Dyslexia in English and the Irish language



Fun with Irish

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Why? should a pupil who finds maths or English hard be allowed to drop them? Life does not always allow us to take the easy option, its not something which school goers should be encouraged to do.
The question does not seem to arise with Maths and English. There is a wide consensus in the parent/pupil community that they are essential for everybody. Their study does not have to be legally compulsory because the great majority are in agreement about them.

Many people in the educational community do not see Irish as beneficial or useful compared to another subject, especially for the Leaving Cert. The State blocks this choice by making the study of Irish compulsory.

You and I disagree about this use of State power in education.
 

McTell

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No
If anything, compulsion has caused most of us to dislike irish, more or less.

That and baaaad teachers.

On a good day we would get a wooden ruler full force on the palm of your hand for a mistake. Compulsion backed up by a fear of physical pain was a dumbass way of "saving" anything.

Some aspects of tradition and culture can change and change again.
 

wombat

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The question does not seem to arise with Maths and English.
It does to an extent with maths, pupils decide its too hard and opt for a bare pass, probably they would fail had the papers not been dumbed down. I would favour having a core of compulsory subjects other than Irish if only to teach teenagers that they can't do what suits them but that's a bit of a diversion. I could accept the argument that time given to Irish would be better spent on a European language if there was evidence that the results of teaching other languages were so much better but they're not.
 

Fun with Irish

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It does to an extent with maths, pupils decide its too hard and opt for a bare pass, probably they would fail had the papers not been dumbed down. I would favour having a core of compulsory subjects other than Irish if only to teach teenagers that they can't do what suits them but that's a bit of a diversion. I could accept the argument that time given to Irish would be better spent on a European language if there was evidence that the results of teaching other languages were so much better but they're not.
Irish is not unique in producing such bad results from compulsory study for all students regardless of individual aptitude and life-requirement. Few people master any foreign language. In addition a language that achieves its meanings through elaborate case changes is harder to master and is radically strange to native English speakers. Technically it is comparable to learning Russian in many ways.

Add to that the fact that Irish is nowhere in use as a modern vernacular and that that Gaelic's phonetics are different to English and there is quite a hill to climb.

Add to that the fact that the arguments made for learning it are riddled with falsehoods and that the people don't need it anyway......
 

wombat

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In addition a language that achieves its meanings through elaborate case changes is harder to master and is radically strange to native English speakers.
Maybe true but we don't speak English like native English speakers. English presents problems to Irish people who still try to express tá and bím in English.
 

Fun with Irish

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The Irish language is a language of exclusion not inclusion. The Irish language lobby is a pro-discrimination movement that is all about money.
If the Revival of Irish had succeeded the country would be split to-day between the English and Irish languages the way that Belgium is split between Dutch and French. But the politicians always knew that that would not happen and that their Cúpla Focal play-acting would stay remain just that.

Of course, the Revival does create an interest group which depends on political support in a special way and which can exercise special political influence. That's democracy .........
 

Fun with Irish

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Maybe true but we don't speak English like native English speakers. English presents problems to Irish people who still try to express tá and bím in English.
True too.

But imagine that the schoolchildren of Portugal all had to learn Polish at school. And that this was compulsory up to their Leaving Cert equivalent, without differentiation on grounds of the pupil's aptitude, academic capacity, personal choices or their life circumstances, and if many of their teachers had a limited knowledge of Polish, and with their mother tongue being Portuguese and also the vernacular language of their society and when a few scraps of Polish were enough for exam success and access to Third Level education.

What average achievement in the Polish language would you expect to exist by the time that all the children of Portugal reached the age of sixteen?
 
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wombat

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True too.

But imagine that the schoolchildren of Portugal all had to learn Polish at school.
Its not a valid comparison, they are completely unrelated languages. We are surrounded by remnants of Irish, place names are mostly mangled translations of originals and our construction of English sentences often have their origin in Irish. I think the argument that dropping Irish would improve ones capacity to study another language is just wrong, its far more likely that failing to learn Irish shows a weakness in an ability to learn languages.
 

Fun with Irish

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Its not a valid comparison, they are completely unrelated languages. We are surrounded by remnants of Irish, place names are mostly mangled translations of originals and our construction of English sentences often have their origin in Irish. I think the argument that dropping Irish would improve ones capacity to study another language is just wrong, its far more likely that failing to learn Irish shows a weakness in an ability to learn languages.
It seems that in practice, Irish place names have not helped the children to learn Irish; anyway - not much.

And I agree: dropping Irish does not improve people's capacity to study another language. It just provides time for them to try, if they want to. Or to study metalwork if they prefer.

What we do know is that making the study of Irish compulsory for everybody did not result in everybody knowing Irish. (Or wanting to know it.)
 
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Barroso

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What we do know is that making the study of Irish compulsory for everybody did not result in everybody knowing Irish. (Or wanting to know it.)
Except ... the evidence shows another story when it is looked for and found.
An acquaintance of mine used to teach Irish in two towns, one in the 26 cos. and the other in the 6 cos.
According to this individual, in 6 weeks of night classes - one per week - students on the southern side of the border were at conversation level.
On the other side of the border, it took - and I may be misremembering here - two years (or was it three) to reach the same level.

This evidence - anecdotal though it may be - shows us that a cross-section of people who returned to Irish in adulthood had in fact picked up quite a lot of Irish at school. You are likely to be in that demographic yourself, although you will probably never be in a position to find out (unless of course you have a grandchild or the like attending a Gaelscoil).
 

Fun with Irish

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Except ... the evidence shows another story when it is looked for and found.
An acquaintance of mine used to teach Irish in two towns, one in the 26 cos. and the other in the 6 cos.
According to this individual, in 6 weeks of night classes - one per week - students on the southern side of the border were at conversation level.
On the other side of the border, it took - and I may be misremembering here - two years (or was it three) to reach the same level.

This evidence - anecdotal though it may be - shows us that a cross-section of people who returned to Irish in adulthood had in fact picked up quite a lot of Irish at school. You are likely to be in that demographic yourself, although you will probably never be in a position to find out (unless of course you have a grandchild or the like attending a Gaelscoil).
I easily agree with all you say here. And yes - I was reared at home and educated in school with a lot of Irish and have the shared memory of a couple of splendid Irish teachers. I especially remember Seán Óg Ó Tuama's 'Claisceadal' classes. At present I read Tuairisc.ie all the time and the IT articles in line with my interest in the "Revival" as a political phenomenon. The teaching of Irish in my grandchildrens' schools is an utterly sterile exercise.

On the political front - I think that the DES enquiry into exemptions from studying Irish is a game changer. By making the exemption decision one for the school to take (principal-parent-pupil-BOM) it shifts the question some way from political ideology and in the direction of the individual pupil's educational needs.

How do you think events will unfold?
 

Barroso

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If you have read much of what I have written here over the years, you will have a fair idea of my reply.

Nevertheless, here goes. I’ll start with a potted historical context.

The 19th and 20th centuries were times of centralisation and the expansion of a series of what are today the more important European languages, both within Europe and in European colonies around the world.

There were exceptions to this: while Spanish had a head start ón them in what is today Latin America, it appears that initially Nahuatl was the language of administration in New Spain (Mexico), but ón the accession of the Bourbons/Borbones to the Spanish throne, this changed. Another exception is that in Tanganyika the Germans used Swahili as their administrative language.

However, during the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, there were a number of counter-movements in Europe, and after WWI a series of new states came into existence across Eastern Europe and the Balkans and with them a series of new administrative languages.

In Western Europe Ireland came into existence as a separate state, and took a series of timid steps towards improving the position of Irish in the new state. The problem here was that – as you have so often pointed out – English was already the language of the majority, something like 90% self-reported as speaking only English. And in many areas where Irish speakers were in the majority, many people were already speaking English to their children. With a very different political approach, this could have been reversed, as it has in the last 40 years in Euskadi; but we are dealing with today's reality, not what could have been.

The difference between smaller languages in Western Europe and Eastern Europe then is quite simple – where a language had a state firmly behind it, the language thrived; where it didn’t, it languished. The list of the latter is long – all the way from Lappland in Norway to Alicante in Spain, via Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and France. Of these, the two most successful states as far as language suppression is concerned are the UK and France. In 1800, by European terms, Irish was a fairly major language in numbers of speakers, with around 4 million – Dutch (including Flemish), today spoken by about 25 million, would have had fewer speakers at the time. Irish would have had a similar number to Portuguese, Brazil included.

Occitan would have been in a similar position, and had a “renaissance” in the 19th century. Today, a few villages in France apart, it is mainly represented by its offshoot south of the Pyrenees, where it is still spoken by millions from the Pyrenees to Alicante. Even there, it is under threat by the Spanish state which today tolerates nó opposition.

The Dutch dialects spoken in Belgium – collectively known as Flemish – had a different fate. Belgium was set up as a French-speaking state, but as the Flemings are in the majority in Belgium, they were able to withstand the pressure from French, and gradually managed to recover lost ground, although losing Brussels as a Flemish-speaking city in the process. Even this is now slowly reversing.

Why this overview, you might ask?

Very simply, I wish to put our situation into a wider context. But I also want to point out one major difference between Ireland and those other lands. Ireland suffered a series of colonisations from our neighbouring island – and by this I mean a population transfer – on a number of occasions, and these people came to control the whole island and impose a different culture, using a different language. They came to form a substantial enough minority of the population, and used various methods to impose their language at different levels, from politics and the law to finance and ever-increasing administration. Irish was banned from these spheres, and only through the use of English were people able to “get on” or even in many cases, survive. This is not free choice – despite what you have often written.
 

Barroso

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So what is going to happen now? Well, it is already happening.

Back in the 60s and 70s many people noticed that the State was withdrawing support from Irish. In fact, this started even earlier. During the Emergency, some measures were withdrawn - theoretically to free up the resources for use elsewhere. This continued under the first Inter-party government, and has been ongoing ever since.

However, the initial worry was the falling quality of Irish in primary schools. So people started to organise, and the Gaelscoil movement was born. This movement is still there, still growing, and is becoming a force within Irish society.

Regarding the DES' "new approach", then -
I see two immediate problems with the recent move by the Department to make it easier for a child to “have dyslexia”.

The first is that any child with dyslexia will automatically become entitled to extra teaching support. You won’t be able to get an exemption from dyslexia and then not supply the support required by such a child. So a principal will have to balance the desire of a parent to get such an exemption with other children’s requirements, and unless a particular parent has an awful lot of clout, the dyslexia will have to be real.

A second problem that I see is that a school that becomes known for providing exemptions could find that they attract a lot of parents whose children have “dyslexia”. Other parents whose children have real special educational needs may look elsewhere for scarce supports – so such a school could find themselves in a spiral of dropping numbers - and dropping income for the principal as a result.

Such a school would find that it quickly gained a reputation as a school that is not willing to promote the Irish language, which would also lead to a further drop in numbers.

A separate question is parents whose child has dyslexia, but who want their child to learn Irish. Those who don’t want an exemption for their child. The way this new approach has been reported makes it seem that dyslexia will automatically exempt a child from learning Irish. But if parents insist that despite their child being dyslexic, s/he still has the right to learn Irish, and to receive whatever extra support is needed to exercise that right and that this support needs to be supplied for both languages because – apparently – two separate languages have two separate requirements for support, which would logically follow from the decision that dyslexia is such a major difficulty that it can exempt a child from learning a second language. This could become a major fly in the ointment.

In the medium term, I think that this approach will be found wanting, and will further feed the Gaelscoil movement. Some parents will see it as an attempt to curtail the right of dyslexic children to learn Irish. Others will see it as a move towards removing the obligation to learn Irish. Either way it will become another argument in favour of education through Irish, which becomes the only way to ensure that your child is taught Irish at all.

Essentially, the whole thrust of the change is that dyslexia makes a child incapable of learning a second language. There are indeed children who have serious difficulty in learning a second language; but the problem is that in almost all cases, these children also have difficulty with their first language, and probably have special educational needs in any case.

Dyslexia on its own would not fall into this category, otherwise all dyslexic kids would have difficulty with learning their first language. Which leaves us pretty much where we started: this is the thin end of the wedge. Today dyslexia is sufficient to exempt a child from learning irish, tomorrow another reason for exemption will be found, and then another.

All of this is of course grist to the mill for the Gaelscoil movement – who BTW have difficulty in finding properly trained teachers because all the training colleges teach through English and their students leave without a decent grasp of the language. Because the State decided to remove that particular support for Irish-language education decades ago.

Logically following from this reason for exemption, we have the situation of English in Gaelscoileanna – if dyslexia is enough to exempt a child from learning L2 in an English-language school where L2 is Irish, then by extension, surely it is enough to exempt a child from learning L2 in an Irish-language school, where L2 is English. So are we to expect English to be treated in Gaelscoileanna and Gaeltacht schools in the same way as Irish is treated in the English-language system? Hmm, I think we know the answer to this one; but it does show that the exemption has nothing to do with a dyslexic’s ability to learn another language.

All in all, I'd give this approach 1 out of 10. Dept of Education – you need to try harder. Much, much harder.
 

Fun with Irish

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So what is going to happen now? Well, it is already happening.

Back in the 60s and 70s many people noticed that the State was withdrawing support from Irish. In fact, this started even earlier. During the Emergency, some measures were withdrawn - theoretically to free up the resources for use elsewhere. This continued under the first Inter-party government, and has been ongoing ever since.

However, the initial worry was the falling quality of Irish in primary schools. So people started to organise, and the Gaelscoil movement was born. This movement is still there, still growing, and is becoming a force within Irish society.

Regarding the DES' "new approach", then -
I see two immediate problems with the recent move by the Department to make it easier for a child to “have dyslexia”.

The first is that any child with dyslexia will automatically become entitled to extra teaching support. You won’t be able to get an exemption from dyslexia and then not supply the support required by such a child. So a principal will have to balance the desire of a parent to get such an exemption with other children’s requirements, and unless a particular parent has an awful lot of clout, the dyslexia will have to be real.

A second problem that I see is that a school that becomes known for providing exemptions could find that they attract a lot of parents whose children have “dyslexia”. Other parents whose children have real special educational needs may look elsewhere for scarce supports – so such a school could find themselves in a spiral of dropping numbers - and dropping income for the principal as a result.

Such a school would find that it quickly gained a reputation as a school that is not willing to promote the Irish language, which would also lead to a further drop in numbers.

A separate question is parents whose child has dyslexia, but who want their child to learn Irish. Those who don’t want an exemption for their child. The way this new approach has been reported makes it seem that dyslexia will automatically exempt a child from learning Irish. But if parents insist that despite their child being dyslexic, s/he still has the right to learn Irish, and to receive whatever extra support is needed to exercise that right and that this support needs to be supplied for both languages because – apparently – two separate languages have two separate requirements for support, which would logically follow from the decision that dyslexia is such a major difficulty that it can exempt a child from learning a second language. This could become a major fly in the ointment.

In the medium term, I think that this approach will be found wanting, and will further feed the Gaelscoil movement. Some parents will see it as an attempt to curtail the right of dyslexic children to learn Irish. Others will see it as a move towards removing the obligation to learn Irish. Either way it will become another argument in favour of education through Irish, which becomes the only way to ensure that your child is taught Irish at all.

Essentially, the whole thrust of the change is that dyslexia makes a child incapable of learning a second language. There are indeed children who have serious difficulty in learning a second language; but the problem is that in almost all cases, these children also have difficulty with their first language, and probably have special educational needs in any case.

Dyslexia on its own would not fall into this category, otherwise all dyslexic kids would have difficulty with learning their first language. Which leaves us pretty much where we started: this is the thin end of the wedge. Today dyslexia is sufficient to exempt a child from learning irish, tomorrow another reason for exemption will be found, and then another.

All of this is of course grist to the mill for the Gaelscoil movement – who BTW have difficulty in finding properly trained teachers because all the training colleges teach through English and their students leave without a decent grasp of the language. Because the State decided to remove that particular support for Irish-language education decades ago.

Logically following from this reason for exemption, we have the situation of English in Gaelscoileanna – if dyslexia is enough to exempt a child from learning L2 in an English-language school where L2 is Irish, then by extension, surely it is enough to exempt a child from learning L2 in an Irish-language school, where L2 is English. So are we to expect English to be treated in Gaelscoileanna and Gaeltacht schools in the same way as Irish is treated in the English-language system? Hmm, I think we know the answer to this one; but it does show that the exemption has nothing to do with a dyslexic’s ability to learn another language.

All in all, I'd give this approach 1 out of 10. Dept of Education – you need to try harder. Much, much harder.
Thanks

I'll have to read through these two texts again before responding.
 

Fun with Irish

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If you have read much of what I have written here over the years, you will have a fair idea of my reply.

Nevertheless, here goes. I’ll start with a potted historical context.

The 19th and 20th centuries were times of centralisation and the expansion of a series of what are today the more important European languages, both within Europe and in European colonies around the world.

There were exceptions to this: while Spanish had a head start ón them in what is today Latin America, it appears that initially Nahuatl was the language of administration in New Spain (Mexico), but ón the accession of the Bourbons/Borbones to the Spanish throne, this changed. Another exception is that in Tanganyika the Germans used Swahili as their administrative language.

However, during the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, there were a number of counter-movements in Europe, and after WWI a series of new states came into existence across Eastern Europe and the Balkans and with them a series of new administrative languages.

In Western Europe Ireland came into existence as a separate state, and took a series of timid steps towards improving the position of Irish in the new state. The problem here was that – as you have so often pointed out – English was already the language of the majority, something like 90% self-reported as speaking only English. And in many areas where Irish speakers were in the majority, many people were already speaking English to their children. With a very different political approach, this could have been reversed, as it has in the last 40 years in Euskadi; but we are dealing with today's reality, not what could have been.

The difference between smaller languages in Western Europe and Eastern Europe then is quite simple – where a language had a state firmly behind it, the language thrived; where it didn’t, it languished. The list of the latter is long – all the way from Lappland in Norway to Alicante in Spain, via Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and France. Of these, the two most successful states as far as language suppression is concerned are the UK and France. In 1800, by European terms, Irish was a fairly major language in numbers of speakers, with around 4 million – Dutch (including Flemish), today spoken by about 25 million, would have had fewer speakers at the time. Irish would have had a similar number to Portuguese, Brazil included.

Occitan would have been in a similar position, and had a “renaissance” in the 19th century. Today, a few villages in France apart, it is mainly represented by its offshoot south of the Pyrenees, where it is still spoken by millions from the Pyrenees to Alicante. Even there, it is under threat by the Spanish state which today tolerates nó opposition.

The Dutch dialects spoken in Belgium – collectively known as Flemish – had a different fate. Belgium was set up as a French-speaking state, but as the Flemings are in the majority in Belgium, they were able to withstand the pressure from French, and gradually managed to recover lost ground, although losing Brussels as a Flemish-speaking city in the process. Even this is now slowly reversing.

Why this overview, you might ask?

Very simply, I wish to put our situation into a wider context. But I also want to point out one major difference between Ireland and those other lands. Ireland suffered a series of colonisations from our neighbouring island – and by this I mean a population transfer – on a number of occasions, and these people came to control the whole island and impose a different culture, using a different language. They came to form a substantial enough minority of the population, and used various methods to impose their language at different levels, from politics and the law to finance and ever-increasing administration. Irish was banned from these spheres, and only through the use of English were people able to “get on” or even in many cases, survive. This is not free choice – despite what you have often written.
I fully accept this historical outline. What separates us, I think, is our individual reaction to it. Although of interest has a historical narrative, I don't feel that it is any guide to our actions to-day. So I won't go further down the historical avenue.
 

Fun with Irish

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So what is going to happen now? Well, it is already happening.

Back in the 60s and 70s many people noticed that the State was withdrawing support from Irish. In fact, this started even earlier. During the Emergency, some measures were withdrawn - theoretically to free up the resources for use elsewhere. This continued under the first Inter-party government, and has been ongoing ever since.

However, the initial worry was the falling quality of Irish in primary schools. So people started to organise, and the Gaelscoil movement was born. This movement is still there, still growing, and is becoming a force within Irish society.

Regarding the DES' "new approach", then -
I see two immediate problems with the recent move by the Department to make it easier for a child to “have dyslexia”.

The first is that any child with dyslexia will automatically become entitled to extra teaching support. You won’t be able to get an exemption from dyslexia and then not supply the support required by such a child. So a principal will have to balance the desire of a parent to get such an exemption with other children’s requirements, and unless a particular parent has an awful lot of clout, the dyslexia will have to be real.

A second problem that I see is that a school that becomes known for providing exemptions could find that they attract a lot of parents whose children have “dyslexia”. Other parents whose children have real special educational needs may look elsewhere for scarce supports – so such a school could find themselves in a spiral of dropping numbers - and dropping income for the principal as a result.

Such a school would find that it quickly gained a reputation as a school that is not willing to promote the Irish language, which would also lead to a further drop in numbers.

A separate question is parents whose child has dyslexia, but who want their child to learn Irish. Those who don’t want an exemption for their child. The way this new approach has been reported makes it seem that dyslexia will automatically exempt a child from learning Irish. But if parents insist that despite their child being dyslexic, s/he still has the right to learn Irish, and to receive whatever extra support is needed to exercise that right and that this support needs to be supplied for both languages because – apparently – two separate languages have two separate requirements for support, which would logically follow from the decision that dyslexia is such a major difficulty that it can exempt a child from learning a second language. This could become a major fly in the ointment.

In the medium term, I think that this approach will be found wanting, and will further feed the Gaelscoil movement. Some parents will see it as an attempt to curtail the right of dyslexic children to learn Irish. Others will see it as a move towards removing the obligation to learn Irish. Either way it will become another argument in favour of education through Irish, which becomes the only way to ensure that your child is taught Irish at all.

Essentially, the whole thrust of the change is that dyslexia makes a child incapable of learning a second language. There are indeed children who have serious difficulty in learning a second language; but the problem is that in almost all cases, these children also have difficulty with their first language, and probably have special educational needs in any case.

Dyslexia on its own would not fall into this category, otherwise all dyslexic kids would have difficulty with learning their first language. Which leaves us pretty much where we started: this is the thin end of the wedge. Today dyslexia is sufficient to exempt a child from learning irish, tomorrow another reason for exemption will be found, and then another.

All of this is of course grist to the mill for the Gaelscoil movement – who BTW have difficulty in finding properly trained teachers because all the training colleges teach through English and their students leave without a decent grasp of the language. Because the State decided to remove that particular support for Irish-language education decades ago.

Logically following from this reason for exemption, we have the situation of English in Gaelscoileanna – if dyslexia is enough to exempt a child from learning L2 in an English-language school where L2 is Irish, then by extension, surely it is enough to exempt a child from learning L2 in an Irish-language school, where L2 is English. So are we to expect English to be treated in Gaelscoileanna and Gaeltacht schools in the same way as Irish is treated in the English-language system? Hmm, I think we know the answer to this one; but it does show that the exemption has nothing to do with a dyslexic’s ability to learn another language.

All in all, I'd give this approach 1 out of 10. Dept of Education – you need to try harder. Much, much harder.
You make a very dense argument in relation to the recent DES action to on exemptions - involving dyslexia and others obstacles to learning. I'm just not qualified to make a judgment on much of that on relation to either teaching or
medical considerations.

So I'll address the politics. You wrote: "Back in the 60s and 70s many people noticed that the State was withdrawing support from Irish...". Correct - agreed. Or you might say, the state managers accepted that the original aims of the revival of Irish were unattainable, and slid quietly away from them, taking care to mask what they were doing. Self-deception? Cowardice? Attachment to symbolism? It doesn't matter now.

Meanwhile, as you say, citizens who were serious about Irish campaigned successfully for gaelscoileanna, and , as I would say, the rest were left to stew in a system that delivered a useless version of Irish with immense misdirection of student time and resources, accompanied by sanctimonious sermons from hypocritical politicians.

But have we now passed through a crossroads in all this?

The change of system in relation to exemptions from studying Irish will increase the influence of parents in their childrens' choice of school Irish, because the matter is to be decided at the level of the school principal or Board of Management. Under their influence 'compulsory Irish' will progressively soften. That's my assumption but who knows. What matters is that in the long run the parents and their children will be the ones that will decide.

Meanwhile, the gaelscoileanna will continue to fulfill the intentions of their clientele, presumably overcoming the growth pains that you referred to in your text.
 

Fun with Irish

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So what is going to happen now? Well, it is already happening.

... this is the thin end of the wedge. Today dyslexia is sufficient to exempt a child from learning Irish, tomorrow another reason for exemption will be found, and then another.
.....
This is as good as certain.

Read the views of the parents in the "National Parents Council (Primary) in their submission to the DES - January 2019.
 
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