Friday 23 March 2018

Let's Get to the point of leaving-cert reforms

Gerard Manley Hopkins used to say: "If I happened to be a cleaner with the Corporation, people would come to see Hopkins's section of the street." He was talking of course about seeking perfection. Paul Cezanne hoped to paint an apple in a way that you would think you had never seen one before.

Michael D Higgins and Enda Kenny would understand Hopkins and Cezanne. Indeed they have said much the same thing as Hopkins but in different language. What they have been saying is this: "If everybody attempted to do their best in their work, the country would gain enormously."

DH Lawrence said once upon a time: "Life should be one great kick against poverty." He was the son of a miner: what he was saying is that if the miners got better pay and better conditions, they would produce more coal. That was sound economic sense.

The coalition weren't long in power when they decided to cut wages all round. This was a rather self-defeating decision. Then we heard Michael Noonan telling us to go out and spend, spend and spend. We felt like asking him "With what?" Would losing dockets from the bookies be good enough or receipts from the pools?

Despite Michael's fine talk, the cuts are still there. No doubt there are more to come. They forgot that the cuts meant that there was less going to the common pool.

Fianna Fail seemed anxious to get rid of Eamon O Cuiv on the pretext that he is proving difficult over the referendum on the EU. That is only a green herring. It is no secret that Eamon has been in quest of being number one in the State. He looks on himself as a rightful heir to the De Valera dynasty and since the General Election he has been threatening to form a new Fianna Fail party.

This is a challenge that Micheal Martin must take on board: he is facing the most difficult future that ever confronted a leader. Fianna Fail are low in the polls, they can blame only themselves.

There is a huge problem facing our new Government. How long will the points system in the Leaving Certificate be allowed to wreak havoc?

At this time of the year it is especially traumatic for students, teachers and parents. The idea behind the points system is that students will be rewarded for their prowess in the examinations and that, with sufficient marks, they will have a choice of a few professions.


The outcome of all this is that when some students get enough points for the medical profession they are almost forced to take that route -- by themselves, their parents and public opinion. It is very prestigious to be a doctor. It is a fatal attraction. Thus many young men and young women find themselves with a profession which they find not to their liking.

I know quite a few who would turn back but when you are about 27 you think it is too late. This is a tragedy for all concerned, for the doctors themselves and for the general public.

Some young men and women who would be excellent engineers or architects or teachers have taken a wrong road and are loath to turn back.

Another aspect of the points system is that, in working towards their goals, young people are not really educated. I know some of them and since they have left school they have declined intellectually. Indeed, they have been coached so intensely that they hate the word 'education'.

Our Government must face up to this. It will take time, patience and courage, but the longer it is allowed to go on, the more difficult it will be to reverse it.

Hopkins practised what he preached and if some people find some of his poetry hard to understand it is because he was on the same quest as Cezanne -- seeking perfection.

It is easier with words than with paint because words are more malleable than paint.

Fogra: Congratulations to the Irish Rugby team on their win against Scotland and the best of luck in their next encounter

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