Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘St. Patrick’s Day

 

The real Story Not Taught in Schools: Irish-American and St. Patrick’s day

“Wear green on St. Patrick’s Day or get pinched.”

That pretty much sums up the Irish-American “curriculum” that I learned when I was in school.

Yes, I recall a nod to the so-called Potato Famine, but it was mentioned only in passing.

Today’s high school textbooks continue to largely ignore the famine, despite the fact that it was responsible for unimaginable suffering and the deaths of more than a million Irish peasants, and that it triggered the greatest wave of Irish immigration in U.S. history.

Nor do textbooks make any attempt to help students link famines past and present.

Yet there is no shortage of material that can bring these dramatic events to life in the classroom. In my own high school social studies classes, I begin with Sinead O’Connor’s haunting rendition of “Skibbereen,” which includes the verse:

… Oh it’s well I do remember, that bleak
December day,
The landlord and the sheriff came, to drive
Us all away
They set my roof on fire, with their cursed
English spleen
And that’s another reason why I left old
Skibbereen.

By contrast, Holt McDougal’s U.S. history textbook The Americans, devotes a flat two sentences to “The Great Potato Famine.”

Prentice Hall’s America: Pathways to the Present fails to offer a single quote from the time. The text calls the famine a “horrible disaster,” as if it were a natural calamity like an earthquake.

And in an awful single paragraph, Houghton Mifflin’s The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People blames the “ravages of famine” simply on “a blight,” and the only contemporaneous quote comes, inappropriately, from a landlord, who describes the surviving tenants as “famished and ghastly skeletons.”

Uniformly, social studies textbooks fail to allow the Irish to speak for themselves, to narrate their own horror.

These timid slivers of knowledge not only deprive students of rich lessons in Irish-American history, they exemplify much of what is wrong with today’s curricular reliance on corporate-produced textbooks.

First, does anyone really think that students will remember anything from the books’ dull and lifeless paragraphs? Today’s textbooks contain no stories of actual people. We meet no one, learn nothing of anyone’s life, encounter no injustice, no resistance.

This is a curriculum bound for boredom. As someone who spent almost 30 years teaching high school social studies, I can testify that students will be unlikely to seek to learn more about events so emptied of drama, emotion, and humanity.

Nor do these texts raise any critical questions for students to consider.

For example, it’s important for students to learn that the crop failure in Ireland affected only the potato—during the worst famine years, other food production was robust.

Michael Pollan notes in The Botany of Desire, “Ireland’s was surely the biggest experiment in monoculture ever attempted and surely the most convincing proof of its folly.”

But if only this one variety of potato, the Lumper, failed, and other crops thrived, why did people starve?

Thomas Gallagher points out in Paddy’s Lament, that during the first winter of famine, 1846-47, as perhaps 400,000 Irish peasants starved, the British landlords exported 17 million pounds sterling worth of grain, cattle, pigs, flour, eggs, and poultry—food that could have prevented those deaths.

Throughout the famine, as Gallagher notes, there was an abundance of food produced in Ireland, yet the landlords exported it to markets abroad.

The school curriculum could and should ask students to reflect on the contradiction of starvation amidst plenty, on the ethics of food exports amidst famine. And it should ask why these patterns persist into our own time.

More than a century and a half after the “Great Famine,” we live with similar, perhaps even more glaring contradictions.

Raj Patel opens his book, Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System: “Today, when we produce more food than ever before, more than one in ten people on Earth are hungry. The hunger of 800 million happens at the same time as another historical first: that they are outnumbered by the one billion people on this planet who are overweight.”

Patel’s book sets out to account for “the rot at the core of the modern food system.”

This is a curricular journey that our students should also be on — reflecting on patterns of poverty, power, and inequality that stretch from 19th century Ireland to 21st century Africa, India, Appalachia, and Oakland.

Students ought to explore what happens when food and land are regarded purely as commodities in a global system of profit.

But today’s corporate textbook-producers are no more interested in feeding student curiosity about this inequality than were British landlords interested in feeding Irish peasants.

Take Pearson, the global publishing giant.

At its website, the corporation announces (redundantly) that “we measure our progress against three key measures: earnings, cash and return on invested capital.” The Pearson empire had 2011 worldwide sales of more than $9 billion—that’s nine thousand million dollars, as I might tell my students.

Multinationals like Pearson have no interest in promoting critical thinking about an economic system whose profit-first premises they embrace with gusto.

As mentioned, there is no absence of teaching materials on the Irish famine that can touch head and heart. In a role play, “Hunger on Trial,” that I wrote and taught to my own students in Portland, Oregon—included at the Zinn Education Project website— students investigate who or what was responsible for the famine.

The British landlords, who demanded rent from the starving poor and exported other food crops?

The British government, which allowed these food exports and offered scant aid to Irish peasants?

The Anglican Church, which failed to denounce selfish landlords or to act on behalf of the poor?

A system of distribution, which sacrificed Irish peasants to the logic of colonialism and the capitalist market?

These are rich and troubling ethical questions. They are exactly the kind of issues that fire students to life and allow them to see that history is not simply a chronology of dead facts stretching through time.

So go ahead: Have a Guinness, wear a bit of green, and put on the Chieftains.

But let’s honor the Irish with our curiosity. Let’s make sure that our schools show some respect, by studying the social forces that starved and uprooted over a million Irish—and that are starving and uprooting people today.

Bill Bigelow taught high school social studies in Portland, Ore. for almost 30 years. He is the curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools and the co-director of the Zinn Education Project.

This project offers free materials to teach people’s history and an “If We Knew Our History” article series.

Bigelow is author or co-editor of numerous books, including A People’s History for the Classroom and The Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigration, and most recently, A People’s Curriculum for the Earth: Teaching Climate Change and the Environmental Crisis.

Note 1: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/st-patricks-day-what-is-wrong-a-lie-a-misrepresentation-misconception/

Note 2:

Andrew Bossone shared this link on FB

Certainly some lessons to learn: “The school curriculum could and should ask students to reflect on the contradiction of starvation amidst plenty, on the ethics of food exports amidst famine. And it should ask why these patterns persist into our own time.”

“Wear green on St. Patrick’s Day or get pinched.”
commondreams.org

 St. Patrick’s Day Weekend: And being a White in Philly…

As j.n. salters walked down 15th Street in Center City this past Saturday night, amidst drunken white girls in green mini skirts and green heels with green bows in their hair, and belligerent white boys wearing green beaded necklaces and funny-shaped glasses yelling and chasing after the girls…

She I could not help but think, this is what it actually means to be white in Philadelphia.

j.n. salters,  black feminist writer and PhD candidate, posted this March 18, 2014 on The Blog:

Being White in Philly St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

In February 2013, Philadelphia Magazine published the now-infamous article “Being White in Philly: Whites, race, class, and the things that never get said,” in which author Robert Huber asked select, anonymous white from Philadelphia to share their “race story” (in other words, their individual feelings about black people).

According to Huber:

[E]veryone might have a race story, but few whites risk the third-rail danger of speaking publicly about race, given the long, troubled history of race relations in this country and even more so in this city. Race is only talked about in a sanitized form, when it’s talked about at all, with actual thoughts and feelings buried, which only ups the ante. Race remains the elephant in the room, even on the absurd level of who holds the door to enter a convenience store.

In keeping with Huber’s purported aim to get rid of the elephant in the room, I offer some of the thoughts that crossed my mind Saturday night as I passed a young blond girl in a “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” T-shirt peeing on the sidewalk while a redheaded boy with freckles pinched her.

You cannot be fucking serious. But, of course you’re serious.

You’re white in Center City.

As I continued to make my way down the shit show covered in shamrocks, I asked myself, what if all these people outside were black?

If we are to go by recent Philadelphia policies and legislation — many of which disproportionately target people of color (e.g., stop and frisk, “zero tolerance” policies, curfew ordinances, voter ID laws) — I am almost certain that had these been masses of drunken black teenagers and young adults decked in matching colors, they would have been deemed gang members, looters, flash mobsters, and subsequently stopped and frisked, beaten, and/or arrested.

I am thinking about the Philadelphia “flash mobs” that garnered much media attention in the summers of 2010 and 2011, during which the media created a moral panic around black youth, violence and crime organized via social media sites after hundreds of black kids spontaneously appeared on South Street in downtown Philadelphia.

Newspaper headlines read “Black-mob violence flooding Philadelphia” and “Another Flash Mob Rocks South Street: In the ‘Tsunami,’ chants of ‘Burn the City!‘” — the menacing language reminiscent of the alleged “wilding” that, most infamously, was purportedly behind the 1989 vicious rape-beating of the “Central Park jogger” in Manhattan.

Though some Philadelphia teens did engage in acts of vandalism, the majority were nonviolent kids just hanging out, some watching break-dancing performances.

Nevertheless, Philadelphia mayor, Michael Nutter, imposed a stiffer curfew for people under 18 and delivered a Bill Cosby Pound-Cake-esque lecture from a pulpit at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in which he told black youth: “You have damaged your own race,” and instructed them to “Pull your pants up and buy a belt.”

In addition, social-media networks were monitored with assistance from the FBI, news crews and Philadelphia police flooded the streets, and dozens of people were arrested.

Thus, as I watched the white mobs in green on Saturday night, I was struck by the lack of law enforcement. I can personally recall several family cookouts, block parties, birthday parties and informal gatherings of black and brown family members and friends in which multiple men and women in uniform and police cars and even police dogs showed up.

How over 100 drunk people could be loitering on a major street and not one police officer be noticeably present was astonishing. It was also a reminder of the kind of society that we live in.

To most of America, more than one Black/Latino standing next to each other wearing the same color equals gang, threat, flash mob. Not drink specials, themed parties, and excused belligerence.

You call it St. Patrick’s Day

I call it white privilege — or being white in Philadelphia and America.

St. Patrick’s Day: What is a wrong, a lie, a misrepresentation, misconception

St. Patrick’s Day is almost upon us! Typically, we associate the holiday with drinking, drinking, and drinking. Oh, and being Irish.

But there’s a lot more to St. Patrick’s Day than most people know.

You’ve probably been living a lie. When you learn all the facts, this holiday actually kind of… sucks

 Christine Dalton in The Huffington Post  this March 14, 2014
Everything You Know About St. Patrick’s Day Is Wrong

Sorry to burst your bubble, but here are 10 brutally honest facts about St. Patrick’s Day.

  • 10
    St. Patrick wasn’t Irish.
    Historians believe he was born in what is now England, Scotland or Wales.
  • 9
    St. Patrick’s color is blue.
    WE’VE BEEN LIVING A LIE. You might want to hold off on the green face paint this year.
  • 8
    St. Patrick’s Day as we know it was invented in America.
    Really?! Catholic University’s Irish American expert, Timothy Meagher, explains that St. Patrick’s Day celebrations began in the 18th century in American cities with large Irish immigrant populations.
  • 7
    March 17th is the day St. Patrick died.
    So you’re celebrating his death, you a**hole.
  • 6
    St. Patrick didn’t drive all the snakes from Ireland.
    Probably because there’s no evidence that snakes have EVER existed in Ireland. The climate is much too chilly for them.
  • 5
    The shamrock isn’t the symbol of Ireland.
  • Sure, you can find shamrocks all over the Emerald Isle, but the real symbol is the harp.
  • 4
    St. Patrick’s Day used to be a dry holiday.
    Today’s booze-bags look to the holiday as a great excuse to start drinking Guinness at 9 AM.
  • Until 1970, however, all pubs in Ireland were closed in observance of the religious feast day.
  • 3
    Corned beef and cabbage isn’t a traditional Irish dish.
    It’s just about as Irish as spaghetti and meatballs. You’re better off sticking to Guinness.
  • 2
    There are more Irish people living in the U.S. than Ireland.
    The population of Ireland is about 4.2. million. In contrast, there are around 34 MILLION people of Irish descent living in America.
  • 1
    Your odds of finding a four-leaf clover are slim to none.
    1 in 10,000 to be exact.

Ouch.

But let’s end on a happy note. At least these two guys are Irish.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2020
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