge of the Leaving history exam for me was the physical task of writing five essays in three hours, or whatever it was. I'm surprised I didn't sprain my wrist, I was going so fast. It's actually my only real memory of doing the Leaving!
socmot
Jan. 9th, 2005 07:27 pm (UTC)
especially as the wildly inaccurate notion that WWII began because of international objection to the Holocaust seems to have become the norm)

I've never heard that said by anyone at all. Bizarre that people would think it.

Admittedly my initial post was aimed more at the national history course and less at the European course, although I do think we could have studied more modern European history than we did - WW2 and the EEC would have been a start. And we ignored the Holocaust totally. It was all in the book, but instead we did Europe pre 1939 for the most part, in detail greater than the textbook. Learning what we did learn is all well and good, and there is a certain relavancy there - but if you learn about Bismarck and Wilhelm I, but ignore Hitler and the aftermath of WW2, something is wrong somewhere, because there's a large gap in the understanding of how Europe got to where it is today.

My teacher did barely any of the origins of the state at all - Irish history at LC level for me consisted of seriously in depth Home Rule stufy, analyses of Gladstone and Parnell, with a little of Disraeli thrown in for good measure. We did a bit of 1916, very little of anything after that. We should have been doing modern Irish history, I feel - it would have stood us in much better stead for modern life. We ignored it. It was in the book, but we didn't do it. Again, there's a gap in understanding history - what's the point of studying Home Rule and Parnell, when DeV, Collins, Lemass, Haughey and the issues of the day are ignored?

Surely it would have been better to study the more recent history first, following on with earlier events?

The grade I got was my own fault, mostly due to panic - I left the exam early, and didn't finish the paper. I totally flipped out. My repeated failings at trying to cope with the course really hurt my confidence, and I quit. I liked history then, and I still do. I have numerous historical books on my desk, and am reading some of them at the moment.
stellanova
Jan. 9th, 2005 08:02 pm (UTC)
I've never heard that said by anyone at all. Bizarre that people would think it

Well, not really, when according to Radio 4 this is how the war is being taught in many British schools, and when just about every mainstream drama about the war in the last decade has presented that notion (for example, the episode of Band of the Brothers about the liberation of Belsen was called something "why we're here" or something equally historically inaccurate). Presenting WWII as being a war fought over human rights is also a very easy way to deny the huge anti-semitism which was the norm in 1930s Britain (if you haven't read it already, Orwell's stuff about contemporary British attitudes to Nazi persecution of Jewish people is chilling).

And good Lord, your history teacher sounds appalling. My one managed to get a lot more into two years than that. Nothing about the war of independence? The hell? I know that most teachers leave bits out - mine left out the actual warfare part of WWII, for example, so we didn't go into details of various battles and military campaigns - but that all sounds wildly irresponsible. What did you do your Special Topic on, by the way? I did mine on Irish involvement in WWI, which was actually really interesting, although remembering every word of it and rewriting it for the exam wasn't (and there's one part of the state syllabus that baffled me).

I totally agree that we should have done more modern history, but I do think that it's better for a history course to go in chronological order. The thing is, when do they stop? 1970? 1985? 1990? When does it stop being history and start being part of a modern politics course (which is a subject they should probably be teaching)?
socmot
Jan. 9th, 2005 11:05 pm (UTC)
My history teacher wouldn't have been the best at teachign, although he was a professor of the subject - he knew his stuff and I think perhaps his knowledge of it and his in depth lectures on the subject probably wasn't the best for a Leaving Cert class. But that said, I was a pretty lousy student - I liked the subject, but I couldn't get with the way it was taught.

My special subject was on Manfred Von Richtofen, the WW1 figher ace, but I paniced on the day and left before I finished the paper, so it was all for nothing. I wish I could go back in time and slap my 18 year old self around a bit - it would have been my strongest question.

As for stopping at a certain point in history, I'd say perhaps 30 years prior to the academic year...30 years should be enough time for events to be understood.

My Queens educated grandmother has alluded to people not having a clue, and not caring, about what may or may not have been happening to Jews at the hands of the Nazi regime during the war - she recalls that people were shocked after the war when it all came out.

Iincidentally, Band of Brothers also contains some scenes of anti-semitism early on in the series when negative opinions are expressed about one of the soldiers in the company who is Jewish.

As for the episode entitled "Why we Fight" my interpretation of it is the title is named for the German townspeople who protest their innocence when they're accused that the concentration camp existed, but I can see where people would get the idea that the episode was about fighting the war to liberate people. I've (to my shame) not read a lot of Orwell, but I am currently reading the chilling fact based fiction that Philip Roth published last year, The Plot Against America.
stellanova
Jan. 9th, 2005 11:25 pm (UTC)
My Queens educated grandmother has alluded to people not having a clue, and not caring, about what may or may not have been happening to Jews at the hands of the Nazi regime during the war - she recalls that people were shocked after the war when it all came out.


David Baddiel's (surprisingly excellent) recent novel is about the internment of German Jewish refugees on the Isle of Man during the war, and it quotes actual British government directives about reporting Nazi atrocities, which advise propaganda writers to restrict their reports to persecution of what they consider undeniably blameless groups - which means no Communists and no Jews, because people were apt to think that Jews had "brought it on themselves". And that was the government speaking!

The Orwell stuff about British attitudes to Jewish persecution is horrifying - I can't remember which book that article's in, but he quotes one woman who says she can't bear reading about atrocities commited against Jews because it "makes [her] hate Jews even more". Horrible madness. And I don't think we were any better.
leedy
Jan. 10th, 2005 10:58 am (UTC)
I liked history, though, and I found it very easy to write

Really? I didn't like it at school at all, though maybe I had a particularly bad teacher - I thought the syllabus was way too broad and had too much political history, hated the way the exam focused on just memorizing and regurgitating "points" rather than any sort of analysis, loathed the exam format. I nearly transferred out of it in 5th year.

That said, it obviously didn't put me off too much, as I have a Masters in history....
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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