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A Different View

Academic ability shouldn’t be the only measure of success

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There was a time in this country not so long ago that only the privileged few extended their education beyond the old Primary Cert; then the Inter Cert became a commendable achievement and finally the Leaving lived up to its name.

But now we’ve moved into a world where academic appears to be the only option and the formal learning curve can comfortably be stretched out into your late twenties.

Because we’ve just moved the bar up another level; now a primary degree is just the new Leaving Cert and a Masters is almost a given – and academia appears to be the only option.

Unless someone pays heed to the advice offered recently by the real Taoiseach, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who revealed her blueprint for solving youth unemployment.

She wants to promote the merits of Germany’s dual system of schooling and work experience – a mix of classroom learning and on-the-shop-floor work experience – as the best way forward at a time when almost six million under-25s in Europe are out of work. What she’s actually talking about are apprenticeships – not just as we know them in terms of mechanics or plumbers, but in terms of all careers in that you can learn more in a hands-on environment as you can in the lecture hall.

But we are pre-occupied with third level when clearly that no more suits everyone now than it did a generation ago.

Of course the reality is that a job in the civil service is no longer an option and there’s no need for apprentices when they are thousands of skilled tradesmen already out of work – but that doesn’t mean we should shove all of our young people into university because we can’t think of anything else for them to do.

Merkel quite rightly points out that we shouldn’t see academic success as the only measure – and the tens of thousands of Irish graduates who are either out of work or living in foreign parts are testimony to a one-track system here.

Germany, in contrast, has halved its youth unemployment since 2005 and they are now in a position to offer a place on a dual system training programme to every young person who wants one.

And that has resulted in a whole generation of skilled workers and master craftsmen taking their rightful place in German society, at the heart of an economy which hardly seems to have suffered because everyone doesn’t go to university.

In contrast here, we have thousands of twentysomethings with nothing more than writer’s cramp to show for sending out endless job applications; inevitable letters of rejections because they are overqualified for the jobs they would be more than willing to take.

It is not just the Government that’s at fault for this – the approach at second-level has become so blinkered that further education is the only serious option.

Everything is geared towards the points race so that you get your first choice on the CAO form; a sheet of paper with your exam results is the only measure of your success or failure for the first 18 years of your life.

But there’s no vision higher up the scale either; the Government came up with a JobBridge programme as a sort of quasi-internship, but in reality that’s just a way of massaging the unemployment figures.

We’ve had huge success in attracting hi-tech multi-nationals here on the back of our graduate numbers, but we’ve also become so fixated with this as the only measure of industrial success that we’ve dumped every other option.

The German idea is a more rounded approach to job creation as well as an acknowledgement that there is more than one measure of ability.

It is, of course, fantastic to live in a city and county with two top-class third-level facilities in NUIG and GMIT and we can never underestimate the value of having such easy access to academia on our doorstep. But, with 440,000 on the dole, clearly something else is also needed – and given that the German economy is the one we’ve already pinned all our hopes on, if they’ve found something that works, it at least demands closer analysis.

Because there’s more than one sort of third-level education – and perhaps it’s time we invested a little more as well in the university of life.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

Connacht Tribune

No great rush to mend the error of your ways!

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It was St Augustine who famously petitioned in prayer: ‘God, make me good – but just not yet’. It’s a sentiment that one Sister Mary Joseph took to whole new levels, because after spending her first 61 years as a high-living heiress, she spent the last three decades as a cloistered nun.

And she closed one chapter to open another one back in 1989 with a party for 800 of her closest friends at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco – so many guests that the hostess carried a helium balloon all night, with the words “Here I Am” so that people could find her amid the throng.

The next day the former Ann Russell Miller flew to Chicago and joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as a novitiate, spending the rest of her life as Sister Mary Joseph of the Trinity.

Or as one of her 28 grandchildren put it: “It was like The Great Gatsby turned into The Sound of Music.”

Her recent obituary in the Times painted quite the colourful picture of a lover of the high life turned Holy Roller.

“She smoked, drank champagne, played cards, spent five hours a day on the telephone and, as an expert scuba diver and enthusiastic skier, travelled around the world.

“She had a season ticket to the opera, was a high-society patron of many charitable causes and drove her sports car at such reckless speeds that, according to her son Mark, ‘people got out of her car with a sore foot from slamming on an imaginary brake’.”

Because if ever a life could be described as a tale of two-thirds of high living and one-third of contemplation, this was it; the mother of ten who enjoyed the casual company of celebrity friends like Nancy Reagan and Bob Hope opted for an order which allowed her one visitor a month – and even then no touching given the two rows of iron bars between them.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Online games will always give way to world of pure imagination

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

When we were young and Wimbledon came on the telly for two weeks, we’d all rush out to hit a tennis ball off the wall and imagine for an hour that we were Jimmy Connors or Bjorn Borg.

On the odd occasion when we saw live football on TV – the World Cup, the FA Cup Final, or Jimmy Magee covering another false dawn for Ireland at Dalymount Park – we took to the footpath and pretended we were Johnny Giles or Georgie Best.

Jumpers for goalposts, games that went on for hours, fly-goalkeepers, next goal wins – a world of entertainment for the price of a plastic football.

Now when it’s half-time in Sky Sports’ fifth live match of the weekend, the kids still want to play their own version when it’s over. Except they do it on the PlayStation so they never have to leave the comfort of the couch.

Even if we re-enacted the World Cup indoors back in the day, we did it with Subbuteo – so we still got more action and exercise than today’s kids, even if it was just a flick of the fingers.

But in the absence of video games, we did all this with nothing more than our vivid imaginations on a field of dreams that was otherwise a concrete car park or a patch of grass.

We pretended we were Mick O’Connell or maybe Mikey Sheehy (but never Brian Mullins or Jimmy Keaveney) as we fielded balls majestically out of the clouds – even if reality would suggest we hardly left the ground.

It was a world of our imagination where we supplied our own running commentary; these days, FIFA 21 does it for you.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

We’re at our most sure-footed when we find common ground

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

When two Irish people meet, they have thirty seconds to find someone they have in common or both of them will die.

It was a Tweet that made me smile recently – but then, thinking a little more, it’s actually so, so true.

We seem lost if we can’t make a common connection, as if six degrees of separation is about three steps too far.

Of course, we’re spoilt in Galway because you’ll never ever meet someone who doesn’t know Michael D; they were either lectured by him, they canvassed for him, they sat beside him in Terryland Park, they chatted with him at the Arts Festival before it had a tent, or they’ve been to a garden party at the Áras.

And once the pressure is off because you’ve made one connection, the rest will flow like soup off Alan Dukes’ fork, as Johneen Donnellan once observed.

It’s a small county in the scheme of things so it shouldn’t be any wonder that we’re well connected – from school or college or work or extended family or geography, we’re a stone’s throw from everyone else.

Half of Mayo, of course, knows Joe Biden – and never has a man had so many fourth cousins once removed (if it gets much worse, he might have to have them forcibly removed) since he got the keys to the big White House.

We can’t claim to know Barack Obama, but half of Galway knows Billy Lawless, who hosted the former Chicago senator in his acclaimed restaurant – we knew Billy as a politician or a publican, in Trigger Martyn’s or the old Twelve in Barna. So that’s close enough.

We’re also familiar with Pat McDonagh, who doesn’t just own Supermac’s; he also owns the Barack Obama Plaza in Offaly. So that’s a second Presidential connection to someone we’ve never actually met.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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