Thomas Davis's education policies: theory and practice

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Conneally, John
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University College Cork
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This thesis explores the education policies of Thomas Davis. On the eve of the Great Famine Ireland was economically impoverished and politically dependent. The Irish people had a subservient mentality, were mainly uneducated and were unaware of their potential. He believed that education would develop a self-reliant, self-sufficient people; it would create a new generation of leaders and citizens necessary to transform Ireland into a prosperous, independent nation. This thesis explores his education philosophy which was political in orientation; he called for reform of university education so that it would educate leaders who were knowledgeable, patriotic and responsible. He formulated a curriculum which consisted of knowledge that would have direct use and application in public life; his curriculum included moral philosophy, oratory, philological studies and history. His contribution to the debate on the Queens Colleges bill, 1845, is explored including his public disagreement with Daniel O’Connell on the principle of multi-denominational education. This work also examines his policies on learning methodologies and teaching methods. It provides details of his thoughts on learning by experience, by observation, book learning and learning in the home. It focuses on the deficiencies evident in the system of teaching and learning that operated in Trinity College Dublin and it provides an analysis of his preferred method of instruction: Lyceum teaching. This thesis also explores his national curriculum in history and Irish culture which was designed to forge a sense of national identity, to win support for repeal and to develop the principle of nationality. He formulated a national curriculum to counteract the absence of national knowledge in the state schools, to provide the people with a positive self-image and ultimately to empower them to reclaim Ireland and to develop it. Davis knew the power of education and he used it as an instrument of political and social change.
Thomas Davis , Moral and civic education , Nationhood , Nationality and education , Irish education in 19th century , Educating leaders
Conneally, J. 2014. Thomas Davis's education policies: theory and practice. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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