CNEIConstant Never Ending Improvement
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If teachers dominated pupils, then, Irish teachers especially feared the inspector, who in turn was merely a cog in the CNEI machine.
He recalled that, until he had "passed into" the third CNEI book he would not be looked upon as a scholar.(41)
The BIA and CNEI schools heavily used rote learning, although in the twentieth century the more child-centered ideas of the Progressive Education movement began to influence both systems.(42) Though continents apart, young Irish pupils and young Indians could similarly respond to gifted teaching.
Only in 1879, half a century after its founding, did the CNEI allow the teaching of Irish as an extra subject, and only in 1884 did it permit bilingual education in specific areas.
He and others remembered how individual teachers sometimes subverted the CNEI curriculum and goals by preaching Irish nationalism in class.(48) But the overall impression is that, like many Indians, Irish pupils and parents accepted the alien nature of the curriculum because it was modern and new and would help people cope in the new world--especially if they emigrated to Britain or the United States.
To facilitate acceptance of the Union, the CNEI hoped to dissipate the religious antagonisms that plagued Irish history and designed its system to prevent denominational religious proselytizing.
As I show here and elsewhere (Coleman, in preparation), Irish autobiographical accounts of schooling are mutually corroborative and highly consistent with both CNEI documents and with later historians' treatments of the period.
Lending credibility to the account is her memory of "the first time that Irish came into the school"--as she attended in the 1870s she probably refers to the Board decision of 1879 (CNEI Report 1879, Appendix I: 151-152) to accept Irish as an extra subject for higher classes to be taught outside school hours.
Even more unjust, in O'Leary's view (1970: 97-98), was the attitude sometimes taken by CNEI inspectors, who regularly visited schools to examine pupils and ascertain the competence of teachers.
A powerful passage in the annual report two years later (CNEI Report 1857, Appendix A, II: 135) again conveyed Keenan's sensitivity to the difficulties described above by autobiographers.
Starkie (in 6 hAodha 1982: 110-111), like Keenan a Resident Commissioner of the CNEI itself, critically pondered the work of his organization during the previous century:
Autobiographical narrators corroborate the contemporaneous claims of the CNEI and those of later scholars (e.g., Coolahan 1980: 21) who insist that Irish people themselves were often willing accomplices in the decline of the old language.